I admire how the Italians love to share food. It is so ingrained in their culture that Italian restaurants (even the really nice ones) do not prohibit this and are more than happy to oblige, bringing extra plates or serving them divided. Whenever I dine at an osteria or trattoria, I, too, like to immerse myself in the traditional Italian food experience and order an antipasto, primo and secondo to share with a friend.
PAPI recently reopened at Fashion Walk in Causeway Bay, and its new concept encapsulates this spirit of Italian culture. The dishes are deliberately designed in bigger portions, as they believe in the importance of sharing food with loved ones.
The restaurant is bright and sleek, with its clean design drawing inspiration from the Memphis design movement of the ’80s. It is a huge, two-storey space and offers lovely views of Victoria Park.
The slow-cooked Italian egg, spinach, eggplant and pine nut salad ($128) was a great start to the meal. The star of the dish was the egg; cooked at precisely 65 degrees Celsius for 28 minutes, it provided a great viscosity on the leaves. The pine nuts were also generously scattered over the plate and gave a good crunch to the greens.
The miniature pan-fried crab cakes ($118) came next. Crab cakes are one of my favourite foods, and I particularly love the Maryland version. PAPI’s style was new to me, made with crab flakes, celery and breadcrumbs. The mini patties tasted sweet, with a very slight bite from the chilli bits. They were beautifully savoury, but I finished a piece in a couple of bites and wished it had been bigger.
The traditional pizza con lardo di Colonnata ($178) is a dish worth ordering. The taleggio cheese base was draped with thin slices of fatty Colonnata lardo and asparagus stalks, and I could taste honey as well. It was sinful, but I’ve never eaten melt-in-your-mouth lardo that good on a pizza. This was my favourite dish of the meal.
The dessert platter ($178) was delightful and perfect for those who can’t decide on their sweets. The pretty sampler included bowls of hazelnut gelato, panna cotta and tiramisu. The gelato was scattered with dried cranberries for a good punch in each spoonful, and the silky-smooth panna cotta provided the same mixed-sweet experience, with a nest of lovely, bitter coffee granita on top. The tiramisu had very little cream added to it, reducing the feeling of bloatedness.
This could double up as an afternoon tea treat, and I was also surprised I didn’t crash on a sugar high later that afternoon.
PAPI is one of the few restaurants I’ve tried that provides dining with great views of Victoria Park – not exactly the heartlands, but it does offer an affordable dining escape from the hustle and bustle of Central. The spinach salad and dessert didn’t disappoint, but I know this will be the place to get my lardo pizza fix when I’m craving it.
G/F, 8 Cleveland Street, Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay, 2808 0820
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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