With a passion for all things edible and a flair for the culinary that culminated in her graduation from Le Cordon Bleu, Caroline Li takes #legend readers on a tour of good tastes
TRUFFLE UP While many flock to Liu Yuan Pavilion for hairy crab this season, others celebrate the arrival of another prized gem: the white truffle! It’s an aromatic, vegetarian delicacy that doesn’t add to your waistline – what could be better?
Autumn is finally here, and with the cool breeze comes the sweet arrival of white truffle season. Although last year wasn’t a good one for truffles, 2018 seems to be more promising. The town of Alba, Italy produces the world’s most celebrated and highest-value white truffles; here are some of the city’s favourite spots for these gems. You’d better get your stomach ready to eat up a storm.
VEA Restaurant and Lounge
From his Michelin- starred contemporary French restaurant, chef Vicky Cheng served up the first batch of Alba white truffles of the season – and they didn’t disappoint. A definite promising start to truffle season, these fragrant gems often come with a touch of pink. “The most aromatic white truffles grow under chestnut trees and the closer they are to the trees, the better the taste,” says Cheng. “Sometimes you get a bit of pink in your truffles, which are stained from the chestnuts in the ground as they grow. That’s always a good sign because you know you’ve got a good truffle. Also, a truffle should always be hard, not mushy to the touch.” These gorgeous white truffles are shaved onto handmade chitarra pasta and sautéed in a truffle butter as a supplemental course. If you’re lucky, Cheng might make you his special white truffle grilled cheese sandwich with a crispy parmesan crust, maybe topped with caviar for an even more decadent touch. VEA serves an eight- course Chineseinspired French tasting menu, with the option of a cocktail pairing by master mixologist Antonio Lai or a wine pairing. For those who don’t like to sit on the high counter seats, there’s a delightful private room at the end of the immaculate open kitchen that can seat up to 12 people.
Chef David Lai’s cosy eatery off Hollywood Road is a must-visit for white truffle lovers during the season. An establishment known for its special pre- order dishes such as the Instagram-famous creamy morel mushroom chicken rice and kinki fish paella, Neighborhood is an ideal place to satisfy your white truffle cravings. Here, you can purchase your own white truffle, choosing from a range of different sizes that suit your party, and have the truffle shaved onto any dish on the menu you desire. You can also try your hand at shaving the truffle yourself – after all, the whole truffle is yours. White truffles and dairy go hand in hand; as long as there’s some fat in your dish, it’ll be a winner. If you’re more of a black truffle fan, you can do the same with black truffles here during the available months. A great place for date nights and group gatherings, reservations (especially on the weekends) must be made well ahead of time, as Neighborhood is quite an intimate restaurant.
CIAK: In The Kitchen
Conveniently located in Landmark,
CIAK boasts some of the tastiest pizzas in town. A great place for post-work drinks or dinner, this Italian trattoria is home to a pizza that’s loaded with shaved white truffles – so much so that the pizza itself is entirely covered by them. Mouthfuls of shaved white truffles come at a steep price, but true truffle fanatics shouldn’t miss this indulgent experience. A whole white pie is covered with fragrant white truffles, shaved tableside. For a more classic dish, go for CIAK’s house- made tagliolini pasta, which highlights the uniqueness of the white truffles.
Across the harbour, we all know about the white truffle dinners at Sabatini, but why not switch it up and try Haku at Ocean Terminal instead? This restaurant serves innovative Japanese tasting menus by executive chef Agustin Balbi. The Argentinian chef, whose wife is Japanese, worked in Michelin- starred restaurants in Japan for five years and understands the country’s flavour profile very well.
His signature dishes include sea urchincovered brioche bites and koshihikari rice with egg yolk and Kristal caviar. For the season, white truffles can be shaved onto this signature rice and a dessert of milk ice cream and Japanese whiskey caramel. Watch for Haku’s collaboration lunches and dinners with Michelin chefs from all over Japan, such as chef Hiroyasu Kawate of the renowned Florilège of Tokyo ( which is No. 3 on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 list) and chef Hideaki Matsuo from the three- Michelin- starred Kashiwaya in Osaka.
Gaia has been around for a long time – and for good reason, too. This Italian restaurant has a charming outdoor area adorned with sparkling lights and big red umbrellas at night, welcoming the city’s glitterati for long, leisurely lunches and romantic candle-lit alfresco dinners. Known for chef Paolo Monti’s delicious thin-crust pizzas, Gaia also offers a small white truffle menu during the season. Want eggs with your truffle?
How about instead of a scramble, go for two perfectly fried Italian eggs with roasted mushrooms, finished off with white truffle shavings? Sounds divine? Wait until you try it with Gaia’s white pizza, shaved with white truffles tableside. Pasta options are also available, as with the tagliolini with parmesan and white truffles. While you’re there, don’t forget to get your veggies in and order the minestrone – veggie-packed and with a delicious touch of basil to balance out your carb-heavy meal.
Per Se alumnus Daniel Calvert is well-known for making some of the tastiest roast chicken in town, but did you know about his flair for pasta-making? Expect beautifully crafted dishes like the pillowy-soft burrata stuffed scarpinocc (candy-shaped pasta) with basil, or the chestnut tortelloni with fiore sardo. Come white truffle season, we can expect delicious bowls of Calvert’s hand-rolled cavatelli – showered with shaved truffles, of course. While you’re there, save room for Belon’s desserts, which aren’t to be missed. The classic mille-feuille, the tarte au chocolat “Bernard Pacaud”, the Fukuoka peach and koshihikari rice pudding with chamomile tarts, the house-made popcorn ice cream with truffles… who knows what this young chef will come up with next? To end the evening, ascend to Upstairs at Belon to enjoy some live jazz and a nightcap. Clockwise from top left: The Taleggio and mozzarella pizza with shaved Alba white truffles and the white truffle Taleggio tagliolini at CIAK; this fistful of white truffles is worth about HK$10,000; the handmade chitarra pasta with shaved Alba white truffles and a box of freshly delivered giant Alba white truffles at VEA