Header image: Umberto Bombana with his fassone veal tenderloin, confit salsify, mushroom, aromatic cheese and Alba white truffle
Umberto Bombana, chef-owner of 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Hong Kong, has won The Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award for Asia 2017.
We caught up with the cook, whose culinary empire has expanded across Asia in recent years, at his flagship restaurant in Hong Kong's Central.
A native of Bergamo in the Southern Alps and a devotee of Alban white truffles, Chef Bombana is unmistakably Italian. But after 25 years in Hong Kong, he says his success is down to the sophisticated dining scene in his adopted city.
“Hong Kong diners are very well-travelled,” says Bombana. “When they travel, they really enjoy their restaurant experiences – they have so much knowledge and palate and they come from a background of Cantonese cuisine. If you provide quality, they appreciate it.”
Bombana’s Hong Kong clientele was quick to accept his offering of white truffle, which the chef almost single-handedly introduced to the local dining scene, earning him the title of ‘king of white truffles’.
Poularde from Bresse, braised savoy cabbage with chanterelle mushroom and Alba white truffle
White truffle has become “a status symbol” in Hong Kong, with the chef’s 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana now serving one of the highest quantities of the ingredient in the world. Bombana’s Hong Kong diners will debate at length the quality and merits of the latest season, just as they might do with wine.
“When I slice the truffle, people are shocked,” says the chef. “They have an amazing reaction – they come back again and again. I’ve been here a long time and truffle has always been my passion.”
Bombana’s passion is hard to disguise – in true Italian fashion, he waxes lyrical about flavours, ingredients, fragrance and quality. He adores his customers and is driven by a happy client – the ultimate goal being an immediate return booking made at the end of a meal. With three Michelin stars and a consistent spot in the upper echelons of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, it’s unlikely his devoted client base will be going anywhere any time soon.