Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Food Journey #25c - Final Round of Italian Lunch Experience at Cecconi's Italian

After 3 rounds of Italian lunch experience during past week, we have a clear WINNER in my opinion on the best italian lunch and the WINNER GOES TO.......CECCONI's Italian located on Elgin Street, Central. Reasons to why they beat Pizza Express & Isola, it is unpretentious, good quality food, cosy atmosphere (during lunch hours) and good price & speed for lunch which is vital. Was extremely impressed with their set lunches which I recommend you to try out and I hope they do not rotate their set lunches on a weekly basis.

In fact, this is my 2nd visit to Cecconi's Italian, my 1st visit consisted of a Caesar Salad which doesnt say much about a restaurant but for the review, a feast must be required to try the real quality of food. $98 for a 2 course set lunch in Central is fairly decent considering the food definitely justifies the price tag.

Fresh Foccacia
Dont be decieved by the photo below as I know the presentation looks very dull. However, the bread was warm when it arrived which is just the way we Asians like it and you can still smell the freshness of the foccacia. Drizzle this with fresh Tuscan Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar, this foccacia was a perfect carbohydrate boost after the morning madness at work.

Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing & Walnuts --
After watching this food related program on TVB Pearl one night regarding the amount of calories contained in a Caesar Salad, deliberately stayed away from this on the set lunch menu and opt for this instead. Spinach has extremely high amounts of Calcium, Iron and other sources of Vitamins thus making spinach a highly nutritious product. The amount of Gorgonzola dressing on the spinach salad was just the amount which I like, very moderate amount thus and it was extremely flavourful. The shaved Parmesan cheese also added more flavors to the salad and as a passionate cheese lover, this was my very typical salad. Not to keen on the walnuts but nevertheless, it paired very well with the spinach. Very refreshing salad to kick off your meal and my next course was simply spectacular!!!!!!!!!!

Pan seared salmon with a cucumber salad and balsamic--
Having been a salmon murderer for the past 10 years, this has always been on the top of my list wherever I go for lunch or dinner as i) the nutritional values are high ii) a perfect pan-seared or grilled salmon has always been a form of art to myself. Such cripsy skin on the outside but yet, so moist & pink on the inside, it is truly the best form of fish that the world has in my opinion. There are a few restaurants around town whereby I highly recommend a Grilled Salmon -- RED SoHo does a mean grilled salmon, H One also does a fairly decent Atlantic Salmon Steak but in my opinion, Cecconi's italian wins the tournament.

Pan Seared is a very interesting technique commonly used by chef which focuses on cooking the surface of the food product at high temperature which it caramelises the skin. Such searing technique is often said to lock the juices in the salmon, giving it a moist & pink texture.

The Pan-seared Salmon here was definitely one of the best I have had in town as it has all the above points mentioned. So juicy yet so crispy on the outside. However, I feel that the pairing with cucumber was slightly odd as it would have been better to pair with a Tomato Salsa or even just simple Green Salads on the side. Cucumbers are just simply boring and flavourless. Nonetheless, this was a wonderful dish and it was truly enjoyable!

Crumbled Chicken Leg with Napoli & Mozzarella--
This was the dish ordered by my friend on the day but however, she could not complete the portion due to the huge portion being served. I took 2 bites of the chicken leg and was equally impressed. The chicken was extremely tender, not greasy & the melted cheese was extremely pungent & flavourfull and the pairing together is the equivalent to Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie. BRAVO!

However, not your average dish which you may order unless you havent had breakfast in the morning as the chicken leg was rather large, so large that it looked like it was mutated.

If you are looking for a lunch venue with good quality food & very economical, do check out Cecconi's Italian on Elgin Street. Highly recommended for the quality of dishes but one warning, service may be sloppy at times as I had to speak to our server 3 times for the Fresh Foccacia. Definitely worth the money paid despite the set lunch was only $98 and you can see why they are the winner of the Italian Lunch Journey in Hong Kong.

