Sparkling Water: An Architect of flavours, Chef Ilaria Zamperlin showcases her passion for culinary artistry
The majority of us will, of course, prioritise the food when choosing a place for dinner. For some, though, the locale plays an equally important role in the overall dining experience; hence these restaurants frequently become attractions unto themselves. In the bustling city of Hong Kong, where culinary experiences abound, Aqua stands tall as an iconic destination – letting diners not only savour artistic dishes but also drink in exceptional sceneries.
At this awe-inspiring 17th-floor haven nestled almost atop H Zentre on the tip of Tsim Sha Tsui, diners are immersed in the unparalleled elegance of Italian cuisine, with its rich heritage and sophisticated flavours, while simultaneously meandering into the captivating realm of Japanese gastronomy, where tradition and innovation harmoniously coexist.
Aqua recently made waves in gastronomic circles with the announcement of a new Executive Chef, Ilaria Zamperlin. With her arrival, the storied Hong Kong culinary landmark embarks on a new chapter, blending Italian and Japanese cuisines under the watchful eyes of separate master chefs. As the first female chef to helm the Italian kitchen, Zamperlin brings her architectural background and two decades of culinary expertise to Aqua with the promise of a compelling dining experience.
“I think that cooking is very much like architecture; it’s all about laying down the perfect foundation,” she says. “At school, I would study different designs and prepare a series of sketches just for one project. I still do that with cooking. Precision and attention to detail are very important because my kitchen needs to replicate the same dishes every day. We need to make sure the foundations of the dish are there every time.”
Known for her ‘elevated Italian simplicity’, the chef has introduced a collection of Italian dishes on a new à la carte menu that moves from Rome to Tokyo. Among the many edible arts are appetisers of sweet Alaskan king crab dressed with caviar and green apple, and Sicilian red prawn carpaccio married with sea urchin and egg yolk emulsion.
Pasta highlights include Braised duck ravioli and the Sicilian classic Tortelli ‘norma’, stuffed with creamy eggplant and served with the holy tricolour of Italy’s flag expressed through basil, aged ricotta and date tomato confit. Awash with deep flavours of the sea is the vibrant Champagne and lobster bisque risotto served tableside with baby squid, scallops and red prawns. A main of Dover sole, prepared in the mugnaia manner, is accompanied by crispy leeks, carrot purée and an enticing sauce of lemon and capers.
With new creations like seared squid with prawn tempura roll; salmon, yellowtail, tuna and cream cheese roll with caviar; and homemade Abalone isoyaki with sea grape and tiger prawn sushi, Aqua’s Japanese kitchen, led by Executive Chef Iwahashi Tastuya, also offers a refreshing take on seafood.
The intimate low-lighting and laid-back atmosphere of the restaurant calls out for cocktails and thankfully, Aqua Spirit’s glamorous rooftop bar is happy to supply. There’s also something about the mirrored glass foyer, embellished with modern light fixtures, that feels very titillating, and the dining hall, full of pomp, buzzes with energy until closing. All these factors are reflected in this new Aqua menu.
“The ingredients, the shape, the texture – honestly, there are so many components that go into one dish,” expounds Zamperlin. “For me, sparking curiosity is key when it comes to making the perfect dish. Sometimes, it can be a simple recipe, but the aroma of fresh ingredients and the presentation can spark intrigue and surprise from the moment it touches the table to the first bite, leading to satisfaction.”
Boundaries fade away on a gastronomic journey that transcends borders and cultures. Seamlessly blending Eastern and Western, Aqua allows diners the freedom to curate their own culinary adventure, where each bite tells a story of harmonious fusion.
Aqua, 17/F, H Zentre, 15 Middle Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 3427 2288. aqua.com.hk