Some things are worth getting dirty for. Even I, a clean freak with three separate hand sanitizers in my handbag, would scrabble away at the earth if I thought I might unearth one of my favorite ingredients – truffle! Thankfully, neither you nor I have to snuffle out these glorious orbs of taste and aroma for ourselves.
Truffle recipes work best during winter and spring time and nothing says spring like the taste of freshly shaved truffles harvested from the rain-showered woods. So if you are wild about the emperors of mushroom like we are, then you need to know these 3 places that celebrate real truffle oil, truffle butter and truffle pasta like no others. You don’t need a pig, a forest floor or a basket – just call up and book a table or order delivery!
DiVino – Wine Bar & Restaurant
Lording over Wyndham Street since 2003, Divino is known primarily as a place for cocktail sippers in the evening, but put down the glass and pick up the menu – because they also serve astounding dishes. Stepping into this refreshingly vibrant lounge, I met up with their head chef, owner of Divino Group, Michele Senigaglia, to sample their seasonal truffle symphony.
What’s in it? Chef Michele prepared seared tuna with carrot puree and raw truffles, and as well as their classic homemade buttery gnocchi with shaved truffles and seared sirloin with shaved truffles and rocket leaves.
What’s the highlight? The seared tuna was perfectly cooked and the slight hint of char and bitterness on the crust brought out great depth from the truffles. The dishes also boasts a silky-smooth fresh carrot puree which was a delight; the carrot and truffle offer both the sweetness and the woodiness of the earth in perfect juxtaposition. I couldn’t think of a better vegetable or puree to highlight this dish.
I am usually not a fan of gnocchi, as they can be thick and starchy. But not Chef Michele’s. His are so fluffy and sweet. I often say simple food is the hardest to perfect. Chef did just that with this dish. There are only three main ingredients to gnocchi: potatoes, truffles, butter. Chef mentioned that they make them a day in advance and then boil them to order, mix in butter to create an emulsion, and that’s where the creaminess and sauce come from.
Wondering how to make truffles? Learn from the best: The chewy texture and light creaminess of the gnocchi is the perfect canvas for presenting the punchy truffles. Everything sang: the whole dish was nutty, sweet, bitter, creamy and earthy. I adore this dish and will be back for more before the truffle promotion ends.
What’s the secret? Divino serves their truffles raw! Chef mentioned the best way to fully taste and enjoy the depth of a truffle, is to serve and eat it raw, as the heat of a dish expands the flavor and aromatic smells of the truffle.
What sets them apart? Their truffles are imported all the way from Italy. After carefully studying truffles and the yearly harvests, Chef chooses the best black truffles in the market. This year they are highlighting Norcia, an exquisitely famous truffle which grows in sunny, well-drained mountainous areas. He showed me the raw truffles and, as he lifted the cover of the truffle dome, its rich smell filled the room. Not a lot of restaurants will have a ‘No Menu. No limitation rule’ and I totally love the concept of letting the chef do the cooking and letting the ingredients speak for themselves.
Why we love it?
Simplicity meets complexity and elegance. Chef’s artistry shows not only in his creative vision, but also in his handling of food. As I watched him pick up the truffle and shave it, the grace and delicacy of the gestures, it felt like I was watching Okakura Kakuzō pour a cup of tea at a tea ceremony. If you wanna enjoy the art of truffle, be sure to visit Divino before the end of month.
Address: 73 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
Since my truffle expedition was turning into a celebration of all things earthy and natural, I decided my next stop should be at my favorite vegetarian spot, The Herbivores, stationed on Staunton Sreet.
The Herbivores is a veggie restaurant that provides vibrant looking dishes and offers new twists and outlooks on classic vegetarian food. The menu and the staff share the love of ingredients and the desire to celebrate food that are the soul of any good restaurant.
Joining me was Nicole, who is the wonder woman behind the daily operation of this friendly joint.
