La Foresta – a 10 Corso Como dessert served at Sabatini Ristorante Italiano
Hong Kong’s love affair with Italian cuisine is steeped in decades of fine restaurants. Mainland China, with fresher interest, has become home in the past decade to a handful of well-received quality establishments. Most menus have been traditional, so the restaurant at 10 Corso Como, Shanghai is testing diners with its modern takes on elevated Italian cuisine.
Executive chef Corrado Michelazzo of 10 Corso Como restaurants, launched in Milan, with another outlet in Seoul and one scheduled to open in Beijing in October, is currently based in Shanghai. On a visit to Hong Kong, as guest chef in Sabatini Ristorante Italiano, at The Royal Garden hotel, while presenting some signature and seasonal dishes, he spoke to Asian Palate.
The restaurant is part of a small trend in Shanghai of modern gastronomic cuisine, he said. “We didn’t set out to create a new trend,” he explained. “But although there is some creative modern cuisine in town, we are the first Italian restaurant to serve it.
“Shanghai people have become more exposed to different cuisine when travelling, and western people have been living in Shanghai for years – so local people are quite familiar with non-Chinese food. In years to come, their palates may be as sophisticated as some people in Hong Kong.”
Executive chef Corrado Michelazzo
Signature dishes such as coffee risotto topped with smoked duck liver; marinated scampi with caviar and potato gelato is attracting a core diner in their mid-20s to 30s, with around 50 per cent being overseas residents. Reversing the Italian classic of viletto tonnato (sliced veal with tuna sauce) by serving tuna with a veal sauce that is frozen with liquid nitrogen, has become a signature hit. A beef tartare with shaved winter truffle and egg yolk olive oil and saffron sauce wowed diners at a Hong Kong tasting Asian Palate attended.
The Shanghai restaurant is a component within the 10 Corso Como boutique mall concept, and as such is attracting quite a creative-industry crowd. “It has become popular with people who like to try something light with a glass of wine, slowly trying a dish or two; that’s a trend in Shanghai,” said Michelazzo. “Ladies, in particular, come in just for dessert sometimes. ‘Galaxy’ is a popular one; I or one of the chefs makes the dessert in front of diners on a specially designed large plate, making an artistic design with colorful sauces and liquid nitrogen. It can be shared and changes with seasonal textures.”
Ice cream made from scratch with liquid nitrogen is also popular, he added. Another popular signature is French pigeon two ways: the breast is slow-cooked with some ginger and sweet soy in its marinate, and then pan fried; the leg, also slow cooked, is then wrapped in filo pastry and nuts, then salt baked with on an onion bed.
Michelazzo says he sticks to authentic Italian culinary habits in the kitchen in Shanghai but nods towards a local preference towards seafood, duck liver, with a little less salt in his seasoning. The forthcoming restaurant in Beijing will be a more traditional menu concept. “People are not ready for modern cuisine there yet,” he opined. “They are less widely travelled, and more conservative in taste. Even traditional Italian will be more of a challenge there. Maybe 10 years later, it will be a different story.”
Chef Corrado presents his menu at Sabatini Ristorante Italiano, at The Royal Garden hotel, Hong Kong until September 5.