World Chefs: Italian chef's stars shine in Hong Kong

Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:01am EST
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By Cathy Yang

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Umberto Bombana's distinctive flair for refined, regional Italian cuisine has taken him around the world and earned his Hong Kong restaurant three Michelin stars in 2011, within just two years of opening.

After more than a year of soul-searching following the closing of the restaurant where he previously worked, Bombana opened "8 ½ Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA" in Hong Kong's glitzy Central district. The name is a salute to the Italian movie by Federico Fellini.

Bombana, who said his culinary journey centers on the plate and the food he serves, includes signature dishes such as cavatelli with a shellfish ragout and sea urchin. He also plans to open a new restaurant in Shanghai this month.

He spoke to Reuters about his passion for truffles and what it is like to cook for an increasingly sophisticated mainland Chinese clientele.

Q: What have you learned by being an Italian chef in Hong Kong for more than 15 years now?

A: "It's very pleasant. I'm very happy to cook in Hong Kong. We have people who dined in New York the day before they come here. They eat here, they go to Paris. It's a very international crowd here. So it's very fulfilling to cook for people with sophistication and high expectation. And for me, it's fun, it's a good challenge."

Q: A lot more of your guests come from mainland China - from Beijing, from Shanghai. How sophisticated are their tastes?

A: "Now they are learned. They have traveled. They have traveled to London, they traveled to New York ... They are very sophisticated and they have high expectations. They really enjoy looking for the best wine, for the best food, and have a great experience. The Chinese already have good taste. They have a tradition. They have 4,000 years of history of food, so they know. When they come here they expect to have a great meal. You don't change your style based on the client. You just do the best. If it tastes great, it tastes great for everybody."   Continued...