In hip-grit Wong Chuk Hang, where there is food, there is art.
Text by Tiffany Chan, photos by Samantha Sin
*Featured in Crave’s June 2015 issue
Once a gritty neighbourhood of car workshops and factories, Wong Chuk Hang is an industrial outpost on the southside of Hong Kong Island. It’s hardly picture perfect, but with a South Island Line MTR station being built in the vicinity, the area is fast becoming a creative hub, with fashion outlets, private kitchens and art galleries opening in the industrial buildings.
Dine-Art is a lofty 4,000 sq ft space in one of these buildings. As its name succinctly explains, it offers two things: food and art. It doubles as a storage space for owner Michael Nock’s company Art Lease – which rents artworks to restaurants, offices and shopping malls – and as a private kitchen run by chef Cosimo Taddei, formerly executive chef at fine-dining Italian restaurant Domani (now closed).
The menu is Italian with French influences, reflecting Taddei’s background, and changes monthly or to guests’ preferences. It currently accepts only one booking a night for dinner parties for 10 to 24 guests, and offers lunch for office workers in the area.
“We were doing private dinners and events, not very many, but everyone has responded well,” Taddei says. “It’s rare to find 4,000 sq ft in Hong Kong where you can have dinner with your friends and feel at home. In Hong Kong, people spend something crazy like half a million dollars to rent a beautiful private space. A few months ago, Michael told me: ‘Everybody likes it, I like it, so let’s make this into a full-time business.’ So we sat down and decided it was time.”
Dine-Art is a rare space in Hong Kong. It’s an eclectic setting. One side of the light-filled warehouse-style space is occupied by artworks on sliding white panels. On the other, a single long wooden table runs parallel to an open kitchen counter, with the kitchen in the back. Separating the two is a cluster of worn leather couches for lounging. The space was recently renovated with washed grey walls and raw wooden details – the bathroom table is made from a piece of driftwood Taddei found on Shek O beach – and, while calculated, it echoes the vibe of the neighborhood.
“People who come here tell me this place reminds them of New York – the loft, the terrace outside, the rawness – but none of the elegance and none of the fancy hotel stuff,” Taddei says. “So, shall I cook for you now?”
Sicilian Red Prawns
Four slithers of translucent Sicilian red prawn come with vibrant dashes of mandarin essence and alternating dollops of Bergonia ower sauce, coregone egg sauce and candied lemon. The prawns are fresh, delicate and sweet. The coregone egg sauce has a briny quality that enhances the prawns, while the pulpy bergonia ower sauce adds acidity without overpowering the crustacean. Tart mandarin essence lifts the palate considerably and the candied lemon gives texture to this excellent starter.
Cuttle fish is slow cooked at 55°C for five hours, blast chilled and then sliced thinly to achieve the look of tagliatelle. Because it is sliced so thinly, the cuttle fish itself was tender with a nice bite and not too rubbery, as it often can be. A light dressing of lime zest, olive oil and salt and drizzle of sauce made from the tentacles lift the freshness of the animal without overwhelming the dish. It is also topped with handmade potato chips, which added crunch and smokiness.
Homemade Ricotta- stuffed Ravioli
Inspiring presentation has six ravioli pockets in a cluster on the right side of the plate, with a single thick brushstroke of squid ink on the left. The pasta is stuffed with crumbly ricotta cheese and sun-dried cherry tomato and blanketed in an aromatic butter, sage and rosemary oil sauce. The sauce also has a touch of colatura di alici, or water of anchovy, and a liberal sprinkling of grey mullet butargo (cured fish roe), both of which give the dish a briny taste.
The pigeon is jointed and arranged on radicchio leaves and sauce. The pigeon meat was blushed pink, but slightly overcooked for our taste. The sauce of pigeon jus, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine and red wine vinaigrette was quite tart and went well with the pigeon. Perhaps because the spinach was sitting in the sauce, it was rather sour. The dollop of cinnamon apple and red onion jam on the side is easy to miss, but added essential sweetness needed to balance the dish. We just wished there was more of it.
Hazelnut is presented in a variety of forms: hazelnut praline, hazelnut sponge, a scoop of hazelnut ice cream and whole caramelised hazelnuts. The dessert is topped with a thick carpet of shaved black truffle. We expected the dish to be rather one note in terms of flavour, but the textures worked together quite well and the dish was not overly sweet. The smokiness of the roasted nuts went well with the milder ice cream and sponge. The sponge could have been more moist and, mysteriously, we couldn’t really taste the black truffle.
16/F Kwai Bo Industrial Building, 40 Wong Chuk Hang, Aberdeen
Tel: 6485 9674