‘Unique’ is one of the most over-used words in the English language. But every so often you stumble across something that is truly one of a kind. The Asia Society’s über-cool eatery,, is one such place.
What is essentially a large glass cube suspended within the verdant leafy jungle at the foothills of The Peak, AMMO’s surroundings are rare in themselves. But if the exteriors sing, the interior design is truly breath-taking.
The brainchild of award-winning architect Joyce Wang’s Wang Studios, AMMO evokes a cinematic experience from the film noir era. Wang says she was inspired by Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 blockbuster Alphaville, which explores the relationship between art, technology and society.
Dominating the room, three vast chandeliers rendered from spiral copper staircases cascade from the six-metre-high ceiling. A dramatic Art Deco-style copper mural behind the bar provides the focal point for drinkers, while the seductive white and dark leather chairs contrast luxuriously with velvet and silk. The place has a 1960’s attitude straight out of Mad Men and a martini cocktail list that would impress Don Draper. Weird-and-wonderful creations include the Kiwi Basil Martini, while the wine list has more than 300 varieties.
Wang says she drew her inspiration for the design from the historical, architectural and cultural significance of AMMO’s location. A former explosives magazine compound created by the British military in the mid-19th century, the area was totally renovated by renowned New York-based architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. It now belongs to the Asia Society Hong Kong, which doubles as a venue for regular arts exhibitions and academic talks.
The team behind the newly created AMMO, located underneath the Society, is local celebrity chef and restaurateur Tony Cheng and his mentor, chef Roland Schuller from The Drawing Room. Its signature is simple, elegant and affordable cuisine (the weekly three-course set lunch menu is just HK$288 +10%) with unpretentious service.
As for the menu (which is updated frequently), it is almost as creative as its interiors. There is a tapas menu featuring negra ham croquettes and cantábrico anchovies, but we opt for the à la carte. The theme is Mediterranean with an Asian twist. To start, we choose the delicious braised quail served with grapes, pancetta and buttery sauce, and the mouth-watering slow-cooked egg in potato foam with black truffle pâté. This dish has a DIY element: one stirs the uncooked egg slowly into the hot potato as it melts into glorious yolky gooeyness, pervaded throughout with earthy black-truffle flavours.
Next is the pasta. We order angel-hair capellini, simply and generously loaded with sea urchin, tomatoes and garlic. Then, of course, we had to taste Cheng’s signature dish: a fabulous plate of homemade orange-hued pappardelle swollen with veal and pork meatballs, glistening with salty, crunchy parmesan cheese.
Although there was no room left for dessert, greed reigned supreme. Served in two martini glasses, we devoured a tiramisu, thick with Kahlúa and espresso, and a Prosecco jelly, served with a refreshingly light Champagne sorbet.
The menu truly tastes Michelin-starred, without the Michelin price tags. This year the restaurant won the Michelin Bib Gourmand award, as well as ranking highly in Hong Kong Tatler and LOFT’s top restaurant lists.
As well as being slang for ‘ammunition’, AMMO also stands for Asia, Modern, Museum and Original. It is all of this and so much more. Go, but make sure you book. Expect a two-week waiting list for dinner: a testimony that speaks for itself.