The Only Italian 3-Star Michelin Restaurant That's Not Located In Italy

The Landmark Alexandra is a high-end shopping mall located in the heart of Hong Kong's exclusive Central district. Like many of the malls that cater to well-heeled shoppers, the directory is a Who's Who of exclusive designers, including Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, and Saint Laurent. But the Landmark Alexandra isn't just a hotspot for shoppers; it's also been deemed a worthy destination by Michelin inspectors, thanks to the presence of Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA — the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy that can boast three Michelin stars.

Otto e Mezzo is understated and elegant — much like the man whose vision gave rise to it. Umberto Bombana, the restaurant's chef and founder, told Tasting Table that "[It] was named after my favorite film by my favorite director, '8 ½' by Frederico Fellini." The chef was determined to incorporate elements of this classic movie into the dining space. He remarked, "I wanted something of the film in the decoration, like a poster. But it should also be comfortable and filled with art. I want the restaurant to be clean and elegant. Over time, I've put different artworks and paintings on the wall to inspire creation and have some beautiful things for the guests to look at."

Otto e Mezzo was Bombana's dream restaurant

Chef Bombana knows the Hong Kong market well. He first arrived in 1993 to work at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong's Toscana restaurant, and it was not long before Bombana and his interpretation of Northern Italian cuisine turned Toscana into destination dining for Hong Kong's gourmet elite. Bombana also put Toscana on the international gourmet map when he and the restaurant hosted the 2005 Global White Truffle Auction for charity. After benefactors outbid Marco Pierre White to snap up a kilogram of Alba white truffles for a record 95,000 euros, they turned the pricey ingredient over to him to prepare.

When The Ritz-Carlton (and Toscana) closed their doors in 2008, Bombana was given a chance to build his dream restaurant, which he did with Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA. And while its interiors may have been designed by a Japanese creative studio, they were executing the chef's vision of elegant cleanliness. At one end of the room are glass walls that give diners a view of the bustling road beneath. The 55-seat main dining area is made intimate by the strategic placement of glass partitions, and if diners require more privacy, there are two private dining rooms that seat up to a dozen. 

Otto e Mezzo is a canvas for Bombana's culinary creativity

Otto e Mezzo may be an elegant, well-designed space, but to Chef Bombana, it is a canvas on which he can create and display his culinary masterpieces. He isn't known as "The King of White Truffles" for no reason, and it's during white truffle season that the restaurant truly shines. One fan who made the journey to sample Bombana's white truffle tagliolini was so wowed he could only define the dish as "an experience," per Open Rice.   

While Michelin praises the chef for his ability to push the boundaries of traditional Italian cuisine, Bombana is simply interested in giving his diners the best meal his abilities will allow, and he is well aware that ingredient quality is no small part of this. The chef told us, "The inspiration has always been to find the best ingredients I can and let their flavors shine." Though Otto e Mezzo serves up a menu that changes with the seasons, Bombana indicates that his priority isn't about sourcing his ingredients only from the country that inspired his restaurant's cuisine. "The menu always depends on the produce, and I will consider any product from anywhere. It doesn't have to be from Italy, although I do use many ingredients from there. As long as it is good, I will consider using it. Beyond that, I wanted to create something personal and ambitious, just like Fellini's movie."

Bombana's priority remains his customers

Bombana's hard work was not in vain. Barely 11 months after it first opened its doors, Otto e Mezzo was awarded two Michelin stars, and by 2012 it made history by becoming the only Italian restaurant outside Italy to earn a third. 

Otto e Mezzo might have reached the pinnacle of culinary success, but to Chef Bombana, only one thing should matter to the chefs that aspire to achieve as much as he has. He says, "Michelin stars are a great honor, but young chefs should focus on their craft and skills in the kitchen. You have to make good food for your customers ... before you can achieve anything else." Chef Bombana appreciates the acclaim but told us, "My focus now is to give opportunities to other talented chefs ... I am willing to help young chefs, but they have to work hard first and develop their own creativity."