New from Black Sheep Restaurants, Associazione Chianti brings a taste of Tuscany to the heart of Wan Chai.
District: Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Cuisine: Tuscan Italian
How much: Antipasti and salads priced between $118 and $178; pasta between $118 and $188; meats between $218 and $1,298 (serves 3-4) – average spend expected to be roughly $800 per head.
Must order: Bistecca alla Fiorentina
The best for: Date night, special occasion dining
Newly opened on Ship Street, Associazione Chianti is the latest opening from Black Sheep Restaurants. As the groups 24th restaurant, the new opening may not be its first venture into Italian cuisine, but it is its first foray into Cucina Povera, the soulful heart of Tuscan dining. Unlike the comforting New York-Italian plates of Carbone and the colourful coastal flavours of Osteria Marzia, Associazione Chianti gives us a taste of Florence.
An opening close to hearts of co-founders Syed Asim Hussain and Christopher Mark, Associazione Chianti is inspired by Tuscany’s beloved trattorias. Speaking of the Florentine way of dining, Hussain states, “It’s not pretentious or precious. It’s good wine and soulful food that relies on simple, quality ingredients”. Striving to bring a little of this spirit to Wan Chai, the new restaurant vows to “respect the classics without being weighed down by them”.
Upon entering, the restaurant certainly resembles a classic trattoria – with a contemporary face lift. Bright neon signs read “Macelleria” (butcher’s shop) and “Salumeria” (deli), with counters full of fresh meats, cheeses and desserts greeting guests. The décor is paired back, with white tiled walls, wooden furniture and wine-lined shelves. The addition of plush red velvet banquette seating brings it straight into 2019.
The classic menu is split into I Tagli Del Macellaio (selection of prime cut meats), Antipasti & Insalata, Primi (pastas), and Contorni (sides). Sticking true to its name, a well-curated wine list is also on offer – with Chianti as the star. The perfect accompaniment to hearty pasta dishes and thick-cut steak, wines at Associazione Chianti start at $88 for a glass and $398 for a bottle.
Kicking off our feast, we enjoyed a selection of antipasti. As a group of hungry diners, we dove into the plate of garlicky bread knots that arrived before us. Crisp on the outside and adorned with plenty of crispy prosciutto and melted butter, it made for the perfect dish to whet our appetite. We also loved the simple starter of pecorino al fieno ($168), consisting of pecorino stagionato with roasted pear and thyme-infused honey. The dish let the quality Italian produce do all the talking. From the crostini misti ($118), our favourite was the creamy and rich chicken liver, but we also enjoyed the toppings of tomato and garlic, and braised cannellini beans for a lighter bite.
Before the main event of bistecca, in true Italian-style, we had to sample a selection of handmade pasta. Inspired by Florence’s Trattoria Cammillo, the hearty Chianti beef ragu had a wonderful depth of flavour, with robust pieces of tender, fall-apart meat found amongst the rich sauce. We found the Garganelli pasta to be ever so slightly too al dente for our taste, but the special tagliatelle with butter and white Alba truffle was heavenly. The ribbons of pasta were perfectly fine, coupled with the butter sauce which wasn’t at all overwhelmed by the seasonal truffle.
The handmade pasta dishes on offer at Associazione Chianti are definitely a highlight of the menu, but it is the selection of prime cut meats that are the true stars here. When the Bistecca alla Fiorentina ($1,198, serves three to four) came to our table, the smell alone was enough to turn heads, let alone its show stopping appearance. As per the Florentine saying, a steak less than three fingers high is carpaccio, and our 1kg T-bone thick-cut steak was definitely up to standard. All meats are dry aged in house and generously seasoned with a dry rub of Chianti aromatics, before being cooked on a custom-made Tuscan broiler. The whole process makes for a perfectly charred and seasoned crust and a beautifully rare interior. Served with simple and classic sides of braised spinach with olive oil, garlic and lemon ($68) and fagiolo (braised cannellini beans in soffritto and olive oil, $58), it made for a hearty, comforting and simple meal that is sure to be enjoyed by even the city’s most discerning meat-lovers.
The rotating selection of desserts from the restaurant’s deli counter are also not to be missed. On our visit, the cakes of the day were a moist and dense almond and olive oil cake; a decadent meringue cream cake and the classic tiramisu. Well-balanced with just the right amount of coffee, mascarpone cream and cocoa, we found the tiramisu to be the perfect and timeless end to our meal.
Our verdict: Much like all Black Sheep restaurants, Associazione Chianti hits the authenticity nail on the head, delivering a concise menu of Tuscan-inspired favourites. With its dedication to prime cut meats, it may not be the best choice for vegetarians in the city, but for those on the lookout out for lovingly-made bistecca, hearty pastas and classic Italian desserts, it’s the place to go.
Associazione Chianti is open now Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm.
Associazione Chianti, Shop 2, 15 Ship Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, www.associazionechianti.com
All images courtesy of Black Sheep Restaurants.