Hong Kong, China
Muhammad Padzli Ahmad
Why it’s special: Award-winning chef Umberto Bombana opened 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana after the closure in 2008 of Toscana and The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, where he had worked since 1993. The restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars after just 11 months of opening, and quickly achieved further critical acclaim. But its appeal goes beyond its outstanding Italian food, and in 2019 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana was also recognised with the Art of Hospitality Award.
Italian hospitality: A nation known for its warmth and friendliness, the Italians are naturals at providing great hospitality. But Chef Bombana and his general manager and sommelier Marino Braccu turn it up a notch, waltzing between the tables and graciously accommodating diners’ requests without pretension. To visit 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana is to be taken care of – and once through the doors, the customer should feel entirely at home.
What’s in the name? The restaurant was christened in tribute to Italian film director Federico Fellini’s 1963 movie 8½, where a film director retreats into his memories and fantasies. Bombana says the naming is a tribute to Italian lifestyle and art. The chef now has branches of 8½ in Shanghai and Macau, as well as Opera Bombana in Beijing, Italian trattoria Ciak in Hong Kong and, since 2016, Ciak in Taikoo Shing.
On the menu: 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo’s tasting menu starts with roasted blue lobster and moves on to homemade tagliolini, short rib and beef tenderloin and Challand duck, finishing with blonde cannelloni or poached cherries with pistachio gelato. Renowned sommelier Braccu expanded the wine list in 2018 with over 400 new Italian wines.
Bonus point: Chef Bombana counts among his accolades the title of Worldwide Ambassador of the white truffle from the Piedmontese Regional Enoteca Cavour, an Order of Merit by the Italian government and the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work across Asia in 2017.