Sicilian chef Giovanni Giorgio Longo brought outstanding Southern Italian flavours to Hong Kong at Test Kitchen’s November pop-up.
Words and Photos Iris Wong
Test Kitchen needs little introduction. In fact, we’ve grown to expect seeing several familiar faces of loyal pop-up goers, with whom conversation surrounds which Test Kitchen pop-up we’ve been to and a comparing of notes and photos of the dishes. For this particular dinner event, the space is decked out in string lights and a rustic table setting of aubergine and fresh vegetables in tin cans, which we later discover to be the salad of one of the courses.
A sip of the welcome cocktail – tarragon-perfumed gin with chinotto – marks the start of a series of homely dishes personal to chef Longo: from his mum’s recipes and the street food he grew up with, to Sicily’s fascinating history and famous natural landscape.
A cheery wait staff places the first course on our table: olive-shaped, chocolate truffle-like morsels “that will blow your mind”. And she’s right. These “explosive olives” are made by freezing blended olives, olive oil and herb purée that are then rolled into an olive shape and thinly coated in cocoa butter for a crisp outer shell. Certainly one of the best and most memorable dishes of the night. Another notable dish is Kohlrabeach. Plated to resemble a Sicilian beach, the dish is an excellent play on texture, with a great balance in flavour between the earthiness of roast kohlrabi, the umami of salmon roe, and the anchovy sauce’s savoury creaminess. Next is ArriKiiati Pizza, with sea urchin and straciatella cheese, which is a tad underwhelming after the previous course. While we enjoy the flavour, the thick crust is too hard for all the creamy, soft toppings. Another dish that we really want to like but falls short is From Catania to Hong Kong, a local rendition of the famous ravioli a la Norma – filled with fried eggplant and ricotta – originally from Catania, Sicily. We appreciate the fun presentation in a steam basket and the tomato consommé “dipping sauce”, but the thin soup doesn’t stick to the dumpling, and the skin is too thick for our liking. The last course is our favourite, both conceptually and in terms of flavour. Aptly named History of Sicily, the chocolate mignardise consists of three layers: a dark chocolate casing with chilli (a nod to the Spaniards who brought chilli to Sicily); a chocolate olive oil ganache (to acknowledge Greek influences on the island); and a small segment of orange (the Arabs brought oranges to Sicily during the Muslim period).
Homely Southern Italian fare crafted with experimental elements is a welcoming change. Storytelling through the dishes is also cleverly executed, especially in the first and last course of the explosive olives and History of Sicily. Despite a few minor misses, the dinner pop-up is a memorable one, and we wish we can have that heavenly chocolate mignardise at the end of every meal.
Spending: $980pp (nine courses), an additional $300 for cocktail and wine pairing
Highlights: explosive olives, History of Sicily, Vivera “Altrove” Sicilia Bianco DOC 2015 (Sicilia, Italy)
What else: chef Longo and his partner Delphine Worms will be launching their first solo restaurant ArriKiiati in Belgium in 2018 – a great chance for those who want to try his cooking first hand
Shop 3, 158A Connaught Road West, Sai Ying Pun