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Located on the 10th floor of L Place in Central, L’Altro does not have the most impressive setting. The lifts of the building are annoyingly slow, and once you enter the restaurant, the bad lighting (especially at night) and the polyester napkins will not endear you much further. The flooring is reminiscent of an office. Saving graces include a private room, plus a semi-open kitchen which you can glimpse through frosted windows, as well as decent views of Queen’s Road Central.
L’Altro is the sister restaurant to Miramonti L’Altro, a famous restaurant in Brescia, in northern Italy. The restaurant menu is designed by chef Philippe Leveille, a French-born chef who is known for combining French haute cuisine techniques with Italian ingredients. We start with a classic French dish, steak tartar. Here, it is called the steak “fassone”, and features nicely cut cubes of beef covered by a large, slow-cooked Italian egg. Both the beef and egg have great flavour, but we do miss the touch of acid that is usually provided by capers and Worcestershire sauce. The only condiment we taste here a very light mustard emulsion, but it is not enough to cut through the richness of the meat and egg. Much better is our other starter of spaghetti with clams and seawalter emulsion. Rich with butter and an abundance of parsley and capers, this is hands-down one of the best spaghetti vongoles in town. L’Altro seems to excel at seafood pastas, as our other signature dish of spaghetti with red prawns tartare was also excellent. A tumble of homemade spaghetti sits atop a perfect ring of raw red prawns, seasoned tartly with lime. We did think that it could have done with a touch more umami from the prawn heads, but it is still very good. Another seafood dish that was very good, but richer and more French, was the monkfish “bomboniera”, which featured slivers of perfectly cooked fish swimming in a potato mash so creamy it was almost like a thick soup, finished off with chunks of black truffle. For dessert, the L’Altro tiramisu was a rare misstep, as the deconstructed dessert featured ladyfingers soaked in espresso wrapped in an unappetisingly gelatinous case. A much better idea is to order the gelato “miramonti”, which is prepared tableside. The gelato only comes in one flavour, and it is topped with seasonal accompaniments. Regardless of season though, it is worth asking the kitchen to prepare their absolutely fantastic hot chocolate sauce, which is so decadent and rich you’d likely want to lick the gravy bowl it is served in.
A section called Philippe’s Rare Cellar includes Bordeaux first growths as well as some excellent Burgundy reds (though only four Italian reds made the cut). The rest of the wine list is categorised by first country, then region. The prices are surprisingly reasonable by the bottle, although you would not find anything for less than HK$100 by the glass. However, the wine service could be a bit more refined. When we asked the sommelier whether he could suggest another white to go with our seafood besides the Antinori we had already picked, he quite bluntly replied that he would not suggest anything else.
To live up to the fine dishes served at L’Altro, the service could be improved with a little added finesse. We noted that our water glasses were empty half of the time, and there were a few forgetful details. For example, two frosted glasses were placed on our table long before the gelato was ready, so that they soon redundantly warmed to room temperature.
A three-course meal for two with a glass of wine each comes to about HK$2,600. Again, the setting may not suggest it, but we find L’Altro to offer some of the best Italian food in town, so the price is more than justified.