Rating: ★★★★☆

Address: 8/F, Conrad Hong Kong, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty 金鐘金鐘道88號太古廣場港麗酒店8樓

Telephone: 2822 5777

E-mail: Hkghc_Nicholinis@conradhotels.com

https://www.conraddining.com/en/nicholinis.html

Located on the same floor as Brasserie on the Eighth at Conrad Hong Kong, Nicholini’s is an upscale Italian restaurant that is one of my go-to places for an authentic pasta. The decor of the restaurant feels a little dated, but its warm tones, a tall ceiling, wood panelling and a Venetian wall painting complete an elegant and comfortably luxurious set up.

Chef Luca de Berardinis, the newly appointed Specialty Chef of the restaurant, offers a breath of fresh air by designing a new summer menu, which is available from August 2014 onwards. As this is an award-winning restaurant, prices can be steep and dinner typically costs $1,000 or above per head. Fortunately there are some great credit card discounts, so be sure to call in advance to check out the promotions available. The service is graceful and knowledgable, and certainly befitting of such a renowned hotel.

We start off with a baked Parmesan puff as our amuse-bouche, which tastes intensely cheesy and is also wonderfully oozy in the middle.

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(1) Our first course is the pan-fried scallop lentil soup with chestnuts and montepulciano reduction. The scallop is wonderfully tender and soft, and the lentil soup is comfortingly flavourful.

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The pairing wine is a 2012 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio Sudtirol, from Alto Adige, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy.

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(2) The second course, salted cod fish with red vinegar flavoured potatoes, roasted peppers and black olives, is accomplished. The cod fish has a firm texture and an impressive natural taste, and the red vinegar flavoured potatoes are moreish.

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(3) Everyone at the table is completely in love with the beef tartar with crunchy egg yolks, baby salad and black summer truffle. The crunchy egg yolk is crispy on the surface and utterly thick and runny in the middle. The beef tastes pristine, and the black summer truffle, less intense than winter truffles, is the icing on the cake.

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(4) The cream of green beans with egg pasta, pennyroyal and bottarga is enjoyable – the egg pasta is excellently al dente and is the perfect companion for the cream of green beans.

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(5) The fried smoked eggplants with ricotta ravioli and octopus in pizzaiola style follows. I adore the sea fresh flavour of the octopus, but there seems to be a tad too much going on in this dish.

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We are then served a glass of 2011 Gaja ca’marcanda “promis” merlot/cabernet, from Toscana, Italy.

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(6) The mediterranean tuna in potato crust with chard, fava beans and mango mayonnaise is a beautiful dish, with the deep fried “potato crust” forming an arch over the tuna, which is thickly sliced, expertly seared and deliciously flavourful.

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(7) An icy, citrus traditional Italian sorbet is exactly what we need to freshen up our palates.

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(8) Our second dessert is the warm chocolate olive oil cake with strawberry sorbet and balsamic vinegar. The tartness of the strawberry sorbet and balsamic vinegar offers a pleasing counterpoint to the substantial chocolate olive oil cake.

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Lastly, the petit fours, Nicholini’s biscottini e cioccolatini, nicely round up our meal.

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The new dishes at Nicholini’s are refined and sophisticated, and certainly offer some creativity and excitement to this long-standing restaurant!