By: Claire Locking
While most Michelin-starred restaurants in Hong Kong like to shout about their accolades from the rooftops, L’altro keeps itself more modestly under the radar.
This modern Italian fine-dining establishment is the sister restaurant to prestigious two-Michelin star Miramonti L’altro in Brescia, Italy.
Chef Philippe Leveille is recognised as one of the most influential chefs in Italy (despite hailing from France), but here in Hong Kong it’s the skill and expertise of his prodigy, Antimo Maria Merone, that helped the restaurant gain a Michelin star just four months after opening last year.
Sadly the location of L’Altro doesn’t do justice to the quality of the cuisine. Located on the 10th floor of L Space, it’s just a few blocks too far west along Queen’s Road Central and a few blocks too far south from Soho. The décor, although tasteful, is also a bit too bling for my tastes.
The food at L’altro, however, can hardly be faulted. Don’t expect traditional dishes: this is modern Italian with twists on classics and influences from other culinary traditions throughout.
I started with Hokkaido sea scallops with seasonal mushrooms ($268). This is the least-Italian sounding dish on the menu but came highly recommended by our knowledgeable waiter. The scallops are cooked on one side only, a method favoured by Chef Philippe, both for the variety it gives the dish and the tenderness. The scallops are topped with a thin shaving of brioche before being quickly pan-fried; the brioche becomes infused with the scallop and cooking juices and the scallop remains tender throughout. An accompanying seaweed salad with sesame dressing and seaweed butter foam was a magical contrast to the mellow flavour of the scallops and earthiness of the mushrooms.
As well as experimenting with flavour combinations, L’altro is also happy to showcase Italian classics, with a no-nonsense approach. Three-year aged Parma ham (with “vacche rosse” Parmigiano reggiano and warm brioche; $298) is sliced by your table and served as it. There’s no dressing or fussing, just the best of Italian produce on a plate.
When in Italy, do as the Italians do, so we enjoyed small plates of pasta as primi piatti before our mains. My squid ink mini gnocchi with scampi tartar was a dish to be savoured. We also sampled ravioli with duck ragout – equally memorable.
For mains, I again went for my waiter’s recommendation of one-side grilled pigeon, squid and chorizo brunoise, foie gras sauce and bisque ($438). Here, the one-sided cooking method was less successful as the pigeon was undercooked.
Suckling pig crispy skin ($388) is served three ways; one of these, pork consommé, proves an unusual but truly sensational accompaniment.
“Greedy, buttered, generous and never brainy” is how Chef Leveille describes his French-Italian culinary style so we decided to follow suit and succumb to the dessert menu. The Sugar Sphere with vanilla custard and fresh mango ($128) showcases the pastry chef’s mastery of sugar syrup, though we found the vanilla custard too cold and the overall result slightly underwhelming for a dish that obviously involved hours or artistry and effort. However, the homemade vanilla ice cream “Miramonti” with fresh mango ($128) was ice cream like no other: smooth as silk with the perfect combination of vanilla and sweetness.
The young chef at L’altro deserves to be recognized for his skills and his dedication to bringing innovative modern Italian cuisine to Hong Kong. It’s a few metres off the beaten track, but this is the only reason this restaurant isn’t receiving the following and recognition it so rightly deserves.
“Miramonti” ice cream with fresh mango
10/F, The L Place,
139 Queen’s Road, Central
2555 9100 | laltro.hk