What? Private kitchens are in. An embarkation by (usually) successful chefs who need a more intimate table to cook for, this format of dining has become prominently popular in Hong Kong in parallel with the likes of New York and London. Of course, the soaring rent prices keep most small and medium businesses out of the central districts, to the advantage of areas like Chai Wan and Wong Chuk Hang. What Brooklyn was to Manhattan, so these areas are becoming to Central and Admiralty, and Hong Kong is becoming all the better for the diversification.
Dine-Art is one such recent addition to this burgeoning dining arena, merging finer Italian cuisine with modern art. The confluences of visually stirring surroundings with well executed cookery makes for a magical evening, it must be said. Add to the mix a handcrafted table with candelabras and the obscure location that is as close to a loft location as Hong Kong is going to get, and you have an experience fit for a hipster.
Lunch: In a recent development, Dine-Art have a spot of midday dining available to those who work in the area. Open for lunch from 11am to 3pm Monday to Friday and offering 32 seats, the menu changes weekly and provides the likes of the fish set: a soup and appetizer + salmon fillet, baked vegetables, honey/dill sauce ($158) or pasta set: soup & appetizer of the day + homemade tagliatelle, lamb ragout ($138). Given the stock of the kitchen and the immaculate decor, the price point sits about right. What is even more fun; diners are invited to create a piece of art on their placemats to run for the artist of the week contest, getting the chance to win a free set lunch. It's a hands on experience, this one.
Dinner: The food is very well executed at Dine-Art, under the watchful eyes of Chef Cosimo, previously executive chef of the beloved Domani in Admiralty. Fine italian dining is where the courses find their inspiration and elegantly do the plates come laden with refined ingredients in playful combinations.
Our highlight of the night was the hamachi carpaccio, tomato essence, raw scampi, basil and topinambur (Jerusalem artichoke) chips. A hot appetiser of Hokkaido scallop sat beside goose liver, was a pairing we probably would not have thought to combine–the duo of such luxurious ingredients was an overkill and it might have been better to highlight just one. The hazelnut puree was a revelation, and the Nutella-esque paste brought to life the nuttiness of the scallops, brightened by pea sprouts and lemon foam.
Pasta that is made the day of serving is approached with gaiety in our office, and the ravioli, buffalo ricotta cheese and semi dried tomatoes were as good as any we have tried, the al dente pasta hidden under a snow of grey mullet bottarga, and ingredient oft unknown in this region and which we were glad to see made use of. Slow cooked veal tenderloin formed the main course, with a topinambur puree, sweet breads, baby vegetables, and a lemon chantilly. Bring on all the Jerusalem artichokes!
Sweet: Dessert was a tiramisu, traditional but modern, broken down and separated, intensely fluffy with plenty of crunch. Hats off to Italy on its national dessert, and to the chef who presents it without returning to tedious familiarity.
Verdict: A private dinner (minimum ten guests) will come in just under $900 per head, not including wine. The experience is what you pay for here, surrounding by bold artwork and in an environment that is as stylish as it is covert. It is a good and pleasant thing to see the chef plating up dishes three steps away, while the Kondo KSL-DAC sound system thumps steadily, crisply but inconspicuously throughout the night. Although one could pay two hundred dollars more and be placed in a Michelin-starred restaurant with nine course tasting menu, the passion and nouveau ordeal of eating in a loft in Hong Kong is definitely worth a try.
Kwai Bo Industrial Building, 40 Wong Chuk Hang Rd; 2805 8555