It contains the distinct flavours of Italy, and more.
I know there’s more to Naples (and all of Italy, for that matter) than just pasta and pizza. I’ve watched enough cooking and travel shows to realise that. But even if I haven’t, there’s obviously more to the cuisine and food traditions of a place than just a few representative dishes.
Still, I have to admit that those were the first two meals that came to mind. 😬
Award-winning Napoli-born chef Antimo Maria Merone recognises this. However, he wants you to give Neapolitan cuisine a chance – as well as his own take on Neapolitan cuisine too, which he describes as “progressive” and “contemporary”.
You’ll have this opportunity when his first independent restaurant, Estro, opens in Hong Kong this September. He uses his childhood memories, Italy’s history and culinary traditions, different cooking techniques, and quality ingredients as inspiration to create a multi-course seasonal menu. (Estro is “inspiration” in Italian.)
If it’s a guest’s first time to try his cooking, though, what would be the one dish Chef Antimo would recommend they absolutely must have?
“If I have to pick one dish that represents my style, it would be ‘Buttons’ – liquid eggplant parmigiana, tomato jus and basil,” he says.
“‘Buttons’ is evocative, elegant, essential, and includes all the flavours of a traditional Neapolitan dish – eggplant parmigiana – in a single bite.
“It is made with a liquid filling of eggplant and Parmigiano Reggiano, sheltered under a thin layer of homemade pasta, and formed into a button-shaped ravioli. It is boiled and then glazed in a fresh and concentrated tomato jus.”
What else makes it unique? “It is an ode to simplicity. It requires intensive craftsmanship where the technique is hidden below a very simple and minimal way,” he answers.
But you can’t just have that, and already be able to judge a restaurant, a chef, a cuisine, a cooking style, or a meal fairly. 😉
“We only do tasting menus at Estro because it is driven by my wish to let every guest experience not a single dish, but a series of dishes, to experience the difference between each other in terms of texture and flavour. They are like a puzzle; they need to be composed to see the final picture.”
And here are a few pictures to help you do just that. 😊
Here’s a challenge
If you’re not in Hong Kong at the moment (hence you won’t be able to sample Estro), why not use Chef Antimo’s descriptions and ingredients for each dish to make your own version? It’ll be fun. I for one would like to start with “Buttons”. 👏