The coveted Michelin Guide has been around for decades, but it landed in Shanghai less than a year ago, with a grand total of 31 stars being awarded to restaurants in China’s financial capital. The honor of being the only three-star restaurant in the city was awarded to T’ang Court, matching its sister Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong. Seven restaurants were decorated with two stars, among which 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana (another Hong Kong import) is where we decided to dine on our last night in Shanghai.
The highly esteemed chef Umberto Bombana, who was lauded as “The King of White Truffles”, is pretty much synonymous with high-end Italian dining and his flagship restaurant in Hong Kong is the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy to have received 3 stars from Michelin. The curious name is a tribute to the chef’s favorite director, Federico Fellini, and his classic film 8 ½ celebrating the Italian life.
The kitchen at his Shanghai branch is helmed by Executive Chef from Sicily Riccardo La Perna. One of the most exciting things about this dinner was meeting him in person! When maître d’hôtel stopped by our table for a quick chat, he asked us where we were from. This eventually led me saying that I was a food and travel writer based in Tokyo. And next thing I knew we saw Chef Perna come out of the kitchen and walk straight to our table to say hello. I was flabbergasted, so touched and immensely honored. I told him I couldn’t wait to try his famous Tiramisu and he instantly started telling me (with that captivating Italian accent) about its preparation – simple and classic. I could tell how much love and passion he puts into each dish, and that showed in every single course we sampled – including that aphrodisiac Tiramisu… but, more to follow on that a bit later.
8 ½ Ottoe Mezzo is located in Rockbund district (right behind The Peninsula Hotel), an area of restored historic buildings from Shanghai’s colonial period and an up-and-coming destination for the city’s fashionable crowd. The interior is classy and stylish, with elegant main dining room that boasts views of Lujiazui and The Bund. We couldn’t have asked for a better view from our table, with Oriental Pearl Tower staring right at us. From the moment we stepped into the restaurant till the very last second, the service was impeccable (a huge relief compared to our other experiences) and staff were very welcoming and accommodating.
The menu at 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo is based on updated classic Italian preparations using the freshest and most exquisite ingredients available. The idea that less is more is core here, with an emphasis on bringing out original flavors.
We started our 6-course dinner with complimentary canapes – king crab salad, parmesan waffle, chicken liver pate – a trio of decadent morsels that packed ton of flavor and whetted our appetites for a wonderful meal to follow. Another complimentary amouse bouche excited our tastebuds even further – decadent mozzarella mousse topped with dry tomato powder with little bit of the pressed bread, olive and herbs. The bottom layer of tomato confit (I hope I got it right) added punch of flavor and paired very well with the buttery taste of the cheese.
We were also served a selection of house-baked bread alongside olive oil from Italy and balsamico that had been aged for 15 years. The latter paired with sundried tomato bread was absolutely irresistible combination. So so good. After this, the feast began.
Japanese Red Tuna Tartar bedded on lemon puree was a light and simple, yet perfectly executed starter that packed vibrant summer flavors.
Paper-thin slices of Pan Roasted Mayura Beef Shoulder were bedded on mustard, beetroot and balsamic vinegar sauce, and garnished with delicate garden vegetables and Beluga Royal caviar. The rich flavor of the meat was cut through by the fresh salad and acidity of the sauce, while caviar added extra layer of decadence and sweet umami taste.
The original menu included Homemade Cavatelli (seafood soup, lobster, king crab, kinki fish and clam – which Justin devoured in a heartbeat) as our third course, but chef kindly obliged to substitute it with Homemade Ravioli – my favorite Italian dish! The buffalo ricotta filling and fresh tomato sauce created a heavenly mélange of flavors – I wish there was more of it on the plate!
For the main course, we both opted for Steamed Normandy Blue Lobster served with lobster consommé, garden summer vegetables and delicious roasted garlic puree. It was a perfect summer dish and I loved the simplicity of flavors – light and flavorful, with the lobster meat cooked perfectly.
A pre-dessert followed: a refreshing Almond Foam, Peach Sorbet and meringue. Justin went his traditional route and ordereda selection of cheeses for his main sweet course. Meanwhile for me, it was time for my favorite Italian dessert – 8 ½ Signature Tiramisu.
Mascarpone and marsala cream, biscotti savoiardi. It was light as air, decadent and absolutely delightful. Not a single person should ever leave this restaurant without trying this dessert. It was superb. On the side, I was served mascarpone ice cream affogato generously drizzled with Ethiopian kafa forest Lavazza coffee. It was strong and decadent atthe same time. But then anything Lavazza is outstanding.
We finished off with a shot of house-made limoncello and petite fours. Overall, it was a delightful night. If I had to be picky, I’d say that courses were meagerly sized, considering the price tag. However, you certainly won’t leave hungry, and most certainly won’t be disappointed with your dinner.
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