It’s not often that a new restaurant finds a unique setting in Hong Kong. But new kid on the block AMMO
has found a fiery site at the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre, formerly an explosives magazine compound created by the British Army in the mid-19th century. Nestled against a bountiful backdrop of greenery and foliage, AMMO’s floor-to-ceiling glass construction looks like a very classy greenhouse with copper embellishments: spiral staircases cleverly suspended as chandeliers, a huge copper mural on the wall and a bunker-like ceiling. Overall, the modern sleek design beautifully represents the site’s former use.
Given the location, look and feel of the place, one would expect the cuisine to be on the steep side, but Chefs Tony Cheng and Roland Schuller (the man behind The Drawing Room in Causeway Bay) have created a focused menu for diners that is elegant but affordable. One can enjoy all the trappings of a fine dining restaurant but without the pretension. The a la carte menu has a lovely selection of starters and scrumptious pastas, some of which have Asian flavours and elements infused, thus reflecting Chef Tony Cheng’s aim of a cross-cultural offering (there is a tapas bar menu too). A big attraction is the delicious 3-course set lunch menu, which has an attractive price ($188 +10% per person) and is changed on a weekly basis. Our lovely host Lauren thankfully chose a selection of dishes both a la carte and set menu for Food4Media.com’s Resham, Rach and I to feast on, which saved us from the agony of trying to pick dishes as frankly, we wanted to eat everything!
We sampled the light and refreshing sweet Japanese prawn with cherry gazpacho from the set menu, swiftly followed by some excellent grilled scallops with ginger, chives and Japanese pumpkin (an a la carte appetiser). The scallops were plump, delicately seasoned and perfected cooked and were complimented by the pumpkin puree.
A standout starter and an AMMO favourite is the slow cooked egg with toro, sea urchin and zucchini sauce. It was extremely satisfying breaking the egg and seeing the gorgeous runny yolk ooze and mix in with the rest of the ingredients on the plate. The freshness of the toro and the urchin plus the egg was like a party in my mouth!
We gleefully tucked into four pasta dishes for mains. Rach commented that sometimes pasta portions are so huge that you can’t fully appreciate the flavours, instead spending time wrestling with a mound of carbs; however at AMMO, the portions were well controlled, the homemade pasta (made with chicken eggs) nicely al dente and the sauce allowed to do the talking. The tuna tartar taglioni had a piquant yoghurt sauce that added a wonderful depth to the pasta. For a pasta dish, it’s relatively light and I would recommend it (should it appear again in the future), if you are seeking something a little less heavy going at lunch.
The angel hair with uni, tomatoes and garlic chips was a solid dish and again, perfectly seasoned. If you’re a fan of uni, you’ll enjoy mixing the creamy sea urchin into the angel hair and tasting that rich, slightly sweet flavour of the sea.
I loved the pappardelle with veal and pork meatballs; I could’ve eaten a whole plate of the meatballs alone, they were that tasty. I enjoyed the egginess of the pappardelle, which soaked up the superb tomato sauce and makes you hanker for more.
But the real triumph of the pasta mains was the Burrata cheese ravioli with Peking duck ragout. It was hard work sharing this dish, and if you’re as much of a cheese fanatic as I am, this is the piece de resistance! Everything about this dish was sublime, from the creaminess of the cheese, to the soft yet firm and chewy bounce of the ravioli, down to the salty meatiness of the duck ragout. I was in pasta heaven.
Last, but definitely not least, were the desserts. We had the mochi with fresh berry from the set menu and the pan-fried brioche and vanilla panna cotta from the a la carte. I love it when panna cotta has lots of visible vanilla seeds, and AMMO’s was delectable and surprisingly light.
The brioche was fabulous and very reminiscent of the kind of French toast you’d make for yourself as a naughty treat – beautiful and crisp on the outside, soft and rich on the inside. The mochi were bite-sized fruity delights and made for a great palate cleanser. Asia Society Hong Kong Centre has hit the right note by establishing AMMO and bridging the gap between casual affordable cuisine and fine dining. The location is fantastic, though a little out of the way, and on the two occasions I’ve been, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the food, the decor and the ambience. Service is smooth and friendly, and it feels as if you’re dining somewhere quite swish. And the best part is that your wallet doesn’t tremble at the sight of the bill when it arrives.
AMMO 9 Justice Drive, Admiralty 2537 9888 www.ammo.com.hk
Check out more food-related writings from Michelle on her blog, Chopstixfix!