When I think of New York Italian restaurants, I think big, bold and somewhat pretentious. That is exactly what LKF Tower newcomer Carbone is, but in a very good way. This extension of the mightily popular New York restaurant that goes by the same name, was brought to Hong Kong as a collaboration between Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick of Major Food Group, New York and HK’s Black Sheep Restaurants (Motorino, La Vache, Chôm Chôm, Boquería).
Carbone pays homage to mid-20th century Italian restaurants in New York, a time when Frank Sinatra was requesting to be flown to the moon and waiters all dressed like they were Frank Sinatra. The décor reflects exactly this, with tiled flooring, wooden panelling and an all over retro look and feel. To top it off, all staff are dressed to the nines in velvet jackets and bow ties.
These days, the “fashion” seems to be to serve measly sized portions, which are still charged as if the plate were full. At Carbone, the term “American portions” could not be truer. Unless you’re heavily overweight, these dishes are not designed to be eaten alone – get a selection for the table to share and everyone will be happy (and seriously full).
While you peruse the giant menu, simultaneously hiding from your dining companions, you’ll first enjoy not only possibly the best garlic bread you’ll ever have, but also chunks of Parmesan cheese and salami, all of which puts other restaurants’ standard bread and butter to shame.
Our first starter of Carpaccio Piemontese set the bar pretty high for the meal that was to follow. These delicately thin slices of beautifully marbled Wagyu beef were topped with slivers of mushrooms, crumbled walnuts, fresh rocket and, most importantly, rich black truffle oil, making this one of the best carpaccios I’ve had in HK.
Although I was slightly confused by the name, since it had nothing to do with pizza nor the guy who makes pizza, the Octopus Pizzaiolo was also delicious. The generous chunks of octopus were perfectly tender, served with roasted pepper, soft, buttery potatoes and crispy garlic.
When you have high quality burrata cheese and fresh, juicy tomatoes, you can’t really go wrong with a Caprese salad. At Carbone, the burrata is cut into bite-sized chunks at the table, served with colourful heirloom tomatoes and fresh pesto – so simple yet so good.
I happened to be dining with a number of truffle fiends, myself included. So when our friendly waiter announced that there was a special of truffle fettucine, there was not a moment’s hesitation before ordering it. In a word, it was heavenly.
The spicy rigatoni vodka, on the other hand, wasn’t as impressive as we had been promised. Other than the occasional kick of chilli, there wasn’t a great deal of excitement to this creamy pasta dish.
Thankfully Mario’s Meatballs, however, were excellent. The lean pork meat with fennel seeds was an interesting combination, yet a good one, completed by the rich tomato sauce it was smothered in. As a word of advice, make sure you order enough meatballs for one each; you won’t want to share these.
We may have ever so slightly over-ordered on the main courses, and whilst the Garoupa piccata and the prawns fra diavolo were both delicious, it probably would have sufficed to just order the prime porterhouse for the table. This gorgeous cut of Australian Wagyu beef was beautifully tender, seasoned simply with rosemary oil and a whole bulb of roasted garlic. It melted in the mouth and was absolute bliss.
Sides of broccoli AOP (alio, olio e pepperoncino) and funghi trifolati were the perfect accompaniment, particularly the roasted mushrooms.
You may, at this stage, think you couldn’t possibly have room for dessert. Yet when a trolley is wheeled to your table displaying tiramisu, lemon cheesecake, carrot cake and bananas waiting to be flambéed, you will likely change your mind. We somehow tried all four desserts. The tiramisu, which looked seriously impressive, wasn’t the best we’d ever had, as it was just a little too heavy on the cream, without much else; the carrot cake, though dense, was deliciously fruity and spiced; the best thing on the table, however, was definitely the lemon cheesecake, which was lovely and light, with the perfect crumbly base.
Service at Carbone was generally very good, bar a few slower moments. The staff suit the setting of the restaurant perfectly, some with a matching level of pretentiousness. The bill, particularly when you’ve added on a round of Negronis and a few bottles of wine, will be somewhat of a high one; starters and pastas are mostly under $200, whilst fish and meat courses are all over $300, some closer to $600. Remember, though, that these are truly American portions, so try not to be as greedy as our table of five was. We had a fantastic evening at Carbone and were in fact one of the last tables to leave the restaurant, although this could have been partly due to the fact that the amount of food we had consumed made it difficult to stand up! Will we be back? Without a shadow of a doubt.
9/F, LKF Tower
33 Wyndham Street
Tel: +852 2593 2593