Hong Kong is home to a handful of solid Italian-American restaurants — Carbone and Mezzo are the first that come to mind. Joining that list is New Jersey-style Italian restaurant Frank’s.
Perched atop the cobblestone hill on Pottinger Street, this new restaurant, with its deep red upholstery and jazz and soul background music, makes you feel like you’re patronizing the kind of restaurant that Tony Soprano would eat at.
Coconuts HK visited recently, and started off our meal with some of the restaurant’s signature pork meatballs (HK$148). They were meaty, chunky, and deeply flavorful — and, also not drowning in too much tomato sauce and parmesan cheese, which is always a good sign.
Next up were some fresh oysters (HK$168), which were solid — we didn’t feel the need to add any Tabasco, just a drizzle of lemon to enhance that beautifully briny base flavor.
Sticking with the shellfish, the restaurant’s baked cherrystone clams (HK$168) — made with ‘nduja (an intensely flavored, soft, spreadable Italian salami), urchin butter, and breadcrumbs — are pretty good. The clams were a bit on the small side for us, and we couldn’t really remember tasting a lot of clam. That said, we liked the slightly buttery flavor, the texture of the breadcrumbs, and the slightly gentle kick from the pepper.
We shared this dish among a table of six, and could have easily handled another serving.
We also had the rock shrimp cocktail (HK$128), which we’re glad wasn’t drowning in too much sauce, although we would have liked it if there was something else like a bit of pepper or spice to cut through the creaminess, especially after that baked clam dish.
Regardless, it’s a decidedly Instagrammable dish served up in a martini glass, so we’ll give it that.
Frank’s homemade burrata and Sicilian red prawns (HK$148) was another shrimp sharing dish that we enjoyed, and the juicy cherry tomatoes was a nice added touch.
It’s a nice sharing dish, though we were a bit disappointed with the burrata and cherry tomatoes to shrimp ratio.
One dish we need to single out for praise is the ricotta gnudi (HK$178). Think of a gnocchi dumpling, but made with ricotta instead of potatoes. Frank’s serves theirs with brown butter and sage.
The result is a dumpling that is soft and pillowy, creamy, but not overpowering, and surprisingly light given the generous amount of parmesan fonduta sauce poured onto it.
Having had our fill of the seafood, it was on to the mains, which were definitely meatier. Our procession began with some beef short ribs (HK$248), which were served with polenta, mushroom, and mirepoix (diced vegetables — usually a trio of onion, carrots, and celery — cooked with either butter or oil or other fat, for a long time on a low heat without color or browning).
The beef — which we were told had been cooked for more than four hours — was tender, flavorful, and fell off the bone, and melted in your mouth. It paired really well with the creamy polenta.
If you’re into pastas, they do that too (of course they do) — and we’d single out the orrecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe (HK$178) as a damned good one to start with. It’s a pretty generous portion for one person, too.
Frank’s side dishes — in particular the mushroom trifolata (HK$68) and crispy new potatoes (HK$68) — are also must-orders for the table, and ideal for sharing between two to four people. Both sides were very rich and flavorful, and the potatoes especially were particularly more-ish.
We ended the meal with one of Frank’s signature dishes, the chicken parmigiana (HK$198 classic HK$238 supreme) — it’s a large and hearty dish, definitely meant for sharing, as it’s plenty for three to four people. After a few bites, it did feel like it needed something else, a bit of Tabasco or pepper to give it just a bit more bite and dimension.
Another major thing that really struck us about Frank’s was just how nice and lively the atmosphere was — something helped, in large part, by great music. Props to whoever put together the playlist here, which runs from 1960s big band to 1970s soul and funk.
Overall, we had a pretty great overall experience at Frank’s, and enjoyed everything we were served. It’s not quite one of the best Italian restaurants in Hong Kong, but it’s certainly worth making a trip to, especially if you’re looking for something that specifically serves Italian-American food.
Of course, if you’re a snob about Italian food and believe the Italian-American variety is a travesty — actually, we still think it’s worth giving a shot. Tony Soprano would agree.
Frank’s is at 79 Wyndham Street, Central
Reservations: +852 9097 9730
Mon-Thurs, 6pm-2am; Fri-Sat, 6pm-4am
MTR: Central (approx. 5 minute walk)
Correction: A previous version of this review referenced the addition of salt water to the oysters. We have been informed in no uncertain terms that nothing was added after the fact, and have updated the contents of the original article to reflect that.