There are few places to eat in Hong Kong with a genuine sense of history. Jimmy’s Kitchen has been around since 1923, the same year as the grande dame of hotel dining The Peninsula. So it comes as no little surprise that one of the venues with tangible history opened… in June.
Strictly speaking, Emporio Antico is not a restaurant. It serves as a kind of tasting lounge for the gourmet produce of the owner, the affable host Matthew Antico. There’s a swish, distinctly male feel to a room with deep leather armchairs in the salon area, dark woods and an enviable collection of vintages – some wines, some balsamic. You can eat sitting in the lounge or at the bar, but whenever you end up, you’ll be impressed by some very accomplished cooking at very fair prices.
But back to the history – the Emporio Antico logo has ‘since 1938’ in it. That’s because the current owner’s grandfather emigrated from Calabria in southern Italy to Sydney, where he set up his wholesale fruit and veg business. His son took over the reins and, incredibly is still getting up at 3am at the age of 85 to work in Paddy’s Market.
The third generation son, Matthew has focused on Australian gourmet produce, from truffles to caviar, olive oils to Tetsuya‘s brand of dressings. His main business is supplying chefs from the Pen, Mandarin and elsewhere, but produce is also available for sale in the restaurant/bar/lounge in Wan Chai. There can’t be many other places to eat where your table mats are clippings from the 1973 edition of Market Industries News, while a framed collection of photos shows the family history and a sixty-year-old leather apron would be coveted by every hipster and barman within a thousand miles.
But we’re here for dinner. The first platter features crostini, an underrated vehicle for quality produce. Here they come with creamy crab rillettes, salmon, chorizo and mango (yes, it works) amongst others.
The sourcing is apparent in the next plate of potato blinis with crème fraîche and caviar. No skill in the kitchen is needed here, but having become very accustomed to caviar in recent months for a number of stories, including this one – it’s clear these black pearls are the real deal:
Two subsequent dishes show serious skill in the small kitchen, the first a delicious porcini risotto, perfect by itself even before a liberal shaving of black truffles.
The second gain shows Antico’s unique access in sourcing ingredients, a brioche with amazingly sweet Marron crayfish tails, known by our Australian friends as Yabbies. You won’t have tried them in Hong Kong before because no one else supplies them. It’s a pimped up lobster roll and, while the salad could do with some refinement, the maritime sandwich is all good eating.
All told, the six course menu is a steal for these ingredients at $490 each, with an optional six glass drink pairing at $388 per person. The quirky venue can’t accommodate big dining groups, while you’ll need to book in to ensure there’s space, but as somewhere doing something very different – with friendly Aussie service and quality produce – it’s worth a visit for a drink, some dinner, to stock up on produce or maybe rub shoulders with Hong Kong chefs who are frequent visitors.