Few Italians would admit that they had anyone to thank but il bel paese (or "the beautiful country," as it's poetically called) for the cream-filled cheese known as burrata. But the Ferrari, one could say, of buffalo mozzarella owes its smooth intensity to the rich milk of the water buffalo, first taken to Italy from Asia in the Middle Ages by those marauding Crusaders.
Today, Hong Kong fromage-ophiles will be pleased to know that burrata is having a homecoming. At Posto Publico, postopubblico.com, one of the latest and best additions to the city's dining scene, the ambrosial white pouches are served alongside fresh tomatoes as one of several tapas-style Italian dishes. "Amazing Burrata" also graces the chalkboard menus of Wanchai's Classified Mozzarella Bar, classifiedfoodshops.com.hk, a 10-minute drive away.
The prodigal cheese owes its sudden ubiquity to Hong Kong's new crop of boutique Italian eateries. The city has long had an affinity for classic Italian fare: spaghetti and macaroni are standbys in street stalls and Cantonese diners, and many of the city's loftiest fine-dining establishments are headed by Italian chefs. But this generation has a different flavor it's focused on artisanal foods, emphasizing ingredients first, flash second.
Cuore, cuoreprivatechef.com, started by Milanese chef Andrea Oschetti in September 2009, stages exquisite dinners in Oschetti's own apartment in central Hong Kong. Mixing up entrees like sea bass crusted in olives on eggplant fry, and black-sesame panna cotta with blackberry coulis, Oschetti's gatherings are select and sweet, lubricated with carefully chosen wine from family-run Italian vineyards. He argues that Hong Kong is full of big, high-concept restaurants that often cut back on food costs to afford exorbitant rents, and that has created the demand for the new, authentic breed of Italian venues. These days, he says, diners are "looking for a real experience, driven by passion." Spoken like a true crusader.
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