Pirata Review Date: Jan 27, 2015
60 Second review so no score
That part of Hong Kong where Causeway Bay melds into Wan Chai is curiously soulless. With no destination dining or drinking, it seems almost unsure of itself, whether to embrace the Shinjuku surge of Sogo or the more down-at-heel feel of Lockhart Road.
A relative new addition to the area is Pirata atop the Hennessy building, unsurprisingly located on Hennessy Road. As you exit the elevator on the 30th floor you walk straight into the bar. It’s a warm and welcoming space if dimly lit, despite what seems like hundreds of pendulous lightbulbs, the ones with the big filaments that have been sweeping the city.
To the left there’s a wall mural featuring the eponymous Pirate ship, while to the right, beyond seats and a private dining space, there are views towards Central from an unusual vantage point that seems to slice through Wan Chai.
A rooftop terrace wasn’t open when I visited but will host drinkers and parties looking out over the city and into the offices opposite where people are still beavering away at their desks at 9pm on a Thursday night. Pirata has been caught up in the wave of popularity of Vermouth-based bars. I’m not sure who started the trend, where, or indeed why. I know that bitterness helps opens up the palate as a perfect aperitif should, but I’ve always found Campari et al an especially acquired taste, even at the hands of skilled mixologists.
Luckily the affable barsteward at Pirata boasts a safe pair and serves up a ‘London’, a mix of Jim Beam infused with vanilla and orange, Campari infused with red apples and Antica Formula Vermouth. For once infusion doesn’t led to confusion.
To the tones of Curtis Mayfield – always welcome, whatever the venue – we look over the menu.
Vitello tonnato starts us off, a Piedmontese classic, albeit one that has always struck as an odd dish. Aside from the mayonnaise, here it’s more an assembly job than a display of culinary skill, but the caper berries offset the cream while the tuna and seasoning is discreet enough not to overpower the super-thin slices of veal.
Everybody loves Arancini. If they don’t, I tend to question both their judgment and sanity. Here again they were a solid version, even if the original flavours of the risotto seemed a bit muted, but when anything deep fried is dunked, bad things rarely happen.
Purple potato gnocchi were stubby little purple nuggets under a sauce of gorgonzola and walnuts. Good flavours but a little heavy to the bite.
A Sicilian Red Prawn tagliatelle was, for an Italian restaurant, a disappointment. The pasta seemed to have spent too long both boiling in water but also in the pan with the sauce, leaving it cloying and thick, more like a Pad Thai in texture. I’m sure the talented and experienced head chef Stefano Rossi must have missed it at the pass as he wouldn’t have allowed it to go out.
Redemption came immediately however in the second pasta, an excellent Eggplant Parmigiana in an individual oven pan that had just the right balance of umami from the Parmesan and acidity from the tomato sauce.
A main course of medium flank steak tagliata arrived on a slab of wood, under seasoned rocket and cherry tomato. Nothing can go wrong here and nothing did.
Desserts were wholly unnecessary but filled two spring top jars, one with panna cotta and raspberry, the other a tiramisu.
Overall dinner was decent if unspectacular but, in fairness, we visited when they had just opened, so by now they may well have found a firmer culinary footing. It’s an important distinction and one which has been debated at length, including recently here, if this sort of thing interests you. Under the watchful eye of affable manager Manuel Palacio, I’ll be interested to return to see how things have moved forward. Dinner was offered by the restaurant’s publicity team but runs approx $5-600 per head without wine for 3 courses per person.
29/30F, 239 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Tel:+852 2887 0270 http://pirata.hk/