Friday, 20 April 2012

Lupa - Mario Batali's first Hong Kong offering

Tonight, Mr PTT whisked me over to Mario Batali's three week old baby, Lupa, to celebrate our big 10 year milestone...

We had been to one of Mario's popular New York City restaurants, Babbo, earlier last year and enjoyed most elements of our meal so we were eagerly hoping that Lupa would be added to our bucket list of Hong Kong regulars.

Here I am! I wore a new little dress that I picked up in Brisbane at Christmas time. It's actually made of taffeta and has a tulle underskirt - what's not to love? I wore my hair down which was a big mistake as Hong Kong had poured rain all day but I think I was in a "I haven't changed a bit in 10 years, have I Mr PTT" kind of mood.

Here's Mr PTT and I looking very matchy matchy and colour coordinated.

We had a little tipple first with Mr PTT's new friend A and his lovely girlfriend M. We were very spoilt with a bottle of Dom Perignon so the evening kicked off with a delicious and refreshing start.

Here we at in-situ at Lupa. It is a big gorgeous noisy restaurant full of dark wood and a tiled floor I covet for the Brisbane PTT Headquarter's kitchen.

On first impressions, if you are after a romantic evening, you could do better at a different restaurant. You become more intimate with the people at the next table that with the person you are dining with. In this photo you have Mr PTT's schnoz on the left and the guy at the next table's shoulder on the right and the sommelier, head chef and one of the waitresses filling the gap behind. Mr PTT and I didn't mind as we excuse a lot for good food but other people may have different priorities.

As you can see, Lupa is designed for food envy at the next table..


I didn't bother photographing the bread - it was a little boring (wholemeal-ish slightly tangy loaf cut smaller than your palm). It's a shame that they don't offer something a bit more interesting as most of the verdure and insalata came with sauces that are just begged to be mopped.

The menu is very reasonable and most dishes are perfect for sharing.

We mixed and matched from the verdure, insalta, pesca and fritti sections for our entree. We had Squash with Pecorino; Favas, Ricotta and Guanciale (Broad Beans, Pea Tendrils and Crispy Pork Jowl); Truffled Crema Fritta (Fried Truffled Cream); and Razor Clams with Fregola and Basil (Steamed Clams with Pearl Shaped Pasta and Basil Pesto).

The squash was excellent and a delicious contrast to the fritters. The fritters were so-so. We liked the idea but they could have done with a bit more a truffle flavour. The insalata was novel as the crispy pork jowl came frying in a copper saucepan which they poured over the salad table side. However, when eating the pork, some of the crackle became so crispy that you had to watch your teeth. The star of the entrees was the razor clams. The clams were actually chopped through the pasta and the fresh pesto sauce was light and delicious. The only thing spoiling this dish was a strange grit texture in some bites.

For main course we shared Corzetti with Rabbit Ragu (Coin Shaped Pasta with Rabbit, Cured Pork Belly and Sage). This was my highlight dish for the evening. I loved everything about it from the unusual shaped pasta, to the succulent rabbit to the buttery sauce that clung to each bite rather than pooling in the plate. I also loved the fact that Lupa split the dish into two without being asked.

Fuzzy bunny heaven...

Our other main course was Crispy Duck with Salsify and Saba (Confit Half Duck with Grape Viniagrette). I'm not a huge duck fan so we really ordered this for Mr PTT. I was actually attracted to the salsify component as I haven't seen this root vegetable on a menu since London. In case you are wondering, it looks like a skinny parsnip and tastes like artichoke hearts. All in all, the salsify was delicious, the duck was OK and I don't think the skin was crispy enough.

We shared this date torte for dessert and Mr PTT went all retro and had a glass of Frangelico. Unusually, unlike the dinner menu, the dessert menu offers no explanation to the components of each dish. It would have nice to know exactly what the drizzle was and how the date on the side was prepared as the whole thing was delicious! Maybe it was designed intentionally to add to the mystery but I can eat with my eyes and I do love a good calorie free menu description.

All in all, we enjoyed Lupa and will most definitely return. Apart from the rabbit pasta and the date torte, none of the dishes would be on my must have list at Lupa in the future. However, it is an extensive pick and mix menu and I am curious to try some of the other dishes.

The service was good but you can tell it is a new machine that will hopefully turn into a well-oiled one in the future eg. the sommelier dribbled wine on our table as he was pouring the first glasses, we had to ask for oil to go with our bread, we had to ask to order. On the other hand, food service was extremely prompt and all staff were quick to respond to our requests.

Has Lupa made the Hong Kong Bucket List? Not quite yet, but we are excited to have a new baby to play with to see what she grows up into...


Pseudo Tai Tai xx

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