We Hong Kong Islanders are incurably lazy. When I was invited to try K.O Dining Group’s Italian restaurant, Messina, I shivered at the thought of having to travel ‘all the way’ out to Hung Hom. Although admittedly I did get a little lost on the way (it was the taxi driver’s fault, not mine), it turned out Hung Hom isn’t actually all that far away and needn’t be as scary as we think it is, especially if at the end of the journey awaits an incredible Italian feast!
Messina, named after a Sicilian city and designed to look like a Sicilian villa, serves modern southern Italian food prepared with classic French techniques in an elegant setting overlooking the harbour. Executive Chef Francesco Greco has worked at some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants, from Milan to Paris and New York to Shanghai, with many other exciting cities in between, and now at Messina it is clear that he certainly knows his stuff.
Rather than rifling through a menu, the selection of antipasti is brought to your table in a guéridon (or cart) and presented before you, so that you can see the fresh, raw ingredients that will go into whichever dish you choose. As every single one of them sounded (and looked) incredible, we selected a variety to share between the table.
Starting with the cold antipasti, the Cinta Senese pork cheek, although at first sight looked unbearably fatty, simply melted in the mouth and had the most amazing flavour. The San Daniele prosciutto was also beautiful and clearly of the highest quality; paired with fresh figs and fig compote, it was even more delicious. This only left the burrata cheese to rival the meats, and boy did it try: it was wonderfully silky and creamy, exactly as it should be.
From the hot antipasti selection, the zucchini flowers stuffed with cod mousse were simply divine: crispy on the outside with smooth, creamy, delicately flavoured mousse inside. The pan-fried scallops with Bronte pistachio salad, however, were even better and cooked to bouncy yet tender perfection. The crunchy pistachios were an excellent addition too.
The Sicilian red prawns, which came highly recommended by our super-friendly waiter, were sautéed in tomato and garlic, giving them that wonderful Mediterranean flavour that can never disappoint. However, my absolute favourite of the starters were the sardines ‘a Beccafico’, fresh sardine rolls stuffed with a pine nut, lemon, breadcrumb and raisin mixture; flavours that instantly transport you to southern Italy.
For primi piatti, we shared a Paccheri e crostacei and a Fettucce fresche. The former was lovely and light, a blend of lobster, scampi and again those wonderful Sicilian red prawns tossed with Pachino tomatoes and gorgeously fresh mezzi paccheri pasta. The fettucce was a little more rich, made with baby lamb and Marsala sauce, mixed with roasted red peppers and aubergine; although it was rich, I think it was my favourite of the two dishes, and again I loved how fresh the handmade pasta was.
For secondi piatti we also shared two between the four of us: Spigola e tartufo nero (pan-fried seabass) and Chef Greco’s signature dish, Maialino croccante (crispy suckling pig). The seabass was served in a black truffle sauce, with white and green asparagus, topped with more truffle and a fennel and rocket salad. It was beautifully tender and flaky, and I loved the array of flavours and textures on offer, even if it may have been a little salty.
I can understand why Chef Greco prides himself on his suckling pig. The succulent meat, wrapped in its delicate, crispy skin, is served on a bed of braised lentils and tropea onion marmalade, before being glazed in its own natural jus. Amazing.
What is even more amazing is the dessert, presented once more on a guéridon. As you know, I am a big (and I mean BIG) fan of dessert, so you cannot imagine the excitement when Mr. Guéridon was wheeled before us.
Although we were sad not to be able to try every single option, we certainly tried our hardest! We had tiramisu, pistachio ice cream, summer strawberry tart, banana caramel pudding, Settevelli chocolate cake, mixed berry panna cotta, and of course traditional Sicilian cannoli. Highlights were definitely the panna cotta and the Settevelli cake, a decadently rich chocoholic’s dream that makes my mouth water just thinking about it…
If you can’t already guess from the fact that a live menu is brought to your very table twice during the meal, service at Messina is top notch. Yes it’s in Hung Hom and yes it is expensive (an average meal for two without wine would cost between $1500-2000) but it is well worth the (less than 30-minute) trip from Central. I can assure you, it’s easier than trying to get all the way to Sicily.
Messina now also does a Sunday brunch starting at $350 for a 3-course meal. It begins with an antipasti sharing platter, followed by your choice from a small selection of mains, and finishes with your selection from the incredible guéridon for dessert. I’d go back just for the guéridon.
5/F The Harbourfront Landmark
11 Wan Hoi Street
Tel: +852 3746 2733