There’s no shortage for Italian fare in Hong Kong, ranging from Michelin-starred fine dining to your run-of-the-mill neighbourhood bistros that seem to pop up on every street corner. While the recently opened Opera House in Wan Chai may not be reinventing the wheel, it’s a great, casual date night spot that serves quality Italian home cooking with an added touch of sophistication.
I, for one, was happy to be escaping the crowded, constant buzz of the Central / Soho dining scene for a night (although I wouldn’t exactly call eating in Wan Chai venturing “off the beaten track”!) However, upon stepping upstairs into the spacious and comfortable 2nd floor dining room of Opera House, I immediately felt transported from the hustle and bustle of the city and eagerly anticipated the next few hours of fine food and company.
Leading the Opera House kitchen is Chef Alberto Alboreggia – a jovial chef hailing from Como, Italy with years of cooking experience across Asia. His menu is just varied enough to appeal to a spectrum of diners, while not striving to be too ambitious with unfamiliar dishes or ingredients.
The bread basket was full of warm and fluffy house made bread — always a good indication of the meal to come! Our first course of pan-fried scallops was beautifully plated and light enough to just whet our appetite for the carb-heavy mains to come. The scallops were plump and tender and paired well with earthy porcini mushrooms, taleggio cheese and just a hint of truffle oil. Our only problem was deciding how to split the third portion!
Next up was a warm seafood salad of octopus, shrimp, lobster and clams — light and delicate with plenty of fresh seafood to counterbalance the peppery arugula. The simple lemon and olive oil paid homage to the quality of the ingredients (the restaurant’s motto is “Made in Italy” after all!) and we definitely appreciated the clean yet tasty flavours.
Our interests (and appetites) sufficiently peaked, we dove into a luxurious pappardelle pasta — long ribbons loaded with smoked Porchetta ham, eggplant and Parmesan. Although we could have done without the eggplant fries adorning the top, the pasta sauce was divine.
I always order truffle risotto when I see it on the menu and I was particularly excited for this one as it was the chef’s favourite dish. It did not disappoint! The fragrant truffle aroma perfumed the rice without overpowering, while the rice itself achieved the perfect texture and creaminess of a good risotto. Absolute perfection!
While I love risotto, I sometimes wish it didn’t consume so much stomach space! After gulping down spoonfuls of risotto, we really only had room to squeeze in one main — in this case, the Australian black cod fish. The flaky fish was light and tender, swimming in a pumpkin orange emulsion with a side of asparagus and manila clams. The pumpkin sauce was rich with cinnamon and spice and while all the flavours didn’t marry together the way I might have expected, I definitely appreciated the unique take on this dish. It was an interesting balance of savoury and street, leading straight into our final dessert course!
Dessert was a tasting platter of authentic Italian desserts, featuring vanilla ice cream, chocolate lava cake, tiramisu, crème brûlée, chocolate mousse and panna cotta. The desserts were all on point but the lava cake stood out as the winner (perhaps this has to do with my personal obsession with anything chocolate!). We also finished off the ice cream, all made in-house. Chef Alberto invited us into the kitchen to try out his other ice cream flavours, but we had to save it for next time, or we’d be rolling ourselves home!
Altogether, Opera House is a safe date-night option with a few guarantees: tasty food, generous portions, a quality wine selection and a cosy atmosphere that goes far in encouraging intimate conversation on a first date, or alternatively, a good catch-up sesh with your best girlfriend! While the second floor is your primary date night destination, the ground floor houses a more casual bistro environment dedicated to pizzas and tapas-style appetisers — you can bet we’ll be back for those!
Opera House, 109-111 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, 2520 6677