There’s a new Italian in Sai Ying Pun. Keep reading to see what we thought of Casa Cucina…
District: Sai Ying Pun
Cuisine: Cicchetti-inspired Italian comfort eats
How much: “Meet Me In The Middle” – expect to pay around $300 to $500 per person, including drinks and dessert
Must order: Duck Ragu Pappardelle, Oxtail Ravioli, Mushroom Risotto, Tofu Panna Cotta
The best for: Relaxed catch-ups, casual drinks and private parties
With its pretty in pastel shopfront and flourish of cosy rattan accents, it’s not hard to see why Casa Cucina has become an Instagram favourite since its debut back in April. Billed as a Venetian-inspired Cicchetti bar, this Sai Ying Pun newcomer has to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing openings of the year thus far – no easy feat in a place like Hong Kong, which seems to hatch trendy minimalist cafes by the minute. But don’t think that good looks is all this homey establishment has going for it. In the kitchen, owner and Executive Chef Anthony Cheung brings a wealth of culinary experience to the table, passed down from the likes of Richard Ekkebus and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The cherry on top? Casa Cucina is a fully homegrown and independent venture; support local, check!
Read more: Your Guide To Italian Restaurants In Hong Kong
Casa Cucina can be found at the bottom end of Sai Ying Pun on Connaught Road, right next door to Test Kitchen. It’s a little off the beaten path for Hong Kong Island standards, though still easily walkable in just a few minutes from the Western Street tram stop or Sai Ying Pun MTR exit B3. The secluded location is a small price to pay for the huge loft-esque venue – a rare gem in the city.
Read more: Your Neighbourhood Guide To Sai Ying Pun
As we said before, Casa Cucina is about as Instagrammable as they come, yet the space never feels too precious or pretentious. Breezy Mediterranean vibes reign supreme, complete with white-washed walls, rustic brick accents and a statement timber staircase. The plethora of design accents read like an influencer’s dream home wishlist: decorative rattan sofas, plush geometric-printed rugs, vintage artwork, jute pendant lamps and plants, lots of plants. FYI, Casa’s designer is the same lady responsible for the interiors in Soho House, in case you’re wondering why it looks familiar.
Unusually for Hong Kong, there’s a lot of space to play with here – a feeling that’s only accentuated by the tall ceilings and double-height window facade. The restaurant’s design makes the most of it, with three themed floors, each taking inspiration from the layout of a traditional Italian “casa”. Downstairs is the social room, featuring a chic cocktail bar and elegant French windows which open out to the street for alfresco dining. The first floor takes its cue from a family dining room, with an open kitchen where guests can interact with Casa’s culinary team. Finally, the top floor mimics the feeling of a loft, and functions as an intimate private dining hideaway that can be booked out in its entirety for parties.
When it comes to the food, wholesome comfort dishes abound. Market-fresh ingredients meet honest cooking courtesy of Chef Anthony, with every dish made in-house from scratch. Though the portions on offer are a little heartier than the small plates typically found at traditional Cicchetti bars, the whole menu is designed to share, capturing that very same informal, laid-back spirit of dining.
If you’re looking for a lighter bite to eat, opt for a selection from the Small Plates section of the menu. The dishes we tried from here were reliably strong – think traditional starters done well. In particular, the light and fragrant Scallop Carpaccio ($108) was a hit – we loved the Asian-influenced pineapple, yuzu and Ogonori dressing! The gooey Burrata ($105) is another must-order, featuring house-made semi-dried Datterino tomatoes which gave a touch of sweetness to offset that milky, creamy goodness.
Mains-wise, while the selection of seafood mains we tried missed the mark (namely the Stuffed Calamari and Cod Acqua Pazza), it was a different story with the house-made pasta dishes, which were the stars of the night. A testament to Chef Anthony’s stint in Italy prior to Casa’s opening, his experience really shone through in his ability to deliver both technically excellent pasta and unexpected flavours and ingredient pairings. The Duck Ragu Pappardelle ($178) was our favourite; gloriously decadent with its double seared duck breast, French yellow wine and chicken liver parfait, the dish was a complex mix of rich and gamey flavour profiles. Special mention must go to the Oxtail Ravioli ($188), which comes topped with a Cacio e Pepe sauce and lashings of Grana Padano, along with the Shimeji Mushroom Risotto ($150), featuring perfectly al dente rice cooked in vibrant spinach puree.
Last but not least, the oven-roasted Lamb Rack ($255), paired with roasted paprika potatoes and a brined green peppercorn and Madeira wine sauce, was tender and juicy, and will be welcomed by meat-eaters, though we’d personally save space for the pastas first!
The dessert section is short but sweet, comprising of a Tiramisu ($58) and Panna Cotta ($58). Both options hit the mark nicely, though it’s the latter which demands written acclaim for its fusion interpretation. Inspired by the local sweet “Tofu Fa”, Casa’s Panna Cotta is made with fresh tofu, topped with a toffee-like sweet syrup made with red sugar and light soy sauce. Though the rest of the menu is made for sharing, do yourself a favour and order one each of these – you’ll thank us later!
Read more: Your Guide To Local Hong Kong Desserts
In keeping with the “Instagrammable” nature of Casa Cucina, the restaurant serves up a beautiful series of Mediterranean-inspired cocktails and mocktails. We tried the non-alcoholic Amore ($58), a sweet pink concoction with lychee, raspberry and fresh lemon juice, along with the Passion Fruit Bellini ($58), which substituted Prosecco for soda water; both were well balanced and easy to drink, and we really appreciated that they looked just as special as everyone else’s alcoholic tipples.
Sassy Tip: Stop by for happy hour from 3pm to 8pm daily to enjoy selected beers, wines, cocktails and spirits starting from just $40.
Read more: Where To Drink In Hong Kong This Month
As soon as we set eyes on its peach-clad facade, we knew that we were going to get along with Casa Cucina just fine. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the aesthetics of this place (including the branding) are just beautiful – so much so that we spent most of the night taking mental notes of design details so that we could replicate the look back at home. Visuals aside, rest assured the restaurant is pleasing to the palate too. Yes, there are some kinks to be ironed out to ensure that the menu as a whole lives up to the restaurant’s impeccable image, and we’re sure that will happen with time (remember, this is Chef Anthony’s first solo venture!). That being said, as of right now, there are certainly enough standouts to warrant a visit ASAP (pastas, we’re looking at you). Cameras at the ready!
Casa Cucina is open Tuesday to Sunday, 3pm to 10pm (closed on Mondays)
Casa Cucina, Shop 8 & 9, 158A Connaught Road West, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong, 2887 9666, email@example.com, www.casacucina.hk
All images courtesy of Casa Cucina.