The best known Italian import since pizza is simple and one that will take an amazing dinner to new heights—and the city is in no shortage of the best quality ones.
In ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, Rob Reiner and Tom Hanks were discussing re-entering the dating game referencing ‘Tiramisu’ with an innuendo in mind. Fourteen years later, in ‘No Reservations’, Catherine Zeta Jones plays a chef, cuddling up over tasting Aaron Eckhart’s tiramisu and turning herself into a ‘dessert person’. Hollywood certainly knows the magic of tiramisu and how it lights up on the silver screen, and effectively so, the Italian dessert is a household name today and a staple to Italian restaurants around the world, including Hong Kong.
While the debate about the origin of tiramisu continues to be argued over between Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia of Italy, one thing remains clear—the quintessential Italian dessert comprising of coffee, mascarpone, and cocoa is more than just a pick-me-up to dessert lovers everywhere, but also one of the greatest icons in Italian gastronomy since pizza and pasta.
Regarded as the ‘Father of Tiramisu’, the late Italian restaurateur Ado Campeol first put Tiramisu on the menu of his restaurant Le Beccherie in Veneto. The dessert was said to be created by the restaurant’s then-chef Roberto Linguanotto and Campeol’s wife Alba di Pillo, turning the coffee-flavoured dessert into the revelation it is today. The original recipe contains no liquor, but the unctuously satisfying filling of sugar, eggs, and mascarpone cream cheese adds a sensational layer of moussy satisfaction. Hong Kong is in no shortage of good tiramisu desserts, and we urge everyone to try them to fully appreciate the magic of such amazing delight.
The Pirata Group’s proud casual Italian chain of restaurant sees some of Hong Kong’s most consistent pasta dishes. The fast-casual eatery is also home to one of the city’s most popular desserts. Pici’s tiramisu is created by Davide Borin, the restaurant’s executive chef and keen tiramisu fan. Borin took the liquor out of his restaurant version to make the dessert more family-friendly. The key to making a proper tiramisu, according to Borin, is the skilful soaking of the ladyfingers—or savioardi in Italian—to create just enough coffee permeating the biscuit but not too much that the brew softens them and causes them to get smashed under the mascarpone layer. The extra egg adds a soft-set consistency to the pudding, like a rich zabaglione that’s best served in a glass.
Pici, multiple locations
The best thing about LucAle’s tiramisu is that it has all the right flavours, and a little more. At the Italian restaurant co-founded by former hotel chefs Alessandro Angelini and Luca De Berardinis, the tiramisu takes on a more contemporary dessert form—a round glass holding a mascarpone filling, custard-rich but light and ethereal in texture. Caramelised hazelnuts top the mascarpone layer, with coffee jelly tucked under it as a surprise. A thin crisp of chocolate lace covers the top of the glass, allowing the guests to crack it, shattering the lacy bits into the dessert itself to be enjoyed, each bite encompassing all of tiramisu’s core flavours—coffee, mascarpone, and chocolate.
LuCale, Shop A, 100 Third St, Sai Ying Pun; +852 3611 1842
The Grand Hyatt’s Italian restaurant has perfected their recipe of the tiramisu, thanks to their executive pastry chef Smita Grosse’s repeated testing with the team. “Our tiramisu is all about the experience,” Grosse shared. “The idea is to serve you table-side, so the guests can see the whole dessert, all those layers, generously served for each customer.” Rightfully so, the Italian establishment’s all-mascarpone, no-cream dessert is all about the right consistency of the coffee in which the ladyfingers are soaked in. Grosse infuses the coffee overnight, before turning the brew into a coffee syrup with amaretto. Ladyfingers generously take in the almond liqueur-laced coffee syrup and are layered in the large serving bowl, alternating with the sweet mascarpone layer set only by eggs and no gelatine to form two combo layers. The result is exhilarating, and a highly Instagrammable moment for guests.
Grissini at Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 2nd Floor, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai; +852 2584 7722
Interval’s tiramisu is totally worth the trip to Cyberport, but mind you, it is difficult to save your appetite after its signature sourdough pizzas and mains. The coffee dessert is made family-style, in a deep tray and served table side. According to Josh Ng, co-founder of Interval, this is how he believes he can capture the essence of tiramisu. The family-style offers comfort, in the same manner you enjoy desserts from a traditional Italian nonna: by sharing generous portions. Interval’s homey tiramisu starts with a coffee base created using Danish coffee house Coffee Collective’s delicious coffee. The coffee-soaked ladyfingers are topped with a mascarpone filling enriched with amaretto. The most difficult part of making tiramisu daily, according to Ng, is time, as Interval makes their mascarpone layer a little differently. They begin by creating a zabaglione with amaretto, letting it cool before folding in the mascarpone cream cheese on top of the sponge fingers and chilling. The final touch is a generous dusting of cocoa powder. “Our tiramisu is all about having fun. Each tray of tiramisu can serve eight guests, but if you would like a little more you can always let us know at the table.” We will gladly reserve this tip for the next visit.
Interval Farmacy, Cyberport, Shop 207, Level 2, Arcade, 100 Cyberport Rd, Pok Fu Lam; +852 2380 3498
Newcomer Posso brings the cicchetteria, Venice’s little bars, to Hong Kong, serving petite side dishes and an incredible selection of homemade pasta and nibbles to Sheung Wan. Its tiramisu is an understated one, but one not to be dismissed. Following the restaurant’s ethos on simplicity without sacrificing flavours, Posso created its interpretation of tiramisu in a shallow bowl, with two defined layers that pack all the flavours while granting even distribution of textures. Stella Lim, the restaurant’s resident pastry chef, insists on making ladyfingers in house. “Homemade savoiardi is a must for us. They define the thickness and structure to the dessert and add rich egg flavour to the sponge layer. “The mascarpone layer is lighter, more moussy with an even ratio of mascarpone and cream, and a touch of amaretto as well. It is a great dessert to be enjoyed, and we prefer it one per serving.”
Posso, G/F, 12 Kau U Fong, Sheung Wan; +852 9870 0898