3 February, 2012
Eat & Drink

Tosca at The Ritz-Carlton HK – an Italian with a view

3 February, 2012

The views are truly spectacular, if somewhat dizzying; the interior spick-and-span, sleek and luxurious; the feel and atmosphere buzzed with a touch of new and unseasoned. What is this place we speak of? None other than The Ritz-Carlton at ICC.

It’s swish inside, as to be expected, the staff obliging and smiley, and as you ride the lift and nervously glance at the escalating floor levels, getting slightly paranoid about any movement you feel, you can’t help but marvel a little at the sheer scale of this hotel. Boasting the highest bar in the world (Ozone, on the 118/F) is no mean feat and even if you have no intention of staying or dining there, I’d say it’s worth a fly-by visit. We’re huge fans of taking any visiting family or friends to Ozone, just for the spectacular view of Hong Kong!

However, if you’re interested in more than just the breath-taking view, then you should certainly check out Southern-Italian restaurant, Tosca, on the 102nd floor. The impact of the decor is quite dramatic, with high ceilings, water fountains (to reflect the water theme of the restaurant), chandeliers and velvet seating. A nice touch is the open kitchen, something that seems to be de rigueur in Hong Kong nowadays. A special thing to note is that Tosca is actually named after a famous opera, so the open kitchen really acts as the stage of the restaurant and the opulence reflects this theme.

Tosca’s new chef, Chef Pino Lavarra, has given this restaurant a fresh and exciting take on Italian cuisine, presenting contemporary looking dishes that use inherently Italian flavours. This two-star Michelin chef hails from Puglia in Italy (the heel of the boot!), and has brought over some creative dishes inspired by his home. We had an epic lunch to look forward to, with a selection of some of Chef Pino’s signature dishes from the short a la carte lunch menu and the set lunch. We also got to sample a selection of Tosca’s 100% organic, biodynamic wines, which certainly went down well too!

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To start, we had a lovely-looking quail egg salad with tomato, blancmanger, anchovies and bread pillows. The quail egg and tomato were very cute, presented in the shape of little toadstool mushroom and the almond-flavoured cake was an interesting addition (similar in texture and taste to turnip cake!). Although the overall dish wasn’t packed with flavour, the anchovies did give it a nice salty kick and it was a very pleasant, light starter – great for lunch.

And let’s not forget the side of delicious, smooth olive oil (straight from Italy!) that had a nutty, luxurious flavour. Dip one of their four freshly baked breads into it – our favourites were the rosemary and the squid ink – and you are in bread heaven.

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Up next was a pasta dish, which truly looked like art on a plate! This seafood inspired dish artistically reflected the sea theme, with the pasta rolled up into an almost ‘squid-like’ shape. The spaghetti “alla chitarra” flavoured with basil chlorophyll and wrapped in swordfish paper with baby squid stew and black olive oil was definitely intriguing, with a variety of textures and flavours. We really enjoyed the delicate flavour of the swordfish paper that gently wrapped the strands of green pasta. The use of basil chlorophyll meant that the flavour of this bold herb didn’t overwhelm the dish, and instead was very subtle, going well with the baby squid. The drizzle of black olive oil (which resembled squid ink) added that signature Italian essence and really lifted the dish with a bit of acidity.

DSC06105The veggie pasta dish that one of us had was a little bit disappointing as it lacked the ‘wow-factor’ of the other dishes. However, they more than made up for it with the veggie main course! The steamed asparagus tips with burrata cheese, sun dried cherry tomatoes and wheat and truffle biscuits had already caught our eyes when we were checking out the menu, and it didn’t disappoint. The creamy burrata from Puglia literally melted in the mouth, and the little bites of truffle made the dish even more luxurious. That being said, the asparagus seemed to lack a bit of punchy flavour, but this was overshadowed by the excellence of the burrata!

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The non-veggie option was the salmon with warm mussel stew, saffron potato, salad of borage and bottarga egg. The salmon was incredibly soft, so if you like it super melty then this is for you. The mussel’s were juicy but didn’t quite have that strong seafood flavour that I was expecting. Luckily there was a burst of flavour in the saffron potato, which was creamy and sweet.

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Although we were nearing maximum capacity, we were then treated to the four-part Textures of chocolate by Tosca with passionfruit dessert, that really did reflect the opera-inspired opulence of the restaurant. The sorbet had an intense flavour that was unexpected but very welcome… just make sure to eat it first before it melts in the HK heat. The little square of chocolate mousse was also pleasant, especially with the addition of the tangy raspberry. Our favourites were definitely the mini chocolate lava cake, with its crunchy exterior that oozed molten chocolate when broken into. The most elaborate of this chocolate combo was covered in raspberries, gold flakes, flowers and crunchy ‘chocolate spaghetti’. We loved the cookie-like base of this dessert teamed with the smooth chocolate mousse – a fabulous play on textures that lived up to its name.

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Was this the end of the meal? Absolutely not! Inspired by his surroundings up in the clouds, Chef Pino has created a gorgeous selection of petit-fours, including truffles, mini chocolate bars and macarons. The presentation of these is absolutely delightful, with the sweet little bites placed carefully on top of a cloud-like mass of cotton candy. Petals and pistachio are scattered between them, a truly beautiful dish – it’s almost worth going to Tosca just for these!

These dishes do come at a cost, with the lunch set clocking in at $418 for three courses, but you are paying for a stellar view too. It’s definitely worth splashing out on lunch here for the stunning settings and to try out this new Chef’s signature dishes.

Tosca 102/F, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui
2263 2270 www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/HongKong/Dining/tosca/Default.htm

With special thanks to Michelle from Chopstixfix!

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