With white truffle season just beginning, we take a look at what makes the truffle a rare commodity and which Hong Kong restaurants offer special menus to savour the diamond of the kitchen.
The white truffle is back and has been spotted gracing the plates of some of Hong Kong’s top restaurants. Originating from Alba in Piemont, Italy, the white tuber magnatum can be found from October to early January and is known for its enhanced aroma...and its price.
While to some, the expensive delicacy could be seen as a glorified mushroom, it is in fact so much more. Compared to its cousins—the winter black truffle also known as the Perigord truffle, the autumn black truffle and the summer black truffle—the white truffle is a little bit more of a wild card, as it requires the right temperature, the right pH balance in the soil and trained dogs to find it.
Indeed, the special fungus grows beneath the topmost layer of the soil—about 5 to 30 cm underground—at the base of certain types of trees, making the truffle invisible to the naked eye. Historically, pigs were used to find truffles, as their powerful snot could detect the strong aroma emanating from the truffle even below ground. However, pigs like truffles as much as we do and would often gobble them up, which made a dent in the already low supply of this rare commodity. Nowadays, truffle hunters use dogs to find truffles, as they are easier to train and will bring back the truffle intact.
When menus display the word truffle, it will be either the black truffle, that comes from France, or the seasonal white truffle, from Italy. The more expensive price of the white truffle is directly correlated to how rare it is, how hard it is to find and its more pronounced aroma.
Fabrizio of Sparkling Star Hong Kong Limited—which sources products from Italy to restaurants such as Radical Chic, Octavium, Vea and more—says, “Comparing black and white truffles is like comparing white wine and red wine, it’s simply not possible.” He adds, “The white truffle should be combined with food that will enhance the aroma of the truffle without covering it, and oftentimes the simplest foods, like egg or pasta, are the perfect match.”
Celebrate truffle season by visiting the following restaurants that have highlighted the precious delicacy on their menu.
Opened by Chef Marco Sacco, who has 3 Michelin stars in Italy, and Hong Kong-based Head Chef Fabiano Palombini, Castellana presents a four-course white truffle degustation menu, starting with the mountain egg with braised leek and Alba white truffle, followed by homemade tagliolini served with a signature “Au Koque” carbonara sauce and white truffles. Guests will then have a choice between the succulent Brittany blue lobster with potato foam and white truffle or the Racan pigeon that has been braised and pan-seared in butter, rosemary and topped with Alba truffles. The four-course menu is available for a limited-time only at market price (with 5g of white truffle per dish) and an additional $780 for the Piedmont wine pairing.
Castellana, 10/F, Cubus, 1 Hoi Ping Rd, Causeway Bay, +852 3188 5028
For truffle season, Sai Ying Pun neighbourhood favourite Lucale proposes a few white truffle additions to its a la carte menu, such as beef tartare with Piedmont hazelnuts, burrata and porcini mushrooms, a slow-cooked egg dish with Sardinian fregola, porcini mushrooms and asparagus, a simple yet delicious white truffle tagliolini and a slow-cooked veal tenderloin with broccoletti, spinach and seared duck liver with hollandaise sauce. Each dish will have 5g of white truffle.
Lucale, Shop A, 100 Third St, Sai Ying Pun; +852 3611 1842
With new restaurant Radical Chic offering a modern take on authentic flavours of Italy, it was only natural to create a five-course degustation menu in honour of truffle season. The menu starts with the white truffle and amaretti biscuit, followed by the eggs four ways accompanied by a combination of other star ingredients—Japanese sea urchin, supreme Sturgeon Caviar, Salmon Ikura—and served with a cream of potato with shaved white truffle. East meets West with the A5 wagyu beef raviolio “dumpling” before moving to the main course, where guests have a choice of a Brittany blue lobster served with nuts and truffle (for an additional $688) or the more gamey main course—the Muscat grape-glazed venison. Finish off with the Truffle Hunt, a dessert composed of mascarpone mousse, vanilla cream, a dacquoise (soft amaretto) and covered in Venezuelan dark chocolate. The limited menu is priced at HK$2,880, with the option to add a wine pairing for an additional HK$880, or premium wine pairing for an additional HK$1,380.
Radical Chic, International Commerce Centre (ICC), Shop B1, Level 101, 1 Austin Rd W, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 3618 7880
Understanding that sometimes less can be more, LPM keeps things simple by adding white truffle to elevate its simple but utterly fragrant French Mediterranean dishes. To honour the seasonal white diamond, LPM presents three house-made pastas: the signature Rigatoni, Linguini and Gnocchi—which are tossed in a creamy sauce with truffle oil and topped with a few truffle shavings. Other options include the white truffle with burrata and white truffle eggs, with all dishes costing $1,198 each.
LPM Restaurant, 23-29 Stanley Street Shop 1, 1/F, H, Queen's, Central; +852 2887 1113
SOIL TO SOUL
Straying away from the Mediterranean menus, K11 MUSEA’s Korean vegetarian restaurant Soil to Soul puts a twist on four Korean “temple food” dishes by adding 2g of the prized truffle. Highlights include asparagus with truffle mash potatoes, royal mushroom and truffle consommé, carrot and zucchini noodles with white truffle and a crunchy deep-fried yam with truffle grain syrup. The dishes are available from now until mid-December.
Soil to Soul, 704, 7/F, K11 MUSEA, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East; +852 2389-9588
Michelin-trained Chef Keith Yam of Crowne Plaza’s Giacomo honours the “white gold” of gourmet delicacies by adding truffle to the confit "Taiyouran" organic egg, a sous-vide premium Japanese egg served with girolle mushrooms and parmesan foam; the warm scampi dish served with chicory flower shoots; as well as to the creamy homemade tagliolini and the Bresse Poularde, a buttery chicken served with braised cabbage and guanciale (pork cheek). Cool your dinner off with a refreshing white truffle gelato.
Giacomo, Crowne Plaza Hong Kong Causeway Bay, G/F, 8 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay; +852 3980 3008