Continuing their quest to cover every corner of our city, Dining Concepts have brought us yet another Italian restaurant by the name of La Locanda. The thing with Italian restaurants is that they could never go out of fashion if they tried; it is for sure one of my favourite cuisines, and also that of countless others around the world, so I am never against the idea of adding another to the list.
La Locanda, which translates to ‘the inn’, is the creation of acclaimed Italian chef Giancarlo Perbellini. Coming from a family of chefs that dates back to his great-grandfather in the 1890s, Giancarlo owns a number of Michelin-starred restaurants in his hometown of Verona. The idea for La Locanda, which is his first restaurant outside of Italy, was to bring the best elements of each of his restaurants together in a casual setting, under one roof in Harbour City. The menu therefore lists a wide range of pastas, meat dishes, seafood dishes and pizzas. The menu indicates which are Giancarlo’s personal favourites, and we selected only dishes from this category.
Although, much like with other Dining Concepts restaurants, Giancarlo himself is obviously not present, the Italian chefs and restaurant manager were all part of his team in Italy, adding to the authenticity of the restaurant.
We began with a tartare di manzo. Whilst a classic steak tartare often has a very pungent flavour, due to the addition of capers, mustard and Worcestershire sauce, this one was unexpectedly delicate. In the place of the capers, Chef Giancarlo’s version had pistachios, adding not only a beautifully nutty flavour, but also a contrasting texture. A smear of pistachio sauce intensified this flavour, whilst still allowing the beef itself to shine through. I fear that after having a pistachio-infused steak tartare, I won’t ever be able to go back to the classic version!
The calamari fritti was also an unusual representation of this favourite dish, served with marinated roasted peppers and an egg and pickle emulsion. I found it a little strange that it was classed (and priced) as a main course, when it works better as a shared starter. Again, it was lovely and delicate, with only a light dusting of batter, but I felt it could have done with a touch more seasoning.
Give me fresh pasta any day and I am in heaven. La Locanda’s homemade ravioli di pecorino was excellent. This very simple dish merely contained wonderfully fresh pasta stuffed with nutty pecorino cheese, topped with caramelised apple and balsamic vinegar – a medley of sweet and salty flavours that married together beautifully.
Last of the main courses was the maialino – crispy suckling pig. This is a dish that, if done well, can be so satisfying, yet, if done badly, can just be fatty, bland and a waste of money. Thankfully, La Locanda does do it well. The skin was perfectly crispy and, although inevitably suckling pig will always be a little on the fatty side, there was more tender, flavoursome meat than there was fat. The accompanying pearl onions and Brussels sprouts were a tasty complement.
The Perbellini family are supposedly well known for being one of the best Italian confectioners; the cassata moderna that we shared for dessert didn’t make me doubt this. I remarked that perhaps this was an Italian version of an Eton Mess – it was a deconstructed dessert consisting of pistachio sponge, ricotta foam, candied fruit and nuts, fresh raspberries and chocolate sauce. I would never have selected this from the menu, yet I was more than pleasantly surprised and loved (again) how light it was.
Service at La Locanda was friendly and, as I already mentioned, I liked the authenticity brought on by the Italian staff. Prices are naturally a little higher than your average Italian restaurant, yet affordable, with starters around $150 and mains between $168 and $298. I’d say Dining Concepts have actually succeeded in creating a decent, authentic Italian restaurant. It’s a shame it’s in a quiet corner of a shopping centre, but at least it has a huge outdoor terrace overlooking the harbour.
Shop 402, Ocean Centre
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2785 9600