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Set inside Civic Square, the rooftop al fresco dining area above Elements shopping center in Kowloon, Joia offers a relaxed, casual yet elegant dining experience. The indoor dining room is set in soft neutral tones and the doors open up to allow tables to spill out into the courtyard. The outdoor seating area is perfect for people-watching on breezy autumn and spring evenings, but those sensitive to cigarette smoke should ask for a table inside as the entire outdoor courtyard is a smoking area.
Joia features contemporary northern Italian cuisine, and dishes here tend to be light and refreshing rather than rich and heavy like the usual Italian fare found in Hong Kong. For a clean start to your meal, try the red prawn tartar with avocado, melon, mozzarella and green apple sherbet, a layered dish served on toasted bread. The sweet and slightly tart green apple sherbet adds a delightful punch to the dish. The tortellini from Emilia Romagna filled with sea bass in a sauce made with clams, artichokes and fava beans is cooked al dente and features thick and chewy packages of pasta wrapped around mild-flavored sea bass flakes, and is barely dressed with olive oil. The pan-fried black cod is fresh and tender, seared in olive oil and saffron, and served atop a purple potato mash. The potato mash could use a bit of butter or cream, but the fish is light and flavourful. The ribeye tagliata features a melt-in-your-mouth tender cut of meat, topped with arugula and served with braised endive. The meat is perfectly seasoned and cooked to order, and the fresh, spicy bite of the arugula helps cut the richness of the ribeye. For a carnivorous feast, order the 300-day grain-fed steak Florentine, which can serve 2-3.
The wine offerings at Joia focus on Italian varietals, with the menu being divided between Italian wines and “World Wines.” Helpful tasting notes are provided for the restaurant’s special selection of wine offerings, which are available by the glass or bottle.
Service at Joia needs a bit of an overhaul. While the hostess was amenable and courteous when we asked to be moved to a table away from a patron at the next door bar who was smoking cigars, the wait staff ignored us for a large part of the meal, even when we tried to flag them down. Waiting time between courses was uneven and at times lengthy, water glasses went empty and during some courses one guest’s plate would be cleared while the other guest was still eating.
An average 3-course meal for two will come out to around HK$1,300, not including drinks. A bit pricey for a casual dinner, especially since portions are not especially generous.