Aqua serves up Italian and Japanese delights in new tasting menu

Aqua’s exciting new seven-course Ankh Tasting Menu shows why Italian and Japanese work so well together. David Ho looks at the new offerings

Aqua has long been a pioneer of serving Italian and Japanese dishes together, twenty years long in fact. The acclaimed restaurant, located on the 17th floor of H Zentre in Tsim Sha Tsui, is once again showing what a winning combo these cuisines are together in their new seven-course Ankh Tasting Menu.

The latest menu (HK$1188 per person, with the optional wine and sake pairing at $788 per person) runs from now to June 23. It is named after the ankh, the ancient Egyptian symbol for the “key of life”. The ankh serves as the logo of Aqua and its inspiration – “where there’s water there’s life.” Given this, each dish on this menu is thoughtfully connected to water, be it the array of seasonal seafood, fresh vegetables or herbs. The Ankh Tasting Menu highlights the interconnectedness of water and the flourishing of all living things.

To enhance the culinary journey, the menu artfully combines Italian wines with Japanese cuisine, as well as introducing the unexpected twist of pairing Japanese sake with Italian creations. Both Italian and Japanese cuisines are renowned for their meticulous selection of the finest seasonal ingredients, and their dedication to simplicity, which ties the dishes together beautifully.

The culinary journey begins with the refreshing bluefin tuna tartare with crystal dashi and caviar. With tuna fresh from Japan marinated in Japanese Awaji Island onion sauce, it is then delicately combined with home-made crystal dashi and topped with caviar. Italian sparkling wine Franciacorta Saten, Barone Pizzini elevate the dish with some freshness and citric notes.

It is the Italian kitchen’s turn to dazzle next, helmed by Aqua’s first female architect-turned-chef Ilaria Zamperlin. Hand-selected Alaskan crab meat is topped with premium caviar and refreshing lemon drops. Then the Yamahai Tedorigawa, a sake made by the traditional yamahai process, gives it a richer, more acidic and bolder taste.

We always appreciate some carbs in a meal, especially when it comes paired with a rare seasonal delicacy. Next is a dish of somen noodle with seared scallop, salmon roe, and baby firefly squid from Toyama Bay. This rare delicacy is available only during the brief annual window between April and May. This round is complemented with a Fiano di Avellino Riserva “Stilema” from Mastroberardino, which enhances the flavours with its smokiness.

The fourth dish in this adventure for the tastebuds is the homemade lobster ravioli with tomato water, infused with plankton and Mediterranean herbs. Each handcrafted ravioli is packed with a rich filling of lobster and ricotta and balanced with the saltiness imparted by the Italian tomato water, dried tomatoes, and dried plankton. A sohomare kimoto ‘tokobetsu honjozo’ sake is served as the beverage for this course.

For the fifth round, guests are offered a choice of one of two all-time Aqua favourites from the Japanese kitchen: charcoal grilled saikyo miso marinated black cod or chilli teriyaki lamb with yuzu, garlic and miso. Whichever dish you go with, a Pinot Nero “Red Angel”, Jerman is served. If you went for the lamb, it adds wild berry notes to balance the spices in the dish whereas if you picked the cod, it adds some acidity to further enhance the spiciness.

Following the main courses, two desserts are presented, one inspired by Japanese tradition and the other by Italian culinary artistry. The raindrop cake here is infused with almond extract that forms a mesmerizing “blue eye”, followed by sgroppino, a refreshing concoction of lemon sorbet and ice cream elegantly blended with prosecco and your choice of either sake or grappa, further enhanced with a splash of limoncello.

Both sweet treats are paired with a barley shochu, which introduces smooth and sweet notes of lychee, to bring a spectacular finale to your dining experience.

Also see: Vinexpo CEO spills on wine trends and what makes the perfect bottle

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