15 August, 2011
Eat & Drink

Linguini Fini: Back to Basics Italian

15 August, 2011

No frills, no fuss, just good food. Sometimes that’s all I want. Should be easy enough to get, one would think?

Perhaps it’s just me, but lately I find that restaurants are pulling out all the stops to impress with their fancy but pricey menus and dishes with convoluted names and intricate presentations, when half the time, I’m only interested in how the grub tastes.

How difficult can it be to get simple, hearty food (aside from my mum’s homemade cooking)? The answer: pretty hard. Apart from cha chaan tengs, and little cafes, most restaurants in Hong Kong seem to have problems mastering simplicity itself. So it’s a breath of fresh air that Linguini Fini has come onto the scene with its delicious and affordable nose-to-tail pork dishes and fresh home-made pastas. The group that brought us Posto Pubblico has got a winner on their hands with a casual eatery that is completely focused on the quality and taste of the food without the pretension. It’s refreshing that it’s all about the nosh and isn’t meant to be a sophisticated experience.

The interior is an artistic reflection of the food- modern, simple and hip with a local twist. The street artist group Start from Zero, has an original piece adorning the walls of a space that resonates with the vibe of a downtown New York loft. I like that their kitchen, pasta and salumi-making areas are open for diners to see, which gives a relaxed and fun ambience.

I’m convinced Executive Chef and native New-Yorker Vinny Lauria created the menu just for me, because it just about has everything I love about Italian food on it and more. He uses every part of the pig from nose-to-tail, all the pastas are freshly made twice a day and there’s in-house curing of meats and sausages. His interpretation of Italian classics with locally-infused flavours is original and down-right tasty.

To start you can choose from the flatbread selection or their salumi. I had the fantastic House cured lingua, which had a light dressing and raw red onions, followed by the utterly sublime Straccetti di Manzo from the antipasti section. Even if you’re not a rare beef person, I encourage you to try this dish as it really was mouthwateringly delicious. I’ll definitely be ordering this repeatedly in the future as I adore artichokes, beef, gorgonzola and anchovies…. All which happen to be in this one dish. Hooray!

The pigs, from which the nose-to-tail menu relies upon, are hormone-free from Bath but reared in Hong Kong. Only a few ingredients are imported- the beef and salmon hail from Australia and the sea-salt from Essex, but otherwise everything else is locally sourced.

I had to have the Rotisserie Porchetta- pork belly with chili mostarda. I adored the crunchy pork crackling and the meat itself was juicy and tender, the mostarda a piquant complement to the fattiness. The pork belly was chopped up and presented on bread, but personally I could’ve done without the carbs, although it did soak up the lovely pork juices.

There’s a huge variety of pastas to choose from- 18 to be exact but it’s the signature pastas that really stand out as Chef Lauria has cleverly blended local flavours into the pasta, for example, salted egg, dried shrimp and fragrant grass.

I had the delectable dried shrimp pasta which smelt just like XO sauce and had a great spicy kick to it. It was pretty perfect to be honest.

The Fazzoletti nose-to-tail bolo, with a three-meat ragu (pork, oxtail and veal) was also excellent, with a good balance of meat sauce to lovely wide-sheets of al-dente pasta.

To end my lunch, I had the lemon olive oil cake with poppy seed gelato and the tiramisu.

The home-made gelato and desserts are all meticulously prepared by pastry chef Jack Chua. The lemon olive oil cake is probably the unsung hero of the menu, being overlooked for regular Italian classics like Panna cotta and tiramisu. The whole ensemble is impeccable, from the silky lightness of the gelato to the lemon zestiness of the cake.

Chef Chua’s take on tiramisu is innovative, and doesn’t resemble the classic dessert as we know it. The tiramisu is deconstructed with a frozen chocolate tiramisu gelato atop a coffee cake crumble with mascarpone cream. Large mouthfuls are hugely satisfying, with the chocolate-tiramisu flavoured gelato smoothly giving way to the stronger coffee taste in the crumble.

I was impressed by the entire package of Linguini Fini. The quality of the food is exemplary and at such reasonable prices, (the most expensive dish is $168), it’s no wonder that it’s doing a roaring trade so early in its infancy. The one thing I have to complain about is their no-reservations policy, but as they say, something’s gotta give.

Linguini Fini G/F & 1/F, The L Place, 139 Queen’s Road Central, Central
2857 1333 www.linguinifini.com

Read more from Michelle on her fab blog Chopstixfix!

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