Tai Hang has a knack for producing charming eateries. To name a few, there’s the eccentrically cute Kindergarten café, which is located just steps away from a French pâtisserie (Le Gout) and the fish market-themed Hamayaki Taisho. And joining the string of all-too-adorable places is No.5 Italian – a new bricks-and-mortar serving polished nonna’s fare.
Opened by the same crew behind neighbouring Japanese restaurant Go Ya Yakitori, this slicked-up venue comes with full-length windows adorning the façade and a tranquil, green terrace at the rear of the restaurant. It’s a welcoming environment, made even more so by the excellent staff. On the night we dropped by, the waiters were chatty without being intrusive and, more importantly, honest with all their recommendations. You’re certainly in good hands here.
The main menu is small, consisting of just five choices each for appetisers, pizzas and handmade pastas. There are also daily blackboard specials which, on the night of our visit, included charcoal beef ($228) and slow-cooked halibut ($168). By the way, prices are listed in Euros. It’s totally unnecessary – though the menu does state the exchange rate as €1=$10 for easy conversion. (It’s actually €1=$10.35 right now, not that we’re splitting hairs...)
On the server’s recommendation, we start with the Caesar salad ($88), a standard mix of romaine lettuce, croutons and cheese enhanced with Parma ham and a perfectly poached egg. The ingredients are simple but bind together beautifully. Another salad – rucola leaves tossed with tart goats cheese ($98) – boast stronger, more mature flavours with the dark, peppery greens dressed ever-so-slightly in white truffle honey. Both are tasty in their own right, though nothing near life-affirming.
Dishes made from dough, however, are what the chefs really excel at – a fact that’s proven early on in the meal by the addictive homebaked bread served with white bean purée. The Roman
pizzas continue in this direction and, if there’s one problem, it’s that the spot-on crust (shatteringly thin and boasting a mild, floury flavour) often overshadows the toppings. This is especially true for the ‘Franco’s style’ pizza ($128 for a 12-inch), which is smeared with a sweet tomato base before being topped off with smoked salmon, dill, sour cream and really tasty buffalo cheese. The ‘Rio’s style’ (another staff-led recommendation, $148 for a 12-inch pizza) fares much better and comes painted in squid ink tomato sauce, mushrooms and a briny scattering of anchovies and olives.
The kitchen also prides itself on the handcrafted pastas. The pappardelle ($188), for example, is textbook perfect with al dente bite and a bright, eggy tinge. Presentation is rustic with a generous hunk of fork-tender wagyu cheek, slivers of radish and a single carrot decorating the dish. We love this unfussy set-up – especially the noodles that are tossed in nothing but a touch of meat jus. Simplicity can be so comforting.
With food alone, No.5 is a solid three out of five but there’s also a sense of personability to the space that deserves an extra star. So it gets it. After all, charm is a virtue and this restaurant has this in spades. Dorothy So
21C Brown St, Tai Hang, 2504 2111. Daily from 6pm-midnight.
Romaine lettuce, Parma ham and egg $88
Goats cheese and rucola $98
Rio’s style pizza (12-inch) $148
Pappardelle with wagyu cheek $188
10 percent service charge $52.20
Total (for two) $574.20
|Venue name:||No.5 Italian|
21C Brown St, Tai Hang