When it comes to top-notch Italian food in Hong Kong, most people probably think of one place: 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA. Chef Umberto Bombana has called the restaurant his most personal project ever as well as his most fanciful masterpiece yet. It opened to critical acclaim, gaining two Michelin stars after just months of opening, and has held three stars since 2011. There are now Otto e Mezzos in Macau and Shanghai, but do you know what Hong Kong has that the others don’t? Octavium.
Located just a few buildings over from Otto e Mezzo, Octavium is described as Chef Bombana’s creative laboratory. It’s slightly more chill than its sister spot, serving up dishes that the chef himself prefers eating on a regular basis... but with twists. Octavium’s mission is to provide a space where Chef Bombana, along with Executive Chef Silvio Armanni, can experiment with new ideas. Now, that’s definitely a place I want to visit.
Recently, I had the chance to visit Octavium, which earned its first Michelin star last year, to try the new Octavium Experience menu ($1,680/person; +$880 for optional wine pairings).
The restaurant is located on the eighth floor of a sleek building on Des Voeux Road Central. While there are white tablecloths, the cognac-coloured Cassina Cab leather chairs, colourful Venetian water glasses and nature-inspired chandeliers give off a “we don’t take things too seriously here” vibe. I especially liked the playful touch of large lemons on the tables in place of flowers. It’s an intimate space, with just 10 or so tables in the main dining room. There’s also a private room that comfortably seats 8–10 diners.
The Octavium Experience menu
We started with a polenta chip topped with cheese and pear jam and a small bite of trout and salmon roe. Both were unusual combinations that worked well.
Daniel Sorlut oyster
A decadent dish with oyster, Kaluga caviar and champagne foam.
Challans duck breast
Pairing duck with juicy morels delivered earthy, rich flavours, and the carrot, prepared in three different ways, added both lightness and sweetness.
Spaghetti chitarra and homemade ravioli
For me, the stars of the night were these two pasta dishes. The spaghetti with Sicilian red prawns and cime di rapa (like broccoli rabe) was flawless. Both the spaghetti and red prawns were perfectly cooked. The classic prawn sauce was decadent, and the cime di rapa purée, with its herby kick, added that unique something special.
The homemade ravioli was stuffed with molten Pecorino cream. Alone this would have been delicious, but its flavour was enhanced with fresh mint, spicy ‘nduja purée and… crisp bits of fried lard – yasssss!
The kinki, a fatty, meaty fish from Japan, was served with sweet green peas and sprouts – all at the peak of their seasonal flavours. A lovely, pure-tasting dish.
TE MANA LAMB rack
Our table was in agreement that this was some incredibly clean-tasting lamb (sourced from New Zealand’s South Island). We also loved the fresh, creamy sauce made from friggitello bell peppers served alongside.
Panna e frangoline
Though stuffed, we all managed to make a significant dent in the luscious wild strawberries with whipped cream dessert. It paired excellently with the 2017 Moscato d’Asti by Saracco.
I had a marvellous meal at Octavium. There’s tremendous skill in the kitchen and lots of creativity at work here. The Octavium Experience menu is wonderfully playful and well executed. At first, some of the dishes might seem familiar, but they all come with that something extra. It’s on for just one or two more weeks, or as long as the ingredients are available. But once it’s over, I’m sure there will be something equally wonderful to replace it. If you’re looking for interesting, elevated Italian comfort food in an understated yet elegant setting, definitely give Octavium a try.
8/F, One Chinachem Central, 22 Des Voeux Road Central, Central, 2111 9395, email@example.com
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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