The intoxicating aroma of garlic sizzling away was our first tip-off that our dining experience at Sicilian was going to be a tasty one. Before that, we hadn’t heard much about this new Sicilian restaurant except that it’s operated by newly launched restaurant group Cygnus Concepts, whose portfolio also includes Momoz (we’re big fans of their momos and rolls) and another Italian newcomer we’ve yet to try, Americano – quite a diverse range of concepts.
The interior of the open-fronted eatery is warm and welcoming. The old-school black-and-white framed family photos are a sweet touch, and the brightly coloured, mosaic-like tiled floor is very pretty. The most quirky design feature is the ceiling, which is hung with an impressive collection of saucers, teapots, wooden spoons, forks, rolling pins, spaghetti, pasta, garlic chains and more.
The open kitchen is overseen by Executive Chef Marco Furlan, who has spent more than 20 years front and centre at some of Hong Kong’s top Italian restaurants, including Paper Moon and Spasso.
With an emphasis on southern Italian cuisine through the use of lots of olive oil instead of butter and very little cream, we began with some freshly baked bread with a tender crumb, which we enjoyed dipping into this zingy monovarietal (Nocellara) DOP extra-virgin olive oil from Sicily.
At the time of our visit, Sicilian had yet to receive its liquor license, so we wet our whistle with a Rosemary Refresher ($68), a fragrant mocktail with a pleasant undertone of bitterness, made with fresh grapefruit and orange juices, homemade rosemary syrup and sparkling water.
Our first bite to eat came in the form of capesante ($158), or scallops, topped with caviar. The smooth-as-silk cauliflower purée (no cream!) is a worthy accompaniment to the scallops, which are wrapped in lardo and seared briefly. The addition of coffee also makes an appearance in the sauce – an unexpected but delicious flavour contrast. Also, we’d like to give a shout-out to the striking serveware, with every plate used for serving unique in size, shape and colour.
Baked fresh every morning, you can only get Sicilian’s pizze al taglio until 6pm on Tuesday–Sunday (the eatery is closed on Mondays). This thick, Sicilian-style rectangular pizza has an utterly addictive texture that’s both pillowy yet satisfyingly chewy at the same time. We chose the Etna ($78/slice), topped with (very) spicy salami, semi-dried tomatoes, rich and buttery stracciatella cheese (otherwise known as the creamy filling of burrata) and fresh basil. This is a must-order!
The only underwhelming dish we tried at Sicilian was the spinosini al granchio ($168). The spinosini, similar in shape to tagliatelle but thinner, is handmade at the restaurant. This traditional light pasta dish features a cherry-tomato-based sauce with plenty of fresh crabmeat, but we found Sicilian’s version to be one-dimensional in flavour. We also wished that the chef had been a bit more generous with the salt and that he had included some chilli to lift the dish.
The pasta section of the menu was redeemed with the innovative mezze maniche Marsala masala lamb ($208). This short, tubular pasta was cooked until barely al dente (just how we like it) and bathed in a spiced tomato sauce flavoured with Sicilian Marsala wine. The moreish sauce has a distinct North African slant (we tasted cinnamon and cardamom), reminding us of the flavours of a tagine – Italy’s southernmost island of Sicily has an enduring North African heritage, and there’s often overlap between the cuisines. The stewed lamb in this dish was melt-in-the-mouth tender, soaking in all the goodness of the sauce.
For dessert, we opted for a staple Sicilian sweet treat, cannoli Siciliano ($98), homemade rolled wafers that are fried and stuffed with a sweet sheep’s ricotta mixture that’s flavoured with the likes of candied fruits and pistachio (we’re told the whole cannoli-making process is very labour-intensive, taking days). We loved the thin crispness of the golden cannoli shells, but we weren’t so keen on the ricotta filling, which was a bit grainy for our liking and had an overwhelming alcoholic flavour of Marsala.
Sicilian brings the colour and vibrancy of Italy to Hollywood Road, from the restaurant’s charming decor, to the friendly service (we were welcomed like old friends), to the authentic, delicious Italian food at reasonable prices. If nothing else, go for the pizza – our new fave slice in town!
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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