A birthday lunch at Cucina at the Marco Polo Hong Kong, I wouldn't have it any other way.
It was the annual natal day escape and Hong Kong was the destination. A visit was in order after seven years plus PAL's seat sale and winning a hosted stay at the Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel were the sprinkling of sugar to the whole package.
One of the three restaurants of Marco Polo Hong Kong is Cucina. The contemporary restaurant with a stylish bar, open kitchen, indoor and outdoor dining areas set against a backdrop of the spectacular Victoria Harbour is a menu that has tickled the palates of food aficionados, and earned a reputation as a go-to Italian resto in the culinary capital.
On my first visit to Cucina, I remember having a feast. A second bout was most welcome, and thanks to Samantha Poon, Marco Polo Hotel's Director of Communication, I didn't wait too long.
From the menu, we were having the signature dishes and as a bonus, the chef himself accompanied each dish as it was served.
Chef de Cuisine Andrea Delzanno's root is from the Piemonte in Italy. At age eight he knew he wanted to become a chef.
"Like most Italians, he learned cooking from his grandmother. I was watching her make pasta in her kitchen when I was small." he said
He describes his dishes as simple yet flavorful using the fresh available ingredients.
"Use the best ingredients, you will make a difference." he added.
A dish topped with shaved fresh truffle is so easy to fall in love with. The Seared Hokkaido scallops with organic Italian scrambled eggs on toast with white truffle from Alba, was one of them.
The light and flavorsome fare was a delightful way to kick off a feast.
For my entrée, I was picked a pasta dish-the Linguine aigamberi rossi di mazara delvallo con la loro salsa ridotta e pomodorini freschi (Linguine with Sicilian red prawns, shell reduction sauce and fresh cherry tomatoes).
Using stock made from shells of fresh prawns sourced from the southern part of Italy, baked, boiled for about six hours, and reduced to achieve the right consistency and flavor, gave the dish its rich, distinct seafood flavor.
"We make our pasta," shared the chef.
Samantha had the Guancetta di manzowagyu cotta lentamente su pure' di zucca, porcini e salsa al Barolo (Slow-cooked Wagyu beef cheek on pumpkin pure´e, porcini mushrooms and Barolo red wine sauce) countless times, but she wanted me sample a bit of it so she ordered one.
The Australian beef cheek is slow cooked at 88 degrees for eight hours and vacuum bagged overnight.
"The beef cheek is full of collagen. Once you cook slowly and gently in that amount of time, the collagen becomes soft and very sticky. So it's very, very tender, melts in your mouth. The texture is totally different," said Andrea.
It took several tries before he achieved the right texture for the dish. Eight hours was the magic length.
I don't eat meat but on food tasting times, I will. However, the dish was truly delightful that I had more than "just one bite".
Sam wanted me to try a fish dish. It may not be a signature dish, but it's quite a popular one on the menu-the Branzino del mediterraneo intero al forno all' olio, limonee derbaci pollina (Baked whole Mediterranean seabass with lemon, oil and chive).
The seabass was an 800-gram of seafood goodness! It's a size to share, but with so much food on the table for three people, it will be difficult to finish.
"It's a perfect size to keep the fish moist and juicy. A smaller one will be dry," said the chef.
No birthday party ends without a cake, and mine came in the form of a chocolate ball. The chocolate bomb revealed its ice cream core after hot chocolate was poured melting the ball.
With nice people to share it with, it was good to the last drop of chocolate.
The long birthday lunch came to an end, and this one marks another memorable feast in this Italian restaurant called Cucina.
Cucina is on Level 6of Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel, No. 3 Canton Road, Harbour City, TsimShaTsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
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