Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Restaurant Review: Tosca

Location: ICC Tower
Type of food: Italian
Rating: ** (2 out of 5)

Tosca is the resident Italian restaurant at the new Ritz Carlton Hotel. It is said to be a reincarnation of Toscana, one of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong that shut down several years ago along with the old Ritz. Right from the start, we know Tosca has some big shoes to fill.

Tosca on the 102nd floor of the ICC

The restaurant sits on the 102nd floor of the ICC, although the floor number can be deceiving given property developers' tendency to skip them. Getting a reservation there can be a challenge, as it appears to be the venue of choice for deep-pocketed Mainlanders to throw lavish dinner parties on government expense account. The first time I went to Tosca, I was seated next to a table of loud PRC visitors. Flanked by two skinny ladies half his age, the red-faced lao-ban kept pouring wine for the Italian maitre d' and making him drink it in front of everyone. Class act.

The first thing that strikes you about Tosca is the view. The restaurant offers stunning panoramic vistas of both Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. But once you are done marveling at what’s outside the restaurant, you start to cringe at some of details inside. Using water as a motif, the interior features water fountains made with stacks of glass tiles. Below crystal chandeliers and light boxes are glassworks in the shape of waterlilies floating in a marble pond. The tackiness rivals some of the casinos in Macau. I can't help but feel sorry for Sun Hung Kai, the property company that owns and operates the ICC, for having spent a fortune hiring Japanese design firm Spin Design Studios. They got gyped.

Just one of many ugly glassworks

Then there is the food. Executive Chef Vittorio Lucariello serves up a creative menu of southern Italian cuisine. Huh? What is “southern Italian food" if it isn’t calzone, focaccia or pasta in spicy tomato sauce? Last time I checked, no one in Naples or Sicily was serving molecular food with foam or chopped salmon served on a spoon. My imaginary Sicilian aunt Francesca would have been horrified! Tosca is where haute cuisine gets geographically confused and where every dish is uniformly over-embellished and over-designed.

Aunt Francesca would have cringed 

I remember reading a glowing review of Tosca in a travel magazine. The reviewer went on and on about the sophisticated interior design and remarked that the kitchen uses its very own olive oil made especially for the Ritz-Carlton. Of the many problems that Tosca has on its hands, olive oil is the last thing it should worry about. It goes to show that we should always take travel magazine recommendations with a grain of salt. It also goes to show that even spectacular views on the 102nd floor can’t cure a mediocre restaurant.

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