Now comes the end of the Italian Lunch Journey, watch out for the next review of a restaurant with a humourous name --
譽滿坊 Dim SumThe Art Of Chinese Tit Bits

Happy Eating & Drinking!



Address: G/F, 43 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong (中環伊利近街43號地下
Tel: 2147 5500

Food Quality (5* the highest): ****

Price for Lunch (5$ = very expensive): **


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Food Journey #25b - Part II "Italian" Lunch Experience at Pizza Express

Have been busy recently and have not had the luxury on blogging in the past few days in regards to my continuous food journey on an Italian lunch experience. Certainly, my previous posting on Isola has stopped a few of my fellow readers & friends in placing a reservation for lunch & dinner -- wise choice.

Noticed how I have put in inverted commas "Italian" on this journey to Pizza Express in Wan Chai Ship Street, just off J-Residence. I have never believed Pizza Express as an Italian restaurant and my perception of it has always been a premium class of Dominos with seatings & waiters / waitresses. But afterall, it is a place that does 2 key Italian Dishes -- P & P (Pizza & Pasta) therefore I shall include them as part of this review and boy, I was actually rather impressed on this Saturday afternoon meal.

Original plan for lunch was to visit Dressed Salad again, just off QRE Plaza, as I wanted something light for the day. No idea to how we ended up at Pizza Express which is around 3 blocks down the road but nevermind!

The restaurant itself is situated in a rather intimate & quite corner of Wan Chai therefore a wonderful setting on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Opened up the menu and was attracted by the "Pink Revolution Menu" which is 2 courses at HKD168 in which $8 will be donated to the charity organisation whether you believe it or not.

Carpaccio Di Salmone Affumicato --
The first taste of salmon carpaccio was surprisingly very fresh even though when it first landed on the table, it looked as it had been drenched in the olive oil for some time. The salmon slices were drizzled with Tuscan olive oil and are simply flavoured with dill, capers & lemon.The 3 baked dough balls were strongly pesto flavoured and are best eaten when you dip the dough balls into the Tuscan olive oil along with the salmon carpaccio. Such a simple, hearty but yet exquisite dish to start off the whole meal.

First course was completed and my point of view towards Pizza Express has slightly changed as I never thought a kids friendly place can serve up good quality food as such. Something was missing and the key link was a glass of Prosecco. Noticed on the "Pink Revolution Menu" that during the promotion period, you can now purchase a glass of Prosecco for $8. Hold on a second -- $8, you gotta be joking me and can one even drink this stuff. Full of questions & question marks in my mind, I decide to give this a shot and to my surprise, this was worth every $8 and the taste was not bad at all. Next time when you are low on cash or living towards the end of month and want to get drunk, ring Pizza Express's door bell and $8 is very worthy of such.

Main course was a Penne Al Salmone and in English, Salmon Penne with Carbonara Sauce. Overall quality of the dish is moderate and the good points are that it is not drenched in carbonara sauce and the generous portions of fresh salmon on top of the appetiser. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish and do eat this with generous amount of parmesan cheese + tabasco, my personal secret recipe for a delicious pasta dish. However, the quality of the actual pasta was poor and the texture of the pasta was not very fresh which was slightly disappointing but overall, it was impressive.

We were however still a bit hungry after the first 2 courses therefore, we decided on the traditional approach and ordered a Neopolitan thin crusted pizza topped with Prosciutto Ham, Ricotta, Parmsesan, Rosemary and Polenta Base. Also want to use this opportunity to clarify the on-going myth on that Deep-Pan Thick Crusted Pizzas are NOT ITALIAN STYLE Pizzas therefore please do not even attempt to order such item in an Italian restaurant or else you will be left red-faced. As you can see from the photo below, the chef was extremely generous with the Prosciutto & Ricotta Cheese as they were literally overflowing on the pizza. Kudos to the Chef on this!

