Grissini: Behind the times (7.6)

Grissini should be on the rota for a lot of people who like Italian food and find its location convenient. But on this visit, I am starting to feel like this is an increasingly dated restaurant that, perhaps intentionally for its existing clientele, is still clinging on a little too strongly to the past.

If something old has been a proven recipe for success and appreciation, change is always risky. Existing clients might not like the change. But F&B has become one of the fastest changing industries when it comes to consumer trends in Hong Kong in the past decade, and our tastes and preferences are more or less shaped by the zeitgeist. No matter how much we fancy a classic dish, most of us still look for a splash of novelty and inspiration when we dine out.

At Grissini, it seems like presentation, flavors and even the content of the menu have remained fairly conservative over the years. That is despite a revamp of the restaurant and a change in the Chef de Cuisine only recently.

I like conservative in general, so not adding sea urchin or salmon roe or caviar to anything just for the wowza or the camera always gets my seal of approval, but when the only two protein-based choices for our secondi include an uninspired version of a pan-fried cod fillet or braised beef shank in a tomato sauce, both somewhat of a tiresome choice with no sense of seasonality and—I would even argue—deteriorating quality, I was a little disappointed.

I get that some just like the taste of home and familiar tastes, but I speak for myself, and I was underwhelmed. With so many places out there run by passionate chefs, I need something more seasonal, more tantalizing, more imaginative.

Hospitality was a bit of an issue too. The hosting team was well staffed and polite and we were seated right in the center of the restaurant, but for some reason we were unable to get the attention of any staff nearly every time we sought it.

And so I come to my verdict: Grissini may very nearly be another case of an ageing brand that could do with just a little bit of attention from its operators if it is to stay relevant for the growing generation of people who increasingly care a lot about what they eat. To be clear, the food tastes and looks decent, but for those with an appetite for more excitement, look elsewhere for now.

Food Rundown

Grissini, by the way, means breadsticks, so that’s where the name comes from. They are a signature at Grissini, and are very good.

Il Carpaccio di Ricciola – Yellowtail carpacciowith shaved white truffle
This was the first time I had the combination of cold fish and truffle. The yellowtail was mild enough to let the subtle aromas of the white truffle shine through. Both went well with the clean and slightly earthy taste of artichoke. I thought there could have been more of the anchovy colatura for even better flavor. Still, it was an enjoyable dish.

Branzino Marinato Marinated seabass
Seabass was fresh and well-seasoned, going nicely with eggplant and pickled peach. One of the best dishes of the day.

Il Merluzzo in Padella – Pan-fried codfish fillet
Fish was flakey and moist with a toothsome crust, sitting in a beautiful pool of dark green perfumed with capers and herbs. Flavor-wise the cod was somewhat less buttery than some other varieties of cod.

La Carne con la pummarola – Braised beef shank
The pummarola is exactly like those in Tuscany. I like that it is always more sour and real and not sugared like it almost always is everywhere else in Hong Kong. The consistency is also good. Beef shank was, well, completely tenderized and there was absolutely nothing to complain about it, but it was just such an ordinary dish that I wish there was something else to pick.

Il Tiramisu all’Amaretto
The tiramisu was a bit on the sweet side, but it tastes so dreamily soft, with a touch of amaretto and bitterness from the coffee, a full fat version too, just like in the little restaurants in Italy. Recommended.

For lunch, the 2- and 3- course sets are at $420 and $480, respectively. White truffle was charged at $50 per gram.

2/F, Grand Hyatt, Hong Kong
$$$, Italian