Three-Michelin-starred restaurant 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana had been on my go-to list since I first knew of its existence, yet I was waiting for the right moment to justify the expense of going there. Fortunately, two of my favourite people assisted in this quest by giving me two very generous dining vouchers. My sheer carelessness at reading expiry dates almost denied our use of these vouchers, but thankfully this outstanding restaurant pitied my stupidity and welcomed us with open arms, without me even needing to cry (although I was very close), or bring out the phrase ‘do you know who I am?!’ (to which they would most likely have answered in the negative!).
With its sepia and bronze tones, Otto e Mezzo exudes the kind of retro elegance we don’t see enough of in Hong Kong. Chef Umberto Bombana has not only been voted Asia’s best Italian chef, but the restaurant is in fact the only three-Michelin-starred Italian restaurant to exist outside of Italy.
The drinks list is in fact not a ‘list’ at all, but a ‘compendium’, presented in a beautiful old fashioned hardback book complete with stories and photographs. I couldn’t resist ordering the Lodano Sangria Bianca, which not only came loaded with delicious summer fruits, but was also accompanied by Iberico ham on crisp bread. I knew from that very moment that this was going be a very, very good meal.
The amuse bouche that followed (a bite-size version of vitello tonnato) reinforced my previous thought; the veal was unbelievably tender, leaving us all speechless and ready for what was to come.
One choice of starter was marinated beef tenderloin carpaccio with vegetables and crispy Parmesan. The melt-in-your-mouth beef paired perfectly with the fresh crunchy salad and slivers of radish, whilst the crispy sheets of Parmesan completed this dish.
The 8½ Seafood soup was rich and creamy and somewhat akin to a lobster bisque, with the addition of other delightful chunks of shellfish and zucchini.
My choice of Burrata cheese ravioli, however, was my favourite of the starters. The pasta was as fresh as could be, bursting with delicate, creamy burrata and topped with black olive and eggplant sauce, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. My fears of pasta being too heavy to have as a starter were quelled when I tasted how light and wonderful this dish was.
The Line caught sea bass cooked in Sorrento lemon with confit vegetables, extra virgin olive oil dressing and fennel jus was a true taste of the Mediterranean. The fish was perfectly flaky and delicate, gently infused with lemon and enhanced by the rich olives and juicy cherry tomatoes.
One of the best things about reviewing restaurants is that I must insist on trying everyone else’s food – for the readers’ sake of course! I am very happy I tried the short rib and beef tenderloin, as this was definitely one of the best dishes of the night. The rib was slow-cooked and incredibly tender to the touch, while the pan-fried tenderloin was packed full of flavour and also wonderfully tender. Both cuts of beef were dressed in a rich red wine and plum sauce, making them even more delicious. The only complaint was that the portion of whipped potato was very much on the stingy side.
My choice of Spiced roast Challans duck supreme was another winning choice. The gamey meat was cooked to medium-rare perfection, accompanied by an apple and eggplant compote and a chunk of smooth, buttery foie gras. Again the whipped potato was a very small portion, yet for me, this dish was all about the duck.
As portions so far hadn’t been too sizeable, we thought sharing two desserts between us would be a sensible choice. The Grand Cru chocolate in 5 styles wasn’t particularly big, and we certainly had to fight over the last morsel of the decadent fondant. The other ‘styles’ of chocolate included a crème brûlée, mousse, crumble and ice cream – a chocoholic’s paradise.
We were all agreed, however, that the better of the two desserts, which would definitely have sufficed on its own, was the crispy pear tart with vanilla ice cream. The thin base of the tart was amazingly flaky, buttery and crispy, while the caramelised layer of thinly sliced pears on top instantly brought a smile to our lips. “That was a superior pear tart,” rightly commented one of my fellow diners.
After some lovely petits fours, sadly our meal had to come to an end. The service was excellent throughout the meal, with even Chef Bombana making an appearance to ensure every table of guests was content. The total bill including a bottle of wine came to $3200. Bearing in mind that some mediocre HK restaurants without any stars charge similar prices, this isn’t altogether outrageous – although we were very happy to only be paying $1200 thanks to the vouchers!
I’ve heard that Otto e Mezzo also does an exceptional aperitivo from 5-9pm, where you can buy a drink at the bar and receive an abundance of food… you know where to find me from now on after work!
8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana
Shop 202, 2/F, Alexandra House
18 Chater Road
Tel: +852 2537 8859