Restaurant review: Octavium by Chef Umberto Bombana, Hong Kong (1 Michelin star)
Visiting Chef Umberto Bombana’s creative laboratory
When it comes to top notch Italian food in Hong Kong, most people probably think of one place: Otto e Mezzo. Chef Umberto Bombana has called the restaurant his most personal project ever as well as his most fanciful masterpiece yet. It opened to critical acclaim garnering two Michelin stars after just months of opening and has held three stars since 2011. There are now Otto e Mezzo’s in Shanghai and Macau but do you know what Hong Kong has that the others don’t? Octavium.
Located just a few buildings over from Otto e Mezzo, Octavium is described as Chef Bombana’s creative laboratory. It’s slightly more chill than its sister spot, serving up dishes the Chef himself prefers eating on a regular basis... but with twists. Octavium’s mission is to provide a space where he, along with Executive Chef Silvio Armanni, can experiment with new ideas. Now that’s definitely a space I want to visit.
Recently, I had the chance to visit Octavium, which earned its first Michelin star last year, to try their new “Octavium Experience” menu ($1,680 per person + $880 for wine pairing).
The restaurant is located on the 8th floor of a sleek building on Des Voeux Road Central. While there are white tablecloths, the cognac-coloured Cassina Cab leather chairs, colourful Venetian water glasses, and nature-inspired chandeliers give off a ‘we don’t take things too seriously here’ vibe. I especially liked the playful touch of having large lemons on the tables in place of flowers. It’s an intimate space with just ten or so tables in the main dining room. There’s also a private room that comfortably seats eight to ten.
The "Octavium Experience"
We started with a polenta chip topped with cheese and pear jam and a small bite of trout and salmon roe. Both had unusual combinations that worked well.
“Daniel Sorlut” Oyster
A decadent dish with oysters, kaluga caviar, and Champagne foam.
Challans duck breast
Pairing duck with the juicy morels delivered an excellent, earthy-rich flavour, and the carrots, three ways, added sweet and light.
Spaghetti Chitarra and Homemade Ravioli
For me, the stars of the night were these two pasta dishes.
The spaghetti with Sicilian red prawns and cime di rapa (like broccoli rabe) was flawless. Both the spaghetti and red prawns were perfectly cooked. The prawn sauce was decadent and classic, and the cime di rapa puree, with its herby kickiness, added that unique something extra.
Our homemade ravioli was stuffed with a molten Pecorino cream. Alone this would have been delicious but its flavour was enhanced with fresh mint, a spicy ‘ndujia puree and… crispy bits of fried lard! Yas.
Kinki, a fatty, meaty fish from Japan, was served with sweet green pea and sprouts as they are all at the peak of their seasonal flavours. A lovely, pure-tasting dish.
“Te Mana” Lamb Rack
Our table was in agreement that this was some incredibly clean-tasting lamb (sourced from New Zealand’s South Island). Loved the creamy, fresh sauce made from friggitello bell peppers served alongside it.
Panna e Frangoline
Though stuffed, we all managed to make a significant dent in this fresh, rich wild strawberries with whipped cream dessert. It paired excellently with the 2017 Moscato d’Asti by Saracco.
I had a marvelous meal at Octavium. There’s tremendous skill in the kitchen and lots of creativity at work. The “Octavium Experience” menu is wonderfully playful and well executed. At first, some of the dishes might seem familiar but they all come with that something extra. It’s on for just one or two more weeks, or as long as the ingredients are available. But once it’s over, I’m sure there will be something equally wonderful to replace it. If you’re looking for interesting, elevated comfort food in an understated, elegant setting, definitely give Octavium a try.
8/F One Chinachem Central, 22 Des Voeux Rd Central, 2111 9395
*By invitation for Foodie