A restaurant's reputation is often linked to the chef that heads up the kitchen, so what happens when a head chef moves on to explore other career opportunities?
Sometimes the second in charge, who knows the recipes and the dishes, and who has been cooking them more than the head chef, will take over and this can create a seamless transition and ensure the continued good reputation of the restaurant. Other times, as is the case with Italian restaurant, Angelini, a new chef comes onboard. When this happens the new chef will want to make their mark and one way to do this is by introducing a new menu. Chef Patrizio Roncato launched his new a la carte menu last week, featuring his signature dishes as well as Angelini classics; the new menu also highlights dishes that include pork and or nuts as well as gluten-free and vegetarian options.
An excellent selection of warm Italian breads served with a red wine vinegar and oil dip or sundried tomato spread got the dinner off to a good start.
This was followed by our first tastes of the new menu Burrata, Candied Cherry Tomatoes, Capers and Basil Ice Cream ($200), and Slow Cooked Soft Egg in Five Spice, Mashed Broccoli and Sixty Months Aged Parmigiano Emulsion ($180), a new signature.
For me our first appetiser consisted of three individual elements on a plate (the tasty burrata, a light salad of candied toms, caper berries and rocket, and a bowl of basil ice cream) instead of a composed dish or something that became greater than the sum of its parts. The cheese and salad were definitely friends and got along well on the palate, but the ice cream was far too sweet to be complementary to the other flavours...far too sweet for a herb based ice cream. I felt like I was eating a salad and dessert at the same time.
On the positive the egg was perfectly cooked, the emulsion fantastic, and the broccoli and interesting flavour/colour/textural element. The tricky thing with serving a 63 degree egg in a restaurant with high air-con is the egg will quickly cool as was the case here. Not so positive for me was the egg itself, it lacked flavour, so much so that the predominant flavour when eating the egg was butter, so instead of being the star of the dish it only played a supporting role.
From the Pasta and Risotto choices we decided to share a portion of Green Ravioli stuffed with Duck Stew, Cauliflower Sauce and Marjoram ($190). It is always a heightened disappointment to have a let-down pasta dish in an Italian restaurant as was the case with this dish. Part of the disappointment came from the inconsistency of the filling - some ravioli were stuffed with a wonderful ducky stew, and others with a dry duck with a less appetising flavour. I also found the ravioli too thick, that combined with the buttery richness made the dish unnecessarily heavy. My dining companion found more enjoyment in the dish than I did, particularly the stew.
Love that Lamb
Mains are divided in Secondi and La Griglia, as we were here to test more than the chef's ability to grill quality produce we selected from the Secondi section Red Mullet on a Vegetable Mosaic, Shellfish and Curry Emulsion ($320), and Lamb Loin stuffed with Black Olives, Eggplant Caviar, Confit Cherry Tomatoes, Lamb Kidney Carpaccio and Thyme Jus ($390), both signature dishes.
Visually the mullet dish was appealing, especially the fish itself with its browned skin. Sadly the fish was inconsistently cooked, towards the tail it was overcooked and towards the head slightly under...parts that were cooked had a strange flavour which reminded me of fish that is not as fresh as it could be. Also a surprise was the skin, appearing crispy - which would have been wonderful - it wasn't.
Thankfully the two best dishes of the evening came last. First, the lamb. It was sensational, with the strong lamb flavour being matched by the olives, which provided a natural seasoning. And while on its own the kidney was somewhat confronting, when it was combined with the eggplant, tomato and lamb became what all good dishes become - greater than the sum of its parts. A creative dish that highlighted the ingredients and the talents of the chef.
Would I Return?
The other outstanding dish of the night was dessert, Chef Patrizio's Own Tiramisu ($98), a modern interpretation of the classic Italian dessert. I loved this dessert so much that I went from feeling full and sleepy to suddenly being excited and awake anticipating each subsequent mouthful. From the look to the taste everything impressed. A must-try.
There is no doubt that Chef Roncato is an inventive chef, the last two dishes of the night attest to this, maybe he is still finding his way with some of his new dishes. Ultimately I think the two key questions to ask are: Do I think the reputation of Angelini as a top spot for Italian cuisine on Kowloon side will remain? And Would I return? The answer to both is yes.
Note: In addition to the a la carte, there is a monthly tasting menu highlighting signature dishes and ingredients at their peak.
Images: Images are of Chef Roncato's new signature dishes, which are only available when the key produce is in season. We only tried dishes represented in images 3, 4.