“I wanted Octavium to showcase homestyle Italian cooking in an intimate dining environment.” - Bombana Umberto
Chef Bombana Umberto arrived in Hong Kong in 1993 to manage Toscana at the Ritz Carlton Hotel following his apprenticeship under acclaimed Chef Ezio Santin at Antica Osteria del Ponte, a Michelin-starred restaurant outside Milan, and a decade sharing his refined regional cooking at the famous Rex II Ristorante in Los Angeles.
Having been declared as the “Worldwide Ambassador of the White Truffle” in 2006 by the Piedmontese Regional Enoteca Cavour in Italy, Chef Bombana Umberto is hailed as “The King of White Truffles”. He opened the doors to his acclaimed restaurant 8½ Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA in 2010, which received two Michelin stars after just 11 months in operation. The following year saw the restaurant add on its third Michelin star, the first and only Italian restaurant outside of Italy to receive such a high recognition.
In July of 2017, Chef Bombana added the personal boutique restaurant and kitchen laboratory Octavium to his group of fine dining establishments, delighting his clientele with high quality ingredients sourced from the best origins paired with the elevated menu by Executive Chef Silvio Armanni. The restaurant is already the proud owner of one Michelin star.
Chef Silvio has shared his culinary talent with many Michelin starred restaurants across Europe, including Kitchin in Edinburgh Scotland, Shoneck in Brunico Italy and Hotel Kempiski in Geneva Switzerland. He worked at 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana when he first arrived in Hong Kong in 2011, before embarking on his journey to Tokyo. Chef Bombana brought Chef Silvio back to Hong Kong for the role of Executive Chef at Octavium, a decision that is likely celebrated by regulars and newcomers alike.
Located in the heart of Central, this cosy fine dining destination serves “lunch” from Mondays to Fridays, “dinner” from Mondays to Saturdays. It offers customers with a choice of a la carte menu & a pasta set lunch menu, a 4-course daily menu and 6-course chef’s degustation menu for dinner, plus a wine pairing service. To ensure the high quality of food, Chef Bombana insists on making everything from scratch in house, from bread basket to dessert.
You can taste the difference of the freshly-baked loaves of bread, piping hot on the inside with an airy and soft texture. Even the plating of the amuse bouche is a delight. A single slice of asparagus atop tiny morsels of cherry salmon and salmon roe from Japan. Light and refreshing, this small treat was a great opening note to the rest of the menu.
The second small bite was a secret pairing courtesy of Chef Silvio, a mix of the sweetness of pear with the creamy and saltiness of cheese. It reminded me of the quince and cheese pairing I savoured during my journey through Portugal, a simple joy for the taste buds!
The Mediterranean Octopus, the appetizer dish of the four-course lunch menu, is served with slices of topinambur (Jerusalem artichoke). The octopus is cooked to a soft, chewy texture; it is cooked simply to retain the freshness of the ingredients, with a light sprinkle of chilli flakes to taste.
We would say the tough choice out of the lunch menu would be to decide which of the artisanal homemade pasta to try. For those who opt for the classics and prefer a scrumptious, filling option, the “Malloreddus” – traditional pork ragout with castelmagno cheese would be a flavourful and satisfying choice.
Chef Silvio shared that the pork is prepared over the course of three days to give it the optimal texture and flavour - now that is what we call a commitment to taste!
We also had the pleasure of tasting the delicious Spaghetti Chitarra “Cocco”, made with Sicilian red prawn and “cime di rapa”. The texture of the pasta is simply perfect, cooked al dente and served with cime di rapa, a winter green known for its slightly bitter taste. We found that this vegetable rounds out the overall taste of the dish, providing balance. The Sicilian red prawn is so fresh you can taste the ‘crunch’ of the texture as you bite into it.
This next dish will be heaven for meat lovers, as it is created with not just free-range New Zealand lamb, but it is made with “Te Mana” lamb, which is New Zealand high country bred lamb featuring an intramuscular fat, which is higher in Omega-3 with marbling on a micro‐scale. In plain English, this means that it is simply delicious! As with other high-grade, premium meats, the meat slices through cleanly with no clinging fats or small pieces, meaning it is melt-in-your-mouth tender. There is also a smoked scent to the meat, adding to its play on the senses.
Following the hearty pastas and premium lamb, it’s time to enjoy the boutique restaurant’s dessert creations. We tried two classic interpreted in a modern way. The Apple and Caramel is served with warmed caramel poured over top of crunchy walnuts.
The second is a favourite for chocolate lovers, served with crunchy chocolate ‘rings’ with layers of hazelnut cream topped with gold foil and hazelnut gelato on the side. Blend the various textures for an optimal taste.
As the dining room clears after the busy lunch hour, you may want to stay a while and enjoy a hot pot of fresh tea with dainty petit fours. Gaze out of the windows to see the bustling streets of Central, Hong Kong, as you relax in the quiet dining room breathing in the sweet scent of fresh lemons sitting atop each table.
8/F One Chinachem Central, 22 Des Voeux Rd Central, Hong Kong
Photos by Florence Leung