It is no exaggeration to say the Italian fine-dining options available in Hong Kong can more than match up in authenticity and fulsome flavours when compared to any top restaurant, including many dineries in Italy itself. With hundreds of the country’s chefs calling the Fragrant Harbour their home, there is no dearth of delicacies from any part of this Mediterranean country, be it white truffles from Alba or Florentine steaks from Tuscany.
Given the more-than-adequate representation of this particular cuisine within the city – from takeaway eateries to multi-Michelin-starred restaurants – one may question the efficacy of opening another such cuisinary in Hong Kong.
However, Velo Italian Bar & Grill, the newest such noshery to be unveiled comes with the highest of credentials. Part of Gaia Group, the force behind such restaurants as Isola and Gaia Ristorante (to name but two), Velo marks the group’s first foray into K11 MUSEA, a new museum-and-retail complex in Victoria Dockside.
Rather revelling in the aptness of its name – whose meaning in Italian is hidden or veiled – Velo is tucked away in a corner of the shopping mall, a quiet, hidden sanctuary where food, art and culinary experiences all culminate. On entering, one is greeted by plush interiors in subtle tones of sage, mahogany and black that are at once welcoming and luxurious. This feeling of warmth intensifies further on perusing the menu. Combining the freshest ingredients and culinary expertise, the chefs at Velo have come up with dishes that make the best of the land-meets-sea approach.
Eager to try it out firsthand, we dove right into our tasting, with the first course, Insalata di Astice, being an invigorating mix of Boston lobster, orange, lettuce, celery and red onion doused with lemon vinaigrette to create a mix of tangy, sweet acidity that immediately piques the appetite.
The next dish, however, caused some slight confusion on our part as it approached tablewards, because while we were expecting Crema di Funghi e Tartufo Nero, a mushroom soup, what was served resembled a cappuccino more than a broth, complete with frothy foam. It was only when the server sprinkled truffle shavings on top and explained that it was indeed mushroom soup hidden under the milk foam that understanding dawned and we reached out for the first spoonful. And one spoonful is all it took for us to fall headlong in love with the rich, creamy brew, with its generous portion of truffles spreading warmth through every fibre of our being.
Equally wholesome was the next truffle dish, the Pizza al Tartufo Nero, with cheese, leafy vegetables and black truffle – the simplest of ingredients – transforming it into the most sumptuous of dishes. With the softness of the pizza dough combining with the freshness of the seasonal greens and the earthiness of the truffles, this is perhaps honest-to-goodness Italian cuisine at its very best, without frills or trappings, allowing each ingredient to shine bright.
This back-to-basics approach was again evident in the Spaghetti all’Astice, seafood pasta with Boston lobster and homemade tomato sauce with lobster bisque. Cooked in basil oil and garnished with basil leaves, it’s a dish where each element, be it the sweetness of the seafood, the tanginess of the sauce or the refreshing bite of the basil, combines to create a synergic, flavourful whole. The lobster, in particular, deserves a tip of the hat on its own merit, with its aroma and flavours underlining its sea-to-table freshness.
Moving on to the mains, the Bistecca di Tomahawk is as palate-pleasing – if not more so – than its precursors. Featuring Australian Wagyu beef, roasted potatoes, sautéed spinach and gravy sauce, the star turn is undoubtedly the bone-in Tomahawk ribeye, whose juices are locked in due to being cooked with the bone. The result is any meat-minded diner’s dream – succulent, tender beef that falls apart from the slightest pressure of the carving knife. However, at more than a kilogram in weight, it’s really meant for sharing, even though our heart may say otherwise. Perhaps, therein lies the secret to Velo’s success – plating up dishes that win our love and leave us craving for more.