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A bit of a walk away from Wan Chai’s main hub of bars and restaurants, the Hong Kong Arts Centre initially seemed to be an unintuitive locale for an Italian fine-dine – at first. As we were seated, we realised our preconceptions were wrong. Assaggio has an intimate, sophisticated atmosphere where floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto Victoria Harbour, and meals can be enjoyed al-fresco on the terrace. With its understated elegance and modern yet homey design – think lots of wood and warm tones, and lamps with soft yellow light hanging from the ceiling – the restaurant makes for a great gathering spot for friends, or for dates where you’d rather not cut straight to the candlelight and roses.
Going above and beyond what your regular Hong Konger considers “Italian food” – pastas, pizzas and tiramisu – Assaggio offers up quality, authentic Italian fare from all regions in the nation and an extensive, well-thought-out menu featuring diverse offerings from freshwater fish to roasted rabbit leg. Most of the ingredients, including the olive oil and cheeses, are imported directly from Italy, and a section of the menu is dedicated to hand-made pastas. Considering that trattorias were originally restaurants intended for casual dining in big groups, many of the dishes reflect that, particularly the pizzas and antipasti, which included such selections as cold cuts with various cheeses – easily suitable for two to three persons. We particularly enjoyed the sea bass, which was pan-roasted whole and stuffed with herbs and spices, cooked with a subtle flavour, and served with roasted potatoes and cabbage.
The wine list is mostly Italian, naturally, with a handful of bottles from France. Featuring a decent selection of reds and whites, wine can be ordered by the glass or by the bottle, with one or two available by the half-bottle. A few sparkling and rose wines are on offer, as well.
Overall, the staff were attentive, yet unobtrusive. We were seated promptly as soon as we arrived. Our server made some good recommendations of wines to pair with our food, and checked on us politely throughout our meal.
With sizeable yet not overwhelming portion sizes, one main (mostly around HK$150) is enough for a light meal. A multi-course meal, including an appetiser, dessert and a glass of wine, comes to about HK$400 per person. Antipasti and wines can also be enjoyed for HK$198 per head at the restaurant’s Apericena Night, from 7pm to 9pm every Monday and Tuesday.