Sleek steakhouses abound in Hong Kong, many housed within five-star hotels with impressive views. Joining this luxurious meaty pack is Carna by Dario Cecchini, located at the top of the newest luxury hotel on the block, Mondrian Hong Kong in Tsim Sha Tsui, accessed via an independent glass lift.
How does it compare to its premium steakhouse peers?
As its moniker states, Carna is the brainchild of “the world’s greatest butcher”, larger-than-life Italian Dario Cecchini, who became world famous on Netflix’s Chef’s Table series for his passion and charisma. A descendant of eight generations of butchers from Panzano, a tiny village in Tuscany, Dario will celebrate his remarkable 50th anniversary as a butcher next year.
This Hong Kong outpost of Carna marks the third for the master butcher, with other locations in the Bahamas and Dubai. What sets Carna apart from other steakhouses around town is Dario’s sustainable, nose-to-tail approach, utilising every part of the animal; instead of referring to Carna as a “steakhouse”, Dario cheekily calls it a “whole-cow-house”.
The butcher has the utmost respect for the animals he carves and serves up to diners, explaining that it’s his mission to ensure they have a good life and compassionate death, stating, “Respect comes in the form of honouring this sacrifice.”
Overseeing the kitchen on a daily basis is Dario’s protégé – and fellow Tuscan – Daniele Milliani, whom Dario says is like a son to him. Sharing Dario’s sustainable philosophy, Daniele’s culinary career has seen him journey from Italy to the Maldives, now landing in Hong Kong.
On Carna’s menu, there’s a special symbol denoting zero-waste dishes and a diagram of a cow at the back with annotations describing the 18 beef cuts used at the restaurant. Our dinner tasting began at cut 16 – the rump – with the Chianti tartare (HKD298).
This is an exceptional tartare, prepared tableside, with the chef tenderising and hand-chopping the flavourful, lean meat. The simple marinade – garlic, paprika, lemon, chilli, Chianti salt, and olive oil – instantly penetrates the beef and allows its natural flavour to shine. The taste is pure and explosive at the same time, coating the palate with a deep, salty, meaty savouriness, along with a bit of a kick from the chilli. Pile the tartare atop the house-made sourdough toast and you’ve got yourself a big dose of edible bliss.
Another recommended starter is the polpette ripiene di midollo (HKD268), which places cuts 14 (belly) and 17 (bone marrow) in the spotlight. These are strikingly black-hued, deep-fried meatballs filled with shredded meat and marrow – rich and intense in flavour. The accompanying homemade orange sauce cuts through the heaviness with its slight bitterness.
We tried a selection of the chef’s cuts of charcoal-grilled beef, and it was the Italian bistecca Toscana (HKD1,880/1.2kg) that bagged the gold medal. This hefty, well-grilled chunk of grain-fed Frisona Carima beef (cuts 10 and 12, the rib-eye and striploin) is dry-aged for 45 days. Carima beef comes from female cattle that are around 16 months old; think of it as the European version of Wagyu – highly marbled and supremely tender and juicy – doused liberally in Chianti salt and olive oil. We especially enjoyed the steak’s salty crust – Maillard reaction on overdrive.
Carna’s sides are worthy in their own right. Made with plenty of butter and Grana Padano cheese, the mashed potatoes (HKD88) are creamy spud perfection, whilst Dario Cecchini’s stewed white beans (HKD98) – a Tuscan staple – bring earthy comfort, again with lots of good olive oil and, this time, fresh sage leaves added to the mix.
The tiramisù di casa (HKD208) is a fitting finale at an Italian steakhouse. Served in a sharing portion, Carna’s version of this iconic Italian dessert is heavier on the mascarpone and cream and lighter on the (still slightly crunchy) savoiardi biscuits, with the acerbic coffee flavour balancing the sweetness.
Our verdict of Carna by Dario Cecchini
There are extravagant hotel steakhouses, and then there’s Carna, which stands nose and tail (literally) above the rest owing to founder Dario’s sustainable culinary philosophy, using all parts of the animal in order to limit waste. Dario and chef Daniele’s passion for sustainability is palpable, and this results in a thoughtfully designed menu delivering incredibly delicious cuts of beef. Carna is one to watch out for as award season rolls around!
|Order this: Chianti tartare, vitello tonnato, Italian bistecca Toscana, salsiccia alla grigila, mashed potatoes, stewed white beans, tiramisu
Menu: Carna menu
Price for two: HKD2,000–2,400
|Atmosphere: warm, cosy, and elegant Joyce Wang-designed renaissance-like space with low marbled ceilings, arches, and romantic lighting
Perfect for: carnivores who appreciate both fine steaks and the need for sustainable dining
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.