Neapolitan Authenticity: What comes to mind when you think of Neapolitan cuisine? Do images of thin crust pizzas pulled fresh from brick ovens and creamy vats of gelato materialize? Although these “stereotypical” hallmarks of Neapolitan cuisine are mouth-watering, they represent only a small slice of the culinary pie, so to speak. Estro, which translates to “inspiration” from Italian, entices diners with another version of Southern Italy, a refined palate pulled from the childhood memories of Chef Antimo Maria Merone. Opened after a chance encounter between the chef and JIA Group’s Yenn Wong whilst Antimo was stuck in transit in Hong Kong due to COVID travel restrictions, Estro is the first independent venture for Chef Merone.
Look & Feel: Located on the first floor above Shanghai Tang on Duddell Street, the beautiful venue was designed by André Fu, with his signature subdued mineral tones splashed throughout the venue to bring in the earthy warmth of the Italian countryside. Ornate iron gates open to the main dining room, which looks into the action-packed open kitchen on one side. Beautifully painted murals by French artist Elsa Jeandedieu adds coziness to the two alcoves that flank the entrance of the main dining area. There’s a large private dining room for celebrations, as well as an exclusive Chef’s Table that allows diners to eat inside the kitchen!
On The Menu: Merging the Old World with our new tech world, the menu is printed as a QR Code on large coins that resemble those used in Roman times. Only tasting menus are on offer, starting at $780 for the lunch four-course menu all the way up to a nine-course extended dinner menu at $1980. Highlights of our meal include the “tomato homage” course, featuring rehydrated tomato with salted cod, delicate tomato tart, and a cool shot of tomato water that tastes like summer sunshine.
The white bonito with creamy buffalo ricotta sauce is intensely flavoured, and pairs well with the brininess of the accompanying capers and olives as well as zingy fennel pollen. The langoustine with various cauliflower textures is perfectly cooked to a plump juiciness, whilst the squid ink gnocchi is incredibly delicate and light. The pops of sweetness from fresh petit pois further accentuates the airy lightness of the miniature gnocchi. The hero of the meal has to be the vesuivo ragù Genovese, an unassuming dish made from slow-cooked Montoro onions and beef short ribs. One bite will convince diners that this is possibly the best pasta they’ve ever had, thanks to the vibrant sweetness of 12-hours slow-cooked onions and melt-in-your-mouth buttery short rib dices. The sea bass with Japanese blue mussels and Romanesco is served with a vivid green sauce made of parsley and seawater, and the dessert of hazelnut Rocher is a creamy treasure trove of custard, caramel and hazelnut. Definitely save room for the pistachio gelato, which is made to order, and is the most aromatic, creamy gelato of this kind we’ve tasted thus far!
Jeng: Every dish on the tasting menu dazzles, although, in our opinion, the pasta dishes are the ones that shines the most.
Not So Jeng: Hong Kong’s savvy gourmands always know how to suss out a good thing, and Estro is definitely one of the best new openings in town. Which means…there’s a waitlist, dahhhling!
Meet the Chef: A native of Naples, Chef Merone grew up appreciating the flavors of fine Italian cuisine from living on the family farm. He honed his culinary skills at Berlin’s Vai Mó before returning to Italy to study under Gualtiero Marchesi at ALMA in Parma on the subject of new Italian cuisine. He headed eastward to Hong Kong to help open of L’Altro, which quickly earned a Michelin star. Most recently, he was the executive chef at Umberto Bombana’s 81/2 Otto e Mezzo Macau.
Great For: A fancy business lunch or a celebratory meal with friends. The cozy environment also makes Estro an ideal place for intimate tête-à-tête meals with that special someone.
This writeup was based on a complimentary media tasting. The Loop HK doesn’t guarantee/sell restaurant review coverage. See our editorial policy here.