My personal recommendation on a pizza like this must be eaten in the following manner:
a) Please eat using your hands and for god's sake, please DO NOT use knives & forks as you will make an even bigger mess than using your hands. Pizza is a comforting & non-pretentious food item!

b) Always Overdose on your Parmesan Cheese as it is quite possibly the best pairing in the world. Enough said!

c) For those that like a spice kick, please also be generous on the tabasco on your slice.

Combination of above 3 will give you a deadly combination!

Overall, the meal was very enjoyable and my whole perception towards Pizza Express has changed 180 degrees. I was extremely impressed with the quality of food, service & setting of the Wan Chai Shop. The bill came at 1/2 the price to the rubbish which I ate in the other fellow Italian restaurant in my previous posting and I was an extremely happy man walking out of this place. Pizza Express, I shall return!

Address: G/F, 10 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong (灣仔永豐街10號
Tel: 3528 0541

Food Quality (5* the highest): 3/1/2*

Price for Lunch (5$ = very expensive): 1/1/2*

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Food Journey #25a -- Part I -- Italian Lunch Experience (Isola Bar & Grill)

An old favourite of mine but however, after this visit, I will have to have 2nd thoughts on this. Purpose of the lunch was a client meeting but I was not impressed with the food quality and service and was rather red-faced with the overall impression left.

Best Part of the meal was the bread basket & the main course (grilled sole fillet). The bread basket was fresh, warm, just the way I liked it. The main course was a grilled sole fillet with fresh asparagus, a slightly healthy alternative choice on the menu selection rather than the usual pizza, risotto, pasta and the sole fillet was cooked very well. A dash of lemon was vital to give the sole fillet a good kicking with the slight citrus flavour.

Now comes the disappointment:

The infamous Antipasti Buffet used to my favourite part with such an abundance of food selection which often tickles my fancy including fresh salmon, prosciutto, italian cold cut, grilled Italian peppers, salad, seafood salad, etc. As soon as we approached the buffet area, I had a sense that there was something different this time round. The salad leaves looked very dull & liveless, the salmon was colourless unlike its usual bright orange colour, the prosciutto appeared the quality which one can shop for at Wellcome or ParknShop. The quantity of items also have decreased which didnt leave us with much choices to choose from. Our client also appeared slightly disappointed after I was raving about the quality of Isola's lunch - NOT A GOOD START!

To top up, our client ordered a Mushroom Risotto which was the worst of the bunch. The Arborio rice was still fairly uncooked, it lacked the creaminess of an usual risotto and the lack of Parmaggiano did not help the case either. The dish was definitely not up to my client's standards as she only completed 1/2 the portion and I bluntly asked her to allow myself to try a spoonful and she was right, it was purely bland and boring! TOTAL DISAPPOINTMENT

For Dolci, our disappointment was turned into anger. Approached the dessert area and the cakes & cheese selection looked extremely dull and appeared like it had been lying on the same spot since Isola first opened up its doors. Completely switched off my appetite and hoped the final piece of jigsaw - cup of Ice Coffee could rescue the meal. Well, when you can screw up a coffee, that says something about the restaurant. Coffee arrived without sugar and took us around 10 mins to recieve the sugar and during the process, the services from their waiters & waitresses were extremely unattentive.

A so-called Corporate Venue for a Corporate Lunch, this was not an experience or food which I expected. Hello, maybe you are ripping off the Investment Bankers & Lawyers working in IFC but please do something about the quality of your lunch. Simply do not understand how the standard, service, food quality for such venue located in Hong Kong's premium shopping centre have dropped their standards so dramatically. For the price of HKD248 per head, Isola, you were once one of my favourite Italian restaurant in town but now you are the weakest link, good bye!

Happy Eating for now!


Address: Level 3, ifc Mall, 1 Harbour View Street, Central, Hong Kong (

Tel: 2383-8765

Food Quality (5* the highest): *

Price for Lunch (5$ = very expensive): 3/1/2*