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There is little doubt who the target market is – China’s newly minted – the moment you set foot in the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. The hotel, and the restaurant itself, looks like a giant disco ball exploded and covered every surface. Spirals of shiny metal, mirrors, glass beads and more dangle from ceilings and hang off walls. At night, a LED catwalk leads diners to Tosca and there is not one, but two fountains made of crystal and marble in the dining room. What saves such gaudiness, however, is the triple-height, floor to ceiling windows that provide a grand panorama of Hong Kong from 102 storeys up. Not surprisingly, window tables are booked well in advance, though the open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant also provides entertainment.
The kitchen, under the guidance of chef Pino Lavarra, shows greater restraint and focus than the décor. Complimentary bread, especially the pane carasau, or crispy flatbread with rosemary, is moreish, but it’s best to pace yourself. We opt for the four-course estate menu, which offers better value than the short a la carte offering. Light yet full of flavour, the langoustine with young leaf salad and crab mayonnaise hits all the right notes for a starter, with sweet, moist crabmeat sandwiched between two round wafers, though the langoustine is a touch overcooked. Pretty as a picture, if a little plain on the tongue is the octopus salad with fennel emulsion and parsley, the octopus done two ways – pressed and roasted. Pasta, however, is a highlight. Ricotta stuffed gnocchi comes as three sensuous mounds topped with baked tomato, the ricotta given a savoury anchovy hit under a fine layer of gnocchi. Green spaghetti “chitarra” channels the breezy, sunny flavours of the Mediterranean, the strands of basil-infused pasta enveloped in a slice of translucent swordfish. A dice of squid and little puddles of black olive oil add a salty, nutty component. After the carb highs, a main of steamed Dover sole is a let-down. A curled fillet of this prized fish was bland and rubbery, the carrot purée and candied lemon soup doing little to add excitement. Things get back on track again with tender roast spring lamb given intensity with the addition of smoked provola cheese and a sprinkle of portulaca leaf salad, though a bitter, charred wedge of eggplant divides opinion. Chocolate is always a safe bet and a dessert of Guanaja chocolate, black olives, bread and olive oil is enjoyable without being memorable. A smooth and luscious honey and ricotta cream with fresh figs and Polynesian vanilla gelato, however, shines with the quality of its ingredients, ending the meal on a high.
The wine list of near-biblical proportions showcases top-flight Old World wines from Italy and France, with plenty of New World drops also on offer. A chat with the sommelier is recommended before ordering. Several premium wines are available by the glass, including a 1990 Brunello di Montalcino Case Basse, Soldera, thanks to use of a Coravin extraction system. Sadly, we did not get to try it.
Staff are knowledgeable and efficient, especially the Italian managers, as you would expect from such a venue. It seems churlish to gripe, but we felt a little over-serviced at times, with staff constantly on hand.
Luxury costs, and a tasting menu for two with a glass of wine each comes to about $2700, which is fair for the food and setting.