Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Central's Next Culinary Gem

Food guest blogger hkLifestyleGeek visits l'altro and give us her thoughts.

The L Place is fast becoming a new dining destination in Central and the latest addition is l'altro, which is Italian for "the other".

It's called that because two-starred Michelin chef Philippe Leveille is a Frenchman who has worked in Italy for more than two decades. The result is a fusing of the two cuisines to create new flavours. And if his retention of two Michelin stars since 2001 isn't any indication of his pursuit of creativity, taste and quality, I don't know what is.

Leveille will be coming here periodically, but the restaurant is ably helmed by Antimo Maria Merone from Naples. He too has worked in other countries, most notably Berlin and is enjoying his move to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is Leveille's first location outside of Italy and the restaurant is small and intimate with 64 seats, with window views looking down on Queen's Road while the semi-open kitchen is at the back where guests can watch the action going on inside.

The decor is quiet and minimalist, though the atmosphere gets distracted by the pounding from the upstairs gym. We've been told the restaurant has tried to get the gym to turn down the volume, but it seems like it'll be an ongoing challenge to the otherwise elegant place.

But we're not here to gripe about the surroundings but to rave about the food.

Best to sample l'altro from its set menus -- four courses for HK$880 or six courses for HK$1,080. The latter includes two desserts.

We sampled the four-course dinner which was plenty. To start we had an amuse bouche of ricotta cheese wrapped inside smoked salmon topped with caviar and surrounded by sea water emulsion.

It was an interesting combination that whet our appetite for more and next came the one side roasted scallop on a bed of marinated vegetables and confit tomatoes. Presented on a large shell-like plate, the plump scallop was partially cooked and retained its sea flavour and had a tempura string bean on top for an Asian finish.

Next came one of our favourite dishes of the evening -- homemade spaghetti with clams and Pantelleria capers, seawater emulsion. The presentation is cute with the spaghetti rolled up. The pasta is cooked perfectly and has a great texture ensuring its provenance is definitely from the kitchen. We like the small plump clams and the brininess from the olives.

For mains, the one side grilled pigeon, squid and chorizo brunoise, light sauce of foie gras and crustacean reduction is delicious and tender. The sauce is an intriguing combination of foie gas with a bisque, but it works well, not to heavy and complements the pigeon quite well, if only a tad salty.

Finally the piece de resistance is the homemade gelato Miramonti. This is unlike any gelato you've tasted and has a unique presentation too. The 50-year-old recipe is apparently a secret, but we could discern custard and lemony flavours in this refreshing dessert that was scooped into glasses tableside and cooked strawberries on top.

Yes it's a bit expensive for being on the edge of Central, but the quality of the food is worth paying for. Just hope they can sort out the sound problem upstairs...

10/F, The L Place
139 Queen's Road Central
2555 9100

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