Naples via NYC!

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CULTURE HK -

This is not your typ­i­cal Ro­man trat­to­ria, nor is it a take on a Mi­lanese up­mar­ket ris­torante. This is a blend of it all and an in-your-face homage to the Ital­ian im­mi­grants who re­lo­cated to New York at the be­gin­ning of the last cen­tury.

Car­bone is the brain­child of three New York restau­ra­teurs — Mario Car­bone, Rich Tor­risi and Jeff Zalaznick — who tied up with the Black Sheep Group here in Hong Kong.

The set­ting re­minds me of a “gen­tle­men’s club” — rich wood and crisp white linen table­cloths and nap­kins, sub­dued light­ing and sur­pris­ingly non-in­tru­sive seat­ing, given that the ta­bles are closely set side by side.

The first room as one en­ters has a small cen­trally placed cock­tail bar that of­ten sees a small gath­er­ing of afi­ciona­dos hap­pily en­joy­ing skill­fully crafted drinks. And so they should as be­hind the bar there are some of Hong Kong’s award-win­ning mixol­o­gists on duty, so there’s al­ways some­thing new and ex­cit­ing to sam­ple. But apart from that con­vivi­al­ity, it’s the food as well as the im­pec­ca­bly friendly ser­vice that most folks come here for.

The menu is bro­ken down into an­tipasti (starters), zuppa (soup), in­salate (salad), mac­aron (pasta), pesci (fish), carni (meats), and con­torni (veg­eta­bles). Help­ings are quite large and if you have a nor­mal-sized ap­petite they are great for shar­ing.

The tomato sauces on the dishes I’ve tried with pasta and/or meats are pretty ro­bust! They seem to be more Neapoli­tan-in­flu­enced as far as their hearty fla­vors go — great if you like toma­toes oth­er­wise go for rose­mary and oil-roasted gar­lic.

Pasta high­lights in­clude a spicy Vodka Ri­ga­toni!

Fish can be a safe choice in Italy. The coun­try is sur­rounded by seas af­ter all. So many of the prized dishes served at Car­bone are fish based. These in­clude branzino (sea bass) and garoupa, as well as king prawns and scal­lops. But for me, the most sat­is­fy­ing dish is the zuppa de pesce at HK$378, with a base of mixed fish and oc­to­pus as well as scampi served on a thick soup of gar­licky toma­toes. It’s a meal to sat­isfy a most hun­gry diner!

Meat dishes in­clude a va­ri­ety of steaks and Mario’s meat­balls, or there’s chicken mas­simo at HK$288 and dou­ble lamb chops with mint and salsa verde at HK$588.

The side dishes list a mush­room spe­cialty that’s well worth try­ing — funghi tri­fo­lati, gen­tly sautéed sliced mush­rooms with gar­lic and fresh herbs, usu­ally Ital­ian pars­ley, that’s a flat­ter ver­sion com­pared to the curly va­ri­ety sold ev­ery­where here. The mush­rooms could be any­thing from the much prized porcini to ba­sic “white” mush­rooms, de­pend­ing on what’s avail­able in the mar­ket.

If you still have room for a dessert, there’s a car­rot cake and le­mon cheese­cake ex­trav­a­ganza that’s well worth wait­ing for. And you can al­ways have another glass of a good Ital­ian vino while you wait.

For some time over the past few months, I’ve been grad­u­ally work­ing my way through the menu at Car­bone as well as that of some other eater­ies that are Ital­ian in­flu­enced. Car­bone is quite dif­fer­ent from the oth­ers. I guess that’s down to the strong New York in­flu­ence. What­ever it is, it works just fine!

NB: Ev­ery year as soon as the weather her­alds in winter it’s time to look for osso bucco on menus. It’s the hearty stick-to-your-ribs kind of dish that sat­is­fies with­out fail — just mar­row-bone beef shanks sim­mered over a long time in a rich sauce that’s been en­hanced by red wine to add a lovely full­ness to the whole. I’ll be try­ing it around town and per­haps at Car­bone as well and I’ll let you know what I find.

Salute e Buon Ap­petito!

The fish soup stew served at Car­bone will sat­isfy the hun­gri­est of eaters.

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