Not all restaurant groups in Hong Kong are created equal. Some are huge sprawling behemoths, others are small but perfectly formed… and the less said about a select few, the better! Nevertheless, Dining Concepts are a group that largely get it right. With restaurants like BLT Burger, Bistecca, Tango Steakhouse and SOHO favourites Cecconi’s and Olive under their belt, they’ve been quietly delivering great quality food for many years.
We decided to check out their newest restaurant, Manzo, which took over Simply Thai’s old space in Times’ Square’s Food Forum. Like many of Dining Concepts’ restaurants, it’s a steakhouse, but this time, with an Italian bent that sees pastas, antipasti and scrummy Italian desserts on the menu too.
In Simply Thai’s days, the interior was a little sparse but now, it’s a simultaneously grand but comfy space, decorated in inviting dark browns with joints of meat and a butcher’s machine standing proud at the back too, signifying their emphasis on quality cuts and steak (love those napkins!).
Having said that, neither Jaime nor I actually had a steak that day (oops… our bad!). After a quick consultation with super-charming Head Chef Tony, who assured us the steaks would still be there in all their glory for dinner sometime rather than our on-the-fly lunch stop, we instead opted for a few of his recommendations – the ‘butcher’s speciality’ tiger prawns, chilli, lemon and garlic for Jaime and lobster spaghetti with cherry tomato and mint for me.
Before the mains, a quick mention for Manzo’s bread, which is served with an amazing whole bulb of roasted garlic and seasoned butter. Every time I’ve been to Manzo, this is the reason I don’t order a starter, as this is an absolutely divine one in itself. The roasted garlic is molten goo-ey garlicky goodness and puts all other pre-pared garlic breads in the shade – definitely worth getting garlic breath for!
When Jaime’s prawns arrived, they were a sight for sore eyes. Presented on a bed of salt and seasoning with a tub of liquid gold butter on the side, it was all I could do to stop from whisking one out from under her nose! Jaime proclaimed them delicious and polished them off with speed; her only comment was that next time, she’d probably get a side dish or two, as it wasn’t quite filling enough on its own.
My lobster spaghetti was winningly presented in a small silver saucepan, with a appetisingly big claws sticking out all the over shop! I really enjoyed this – it’s something a little bit different from the pasta dishes available here there and everywhere in Hong Kong and shows how a simple pasta dish can be made more exciting with quality ingredients and scrummy flavour combinations. The lobster pieces were succulent, meaty and reasonably easy to crack out from their shells; the tomatoes delivered little bursts of sweet juice with each mouthful, whilst the addition of the mint added a fresh clean zing to the whole dish.
Girls, you know I can never resist a dessert… so even though Jaime had to rush off to another meeting, I tucked into a tiramisu (what else?!) with Dining Concepts’ Nico instead. Again, I was impressed with the presentation – not a big slab of cake dolloped into the middle of a plate but classily swirled into a glass container instead, with chunks of Amoretti biscuit studding the top. This was absolutely delicious – very light but with just the right mingling of coffee and alcohol running through it. I loved the unusual touch of almond ice cream; I’m not sure it did taste of almond (which thanks to a childhood spend reading Agatha Christie murder mysteries always makes me think I’m being poisoned with cyanide), but it did taste delightful and was the perfect complement to the dish.
One gripe I have with Manzo is its service. I’ve been before and since this trip, and every time the service has been slow and inattentive, with repeated waving and shouting required to get anyone’s attention. I also wish they had a few more pasta choices on their menu (they used to do a mean beef ravioli, which has since disappeared) for the days when you don’t fancy their speciality steaks.
However, they do offer some really good value set lunches, which come with their appetizer and dessert buffet and some fantastic entrée choices (burgers and more choice of pasta), which I dearly wish they’d add to their a la carte menu!
Manzo is a great addition to both Times Square and Dining Concepts’ group of restaurants. More than just a steakhouse or just an Italian restaurant, it’s definitely worth the long lift journey up there!
Manzo Shop 1104, 11/F, Times Square, 1 Matheson St, Causeway Bay
2735 2980 www.diningconcepts.com.hk/manzo/index.php