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Osteria tries to recreate a bit of Tuscany in Tsim Sha Tsui, with earthy colours, exposed brick walls, black and white tiled floors, crates of wine and other rustic touches. It’s a bright but windowless space with low ceilings, though that doesn’t stop diners in the mostly full restaurant from enjoying themselves, with a happy buzz echoing around the dining room. Several tables are there for birthday celebrations, with a procession of cakes and candles coming out later in the evening. Groups of tourists and businessmen and women make up the rest of the crowd.
Osteria’s pan-Italian menu has a Mediterranean feel, with a good number of seafood dishes, and ingredients such as couscous making an appearance. The kitchen adds its own twist to several classics, including the Canadian beef tartar, which is scattered with slices of black truffle. The dish, however, is rather bland, lacking any kick from the sweet mustard sauce, and the bitter eggplant purée clashes with the subtlety of the meat. We are unimpressed with the assorted grilled seafood. It sits on a pile of cold grilled zucchini strips and the prawn and fish pieces are on the mushy side, while a calamari tube is rubbery. A lobster risotto also misses the mark, with both rice and lobster too mushy for our liking, though the crustacean sauce has good depth to it. The most enjoyable dish of the evening is a homemade black ink tagliolini, which comes with a generous amount of sweet Sicilian sardine in a sauce made of saffron and pinenuts. Desserts are forgettable, the tiramisu being on the soggy side, while a ball of white chocolate truffle is too sweet and cloying, even with the bitter foil of a warm coffee sauce.
Osteria takes a commendable, and rather Italian approach to wine, with dozens available by the glass, quarter-litre, half-litre or bottle, and with a simple and good-value price structure. Vintages are not shown for these, though they are for wines on the premium list. Wines are predominantly Italian, with several French and New World labels included.
Service started well, with drink and food orders promptly taken and our waiter offering to split portions for the pasta and risotto so we could share, though staff became scarcer as the evening progressed.
A three-course dinner for two with a glass of wine each comes to about $1,600, which is a little high for the quality