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While most eateries in and around Lan Kwai Fong tend to cater for the party crowd, stepping into Va Bene gives one the feeling of being in a refined private club – albeit a slightly dated one – with its polished wood and painting of the sky across the ceiling. The low lights, faint music and the hum of relaxed chatter keep the ambience relaxed and enjoyable.
Billing itself as a trattoria, Va Bene’s food is a little more refined and contemporary than a classic Italian eatery. Some items on the menu show creativity, and while others didn’t steer far too far from traditional Italian offerings, they are presented in a decidedly contemporary manner. The antipasti of seared sea scallops served with liquid burrata and Parma ham powder was an example from the innovative side of the menu. Had the scallops not been overcooked to form a dry and stringy crust, the dish would have been much more enjoyable. The burrata, which plays the role of a sauce rather than cheese, and Parma ham powder added a dimension of creaminess and umami to the dish. The Bufalina pizza, piled high with Parma ham, rocket leaves, buffalo mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes and shavings of parmesan, was of the variety similar to crispbread, which might have purists up in arms, but it added a pleasant informal touch to the meal. The copious amount of Parma ham made it a touch too salty and more cheese would have helped it regain balance. The house-made black tagliolini with Maine lobster and cherry tomatoes were served whimsically with the lobster head and tail as garnishes. Small dices of lobster and soft, juicy cherry tomatoes were caught in an alluring tangle of glossy jet-black pasta strands. For a fresh pasta, the taglioni managed to stay fairly firm and was one of the highlights of the night. Simple is often best when it comes to meat dishes, and the pan-fried veal chop with butter and sage sauce was just that – the succulent, pink meat on the bone was complemented beautifully with a classic sauce.
The wine list is loyal to the restaurant’s Italian roots, although there are some recognisable French labels. The selection of Italian wines is extensive, and it comes from all over the country, with a range of price points, starting from a friendly HK$300. The staff had basic knowledge about pairing food and wine. Va Bene also has a full bar, and digestifs such as grappa are served.
The number of staff present meant that they were never hard to find. They were friendly and professional, and eager to attend to our needs.
A meal for two with wine costs about HK$1,200, which is a little overpriced given the minor but frequent inconsistencies in the quality of food.