New York Chef Plans Three Restaurants In The City
Launching in the city’s Central district late last month, the Hong Kong outpost of New York-based chef, author and television host Mario Batali’s restaurant Lupa has attracted no shortage of attention from local media and diners alike. A Roman-style trattoria, like its New York counterpart Lupa Hong Kong serves up home-recipe Italian classics family style, exposing Hong Kong diners to new tastes even as Italian restaurants continue to proliferate across the city. Batali’s first foray into the Greater China market, Lupa is the first of three restaurants the chef plans to open in Hong Kong, though as he told CNNGo earlier this month, he could follow in the footsteps of other celebrity chefs like Daniel Boulud and eventually give the mainland China market a shot.
Still, the Mainland’s relatively polarized culinary scene means Batali will likely take his time. As he told CNNGo, “I love the idea of doing business in China, but I don’t think I’m ready without finding some kind of a hybrid first [between New York and China]…And Hong Kong is the hybrid.” Essentially, Lupa Hong Kong is Batali’s personal testing ground, which gives him a chance to see how Chinese diners react to his trademark brand of Italian favorites like Garganelli with Oxtail Ragu, Saltimbocca and Crispy Duck Agrodolce.
This week, Batali talks to Time Out Hong Kong about his foray into the bustling city, touching on what sets Hong Kong diners apart from their New York counterparts and what changes he’s made to the Lupa menu to account for these cultural and culinary differences:
Time Out (TO): [W]hat made you expand to Hong Kong?
Mario Batali (MB): Sandeep [Sekhri] who owns Dining Concepts came to us with this opportunity. I categorically tell everyone ‘no’ as soon as they ask for that meeting. I’ve been asked to do restaurants in Ohio or Canada and I say ‘I’m not really interested’. Hong Kong, however, seemed very interesting to me. And Sandeep has already worked with Michael White, who I love. Now that we’re working, we’re testing the limits of our relationship. But that’s why I’m here for the full week – I don’t want it to not be my restaurant. And Zach [Allen] has been with me since we opened the very first Lupa. He’s one of our most talented guys. And he’s here now [as executive chef].
TO: So why open Lupa first?
MB: As opposed to a continental Italian menu that has every dish you’ve ever heard of, I thought our first step should be a regional restaurant that spoke specifically of one place to let people know how serious we are about it. In a town where the language spoken has nine tones, the people here are ready for something a little better than tiramisu and lasagna bolognese. So we’re making something a little more specific because we’re sure the market is sophisticated enough.
TO: What aspects are the same as Lupa New York and what’s different?
MB: Lupa New York has more organ meats and offal on the menu. My understanding is that the people of Hong Kong eat that at home so they’re not looking to eat kidney at a restaurant. They want something fancier. But there will still be things that I have to serve, like oxtail because that’s the meat of Rome.
The success that Lupa Hong Kong has seen since its opening less than a month ago seems to have given Batali the confidence to move quickly in the city. By the end of the year, he’ll have opened three restaurants in the city, with Carnevino set to open on the fifth floor of the LHT Tower in June.
Lupa Hong Kong
3/F, LHT Tower
31 Queen’s Road Central
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 2796 6500
Lunch: 12:00noon – 3:00pm
Dinner: 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Sun to Thu: 6:00pm – 12:00am midnight
Fri to Sat: 6:00pm – 2:00am