What’s in it? I didn’t have to think twice, and I ordered my favorite dish here: their signature Truffle Truffle Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and an order of the Eggplant Parmesan as a starter.
What’s the highlight? The truffle risotto is creamy, and dense with earthy, textural flavors. You can taste the truffles from their truffle paste; the porcini and organic wild mushrooms give the dish an exquisite smell which then transforms into deep woody flavours in the mouth. The eggplant parmesan is crusty on top and soft in the middle. The combination of the light acidity from their homemade tomato sauce surprisingly is a perfect date with the truffle risotto. If you love lasagna, you will definitely love their take on the classic dish.
What’s the secret? Nicole explains that Chef Anson, their head chef, soaks some of their wild mushrooms in hot water first to create a flavorful broth, which is then used as the risotto broth for cooking the Arborio rice. They combine their organic mushrooms with their in-house truffle paste as well as truffle oil, to give the dish an explosion of taste. Their Eggplant Parmesan is perfectly cooked because they flash fry the eggplant to ensure the inside is cooked thoroughly before putting the dish in the oven to create the crusty cheesy layer top.
What sets them apart? The Herbivores is a vegetarian restaurant that gives our community a soulful new look at vegetarian cuisine. The menu is fun and welcoming, the food is good for your heart and soul. They keep changing the menu periodically to bring customers excitement and anticipation for their new creations. I love their combination of mushrooms, broths and techniques to build up the aromatic portfolio of the dish.
Why we love it? Light, yet creamy, soft yet crunchy, that’s why The Herbivores’ truffle risotto is one of my favorite lunches. I feel great eating it on my green Mondays, because of the ingredients and the care that goes into it. I know my well-being is in good hands.
Address: 35 Staunton Street, Soho, Central District, Hong Kong
Having sampled two of the best truffle dishes in Hong Kong, I was excited to see what might come next. And, after some spontaneous street shots and crunching up the slope, I descended the steps into Mo Bros for an ‘out of Hong Kong’ experience.
Mostaccioli Brothers, also commonly known as Mo Bros, offers Italian-American dining with terraced seating and tasteful decor that makes me feel I have walked down the steps and been teleported to Piazza Navona. This hidden gem has an outdoor patio and spacious indoor seating. I completely forgot I was in the concrete jungle surrounded by bamboo scaffolding.
Joining me was the team behind Mo Bros, chef Jeffrey, Sherlom the manager, and Lillian, their marketing manager.
What’s in it? Chef prepared their Truffle Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Asparagus, as well as their Veal Scaloppini al Marsala to pair with the risotto.
What’s the secret?
When I took a bite of their risotto, I felt a tangy sensation. I was not quite sure if I was right. So I took another bite, and I realize there is a slight hint of citrus so I asked chef if he added lemon. The slight zap of zest was, to me, a genius touch that balances the earthiness of the truffle and brings out the layers of flavor in the risotto. The whole dish is proudly topped with Dutch asparagus which gives both texture and extra dimension to the woodiness from the fungi in the dish.
What’s the highlight? The asparagus and wild mushrooms pair so well with the truffle. Their dutch asparagus is fresh and flavorful, the greenness of it matches with the earthy wild mushroom. Their veal is tender and juicy, and the sauce that is served on top, which is made with mushroom, beef bone, demi-glace and red wine highlighted the meat and Italian baby potatoes. The veal is definitely my top combo with their truffle risotto if you want the perfect meat to go alongside it.
What sets them apart?
Their truffle risotto is light and the al dente rice has just the right texture. Chef Jeffrey handpicks each ingredient that goes into the dish carefully and believes attention to quality control is the vital foundation on which to build.
Why we love it? Great food, a relaxed atmosphere, and the refreshing take on American-Italian food, Mo Bros made me feel right at home and is now my favorite spot for a great escape.
Address: G/F, 16, Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong
Cover image courtesy of www.madametruffles.com.au