The original Sabatini Ristorante Italiano opened in Rome in 1954 and Sabatini in Hong Kong is still overseen by the Sabatini family offering a traditional Roman menu I have loved throughout my time in Hong Kong during the 90s. One of my favorite chefs — Marcus Moore — would produce lavish dinners using the finest of ingredients including Matzuzaka beef and in-season truffles among other things. Chef Moore has long gone, but it is heartwarming to find that the traditional remains here at Sabatini.
I am dining with friends Bernice Chan, food writer for the South China Morning Post, Cynthia Chin, food columnist for Headline Daily 頭條日報 (Sing Tao Newscorp) and Heidi Chan, Director of Public Relations at The Royal Garden Hotel, where Sabatini is located. I’ve known all three ladies for decades, so this is more a gathering of old friends than anything else.
November is the perfect time to visit Hong Kong when it comes to the culinary. It is the season for all things delicious and gourmet including Shanghainese hairy crab and of course, white truffles! The season is short and in Hong Kong, restaurants take advantage of this delicacy from Alba very seriously.
Attention to detail and an eye for knowing what you need before you even know it is how most top caliber Hong Kong restaurants roll. Sabatini is no different. I’ve always been impressed by this aspect of fine dining in Hong Kong.
A bread basket arrives with an array of foccacia, soft grissini, and sliced rustic bread. Butter, as well as three spreads accompany including an olive, pesto and sun-dried tomato variety. Trying not to overload on this is difficult as it is highly addicting.
From the “Alba White Truffle Promotion”, we select two items: Uova Organiche Strapazzate Su Pane Tostato con Tartufo Bianco (HK$588/USD76), organic Italian scrambled eggs on toasted bread and shaved white truffle. I’ve not had high quality white truffles in quite some time. These emit that heady aroma the minute it arrives at the table. I always enjoy simple dishes paired with white truffles and a simple egg dish is indeed the perfect vehicle to best showcase the exquisite truffles.
The other is Uovo Soffice Su Fonduta di Taleggio, Pure di Patate, Porcini e Tartufo Bianco (HK$588/USD76) a perfect soft boiled egg with mashed potatoes, sauteed porcini mushrooms, Taleggio cheese topped with white truffle shavings. Both are exquisitely prepared, albeit offering a different mouth-feel, but nevertheless, the full effects of the truffles shine through.
My second course is a simple Prosciutto di Cinta Senese Organico Servito con Melone Siciliano (HK$498/USD64.25) with the sweetest, most luscious Sicilian melon you’ll ever taste. Topped with organic Cinta Senese Ham — an ancient breed of Tuscan pigs — the salty sweet combination is a beautiful sensation on the palate.
We all share portions of two different pastas for our third course. Linguine al Gamberi Rossi di Sicilia con La Sua Salsa Ridotta e Perle de Pomodoro (HK$508/USD65.50 full portion price) is a delicious linguine with red prawn, tomato pearls and shellfish sauce. It is umami-filled and the tomato is fresh and bright. The Risotto al Funghi Porcini con Riccioli di Fegato d’Anatra Affumicato (HK$428/USD55.25 full portion price) is a creamy, rich risotto with porcini mushrooms and smoked duck liver. Its decadent unctuousness is robust, and I am glad we are sharing this.
We choose our own fourth course entrees. Filetto di Branzino alla Sabatini con Olive, Patate e Pomodorini Freschi (HK$498/USD64.25) is perfect for those wanting a lighter option. The baked fillet of sea bass “Sabatini Style” is tender, moist and served with potatoes, olives and cherry tomatoes.
I opt for a mix of Costolette d’Abbacchio Scottadito con Timo e Limone, Servite con Polenta al Forno (HK$498/USD64.25 full portion price) a perfectly medium-rare charcoal-grilled lamb chop with thyme, lemon and oven baked polenta; and a special off-menu prawn which turns out to be sweet and succulent with a smoky aroma from the grill.
Sabatini has held a special place in my heart for over two decades. Not much has changed. The food is traditional old school Italian surrounded by the same atmosphere I remember so fondly of more than two decades ago. You’ll be serenaded by the roving quartet of the three-man-band and vocalist as they make their way around the dining room. What’s most impressive is that they’re able to perform most popular songs in Tagalog, English and Chinese (they’re Filipino).
The dining room is pretty packed on the night of my visit. It is good to see that not much has changed through the years and that Sabatini is still garnering a loyal following more almost 30 years later.
The Royal Garden Hotel
69 Mody Road
Tsim Sha Tsui East
Tel: +852 2733 2000