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Messina in Hung Hom – an Italian restaurant worth the trek

We Hong Kong Islanders are incurably lazy. When Rach and I were invited to try Italian restaurant, Messina, we both shivered at the thought of having to travel ‘all the way’ to Hung Hom. Although I did get a little lost on the way (the taxi driver’s fault, not mine!), it turns out Hung Hom isn’t all that far away and needn’t be as scary as we think… especially if an incredible Italian feast awaits your journey’s end!

Messina, named after a Sicilian city and designed to look like a Sicilian villa, serves modern southern Italian food prepared with classic French techniques in an elegant setting overlooking the harbour. Executive Chef Francesco Greco has worked at some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants and it is clear from the food that he certainly knows his stuff!

Rather than rifling through a menu, the antipasti selection is brought to your table in a guéridon (i.e. cart) showing the fresh raw ingredients that will go into whichever dish you choose. As every single one of them sounded (and looked) incredible, we selected a variety to share between the table.

Starting with the cold antipasti, the Cinta Senese pork cheek looked unbearably fatty at first sight, but simply melted in the mouth and had the most amazing flavour. The San Daniele prosciutto was also beautiful and clearly of the highest quality; paired with fresh figs and fig compote, it was even more delicious. This only left the burrata cheese to rival the meats, and boy did it try – it was wonderfully silky and creamy, exactly as it should be.

From the hot antipasti selection, the zucchini flowers stuffed with cod mousse were simply divine: crispy on the outside with smooth creamy delicately flavoured mousse inside. The pan-fried scallops with Bronte pistachio salad were even better and cooked to bouncy yet tender perfection. The crunchy pistachios were an excellent addition too.

The Sicilian red prawns, which came highly recommended by our super-friendly waiter, were sautéed in tomato and garlic, giving them that wonderful Mediterranean flavour that can never disappoint. However, my absolute favourite of the starters were the sardines ‘a Beccafico’ – fresh sardine rolls stuffed with a pine nut, lemon, breadcrumb and raisin mixture, flavours that instantly transport you to southern Italy.

For primi piatti (i.e. pastas!), we shared a Paccheri e crostacei (right) and a Fettucce fresche (left). The former was lovely and light, a blend of lobster, scampi and those wonderful Sicilian red prawns, tossed with Pachino tomatoes and gorgeously fresh mezzi paccheri pasta. The fettucce with baby lamb, Marsala sauce, roasted red peppers and aubergine was a little richer but my favourite of the two; again, I loved how fresh the handmade pasta was.

We shared two secondi piatti between four of us: Spigola e tartufo nero (pan-fried seabass) and Chef Greco’s signature dish, Maialino croccante (crispy suckling pig). The seabass was served in a black truffle sauce, with white and green asparagus, topped with more truffle and a fennel and rocket salad. It was beautifully tender and flaky, and I loved the array of flavours and textures, even if it may have been a little salty.

I can understand why Chef Greco prides himself on his suckling pig. The succulent meat, wrapped in its delicate crispy skin, is served on a bed of braised lentils and tropea onion marmalade, before being glazed in its own jus. Amazing!

What is even more amazing is the dessert, presented once more on a guéridon. Both Rach and I are big (and I mean BIG!) fans of dessert, so you cannot imagine the excitement when Mr. Guéridon was wheeled before us!

Although we were sad not to be able to try every single option, we certainly tried our hardest! We sampled tiramisu, ice cream, strawberry tart, banana caramel pudding, traditional Sicilian cannoli… the list was endless! But the highlights were the light summery mixed berry panna cotta and the Settevelli cake, a decadently rich chocoholic’s dream that makes my mouth water just thinking about it…

If you can’t already guess from the fact that a live menu is brought to your table twice during the meal, service at Messina is top notch. Yes, it’s in Hung Hom and yes, it is expensive (an average meal for two without wine costs between $1500-2000) but it is well worth the (less than 30-minute) trip from Central. We’d recommend getting a taxi from Hung Hom MTR and then putting the driver on the phone to Messina, as the building is quite new and many don’t know the way there… but I can assure you, it’s still easier than trying to get all the way to Sicily!

Messina also does a Sunday brunch starting at $350 for a 3-course meal, a perfect idea for whiling away your weekend somewhere a little bit different with an incredible view. It begins with an antipasti sharing platter, followed by your choice from a small selection of mains, and finishes with your selection from the incredible guéridon for dessert. I’d go back just for the guéridon!

Messina iL Ristorante Unit C, 5/F, Harbourfront Landmark, 11 Wan Hoi St, Hung Hom
3746 2733 www.kodining.com

Closed Mondays.

Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!

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