Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mario Batali takes on Hong Kong

Food and travel guest blogger hkLifestyleGeek gives us her next scoop on fantastic restaurants around town and travel tips. Contact her at
Disclosure: Lupa is a client of FashionGeek’s day job. All views are presented by guest blogger LifestyleGeek

The highly-anticipated Lupa opened to much fanfare, with one of Gwyneth Paltrow's favourite chefs Mario Batali in town for the festivities. LHT Tower -- or the building with the GAP store -- is fast becoming occupied with businesses and Batali won't just have Lupa, but Carne Vino which will open later in the summer.

First let's go over what we like about Lupa. We love love the outdoor terrace in the back. It's huge, has areas for small groups to have laid-back get-togethers and also breathe in fresh oxygen thanks to the vertical garden on the wall. Too bad this area is first come, first served, but well worth the effort of skipping work early just to get a seat.

We also love the interior of this restaurant. The place has the feel of an upscale New York eatery, with lots of tiles on the floor as well as wood, relatively high ceilings and sophisticated look. The private room, if you get a chance to peek inside, is definitely special, with a giant chandelier creating a dramatic entrance and the walls are covered in old school hand-drawn maps.
The giant bronze statue of the she wolf with Romulus and Remus suckling on her, and these twin boys later founded Rome will be lost on most people unless they studied Western civilization; but it's a nice cultural touch.

And then there's the menu. We were surprised to find Batali's famous pizza is not available inside the restaurant, but out on the terrace. We have yet to try this pizza which I hear is amazing (well at least the one in Los Angeles).
However, we managed to try some other dishes and we were surprised to find half of them were good, the other half not -- even with the fleece vest and orange Croc-wearing top dog was in the house.

Nevertheless here was the lowdown: The verdure or vegetarian starters were OK, such as the Sicilian sweet and sour eggplant relish (HK$48), bitter broccoli with creamy cows milk cheese (HK$48). The marinated olives (HK$48) came seasoned with citrus and chilli.

You can't go wrong with slices of proscuitto (HK$148) if it's quality ham from Parma, and for the curious -- I didn't try this -- there's pork head with fennel (HK$98). The salad of arugula with lemon vinaigrette (HK$98) was straightforward, fresh and refreshing. And then we moved to pasta.

The garganelli with oxtail ragout (HK$198) was excellent, lots of flavour, but then we were disappointed by the thin linguine with cheese and black pepper (HK$168) that was way too heavy on the pepper.

For the second course, we enjoyed the local snapper cooked in parchment paper (HK$238), its delicate flavours encased in the package that was opened tableside.

But then in the lamb braciole or slowly braised lamb shoulder with olives, cannellini beans and citrus, the gameyness of the lamb was cancelled out by the sourness of the olives, resulting in the meat having not much flavour. And the overdose of olives made the dish salty too.

Nevertheless, Lupa was redeemed by its desserts.Chocolate lovers will enjoy the flourless chocolate cake with toasted hazelnuts and drizzled chocolate sauce and we loved loved loved the blood orange panna cotta with basil (HK$98).
Service seems well intentioned, but not quite sure with what to do with themselves; there are hordes of staff everywhere but you're not quite sure what everyone does. Hopefully in the next few weeks Lupa will sort all this out -- and we want to get our hands on the pizza -- if we can get out of the office early enough.

3/F, LHT Tower
31 Queen's Road
2796 6500

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