Friday, May 25, 2012

Life is beautiful - Bella Vita

We always count down for weekends as we struggle to work in the midst of a busy week. Weekends mean not only day-offs, but also opportunities for us to loosen up our collars, mute our blackberries, go for a walk in nature maybe, just to do what we please to relax our tired minds.

To me, nothing is more relaxing than having a slow and enjoyable brunch at weekend. Not that I don't have time for breakfast during the weekdays; but how relaxing can brekkie be, when you have lectures and tutorials to follow and readings and assignments to work on, and you have to literally grab the notes with one hand and your dearest 'breakfast' with your another?

Having read about Bella Vita's superb Sunday brunch from a magazine, I decided to give it a try on a special day - April fool's day! Absolutely my day it is haha.

We booked a table in great advance fearing for a full-house, but our worries casted away as we arrived at the restaurant up on The Cubus, a new 'gastro' building near Lee Garden. The restaurant was not particularly spacious, but since it was not very filled, we customers could enjoy some air of privacy in the cozy yet comfty interior.

We were given a table the inner most 'room', so that means a short walk everytime to the buffet spread near the entrance in a room filled with sunshine.

The long white table was filled with amazing-looking appetizers and seafood - from greens to cheeses, from parma to smoked salmon, from grilled eggplant to seafood salad...

What attracted us most, however, are definitely the little heaps of boston lobsters and king prawns - they were HUGE! The prawn in particular was as big as an adult's palm, making them look more like sea monsters than edible crustaceans haha.

On its corner was the dessert table yet to be filled; however the name tags looked tasty enough already.

At the other end was an action-station (I learnt this term only lately) for - disappointedly, not foie gras on toast, but fish crudo on toast. The chef explained that frying foie gras produced too much oil and smoke, so they switched to something less smoking. I believe that to be an excuse however, as foie gras was available (how surprising) a few weeks after my visit.

This Sunday brunch was superb not only because of the buffet spread, but also the selection of main course and free-flowing champagne, red and white wines, and fresh juices. $498+10% is really a bargain not to be missed, and we were glad that we made it before the promotion of free-flowing drinks ended in mid-April.

As a greedy glutton I tried to sample with everything available. Among the appetizers I was disappointed by the staleness and blandness of the mozzarella cheese, but the Italian cold cuts and cheeses spelt love - great to go with Champagne or the slightly dry white wine.

The seafood tasted as great as they looked, and we indulged in the luxury of eating the juicy and sweet prawn that could not be finished in one bite (but a few - it was THAT big!).

Boston lobster is not my favorite species of the delicious crustacean, yet the claws and flesh were sweet and spongy enough to shut my complains. Some lobsters were full of sweet soft roes, and I'm sure people fond of this will have a great time exploring the heap of lobsters for an exceptional fertile one!

I was not let down by the fact that foie gras was replaced by fish crudo - I am not especially fond of the fried fat liver anyway. Fish crudo, in the chef's words, was 'sashimi'. I thought it strange to use a Japanese term to explain an Italian cuisine so I checked up the web and discovered the term 'crudo', which I believe is referring to the thinny sliced raw fish served here. The chef first pan-fried a piece of toast, toppled it with tomato sauce, olive sauce and garlic (making up an Italian tricolor flag) and fish 'sashimi'.

Strange as it may sound, this toast was extraordinarily tasty and we both had seconds! We didn't know that raw fish would go so well with pesto and crunchy toasts. The bread soaked up some oil and might be a bit oilish, yet the freshness and slight sourness of the fish balanced the fatty feeling of the bread. It was also very crunchy, adding texture to the fish. Yum! What a nice new way of serving raw fish apart from putting them with vinegar rice!

We could choose from 5 main courses - lamb chop was not on the menu - and we picked rib eye and Italian seafood soup.

Apart from that we could also order pastas with either tomato sauce or lobster cream sauce. Fearing of bursting ourselves with food, we only ordered a very small portion of penne in lobster cream sauce for a taste.

It was good, the cream sauce was very balanced in favour and not overly heavy, however the penne was slightly overcooked (in my humble opinion) and could have retained a bit of chewiness. It also lacked the texture of durum, not being handmade pastas (okay I admit my palate has been ill-pampered! LOL), but it was good enough and I would have had a few more forkfuls had there been no main courses to follow.

I like my choice of main course as I love seafood. What's fresher than a soup base cooked with different kinds of fresh seafood?

They had not been overcooked either, as I happily consumed a spoonful of soup followed by a big bite of chewy seafoods. It was the best indulgence I could have imagined.

The grilled rib eye was not as great however, as it was slightly overcooked. What a way of wasting a good piece of beef! The texture of the meat was not too fine as well, and we concluded that Bella Vita might be more skilled in serving jewels from the sea than gifts on earth.


Last but not least was dessert time - I was thrilled to see the once-empty white table now filled with all kinds of desserts: from tiramisu to berry tart, from chocolate cake to apple cake, the dessert corner was a delight to see. However, the taste of it further confirmed our conclusion on Bella Vita's strength on seafood but not other ingredients!

The mango napoleon looked decent but it turned soggy having absorbed the moist from the custard, they must have brushed no butter or whatsoever to keep away the moist.

The pastry crust of the lemon tart and berries tart were soggy and blah; the meringue was melting halfway and tasted awful. Even the chocolate cake was not 'rich' but pretty plastic in taste.

The Chocolate Profiteroles were also melting under the sun; droplets appeared on the chocolate coating and it looked awful.

The tiramisu was the most normal among all perhaps, but it was too eggy and not 'alcoholic' enough! I didn't expect the desserts to be THIS bad that it nearly ruined my splendid brunch experience at Bella Vita. Luckily, I couldn't save much room for desserts anyway (the seafood was too good to be missed!), so it wasn't much of a let-down anyway.

I as usual ended my meal with hot mint tea, partly to help digestion and partly to help wake myself from the alcohol i consumed.

All in all, it was a great place to brunch at, given that you love seafood as much as I do. But if you were a sweet tooth and defines the beauty of life by the amount and quality of sugar you consume, be read to be disappointed.

Bella Vita
11/F, The Cubus, Hoi Ping Road, Causeway Bay

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