16 Staunton St, SoHo, Central
Visited 23rd May
The occasion was a friends birthday, the justification Buddha's birthday the following day and the venue Al Dente in Staunton St. A cosy, and often packed, SoHo restaurant that dishes up big serves of traditional Italian food.
The birthday boy happily gulped down a tasty looking serve of Linguine Pesce, while Naomi had fresh tortellini stuffed with spinach and cheese. I ordered the fish of the day; a chunky sea bass fillet, served atop a pile of mash and vegetables. The fat flakes of fish were meltingly tender and accompanied by a good cream based sauce. While I enjoyed the simple mash and big hunks of vegetable that are the standard accompaniment to most mains, I reckon you could grow tied of them pretty quickly. The dessert list comprises of only three items and we shared chocolate pudding, tiramisu and banana flambé; all were OK, though none brilliant. To drink we started with a bottle of Principato Pinot Grigio, a crisp, clean refreshing white. Me and the birthday boy then gulped our way onto Chianti; being out of the bottle on the winelist we were recommended Chianti Il Grigio. Though it settled down with a bit of air and drunk OK with food, I was pretty disappointed; big obvious alcohol and rough tannins, a pretty ungainly affair at a pretty ungainly price. The meals cost between $93 and $124 which is resonable value, however I feel I got a stung on the wine. I wont mention the prices of what we drunk, but ... Al Dente has Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2005 listed for $580; I like this wine and recently purchased it in Australia for about HK$120 a bottle. The strong Australian dollar, 40% import duty and shipping and transportation costs all add up, but this the mark-up from $120ish retail in Australia to $580 seems a little steep.
Al Dente's manager, Sergio, ensures slick service with personality, an element that is sadly missing in most Hong Kong restaurants. For those craving an old-school Italian, just like someone's-mum-in-a-local-joint-thirty-years-ago-use-to-make, Al Dente is the place for you. While not on the cutting edge of modern cuisine what Al Dente does is the classics and it does them well. A restaurant that is worth a try, we certainly had a cracker of a night and a happy birthday to the old bloke!
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