The creation of Bianco & Rosso, Hong Kong’s first “House of Vermouth”, is just as complex as the fortified wine itself. The new bistro and bar is inspired by the laidback bodegas, bars, and bistros that sit within courtyards and squares commonly seen in Spain, France, and Italy.
Taking a page from the Renaissance era, Bianco & Rosso incorporates historical elements of symmetry and proportion with high, semi-circular arched ceilings and soft, natural lighting.
Since the period also represents themes of art and nobility, a hand-painted backdrop of countryside scenery completes the interior, with another section that can be turned into a private dining room complete with a back bar.
Modern touches such as its grandiose statement lighting and scarlet-hued accents complement the clean white countertop tables, playing on common colours from the Renaissance era tied into the history of vermouth.
While vermouth is used in a variety of cocktails, the fortified wine was consumed by the nobility during the late renaissance period and introduced in Italy. At Bianco & Rosso, they mainly focus on two categories– Bianco is white and dry with a floral focus, while Rosso is scarlet-hued, sweet, but complex with a bitterness infused from wormwood.
The cocktail menu, led by industry veteran and mixologist Luca Andrei, is split into concise sections. Spritzers (majority $120) and highballs (all $95) are low-alcohol focused, while signatures (majority $120), including their ‘hall of fame’ section, contain a ton of variety.
Ambitious and creative, Bianco & Rosso is the only bar dedicated to vermouth, and offers amaro, sherry, port, as well as unique finds such as marsala from Sicily and romaji from Madeira. Other spirits, including wines, are limited as this house of vermouth encourages guests to try something unique.
The apfel strudel ($130) from the ‘hall of fame’ section represents Andrei’s concoctions over his career and goes well with the theme of the restaurant. It’s one of our favourites and is a liquid dessert in a glass. The ingredient focus is crisp apple wine, vodka, honey, and warm spices.
As a drink to open your appetite, I recommend trying the lychee & co. A frothy lychee foam tops the light drink which is inspired by Jamaican milk punch blended with Cocchi Americano. It’s fruity, well-rounded, but not too sweet. You can taste the smooth vermouth at the end of each sip.
Dirty deeds is a savoury, vermouth-based martini. This drink might better suit the afternoon, since the saltiness could overpower some of the dishes during dinner. It combines Mancino Secco with Kikusaki Tokusen, completed with Manzanilla olives.
Chef Ban Jee Min leads the kitchen and focuses on seasonal ingredients – so expect the menu to change a little! He draws from his experience working at Le Mirador Kempinski in Switzerland and La Petit Maison. The sharing plates take your palate on a European odyssey, and for the summer months, the dishes are generally lighter, using lots of lemons, olive oil, and tomatoes.
The pacific yellow tail crudo ($158) is dotted with black truffle caviar and sour cream. The dressing is a light vinaigrette containing shallots that isn’t too overpowering, with this dish taking influence from Chef Min’s LPM days.
The polmard beef tartare ($158) is well-seasoned, decorated with a few capers for a savoury and acidic touch. The beef is mixed with some herbs, confit egg yolk, and served with thin, crisp gaufrette chips.
I found the acquerello risotto ($248) to be undercooked. Boston lobster and chervil oil dress the plate, and the sauce was utterly rich.
The al dente crunch works well with the ricotta ravioli ($198) since the filling is silky and soft, giving some texture to the dish. The pasta is tossed with seasonal mushrooms and black truffle, a great combination that isn’t too heavy.
The signature vanilla cheesecake ($118) is a must-order to finish your meal, and one of the best I’ve had. Versus its American counterparts that contains a thick and heavy filling, Bianco & Rosso’s version is thin and crispy with a light, melt-in-your-mouth vanilla filling completed by fresh strawberries on top.
Looking at the menu, I thought we’d have a lighter meal but you end up filling your appetite once you add on the pastas and meats. A lot of history and thought went into the design of Bianco & Rosso. This new bistro also has a unique edge in the city, being the only spot to serve almost entirely vermouth cocktails. I look forward to seeing more of their seasonal bites and coming back to try the other signatures!
Bianco and Rosso
29 Gough Street, Central
Call 2813 1669 for reservations
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.