If you haven’t heard of Harlan Goldstein, you must have been walking around wearing a blindfold and ear plugs. After a short break from the dining scene, this larger-than-life New Yorker, who claims to be “Hong Kong’s number one celebrity chef” is back and this time he’s making an even bigger splash than usual.
Most restaurateurs are content with opening one restaurant at a time; not Harlan. Not even two, or three restaurants are enough for this guy, who has decided to open four restaurants, all within a month of each other, taking over six floors of 8 Lyndhurst Terrace. The first of these openings is Ee Da Le, which we visited last week.
I mentioned to a colleague that I was going to Ee Da Le and he did a double take, looked at me in amazement and asked, “did you just speak Cantonese?” Actually I did, as Ee Da Le is the Cantonese pronunciation of Italy. True to its name, the restaurant serves rustic Italian cuisine in a comfortable setting. The tables and floor are made up of bright, patterned Mediterranean-style tiles, whilst above the tables hang huge lampshades inspired by opera skirts. It was just a pity that the music, which included hits by Justin Bieber, didn’t quite match. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for Bieber, but Ee Da Le is not it!
Whilst sipping on a ‘Venetian Spritz’ (or just an Aperol Spritz – call a spade a spade), we tucked in to a plate of cured meats (we chose salami feline and porchetta), and a trio of bruschetta. The cold cuts were fantastic, particularly the porchetta, which melted in the mouth and paired nicely with the tomato crostini.
Of the three bruschettas – tomato, ricotta and chicken liver – I don’t think I could pick a winner. Each had its own unique flavours and generous toppings, so I’d recommend trying all three.
I was a little confused by the wholegrain mustard that sat atop the burrata, as I didn’t think it was particularly necessary. The creamy, fresh mozzarella, paired with the heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and aged balsamic, was delicious enough on its own and the mustard was a bit overpowering.
The char-grilled octopus, served on a bed of puréed potato with olives and slivers of soppressata was excellent. The octopus was cooked to a perfect bounce and contrasted nicely with the spicy sausage. I think this dish could have done without the baby gem lettuce, however, which seemed out of place here.
For me, the words “rustic” and “Italian” are synonymous with meatballs. Harlan’s Mama’s Meatballs, made with veal, beef and pork sausage were the real deal – so tender and so flavoursome. It may be because my mother has always banned the word “gravy” from our house (“it’s not gravy, it’s jus”), but the menu’s description of “Sunday gravy” didn’t do this rich tomato sauce justice.
I adored the fritto di mare, a bowl of baby squid and shrimps deep-fried to a perfect crisp. Alone, or dipped into the garlicky chilli sauce, these were divine.
When the cannelloni arrived, we were all a little disappointed by the size of it (for $238 we expected it to be bigger). We then tasted it, and were even more disappointed that there wasn’t more to go around, as this was comfort food at its absolute best! Stuffed with chopped beef and smothered in a rich porcini mushroom, foie gras and black truffle sauce, these homemade pasta tubes were utter decadence.
Last of the savoury dishes, came the veal Milanese, a gigantic slab of tender, juicy veal, housed in crisp, moreish breadcrumbs, that was almost as good as my mother-in-law’s!
Having honeymooned in Sicily and eaten molti, molti cannoli (who says you can’t have cannoli for breakfast?!), we were excited to see that the dessert menu listed My Cannoli. Although it was tasty enough, and the pistachio ice cream a real highlight, this was not a patch on real Sicilian cannoli and the whole thing was a little too sweet for my liking.
If a tiramisu and a banoffee pie had babies, the product would be Ee Da Le’s tiramisu. Forget all the criteria of a true tiramisu for a second. Made with chopped banana, mascarpone, salted caramel and a coffee cookie, topped with amaretto nitrogen, this dessert was so far from a traditional tiramisu and yet so, so delicious.
The bill for five of us, including a total of two cocktails and two beers, came to over $500 a head. It’s certainly cheaper than Harlan’s former restaurants, but I’d imagine if you start adding bottles of wine, it would easily start getting silly. It’s great to see Harlan back in the dining scene and I am excited to see what his other three new restaurants have in store!
Ee Da Le
3/F, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace
Tel: +852 2896 1838