Apparently it’s porcini mushroom season (September to November), and Osteria Marzia — which specializes in “coastal Italian” cuisine — is making use of that bounty with a special menu that features seafood and porcini mushrooms paired together.
Located on a corner of Fleming Road, the restaurant is ideally situated for Central Plaza office workers who want to have a client lunch that’s within stumbling distance from their desks.
The restaurant’s got high ceilings and windows surrounding a spacious dining area. Natural light pouring through those windows hit translucent blue tiles, meant to mimic the look of shimmering waves — an homage to the southern Italian coast. It’s also decked out like the old Star Ferry from the ’50s, and this ferry theme even extends into the restrooms. Cute.
On to the food. We start with Osteria Marzia’s crispy porcini (HK$238), a bowl of thinly-sliced porcini mushrooms that have been deep-fried in Calabrian breadcrumbs, and a side of sweet garlic dip.
These were damned good. They are deep-fried, and dipped in a garlic-based sauce, after all. We particularly liked how small the breadcrumbs were, which was really suitable for those thinly sliced mushrooms. They didn’t feel oily or greasy at all.
Another appetizer, the zuppa di porcini (HK$168), is a great follow-up to the fried form — it’s a thick, creamy soup with parmesan sauce drizzled on. The blended porcini base paired with the parmesan makes for an extra earthy, satisfying flavor. Delicious.
Those croutons, though. They were a tad too salty. We’re guessing that the chefs intended it that way, so that that saltiness could act as a subtle contrast to the earthiness of the other ingredients. What it actually did for us, though, was cut through the pure flavors of the porcini too sharply. We ended up eating around the last few croutons.
Moving onto the mains — let’s start with the sea bream in porcini crust (HK$598).
The sea bream is cooked with a layer of browned porcini mushrooms, and topped with a porcini emulsion with thyme. The flavors balanced out really nicely, and we’re glad to report that the addition of thyme was not too overpowering.
Do keep in mind that you’re going to have to enjoy an oily texture to fully get into this one, though. The sauce made the sea bream — an already oily fish — even more oily, so you’ll want to eat this one before the fish has time to cool down too much, otherwise it could end up feeling oily in an unpleasant way.
Next up, we’ve got the tiger prawn ravioli (HK$278), made with porcini ragu, scallops, and a Sorrento lemon butter. The kitchen didn’t go too cutesy with the presentation on this one, but holy crap, was it good.
The tiger prawn ravioli was a perfect combination of earthy porcini ragu, ravioli, and flakes of king prawn. It’s flavored with a bit of Sorrento lemon butter that’s made from the lemon pith (that’s the white layer in between the peel and the pulp), which added a nice spike of clean, citrusy sweetness to the dish.
Osteria Marzia also has a cocktail menu, and we tried one of those offerings — the Amalfi (HK$128), a dry, fruity cocktail made of Ketel One vodka, pomegranate liqueur, lemon juice (apparently the lemons they press are sent in from Amalfi), and egg white. It was light, frothy, and refreshing, and made for a nice dessert-like end to the meal.
Side note: They also do big birthday surprises that are intended to make all the diners in the room turn and stare. It gets loud. Really loud.
The staff will put Latin dance music on full blast, put the lights out, and make a fair bit of hubbub as they come out of the kitchen with a cake (some of them complete the procession by waving towels in the air). This happened twice during our meal, so if you’re the kind of person looking to embarrass someone during their birthday meal — pick this place! If that person simply likes attention, pick this place.
Osteria Marzia is at G/F, The Fleming, 41 Fleming Road, Wan Chai
Reservations: +852 3607 2253
Mon-Fri, 12pm-2:30pm and 6pm-11:30pm; Saturday-Sunday, 6pm to 11:30pm
MTR: Wan Chai (approx. 5 minute walk)