For my wife and I, a date night requires a romantic and quiet restaurant where we can enjoy nice conversation and great food while taking a break from parenting duties. Giando certainly fits the bill.
Somewhat unusually located for a high-end restaurant, Giando is nestled in the Fleet Arcade Building on the Wan Chai waterline, at the eastern end of the Central Reclamation. While the official address is Fenwick Pier Street, it may be easier to ask the taxi driver to take you to Citic Tower and then walk across the intersection. The parking lot and exterior of the building are unassuming, but after a short lift to the first floor, you’re transported into a refined and cosy world of quiet elegance with muted lighting showcasing a grand view of the Harbour.
Giandomenico “Gianni” Caprioli was previously the Executive Chef at Isola before deciding to open his own place. It’s clear that he wanted to create a restaurant that not only served the best taste of Italy, but also gave that experience of Italian service and ambiance which can often be lacking in even high-end Italian restaurants in Hong Kong.
As you’re seated, a delicious selection of homemade bread soon makes its way to the table. The menu is not overly long and the service is friendly but without excessive familiarity; observant yet unobtrusive. The wait for dishes is perhaps on the long side, but given the ambiance it’s nice to just sit and enjoy each other’s company. This is a place to hang out and have unhurried conversation, smartphones firmly tucked away and on silent.
My Dry Martini, a deceptively hard cocktail to get exactly right, was superb. The bar is fully stocked with both international classics and a wide variety of Italian beverages. The fact that you can find Carpano, Punt e Mes, Averna, Montenegro and all the other Italian classics speaks to the care taken in being truly authentic. Add to that the long and distinguished list of grappas which the maitre d’ is glad to suggest from, and it’d be easy to find yourself under the table before the night’s over. We, however, chose to focus on the food rather than the drinks!
For antipasti, we shared Fried Baby Calamari and Zucchini. These were very good but not quite memorable. We also had Sicilian Octopus Olive Salad on Lemon Crushed Scented Potato. This dish was a revelation. The octopus pieces were perfectly tender, with Taggiasche olives perfectly setting off the flavour. Even the base of mashed potato with thin slices of radish was divine.
For a main my wife had the Tuna Tartare with Tomato and Olives Salad. If you didn’t know it was tuna, you could have been forgiven for thinking that this particular tartare was made from very tender beef, the flavour was so refined.
I had homemade pasta with a ragout of duck, pheasant and guinea fowl. While I am a big fan of duck ragout, it can be rather strong. The combination with the other two game birds softened the flavor somewhat, making for a more sophisticated dish.
I must confess that I don’t recall the name of the wine, an excellent “Super Tuscan” recommended by the maître d’. For a finale, the home-made ice cream at Giando is fantastic, served with sweet fruit and coconut.
Giando is far from the cheapest Italian restaurant in Hong Kong, but it is certainly worth the price. The place itself is lovely even before you start thinking of the food.
At this point I should probably list some niggle I have with Giando, but it’s hard to find any meaningful faults. I suppose what I really like about the place is that while it is refined in both cuisine and ambiance, it doesn’t make refinement an end unto itself. There’s no Michelin star chasing or assumed haughty snobbery on the part of the staff. If Gianni is in the kitchen, he’ll come out and have a friendly chat with regulars without taking on any airs. Giando is content to be a place with very good food without making a fuss about it. And that’s just how Italian food should be.
Giando, 1/F, The Fleet Arcade, Fenwick Pier Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, 2511 8912, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.giandorestaurant.com