8½ Otto e Mezzo “Bombana”
To celebrate Black Bear’s birthday, we went to 81/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana for dinner. I had planned this dinner a while ago ever since this restaurant was embellished with three Michelin stars, and had called to reserve seats 2 months in advance. Bombana is arguably the best Italian restaurant in town, and is the only Italian ristorante to be crowned with three Michelin stars outside of Italy, so you can imagine our excitement and anticipation towards this meal. Chef Umberto Bombana used to head the legendary “Toscana” in Ritz Carlton, and has been hailed “The King of White Truffles”. The unique and interesting name of the restaurant take its origins from the influential Italian director Federico Fellini’s movie “81/2”; and like Fellini, Bombana is a true maestro at his art.
The restaurant is situated in Alexandra House in the busy commercial district of Central. We arrived shortly before 7pm, and were attracted by the noise and fervor from the bar area. Already office workers had gathered for friday drinks, and the bartenders were busy concoting fancy cocktails and decanting wine. We were led past the bar area into the much quieter dinner area, which overlooks the streets of Central and the newly renovated Mandarin Oriental hotel. The ristorante is decored in tones of white and dark brown, with walls lined with mirror panes and french panelling. There is also a glass walled wine cellar housing bottle after bottle of fine wine, but we did not take advantage of this facility. Instead, we took a moment to marvel at the aged Spanish Iberico ham hanging along the corridor wall. After we ordered our food, we tucked into the bread basket, which included an array of grissini, sun dried tomato bread and seeded bread. I was particularly impressed by the olive oil and vinegartte for dipping our bread because the oil smelled so fresh and full of olive flavor.
Our culinary journey started with a complimentary starter of veal served with fresh onion and vinegarette dressing, which was very refreshing for the palate. We had ordered our food a-la-carte with the intention of sharing, and the thoughtful waiters carefully divided our food into two portions for serving. For our appetizer, we had the Roast duck foie gras in Piedmont hazelnut sauce. It was heavenly, the sauce boasted strong nutty and savory praline flavors and the foie gras was tenderly roasted to perfection.
Egg in Raviolo
Fortunately, we were able to catch the end of the truffle season and of course, how could we resist the temptation of trying out the creations from “The King of White Truffles”? To taste the true and original flavors of this precious ingredient, we settled for the “Egg in Raviolo”, which is in essence a large ravioli containing a semi-cooked egg as filling, topped with many flakes of freshly grinded truffle. As per our server’s kind suggestion, we gingerly cut open the ravioli and watched in delight as the runny egg yolk soaked the soft ravioli and truffle flakes. The truffle smelled wonderful, it is hard to capture the earthy musky fragrance and flavors of the dish with words. All I can say is that this dish is the perfect marriage of egg and truffle, and the simplicity of this dish best brings out the wonder of this flavorful ingredient.
The Cavetelli is a shell pasta cooked in a rich lobster bisque-like seafood sauce served with fresh tomatoes and sea urchin. The sauce is very delicious and overall, the dish is extremely light and refreshing, while featuring strong flavors of the sea.
Tajima Beef Cheek and Beef Tongue
This is one of the most famous creations of the restaurant and this dish alone would clinch the Michelin thee stars for me. The beef was cooked medium and the meat was succulent and tender, the cheek was juicy and more gelatinous and the tongue softer and fleshy. The sweet fig paste lent a fruity finish to the rich savory sauce and the creamed mashed potato soaked up the flavorful juices of the dish perfectly.
We resolved to try out the famous “Coffee trio” from the dessert menu. The trio featured a glass of tiramisu, coffee and hazelnut ice cream and warm coffee tart. The tiramisu was superb and unique in a way that there was a layer of coffee jelly and chocolate crunchy bits at the bottom. The warm coffee tart featured a strong and moist coffee filling and it really felt like drinking a cup of expresso in one go. The complimentary petit-fours were yummy too, and we enjoyed the candied orange, hazelnut meringue and nutty chocolate very much.
Bombana is indeed a wizard with food and given the finest and freshest ingredients, he has created a gem of a restaurant that truly deserves the accolades and stars it has garnered. Just writing this post gives me fond memories and hunger pangs, and I can’t wait for the next time and occasion for us to try out more of the famed creations of the maestro.