Have you ever wondered who has the tastiest balls in Hong Kong? Balls of the meat variety I mean, before you start to get any other ideas. Since meatballs are a favourite comfort food dish all over the world, everyone has their own interpretation of what makes a great meatball. To put it to the test and find out who has HK’s best balls, six well-known Hong Kong restaurants are coming together for a fun event called Battle of the Balls, held over two nights at Linguini Fini!
I was invited to a media preview of the event last week and thoroughly enjoyed an innuendo-filled evening trying a variety of different balls. Aside from two official judges – Chef Harlan Goldstein and Chef Gregoire Michaud – we were all invited to rate each meatball by presentation, flavour and texture in order to find a champion. Let me tell you what I thought, but if you’re keen to taste some balls and decide for yourself whose are the best, read on for details.
First up came meat experts The Butchers Club’s surf ‘n’ turf meatball, which they named the ‘Ricky Rozay’. Chefs Aarik Persaud and Tom Brimble presented a seriously meaty ball made with dry-aged rump, dry-aged brisket and non-aged rib-eye, stuffed with lobster and lobster bisque on a bed of puréed potatoes. The meaty flavour was without a doubt present and delicious (these guys do know their meat after all), but I could have done with a steak knife to cut through the dense, solid and disappointingly dry ball.
Next up came Chef Steve Ma of Jamie’s Italian with ‘Gennaro’s homemade meatballs’. These were beautifully tender and flavoursome, made with homemade pistachio mortadella, minced beef and minced pork, topped with melted cheese, roasted red pepper sauce and a pickled chilli, served in a soft bun. Although the presentation was beautiful, knowing we still had another four balls to get through, the bread seemed unnecessary and most people around the table left it untouched.
Chef Vito Chiavacci from La Paloma presented his Catalan-style ‘Albondigas con sepia’ – meatballs with cuttlefish. These left a rather divided opinion around the table, as some loved them, whilst others (myself included) found the flavour of the cuttlefish a little overpowering.
Chef Fabrizio Napolitano from NOM served a gorgeous pile of ox tongue meatballs with pumpkin purée, fried sage and salsa verde. Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, these croquette-style balls were up there amongst my favourites.
Chef Stefano Rossi from Pirata prepared his M.M.M (My Mamma’s Meatballs), a favourite on the menu in his restaurant. Although I didn’t think they were as good on the BOTB night as they usually are at Pirata, these are simple, authentic Italian-style pork and beef meatballs that won’t disappoint.
The winning meatballs, as voted by both official judges and all the media, were Chef Vinny Lauria from Posto Pubblico’s ‘Pubblico Veal Meatballs’. Tender, cheesy and packed full of flavour, I could have happily devoured a whole platter of these.
The event was initially going to be open to the public on one night only, yet due to an overwhelming interest, the chefs have agreed to extend it to a second night. It will therefore run on 16th and 17th March. For $508 per person, not only do you get to sample the six tastiest balls in Hong Kong, but also an array of Linguini Fini’s delicious salads, pastas and more. Each diner will have their own score sheet to rate each meatball.
After all the salty balls, the meal ends with what looked like a truly spectacular chocolate banana cake with dulce de leche that I sadly couldn’t eat.
I love seeing the food community come together like this. The chefs at Battle of the Balls looked like they were all having so much fun whilst enjoying a bit of healthy and friendly competition. This is an event you don’t want to miss.
To book, call Linguini Fini on 2387 6338
Address: G/F, 49 Elgin Street, Soho, Hong Kong