With the dust has barely settled on the opening of Mario Batali’s Lupa in LHT Tower on Queen’s Road Central, the busy chef-lebrity has just opened his second restaurant in Hong Kong, Carnevino, in the same building one floor above. Although both restaurants are targeted at a similar set of clients, Carnevino is slightly more upscale and formal than Lupa, with the new restaurant actually being part of an award-winning chain from Las Vegas.
Carnevino touts itself as an interpretation and celebration of the classic steak house and, positioned in the heart of Central, the restaurant is sure to fit in well alongside the throng of other nearby restaurants that specialize in cooking premium hunks of cow. The Corporate Chef for the venue, Zach Allen, has worked closely with Batali before and, now here in Hong Kong, he hopes to retain the authenticity of the original flagship.
The restaurant was conceived in consultation with the people who designed the Las Vegas outlet and Avroko was the design firm chosen for the job. It is clear to see they did a good job, as the design is inviting and yet mature at the same time, with masculine touches appearing alongside lots of dark wood and plush leather – in other words a great backdrop to consume a steak against.
The 5,000 square feet restaurant seats 140, yet the seating is not cramped or restricted, with some unique circular booths, complete with hanging retro lamps, standing at the edges of the restaurant. There is also a selection of private dining rooms, able to seat from 6 to 40 guests.
At the entrance a dramatic foyer lures one into the restaurant, with curving and slightly maritime-looking wall paneling appearing alongside an old circular butcher block and wine fridges showcasing the premium brands on offer. Further inside, the restaurant opens up to reveal the bar area where a touch of steampunk appears on fittings such as the low-hanging lights and the metallic back bar shelves. Deep textured wine-cellar resembling wooden flooring also matches this mood, with the wooden ceiling and orange seating toning well with these elements as well. There is also a luxurious bright white textured marble bar counter which functions as the ‘yin’ to the ‘yang’ of the plush black marble tiled wall opposite. Opposite the bar is also another storage cabinet displaying quality wines and alcohol, with a long mirror standing out above the leather seats area near here as well.
In the main dining area further on the wooden ceiling continues, but here white marble flooring with wooden detailing replaces the plain wood flooring of the bar area. In addition, the orange leather chairs are substituted by black diamond quilted leather chairs in the main dining area, with a spider-like mod Italian central light fixture drawing inspiration from the spirit of classical European auto racing. Around the restaurant are also large windows which reveal views of Queen’s Road below.
As for the food, as the ‘carne’ part of name suggests, Carnevino is a place that mainly serves top-quality beef, plus a top selection of wines (the ‘vino’ part of the name). Must-tries include items such as Veal Carpaccio with Salted Egg Salsa Verde, Wagyu Crudo with Apician Spices, Prosciutto di Parma 30 Mesi exclusive to Carnevino, plus premium hunks of meat and desserts such as Caramel Panna Cotta and Milk Chocolate Mousse with Port Wine Reduction. With rumours of a third restaurant on the horizon and such excellence at stake it is clear to see Batali’s goal of taking over China is looming ever closer.
Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, January 2013