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With marble floors and dark timber walls, this suave and business-like dining room brings a slice of Wall Street classicism to Queen’s Road Central. At the entrance is a bar to start the night, and further in are well-spaced tables lit by candlelight, city lights shining in from the tall windows, and dimmed lights from the statement fittings. The soundtrack containing the likes of The Beatles mixes with the hearty laughs of a good day on the markets, as well as date night cooing emanating from the comfortably plush leather banquettes.
As is expected of a steakhouse, the focal point of the menu is steak, although Mario Batali’s Carnevino has clearly gone the extra mile, and shown its Italian inflection by offering a large and creative selection of raw, cold and hot starters. To start, the octopus with limoncello and chilli is braised to achieve optimum tenderness, as well as flavour, which is deep, earthy and rich, with just a hint of a spice kick from the chilli. Another starter, the carne cruda alla Piedmontese, better known as a steak tartar, is chopped rather fine, rendering it a soft, paste-like texture that spreads a little too easily on the crostini with which it is served. The capers and pickled mushrooms on top give the dish some respite and balance in both texture and flavour. Staying with meats, the steak options for the main course will delight the carnivorous gourmand with specialities such as dry-aged and grass-fed steaks. The 18-ounce dry-aged New York strip is aged for a minimum of 70 days, which gives it its gratifying savoury pang, akin to Parmesan cheese, and its chewier texture. To finish, the desserts are simple yet done well, such as the cherry apple turnover with pecan ice-cream. The turnover is a hot, crispy and slightly tart pocket of joy, especially when smothered with the cool, nutty goodness of the ice-cream.
The wine list is extensive and varied, with selections from Italy, France, Australia and the US. As an Italian-influenced steakhouse, it is natural that Italian wines feature extensively. Aside from sparkling wines, which are offered by the glass, more than a dozen wines are offered by “quartino” (250ml).
The staff are swift, polite and well-paced, giving the dining room an air of professionalism. The team is clearly working comfortably and in harmony. Explanations and suggestions are offered graciously and without hesitation.
A meal for two with wine costs about HK$2,500, which is decent value considering its Mario Batali brand name and location.