Friday, July 22, 2011

Linguini Fini

I had an absolutely delicious meal at Linguini Fini the other night. I first heard about the restaurant while dining at 208. We got to talking to Chef Vinny (of Babbo fame) who told us of his imminent move to a new restaurant, in partnership with the duo behind Posto Pubblico. The way he described the new space - authentic homemade pastas infused with local flavours, only organic produce sourced from neighbour farms, a casual and creative space where he could really take free reign - all sounded like a recipe for an unforgettable meal! Not to mention how passionate he was about the concept. They also pride themselves in their nose-to-tail pork recipes i.e. no part is wasted! Just like traditional trattoria's :)

I have to say, I'm so glad he made the move because the whole dining experience here blew 208 away. The interior is stunning, with stencils by Hong Kong artists Start From Zero. If you walk down Tang Lung Street you can see a lot of their contributions to the street art scene:

It was a casual, relaxed, and rustic setting. Ideal. The waiting area is adorable with little Linguini Fini stools and a decent selection of wines and cocktails. I tried their prosecco cocktail which was deliciously sweet and made the wait much more bearable. (You can't make bookings and they won't seat you until your whole party arrives).

We were there solely for the pasta and wanted to try as much as possible. A friend of mine had told me that they have two serving sizes, but when we visited they had changed their menu to only include one. Luckily, we got to talking to Todd Darling (founder of Posto Pubblico and now this new venture) and he was super accommodating. He gave us lengthy recommendations, made sure to include homemade pancetta in our dishes which weren't available on the menu yet, and allowed us to order half portions so we could get a larger variety! Hospitality like that always makes a good meal great.

I was hungry when I arrived so helped myself to their complimentary bread, which luckily did not taste stale at all (unlike my recent experience at Red...).

We started off by getting four pastas:

sweetbread ravioli ($118)

The filling was pork jowl & sweetbread and porchetta. This was probably my least favourite dish of the night. I thought it could do with a bit more stuffing, though the sauce was really nice and I happily mopped it up with the bread.

spaghetti carbonara ($98)

Really good. It's made the traditional style using only raw eggs, cheese and fat - way better than the creamy counterpart you often see in Hong Kong restaurants. It was also chasiu flavoured and came with their homemade pancetta. I loved the pasta and the sauce, and found the Asian component really interesting, though I thought the meat was a tad too salty. Rest of the dish was a win though!

fazzoletti "nose to tail bolo" ($118)

Best dish of the night, we even ended up ordering another half portion of it afterwards (though it entailed paying a 30% premium!!) So so good. The ragu was made up of pork testa (head), veal, and oxtail ragu. It was served with nice shavings of parmigiano-reggiano on top, one of my favourite hard cheeses. Seriously, I see why this is their signature dish and can't believe how much we ate of it!

classic linguini fini pomodori ($88)

I think this is the first time I've ever had linguini fini - or heard of it to be honest. It's a thinner version of linguine, and is best served with fresh tomato based sauces. As the name of the restaurant suggests, it's also their signature pasta. It was cooked to a perfect al dente (as can be said about all the pastas we had that night) and was so fresh and simple and perfect. Apparently this type of pasta is really easy to over-cook so I'm impressed by how well-executed it was. The sauce was sooo good we polished it all off - perhaps testament to the locally sourced organic tomatoes they use. Didn't miss the meat at all.

After this first round we were so excited by everything we tried that we decided to get two more dishes. As mentioned earlier, we ordered another round of the fazzeletti and then opted for one of Todd's recommended dishes:

linguini fini shrimp diavola ($88)

This dish, along with the classic linguini fini, are both naturally infused and the flavours that come out are amazing. You could really taste the Asian hint of dried shrimp infused in the pasta (it was ground to powder), and there was a spicy kick to it which I couldn't help savouring after every bite. One of the most interesting pastas I've tried and it took a close second-place to the fazzeletti. (Always go with the recommendations!)

Unfortunately, we were so full by the end of the meal - 6 pasta dishes for 2 people does sound slightly excessive - that we couldn't order dessert. The next time I'm back though I'll definitely try the hot chocolate affogato or homemade gelato. Pastry chef Jack Chua has an impressive CV with previous stints at Nobu in London and Maison Boulud in Beijing. Having eaten at the latter a couple years back and being most impressed by the dessert, I can't wait to try some in Hong Kong!

All in all, it was a perfect experience. The service was impeccable, earning our waitress a well deserved 15% tip (the restaurant has a no service charge policy but judging by how great the service is, I'm sure their staff do very well). The ambiance was casual and so welcoming. Todd was one of the most hospitable owners I've met. And Chef Vinny is a culinary genius. Can't wait to be back!

NB: The prices quoted are for the full portions, we ended up paying about 2/3 of that for each half portion but the bill still only came up to $500 for two including drinks. Not bad!

Linguini Fini
1/F, The L Place
139 Queen's Road Central

Currently closed on Sundays