I like Civic Square at Elements, Kowloon. The space is attractive, the feel and ambience reminiscent of places you’d find in Europe. It’s a shame I don’t get much of a chance to go, (this is mostly due to laziness on mine and my friends’ part… it’s just a little too far from our usual haunts!), but it has a couple of promising eateries.
One of them is Papi, a traditional Italian Cicchetti (small-plate restaurant) that serves up small bites as well as pasta and pizzas. Papi is a cute amalgamation of Pasta and Pizza, deriving its concept from the small snacks or side dishes that are typically served in Venice. The idea of sharing plates has been a popular one in Hong Kong of late (hello dozens of new tapas restaurants!), and it certainly gives everyone a chance to be even more sociable over a meal and indulge in multiple dishes without the quantity.
Papi is small but uncluttered, the light wooden flooring and bright lights giving it an open yet comfortable feel, which combines nicely with the al fresco dining area. It’s casual and completely without airs and graces. Side blackboards display a few drink specials, one of which was a refreshing ginger lemon and honey tea, a tall cool drink that quenched my thirst and left me feeling invigorated, ready for the feast ahead!
We began with a selection of small plates. First up was the lovely sliced raw swordfish with cherry tomatoes and asparagus. The swordfish was amazingly fresh and so finely sliced that it melted in the mouth. The homemade pork meatballs with fennel seeds and tomato sauce were delicious; the sauce outshone the meat itself with its delicate salty tang emerging through the boisterous tomato flavour.
The deep-fried mixed mushrooms and the fresh burrata cheese with cherry tomatoes were hands down the best of the small bites. Frankly, I was surprised by my enthusiasm for the mushrooms, as it’s a) not meat b) not a dish I would usually pay attention to, but the light batter encasing the perfectly seasoned mushrooms was a winning formula. Rach and I were addicted to the burrata cheese, which was wonderfully fresh, creamy and soft. I smiled with immense satisfaction as I then proceeded to smother my deep fried mushrooms with burrata cheese – double win!
Our two mains were also scrumptious. We had the Papi’s Pici, a hand-made Tuscan pasta with spicy tomato sauce and garlic chips. The sauce was stupendous and drenched the fat spaghetti which had a fantastic bite to it. I love garlic chips when they are fried nice and crisply and these did not disappoint, nor did they become soggy atop the pasta.
Something that I’ll definitely be going back for is the Pizza Lardo di Colonnata. This absolutely moreish thin crust pizza covered with Colonnata fatty ham, asparagus and Taleggio cheese was sinfully fatty. The perfect salty greasiness of the ham was gently offset by the asparagus which lightened the pizza and the cheese was gorgeously gooey. Never has lard been enjoyed so much on a pizza!
To end, we completely overindulged with three desserts – Papi’s tiramisu, the panna cotta with fresh wild berries and the Nonna chocolate cake with gelato. The tiramisu was lovely and light and the panna cotta was silky smooth thick and creamy, delighting our tastebuds with the accompanying fruit.
But our favourite was the chocolate cake with its rice crispy base, scattering of chocolate coated popping candy and amazing vanilla ice-cream. The mousse-like cake was especially enjoyable as it did not lose any of the chocolatey sumptuousness despite being so light and airy.
Papi, after a year of opening, seems to have settled into a comfortable rhythm of laidback dining with some quality offerings; expect to pay around $350 per person (depending on how greedy you are!). It’s a great venue to hang out with friends at any time of the day, whether it’s for a relaxing drink with friends over a few bites to eat, or a hearty dinner tucking into a pizza or pasta. Elements really isn’t that far away!
Papi Shop R011, 3/F (Civic Square), Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui
2811 2681 www.papi-hk.com
(MTR Kowloon Station)
Check out more food-related writings from Michelle on her blog, Chopstixfix!