The day it was announced that long-standing Pacific Place restaurant Dan Ryan’s was closing its doors was a sad day for many, particularly those who had grown up attending birthday parties at this American diner – even if it was the DR balloon that excited them more than the food itself! Standing in its place now is Italian restaurant Operetta, which has recently welcomed Chef Luca de Bernadinis to the kitchen and launched an exciting new menu.
Prior to chef Luca’s arrival, the restaurant, rather bizarrely, offered an Italian-Japanese menu that hadn’t quite managed to win the hearts of its diners. With many successful Italian restaurants on his CV, including Il Milione and Nicholini’s in Hong Kong, as well as a number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy, Chef Luca knows exactly the way to a person’s heart.
The restaurant itself is a world away from its predecessor, with stylish and elegant interiors of stone tile mosaics, blonde timber and touches of vibrant colours, with two private dining rooms at the back.
The newly revamped menu features seasonal, fresh ingredients, many of which are brought over from Italy, to create refined yet affordable and comforting sharing dishes for all the family. We started with Chef Luca’s beef carpaccio, a beautiful modern take on this classic dish, featuring frisée leaves, peas and a lovely black truffle sauce that highlighted the beef, without overpowering it.
The eggplant parmigiana, topped with melted provolone cheese, was excellent, cooked to perfection and bursting with delicious Mediterranean flavours.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the shrimp tartar, even if it was stunningly presented. I appreciated the ever so slightly bitter baby zucchini and summer tomato salad, but the raw shrimp itself was a bit too fishy for my liking.
From the pizza section of the menu, I adored the calzone provolone. The pizza dough was impossibly light and airy, stuffed with a blend of provolone and mozzarella cheese, smoked ham and a delicate tomato sauce that made this folded pizza not too heavy and far too easy to eat.
I couldn’t quite make my mind up, however, about the pizza tonno. Here, the same light and airy base was topped with shredded tuna, rocket and mayonnaise – an interesting choice of toppings for a pizza in my opinion, but probably one that kids would love.
Both of Chef Luca’s pasta dishes that we tried pretty much blew my mind. The spaghetti fish roe “carbonara” style, laced with caviar, salmon roe, sea urchin and bottarga roe, sounds intense on paper, but it was utterly beautiful and the spaghetti itself cooked to a perfect al dente bite.
The pappardelle lamb ragout, made without tomatoes but with morel mushrooms and kale, was also excellent, the homemade pasta again perfectly cooked and the rich, meaty sauce sticking to it just right.
I seldom order chicken in a restaurant, as it’s rarely the most exciting dish on any menu. The spring chicken “diavola” was lovely and carried a very subtle spice, but it wasn’t a patch on the oven-baked Italian seabass. The latter was marinated and cooked in little more than Italian extra virgin olive oil and had the most incredible flavour and texture.
The Australian Black Angus Tomahawk, with a lovely char on the outside, was perfectly medium-rare beneath and beautifully tender. It was served on a bed of grilled vegetables and a baguette sliced lengthways to soak up all the juices.
For dessert, the reinterpreted tiramisu made with limoncello jelly, coffee jelly and mascarpone foam was lovely and light, but the real showstopper for me was the warm mascarpone tart with pistachio powder and raspberry foam that was like nothing I have ever tasted before.
Our meal was paired with some excellent Italian wines, of which the standouts for me were Il Morroneto Rosso di Montalcino “Ignaccio” 2014 and Ca’d’Gal Moscato d’Asti “Lumine” 2016.
Service at Operetta is faultless and personal. The prices are pretty reasonable for food of this calibre, with starters, pizzas and pastas mostly under $200 and mains between $160 and $430, aside from the tomahawk, which is priced at $1,100 (but for over a kilo of meat, that’s not terrible for Hong Kong). It’s the kind of place you can come for a lengthy dinner with friends, a casual family meal, or a quick bite before heading to the cinema just next door. I’ll admit I was a fan of Dan Ryan’s balloons and zucchini bread, but I am very happy to welcome Operetta in its place!
Shop 112, Pacific Place
Tel: +852 2115 8080