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Perched high amongst the clouds at towering International Commerce Centre is Hong Kong’s newest Italian fine-dining establishment, Radical Chic. The ambiguously named restaurant opened its doors for its soft opening this week, and we managed to sneak in a preview tasting at the inaugural friends and family evening.
The minimalistic, art-gallery-inspired decor is offset by pops of burnt orange hues in the soft furnishings, as well as striking light fixtures. The entry foyer, paved in large-pebbled terrazzo, leads diners first past an intimate bar before opening up to the main dining room, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of iconic Victoria Harbour.
As reflected in the name, Radical Chic is a revolutionary take on Italian cuisine, merging art and the freshest seasonal Italian ingredients on the plate. The restaurant is the passion project of Matteo Fabio Morello and Jojo Hui, the husband-and-wife-team who are also behind Italian fine-dining restaurant Castellana in Causeway Bay, as well as Hotel San Giovanni Resort and Castellana San Giovanni in Italy.
At the helm of this “radical” restaurant is Executive Chef Andrea Tarini, who has led Michelin-starred restaurants spanning the globe, from Italy, to Dubai, to Singapore. The humble, mild-mannered chef earned his culinary stripes while working alongside three-Michelin-starred chef Mauro Uliassi, forging a culinary partnership over the course of 13 years.
Since our preview tasting was the inaugural dinner service at Radical Chic, we decided to leave it to the chef in regards to selecting representative dishes from his degustation menu. There are à-la-carte options as well, but a full culinary journey is best enjoyed through either a six- or eight-course tasting menu, priced at $1,380 and $1,680 per person respectively.
Our meal began with freshly baked, incredibly aromatic sourdough with an addictively flavourful crust. The bread uses a unique strain of yeast that was brought over from Italy. This is the same wildly popular bread that is served at sister restaurant Castellana. We felt very much like the cartoon rat in Ratatouille, listening for the satisfying crackle of the bread crust as we ripped into the piping-hot loaf.
Two amuse-bouches whet our appetites. The carrot cream ricotta tart was crowned with caviar, balanced on a deliciously indulgent shortcrust disc. The Pecorino cheese ball had a crisp, breadcrumbed crust and a rich, gooey centre. It paired well with the smidgen of tomato purée beneath.
Not fans of beef tartare, we were initially hesitant about the raw Fassona beef, served with grappa-infused nashi pear blanketed under a “waterfall” of melted Toma cheese. Upon first bite, our reservations were set aside, with the lean beef displaying such a clean taste that we almost mistook it for tuna sashimi. Sometimes ingredients like shallot, caper and egg are added to tartare to mask the gaminess of the raw beef or add velvety texture, but this raw Fassona beef requires no such flavour enhancers. This extremely lean beef melts in the mouth and leaves no hint of gaminess. The sweet crunch of nashi pear adds contrast to the beef, pairing well with the Brie-like melted Toma cheese. We also found the filo pano, curls of crisp bread underneath the beef, to be very flavourful, adding great textural contrast.
The frog legs with green tomato marmalade is a dish worthy of using your fingers. We know we were at a fine-dining establishment, but there was no more satisfying way of stripping the juicy morsels of meat off each little leg. The frog legs are tender, juicy and breaded lightly, creating a very crunchy crust. The green tomato marmalade, which looks tart in appearance, provides sun-kissed sweetness in flavour, reminding us of relish.
A highlight of the meal was the zucchini soup with fried squash flower. This would also be any vegan’s dream dish for its indulgent taste without the use of animal products. The vibrantly green soup is irresistibly creamy – difficult to fathom, since it uses no butter or cream. The subtle hint of basil adds uplifting notes to this delicious, summery dish. The soup is a tribute to the power of plants, showing how plant-based dishes can shine and hold their weight against crowd-pleasing carbs and meats.
Presented like an art piece on a canvas of black ceramic, the Carnaroli risotto with red prawn, baby squid, clam, sea urchin and caviar challenged our perceptions of the popular Italian rice dish. Rather than being served in a gooey, creamy heap, Radical Chic’s version is served in a flattened, circular disc, and the idea is to eat each spoonful topped with a morsel of seafood. The varying textures and flavours of the seafood varieties means that each spoonful brings a different taste profile and experience. Each plump, al-dente kernel of rice is infused with umami fish stock and is irresistibly creamy.
Using Omi Wagyu from Shiga Prefecture in Japan, the juicy morsels of beef are paired with bell peppers and a very refined Italian BBQ sauce, made in-house with balsamic vinegar and caramelised onion. The Japanese black Omi breed has been raised for hundreds of years in Japan and is branded as that country’s oldest beef variety. The texture of Omi beef differs from the buttery, often overwhelmingly fatty texture of other varieties of Wagyu, with a more robust, hearty flavour minus an abundance of fat.
Utilising fruit at the peak of its season, the red cherry sorbet palate cleanser came nestled on a bed of fresh cherries, served with a fragrant spear of rosemary.
Variations of deconstructed tiramisu have crept up on menus over the years, but most versions have caused us to refer back to the phrase “don’t mess with a good thing”. Radical Chic’s rendition gave us pause, with each component of the dish working well on its own as well as combined. It didn’t make us miss eating classic tiramisu, because it didn’t try to mimic it. Instead, this dish highlights the flavour profile of each ingredient. And let’s be honest – one can never have too much mascarpone.
We are thoroughly impressed with the imaginative flavour pairings and flawless execution at Radical Chic, especially as this was the inaugural meal and the kitchen and staff are still finding their feet and perfecting the operational flow. The name of the restaurant might be confusing and off-putting to some, but we’re convinced that the actual dining experience will settle any qualms about the worthiness of the name. Sitting high in the clouds at ICC’s lofty 101st floor, Radical Chic might just be within arm’s length of reaching the stars, of the Michelin variety.
Shop B1, 101/F, ICC, 1 Austin Road West, TST, 3618 7880, 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.
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