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When my office moved from Central to Quarry Bay, I wondered if the dining options would be any good there. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety. Yes, there are the standard chains like Pret, Nood and Sift, but there are also various speciality coffee roasters and mom-and-pop restaurants (Camper’s, I miss you!). Even going regularly to the gym, I put on at least five pounds while working there! All this to say, Quarry Bay may not be atmospheric, but there are great coffee shops and restaurants to be found. But – call me cautious – I still often wait to hear if a new opening is any good before visiting the ‘hood.
Such was the case for Ask for Alonzo. When it opened in 2018, I’d heard through the food-blogger grapevine that it was good. So maybe I should have had more faith, but I’d been burned by one too many affordable Italian places that turned out to be way overpriced in comparison to the food quality. Then all of a sudden it was 2020 and news broke that Ask for Alonzo was opening its third location.
Third location? Already? Maybe this place really was worth checking out after all.
The restaurant is located right by Happy Valley Terminus, so it’s easy to find. There’s a nice outdoor area, a comfortable dining room, a large open kitchen and even a back patio (slightly less nice than the other areas) with lemon trees and other foliage.
Bart, the owner, really knows his stuff, so feel free to share your likes and dislikes and let him suggest dishes. During my visit, I tried Breakfast in Tuscany ($138) – toasted white bread, puttanesca mix, Parma ham, scrambled egg – from the brunch menu and the oven-baked Tomino cheese ($148), which is wrapped in Parma ham and served with glazed shallots, asparagus and balsamic syrup.
I also tried the rigatoni amatriciana ($138), made with authentic Roman guanciale, Alonzo’s carbonara ($138), also made with guanciale, and white chocolate panna cotta ($58).
I really enjoy strong, vibrant, even pungent flavours, so these dishes were right up my alley.
Breakfast in Tuscany is loaded with pickled onion, capers and olives, which might be a bit much for some, but it’s great for those who like strong flavours.
The Tomino cheese was a surprise win. I thought I’d save the bulk of my calories for the pasta, but I couldn’t help eating most of this. The cheese was mild and stringy, with a nice, salty Parma ham crust, and sat atop a bed of plump asparagus. This could be a great small main for those wanting something less carb heavy.
Now on to the pastas! If you’ve checked out the Instagram geotag, you’ll see plenty of photos of the carbonara. There’s even a breakfast version that comes with a fried egg. It is indeed rich and creamy, with lots of crispy guanciale (a cured meat made from pork cheek) and hits of fragrant black pepper.
But I have to say I enjoyed the amatriciana even more. If you love strong flavours, this dish is for you! Tangy, fatty, spicy, garlicky, salty goodness covers pasta that was perfectly al dente. I’ve thought about this dish at least five times since having it. Sadly, the restaurant doesn’t deliver to my place or else I would be indulging weekly.
I don’t really love chocolate, but I make an exception for white chocolate; it’s been a favourite since I was a child. I’ve had plenty of white chocolate desserts and find that most have a slight hint of white chocolate flavour. Now, I don’t know exactly how much white chocolate is poured into this panna cotta recipe, but it seemed full of it. I could really tell in the taste and texture. White chocolate lovers, this is a must-order.
The other stuff
For those who want great-quality fresh pasta, Pici is probably still your best bet. Ask for Alonzo doesn’t use fresh pasta, but they source top-quality dried pasta and then focus on the sauces. While I do really enjoy Pici, I’m not sure I’ve loved any of their pastas besides maybe the lasagne. Ask for Alonzo’s amatriciana is my new favourite affordable pasta dish in town.
I didn’t have a chance to try the Italian subs, risotto dishes, mains or cocktails, so I can’t speak to those. Hopefully I'll visit again soon and try them all.
Oh, and perhaps the panna cotta didn’t need the berry compote. Since the white chocolate was so intense, I thought the berry flavour was a bit distracting.
If you haven’t checked out Ask for Alonzo yet, it’s worth a try for the good, tasty portions and affordable prices. The Happy Valley location is by far the biggest of the three (the others are in Quarry Bay and Tai Hang), so try this one for group outings (once restrictions have lifted) and meals with the kids.
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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