Having helmed Tosca at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong since 2013, Italian chef Pino Lavarra possesses a wealth of experience around the globe that has shaped his gastronomic technique to exceptional heights.
Bringing with him accolades and prestigious recognition, including the title of ‘One of the Best Chefs in the World’ by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, two Michelin stars for Rosellinis, which he led from 2001-2003, and Tosca‘s one Michelin star, Pino is a culinary force to be reckoned with.
Undoubtedly, he possesses the perfect personality to create a glamorous meal for any occasion. “My way of plating is very glamorous and it’s also my personal trademark,” Pino explains.
“Glamour is a lifestyle as it’s very conceptual. You have to be open to beauty and style. I enjoy food design and I love working with colours.”
It’s important to invoke all the senses of your guests. When a dish is brought to you, the most important sense is how it looks.
In line with this theme, Chef Lavarra has prepared the Langoustine Salad, followed by the Risotto Sepia, the Beef and Eggplant and a Chocolate Mousse to polish off the beautiful experience.
As Hong Kong is still very warm in September, Chef Lavarra has extended the highlights of the summer menu, and explains that the combination of langoustine and caponata (a fresh vegetable from Sicily) is a marriage of fresh zest – the langoustine is lightly steamed with vodka which is lighter than using butter or oil, and preserves the purity of its flavour. Meanwhile, the salad is a representation of Italy throughout the long summer and utilises the best seasonal ingredients.
“The gazpacho is based not only on tomato but also with a lobster bisque,” he says. “For the risotto, bell peppers have been used so it’s still very refreshing.” Continues Lavarra, “It’s important to invoke all the senses of your guests. When a dish is brought to you, the most important sense is how it looks – although by the time you’ve swallowed your food, taste is really the last sense that is experienced.”
“For example, once you bite something like the langoustine, you experience the crunchiness of it; as a chef, the most important creation is flavour, because if it looks beautiful but tastes terrible, then you fail. Some people say that visuals don’t matter, or some may call it a success when it looks unappealing yet tastes gorgeous. But I believe that only by achieving both can you call something a perfect success.”
The Beef and Eggplant arrives looking like a plate of art to illustrate his point, and Lavarra notes this is a favourite on the menu. “There’s eggplant and anchovies in this dish, which I’ve used to balance the fattiness of the wagyu beef,” he says. The Chocolate Mousse is the perfect ending – beautiful, rich and unique with ice incorporated inside to keep the dessert chilled.
“There’s also some yoghurt inside the mousse so that its acidity cleanses the palette. Mousse has to be cold in order to taste good and this immediacy invites diners to another bite,” he explains.
Despite helming one of the best restaurants in Asia, Chef Pino Lavarra is not content to rest on his laurels. “I never stop to rest because I get bored. I love creating and I love to share my emotions through food. My goal is to keep getting better and to achieve the best results, to travel more, be inspired and be continually motivated. There is no greater satisfaction for me than seeing the smiles on my guests’ faces during and after a meal.”
This story was originally published in our September 2018 issue as ‘Style Factor.’ For more beautiful restaurants, head over to our Food & Entertaining tag.
Photography: Edgar Tapan
Art Direction: May Lau