In recent years, Hong Kong’s dining scene has seen a flourish of “red sauce”, Italian-American-type eateries the likes of Carbone and Franks. Although they have been big crowd-pleasers, there hasn’t been much news on the fine-dining side of Italian cuisine. But, now, the opening of Castellana puts refined Italian back into the limelight.
Created in collaboration with two-Michelin–starred chef Marco Sacco of Italy’s Piccolo Lago restaurant, the elegant establishment takes up the 10th floor of the Cubus building in Causeway Bay and focuses on the authentic flavours of Piedmont. This unique region in Italy, which borders France and Switzerland, is renowned for its rich, bold flavours, highlighted in both its wines and truffles. The climate of Piedmont produces the highest number of Tier 1 wines in all of Italy, and Castellana boasts an extensive wine collection, with exclusive vintages dating back to the early 1960s.
Upon walking into the intimate, 50-seat restaurant, our attention was instantly captivated by a tower of black truffles set upon a pedestal. The restaurant prides itself on its ample supply of Piedmont truffles, and it even offers three signature cocktails made with truffle-infused liquor.
Each table is set with rolled napkins that guests are asked to pull out themselves so that they are the only ones to touch them – perfect for the germaphobes!
Since Castellana has opened in partnership with Piccolo Lago, we had to try the signature Un Assaggio del Marco Sacco menu ($1,580), which consists of seven courses from the Michelin-starred restaurant. There are three tasting menus (from $880) on offer, as well as an à-la-carte menu.
Our amuse-bouche was a substantial coin of veal “sausage” tartare, made with raw veal and pork fat. The seasoning of the tartare evoked the flavours of sausage, and the composition was embellished with porcini sauce and mushroom dust.
Almost too pretty to eat, the thick digit of smoked lake trout arrived dressed in a coating of balsamic-vinegar-infused fine breadcrumbs and red berry sauce. Because Piedmont does not have any coastline, the only fish there are from freshwater lakes. We liked that the smoked fish was not presented in the usual thin slices, but in a thick, hearty slab that really accentuated its flavourful meatiness.
The beef broth arrived with a spoonful of beef tartare, dressed with a polenta crisp as a palate cleanser. Not usually fans of raw beef, Castellana’s version changed our minds with its clean, palatable flavour, accented with chives. The beef consommé was incredibly light and refreshing, and we particularly liked the vinegary carrots, which contrasted in both texture and flavour against the raw beef.
A feast for the eyes as well as for the palate, the risotto with black garlic and river prawn was a stark visual contrast between light and dark, and the sweetness from the black garlic complemented the delicate sweetness of the prawn. We almost licked the plate clean!
This is not your everyday carbonara. Castellana’s carbonara “au koque”, using handmade tagliolini and crowned with Vigezzo Valley cured ham, is smothered in the most addictive gin-infused egg sauce. This is a genius sauce, with the slight edge from the gin helping to highlight the creaminess of the egg and cheese yet also adding lightness to an otherwise traditionally heavy recipe.
With a glaze as glossy as lipstick, the Corregone lake fish was a perfect rectangle covered in a berry sauce so dark we almost mistook it for squid ink. Paired with fresh blackberries and wilted greens, this dish was deliciously satisfying.
The usual beef dish to grace the Piccolo Lago menu is Fassona beef and duck liver ravioli with polenta crumble. However, on the evening of our visit, we tasted another variation that we are sure is equally as flavourful. The tender, buttery cube of beef was surrounded by leek and potato purée, served with dollops of foie gras foam and polenta crumbs.
A classic Italian dessert with a twist, the tiramisu at Castellana is a three-part act: “traditional” on the left, “present” in the middle and “future” on the right. The surprise was in the chocolate dome of the “future” segment, which exploded with tiramisu flavours in the mouth.
The best fine-dining Italian experience we’ve had in Hong Kong in a long time. The unique style of the Piedmont region sets Castellana apart from other Italian restaurants around town, with every dish executed to perfection. Matteo, the owner and sommelier, was attentive and extremely personable, showcasing some mesmerising Italian vintages to complement our meal. We will definitely be back for more.
10/F, CUBUS, 1 Hoi Ping Road, Causeway Bay, 3188 5028, book online
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.
For more reviews like this, like Foodie on Facebook