There can be quite a comedown after the celebratory highs of the Christmas and New Year’s period, especially if a vacation abroad is involved in your festivities. Post-Christmas and pre-Chinese New Year, a night out spent dining at Perla feels like a mini-holiday. 

Perla, a southern Italian restaurant by the team behind acclaimed Piedmontese eatery Castellana in Central, sits near the tippity top of the International Commerce Centre at ICC Sky Dining 101 on the 101st floor. The views, as expected, are exceptional, and they definitely factor into the prices. 

The eatery’s lunch menu is priced from HKD680 per person for three courses, whilst the six-course tasting menu we sampled, Above the Sea, costs HKD1,680 per diner. Then there’s the ultimate eight-course chef’s signature menu, for which diners need to be prepared to shell out HKD3,280 each – a price tag as sky-high as the views.

There are only about 20 seats in the elegant, serene main dining room, mostly well-spaced tables for two. Perla is a spot for birthdays, anniversaries, proposals, and intimate tête-à-têtes.

Chef Fabiano Palombini helms the kitchen, and his is a familiar name in Hong Kong’s Italian fine-dining sphere. The chef used to head up Castellana before venturing out on his own with KONTRASTO, an Italian fine-diner on Hollywood Road that is sadly no more.

Many of the dishes at Perla are duplicates or updates of those we enjoyed over the summer at KONTRASTO, and we’re pleased to see that they’ve been revived here. The focus at this restaurant is on fresh, high-quality Italian seafood, with a minimal use of cream, cheese, and other dairy products.

Perla aperitivo
Aperitivo di benvenuto

Before the aperitivo di benvenuto is presented by a black-gloved server, a trolley is wheeled over to our table, and we are tasked with choosing from the four regional Italian olive oils to accompany the outstanding bread basket, where the sun-dried tomato and olive focaccia is the standout.

The amuse-bouches are visually enticing and pack a lot of flavour into five small bites: trout sashimi cube with horseradish and dill, Brittany blue lobster tartlet, mushroom purée on filo pastry, potato arancini with guanciale, and chef Fabiano’s signature fish cracker with seaweed butter. There’s salt, umami, earthiness, and tang at play on the plate, preparing the palate for the innovative courses to follow.

Perla cured striped jack
Cured striped jack

The cured striped jack sets the starter stage with its eye-catching emerald hue. The Kristal caviar topping imparts a burst of brininess, whilst the Amalfi lemon gel and cucumber and green apple soup add a bright freshness.

Perla Alaskan king crab
Alaskan king crab

Next up, the Alaskan king crab, served in a striking golden crab-shaped vessel, is luxuriously comforting. The texture of the savoury zabaglione with crab roe is lighter and airier than expected, but the flavour is buttery and rich, a nice contrast.

Perla lobster
Brittany blue lobster

Now we move on to the seriously premium seafood. The lobster – in this case, Brittany blue lobster – is slow-cooked to sweet succulence, with its natural sweetness accentuated by the accompanying sweetcorn reduction. The additions of yuzu and seaweed salad to the mix are creative nods to Japan.

Perla Virtù

Our pasta course is another signature of chef Fabiano. Virtù is a culinary work of art, a tribute to a traditional pasta dish from the chef’s home region of Abruzzo that’s served on Labour Day in May each year. 

The pasta itself – a mixture of pasta types, from fusilli to mafalde – is served in a hefty pot separate to the individual seafood ingredients, which hail from around the world. Brittany blue lobster makes another appearance, as does Alaskan king crab. There’s a mussel from Brittany, Sicilian prawn tartare, and caviar to up the ante. This indulgent DIY dish involves mixing the pasta, drenched in a divine shellfish-based tomato sauce, with each piece of seafood, thereby getting a different flavour and texture profile with each bite. 

Perla wild pink sea brea
Wild pink sea bream

The wild pink sea bream main is the final savoury course of this seafood-only menu. The chunky sea bream is charcoal-grilled, and we rate its smoky tinge without a hint of fishiness. This dish, whilst luxe, feels light and healthy, served with a Mediterranean sauce of sun-dried tomato and olive and sides of pumpkin purée and baby spinach.

Perla persimmon dessert
Persimmon and bergamot

Continuing the health-conscious theme, the persimmon and bergamot dessert is made with sugar-free Italian meringue, allowing the delicate, honey-like flavour of the seasonal Italian persimmon to shine through.

Satiated, but not up to the gills, the menu concludes with a “ sweet ending” – a lovely selection of Italian-accented petits fours infused with the likes of pistachio, walnut-caramel, Amalfi lemon, and blood orange – and our whirlwind “above the sea” culinary journey comes full circle.

Our verdict of Perla

We’re glad to know that chef Fabiano has found a new home in the stunning surrounds of Perla. We’ve long admired his avant-garde approach to Italian cuisine, and at Perla, we particularly appreciate the lighter touch he gives to the refined seafood dishes crafted. This is a restaurant for special occasions and memories.

Perla, Shop B1, 101/F, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui, 3618 7880, book here

Order this: cured striped jack, Virtù, spaghettone with cured red tuna heart, carabineros red prawn, castagna (chestnut), chocolate, and vanilla
Menu: Perla menus
Price for two: HKD3,400 for the Above the Sea menu
Atmosphere: sophisticated Italian fine-dining amongst the clouds in a comfortably chic space with polished service
Perfect for: romancing over top-notch southern Italian seafood bites matched by killer views

This review is intended to offer an individual perspective on the dining experience and should not be considered as a definitive judgement of the restaurant’s overall quality or reputation. The views expressed in this review are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions of Foodie.

Stephanie Pliakas is the Digital Editor of Foodie. From Michelin-starred fine-dining to the local comfort-food eats dished out at cha chaan tengs, she has immersed herself in the 852’s ever-changing food scene since making Hong Kong her home more than a decade ago. When Stephanie is not devouring something delicious, she’s cooking and baking up a storm at home (whilst listening to true crime podcasts).

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