If you’re at all familiar with the sustainable dining movement that has been taking the city by storm, this OG on the scene needs no introduction. Linguini Fini’s produce is sourced from partnering farms in the New Territories, drinks are served with metal straws, food waste is composted in the back of the restaurant, the whole-beast ethos is applied when it comes to cooking – you know the drill. And though Chef Vinny Lauria’s mostly talked about because of his nose-to-tail approach, today we focus on something a bit closer to home: the adoption of Hong Kong flavours.
Homemade spicy sausage
We started things off nice and light. I opted for a Palm Beach ($69), which sounds infinitely more sultry and seductive than the actual drink (though it’s a refreshing, cold-pressed mix of orange, mango, raspberry and lime juices), while my dining compatriots turned their eyes and taste buds to the cocktail menu to start their day off right.
Our starter of homemade spicy sausage ($109) set the tone for our rustic lunch; we liked the crumbly texture and intense, meaty flavours and thought the chilli and oregano mustard did a fine job of adding a sharp edge to the dish.
Typhoon shelter crab linguine
Char siu carbonara
It’s hard to miss the love of pasta when you enter Linguini Fini. It dangles enticingly from steel racks above the kitchen counters, like a fanfare of carbs waving a warm welcome, slowly sucking you into a delirious food coma. On cue, a trifecta of pasta mountains came our way. The fan-favourite typhoon shelter crab linguine ($179) led the way, carrying on its peak a salty tang of the sea, its fine, homemade strands cooked to bouncy perfection. Pickled chilli, black beans and succulent crab formed a spicy little crown and a garlic and spring onion gremolata wonderfully accentuated the dish with fresh, salt-of-the-earth flavours.
The char siu carbonara ($159) is another must-try. The pasta was a little less smooth and silky and a bit grainy with this one, the strands of spaghetti flecked with black pepper. The combination of Parmesan and firm bits of ”char siu“ pancetta added a generous dose of saltiness that we loved; we just wished there had been more of it, making for a centrepiece of the dish rather than a sideshow.
We weren’t so sure what was special about the seafood linguine ($189) until we tried a bite and a wholly unexpected, savoury flavour of salted egg bit right back at us. With the amount of pasta that’s made in-house every day, it seems obvious that experimenting with flavour infusions isn’t a far-off ambition. Dotted with scallops, shrimp, calamari, clams, a touch of homemade salumi and the holy trinity of roasted garlic, parsley and lemon, this was a polished little dish and surprisingly light on the palate for being loaded with such hearty, assertive ingredients.
Few dishes on the menu better epitomise why we dig Chef Lauria and his team’s efforts in the kitchen. To have the spunk to fuse traditional, local Hong Kong flavours with the almost religiously revered ”no one cooks better than Mama” brand of Italian-American food of one’s childhood is no mean feat, but it instantaneously made us feel so much more intimate and familiar with the chef’s menu. Really, it’s poetic, the weaving of a kinship between the down-to-earth origins of typhoon shelter dishes and the humbleness of Italian-American food.
This being comfort food central, we didn’t get to leave Linguini Fini without feeling like we’d eaten for three people, and The Bronx ($309) made sure we’d have plenty left for dinner and the next day’s lunch as well. A popular item at the restaurant, this pizza stayed true to its roots, with a thick (and we mean THICK) blanket of fresh mozzarella smothering the base and a rich tapestry of porchetta, pepperoni and meatballs topping the pie.
You don’t get to leave Mama’s house until she’s had a chance to stuff some dessert in ya. LF is no different; we were treated to a piping hot skillet cookie and an indulgent slice of blueberry cheesecake. There really are few words in the English language that one can use to describe the state of ecstatic fulfilment in which a certain type of dessert leaves your taste buds, so suffice to say: they tasted as good as they look, and despite the onslaught of never-ending food from the courses before, we diligently mopped up and didn’t look back.
Comfort food never goes out of style and no one knows this better than the team at Linguini Fini. Though there are many reasons to laud them solely for the flavours they churn out of their stainless-steel-clad, theatrical aquarium of a kitchen, we feel all the better for dining there knowing that we’re supporting a worthy cause with every bite. Their consistent execution and tongue-in-cheek twist of infusing Italian-American dishes with local flavours make it a reliable crowd-pleaser as well.
49 Elgin Street, SoHo, Central, 2387 6338
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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