8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana

I have always had my doubts on Michelin star restaurants in Asia. I feel that most of the time, they are not graded fairly or are given too much regard for what they actually do. My last post on Michelin star restaurants in Asia was in Hong Kong in a restaurant called Sun Tung Lok. Hong Kong’s second Chinese restaurant to get 3 Michelin stars did not impress me one bit and I felt robbed of my experience.

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Two years later, upon my return to Hong Kong, I decided to experience a Michelin star restaurant in Hong Kong once more, this time at Chef Umberto Bombana’s 8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo. Sadly, though, I felt robbed once again. 

The restaurant, headed by “The King of White Truffles” is strategically located in the heart of Hong Kong in Central, in Alexandra House. The restaurant’s name was personally picked by Bombana as a tribute to his favorite Italian film direction Federico Fellini’s 1963 autobiographical movie “8 ½”, as a celebration of both Italian lifestyle and art and an invitation to enjoy and discover life pleasures. 

For the last two years, I have heard countless appraises and applause for Bombana’s venture, and I always asked myself why, I still do, to this day after my dinner there. Diners can head for the cheaper lunch menu during the week or opt for what is expected, I’m sure, as a well-deserved but expensive meal. 

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As I entered the restaurant, I was immediately rushed to my table, without being able to glance at the wine, cheese or charcuterie room. As the chair was pulled out for me, immediately was the menu on my lap, bottled water was being poured…I was just lost for words, I was not even given a chance to breathe. Staff was walking left, right, and behind me making it a very uncomfortable experience. The restaurant was very loud, perhaps due to the low ceiling, and staffs weren’t giving that sense of relaxation and quietness one seeks in a 3-star Michelin restaurant. 

Before being able to pick what was to eat on the menu, which actually didn’t look interesting at all, I was given a foie gras canape.

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I looked straight at it, while it stared back at me, getting colder as time went by. I was very much hoping to order before given anything to eat, but again the sense of rush was evermore present. I eventually tasted it, the foie gras was smooth and sweet and the dough crunchy, but felt more the consistency of the dough being stuck to my teeth. 

The bread was well…bread, nothing exciting or different.

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The balsamic (not pictured) was rather thin and acidic. 

To start:

Warm Lobster salad with Roast Ligurian artichoke and Cinta Senese ham

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The lobster was warm and lightly poached but the artichokes a bit too oily.

Roast duck foie gras, Piedmont hazelnut sauce

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Well-cooked. The best dish out of the whole meal. 

Next:

Tajima Short rib and beef tenderloin, red wine and plum sauce

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The meat melted in your mouth and was very tender from the thick sauce. The quality of the meat saved the dish. 

Lobster Risotto

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Let me be blunt. First thought: someone’s vomit. No kidding. What kind of risotto is this? Why is it so liquid? It’s more like rice was thrown into the Lobster bisque and just called Lobster risotto. The most “italian” dish on the menu, was the worst. It just felt like soup. 

Don’t expect for dessert pictures. I did not even glance at the menu. 

Pasticcini of Chocolate with Nuts,  Torrone and Fruit Pate

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The fruit pate was quite sweetish,  the torrone was too wet.  The chocolate with nuts was salty, majorly not sweetened enough and also slightly too fruity as a norm.  Overall wouldn’t say this ending plate of pasticcini/mignardises was impressive but about average. Also, the waitress dropped the plate on the table as she tripped. She apologised, took back the plate and as I saw her walk away, I just saw her re-arrange the mignardises and only to return in no-time to serve us what she called a “new set of mignardises”. First of all, waiters cannot drop anything, and I mean ANYTHING, not in a 3-star place. Secondly, the fact that she lied about her new replacement, was just utterly incredible.

So what was so “Italian” about this restaurant anyways, considering the chef is Asia’s Best Italian Chef. 

Throughout my meal, I saw 2 maitre d’s walking around tending to other tables and the Chef equally browsing what clients were eating. Not once did either come to the table. Now, I am not famous, a celebrity chef or a billionnaire. I just felt that in a 3-star environment, one deserves the same kind of courtesy, treatment and experience as any other. Am I wrong in saying that? All the Chef did, was shave white truffles. That’s it, nothing more. The maitre d’s were leaning forward casually on couches, as if in a bar watching a football game…No words.

Granted, the moment I walked in, I was already critiquing, but I just could not help myself. Everywhere I looked something was not right, and I did not even feel comfortable as a client. I just don’t know what to say. To me, this does not even can be put at the same level as with Caprice, another 3-star Michelin restaurant in Hong Kong. How did it get 3-stars?. I’m just lost for words. 

A definite disappointment. 

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Comments
One Response to “8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana”
  1. Mashav says:

    Good review, it’s not easy to write about the bad experiences, but someone has to say that the king is naked.

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