At Posso, owner/chef Max Wong renders Venetian-inspired sharing plates with a dedication to authentic Italian cuisine and the use of seasonal ingredients
Amidst the bustling heartbeat of Central and Sheung Wan stands Kau U Fong, a tranquil street with an idyllic ambience that sets itself apart from the urban frenzy. Every time I arrive at this peaceful oasis, walking downhill from Aberdeen Street, a sense of relief washes over me like a soothing embrace, even in the crazy heat of July. Recently, I found a momentary respite from Hong Kong’s summer heat at Posso on Kau U Fong.
Posso, meaning “I can” in Italain, is owner/chef Max Wong’s answer to transcending boundaries and crafting a culinary journey of cicchetti by merging his Chinese heritage with his passion for Italian cooking. Cicchetti – the Venetian version of Spanish tapas – encompasses a broad range of finger foods, snacks and small plates that are traditionally served at bars in Venice called bacari. Cicchetti also embodies the significance of communal dining; the spirit of camaraderie thrives when these bite-sized delights are passed around and savoured amongst friends and strangers alike.
Chef Wong is not only an advocate of using locally sourced ingredients, but he is also a master of presentation, ensuring that each dish is a work of art. Under his stewardship, the art of traditional cicchetti is reimagined with a modern twist, delivering a truly unforgettable dining experience.
The chef also knows that munching on cicchetti would not be complete without having un’ombra di vino (a small glass of wine). Posso offers a well-executed beverage programme including a careful selection of wine and classic cocktails.
As soon as I set foot inside Posso, the scorching heat outside faded swiftly into oblivion. I was greeted by a space that exudes a sense of calm and inviting brightness. The understated charm of the natural wooden tables and chairs creates a sense of warmth, whilst the beige brick wall radiates a rustic-chic elegance.
The scent of freshly baked bread wafted through the air as a warm, golden brown homemade focaccia (HK$95) accompanied by prosciutto caponata and bagna càuda beckoned, kicking off our tasting menu. As I moved the sharp blade through the crispy crust to reach the soft, pillowy interior of the focaccia, I pondered which dip to try first. The prosciutto caponata, featuring sautéed aubergine at its heart, delights with its velvety texture and perfect balance of delicate sweetness and savoury notes, pairing impeccably with the fluffy interior of the focaccia. On the other hand, the bagna càuda, a blend of garlic, anchovy and olive oil, infuses the bread with a rich, umami intensity. Despite its unassuming appearance, this quintessential Italian bread sets the stage for an unforgettable cicchetti safari.
As animated conversations began to fill our table, an enticing procession of small plates followed. The journey began with a visually stunning red prawn ceviche (HK$135) adorned with delicate salmon roe, invigorating habanero and fragrant bergamot. While this dish showcases a harmonious interplay of flavours from each element, the slight drawback came in the form of the prawn’s texture, which leaned towards being softer than desired.
With each dish that emerged from the kitchen, I couldn’t help but notice the twinkle of gastronomic passion gleaming in Chef Wong’s eyes. His warm introductions brought each creation to life, further enhancing my anticipation and appreciation for the dining journey that lay ahead.
Posso’s Wagyu beef tartare (HK$135) is a work of art. Showered in snowy white Parmesan cheese and chaperoned by elegantly arranged squid-ink-infused sesame crackers, the finely minced crimson mound of beef glistens with freshness. Each element is meticulously placed, demonstrating the chef’s dedication to culinary excellence. The luscious beef offers a buttery richness that melts in the mouth. The subtle, nutty hint of Parmesan further enhances the overall mouthfeel.
Posso’s most pleasant surprise must be the chickpea panisse (HK$80). The panisse is adorned with a captivating symphony of pickled celery, black olive and chilli raspberry, encapsulating the essence of a luminous summer. As my fork glided through the delicately crisp, amber exterior of the chickpea panisse, a smooth interior akin to the softest of clouds was effortlessly unveiled. The refreshing and briny sensation of pickled celery and black olive, intertwined with the burst of playful heat and fruity sweetness from the chilli raspberry, rejuvenated my palate like a cool breeze under the sun.
Posso’s menu also offers freshly made pasta. The radiatori (HK$160), that chunky pasta with its ruffled edges, is made with tiger prawn, prawn oil and ’nduja. Although cooked to al-dente perfection, the ’nduja is unduly spicy and overpowers the subtler flavours of the tiger prawn and other ingredients.
The seafood-imbued agnolotti (HK$175) is at the opposite end of the spectrum, captivating both my eyes and taste buds. The crabmeat’s sweetness harmonises beautifully with the umami richness of the uni, while the squid-ink-infused pasta, radiating a striking black hue, adds an earthy and briny note, elevating the overall taste.
The satisfyingly chewy bigoli (HK$135), soaked in a silky miso butter, holds up well to the black olives and porcini mushrooms. This a vegetarian-friendly pasta option that deserves a thumbs-up.
The grouper (HK$155), with its tender flesh, is seared and caramelised. The combination of the fish, mustard greens and cobnuts brings an interesting textural contrast to the dish, although the flavour profile is not as robust as expected and might fall short of diners’ expectations.
The Japanese surf clam (HK$155), embellished with thinly sliced leek, seaweed and pickled goji berries on a bed of fregola, is an excellent example of Chef Wong’s meticulous craftsmanship. I was almost unwilling to sacrifice its exquisite presentation when we were told to remove the plump and succulent clam meat from the shell and mix it with the other ingredients before digging it.
When it comes to selecting the most innovative dish on the menu, without a doubt my vote goes to the locally caught, three-day-aged red mullet (HK$195). This culinary creation showcases the ingenious skills of the chef, resulting in a dish that astounds. The red mullet, deboned and stuffed with a fusion of nori and romesco sauce, reaches the pinnacle of textural perfection. Its natural creaminess is brought to new heights through the meticulous process of dry-ageing for three days, intensifying its already heady flavour profile. The mullet’s scarlet skin, roasted to perfection, rests upon a bed of salmon-roe-butter emulsion, captivating the eye.
A wave of excitement swept through the room as the chef introduced the concept of chocolate-fed cattle; it was clear that something extraordinary was about to be presented. Enter the charcoal-grilled M9 Wagyu (HK$215), an absolute feast for meat enthusiasts and a treat beyond compare. This exceptional dish is the pinnacle of beef indulgence, with the premium cut prepared to a magnificent medium rare, then sliced expertly before finding its way to the plate. To complement the richness of the top-grade Wagyu, a vibrant duo is served alongside – punchy fermented kohlrabi and a spiced chimichurri made with carrot purée. Together, they add a tantalising kick that harmonises with the sumptuous flavour of the beef.
As my belly approached a state of contentment, the extensive tasting menu continued to unfold. Amongst the dishes that followed was the three-day-aged roasted three-yellow chicken (HK$590; 3 days advance order), a local favourite, with its succulent tenderness.
For those seeking plant-forward delights, the grilled broccolini (HK$135) and fried lion’s mane mushroom (HK$110) proved to be enjoyable dishes. The fried lion’s mane mushroom, in particular, delighted my palate with its crisp exterior and meat-like texture. Accompanied by horseradish yoghurt, it showcases a harmonious blend of earthy and tangy flavours that’s hard to resist.
Long before we embarked on our lunch, the mere mention of caper ice cream (HK$75), an unconventional and intriguing flavour profile, sparked our curiosity. The ice cream, nestled on a bed of pistachio and adorned with rich dark chocolate, is a decadent treat. However, we found that the tanginess of the capers was somewhat overshadowed by the dominant pistachio flavour.
With its focus on the art of cicchetti, Posso is a rare gem in Hong Kong’s ever-expanding culinary scene. What sets this restaurant apart is its thoughtful menu, which strikes a fine balance between variety and simplicity without overwhelming diners (the menu changes seasonally to align with the freshest of flavours). For those seeking a comprehensive cicchetti experience, the tasting sets for groups of up to eight are available and come highly recommended. Despite its location in Sheung Wan, Posso also manages to offer reasonable prices without compromising on the quality of the food or service.
An ancient Italian saying that, at the table, one does not grow old (a tavola non s’invecchia) reminds us that time stands still as we dine. Indeed, when surrounded by lovely company, enjoying a delectable spread of cicchetti crafted with passion, one’s age becomes irrelevant. I walked out of Posso feeling both nourished and rejuvenated.
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.