March23rd, 2012

Gaia Ristorante has over the years established its position in the upper echelon of Italian restaurants in Hong Kong. Opened in 2001 in a location where the Central business district merges into the increasingly fashionable  Western district of Sheung Wan, Gaia occupies a ground floor space that opens onto a piazza style outdoor area at the Grand Millenium Plaza commercial development. Gaia takes advantage of the opportunity to re-create the Italian style of indoor/outdoor dining, and executes with a distinctive and glamorous style. Featuring a modern interior design that blends a vibrant Italian style of the 1960′s, with more pared-back features such as natural timber floors, and the full height, folding back windows that open up the interior onto the adjoining outdoor garden terrace settings. The cuisine style is essentially modern Italian, with some influences from California, that culminates in a lighter, healthier style of eating.

Gaia is owned and operated by the eponymous Gaia Group -  and was the first restaurant established by this now widely renowned Group.  Specialising in operating stylish, elegant Italian and Mediterranean restaurants in Hong Kong and China, other notable restaurants operated by the Group in Hong Kong  include ISOLA bar & grill , Va Bene , Zelo and Costa Cafe.

Gaia has a strong following among a discerning clientele of local Hong Kong residents, with many regular patrons enjoying both the consistency and quality of the Italian cuisine, and the refined elegance of the dining experience. Open every day from midday to midnight, Gaia has a very popular lunchtime set menu featuring their Antipasti Buffet. The outdoor terrace tables, surrounded by lush vegetation and with an outlook over the piazza, provide a relaxed and casual environment for long afternoons and evenings.

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The recently re-decorated front bar and lounge area

The interior design of Gaia exudes an atmosphere of sophisticated elegance – with bold red the predominant color highlight- featured in the bar furnishings, lamp shades, and also some of the internal walls and ceilings. The bar & lounge area at the front of the restaurant cues a retro- Italian style of the 1960′s- featuring a long curving red leather banquette, red fronted bar counter and the striking geometric pattern of the Gio Ponti floor.

Within the main dining area, the polished blond timber floors compliment the white ceilings and walls, crisp white table clothes and dark timber chairs. Large, full height glass windows fold back in warm weather to open up to the outdoor terrace and suffuse the interior with natural light during the day. Two smaller dining rooms open off the main floor space- the first one- with bold red walls and ceiling-  can be discretely enclosed behind plush velvet curtains. The other separate dining section is on a slightly raised level at the end of the room and is highlighted by a dramatic effect of floor to ceiling wine racks along the full length of all three walls. With a soft red hue coming from the reds wall and ceiling the atmosphere is at once both elegant and romantic.

At the head of the main dining floor, standing under a glimmering chandelier, is a large round table setting that is the focal point of the room. Dark brown velvet curtains hang full height from the ceiling, and partly, or fully enclose the table area for the required degree of privacy.

The outdoor terrace seating is under large Italian market style parasols, and the space is bordered with large planter boxes of verdant tropical plants. The outlook over the piazza is reminiscent of the classic piazzas of Italian cities- and the development of the Grand Millenium Plaza project was designed to incorporate features such as a local version of the “Spanish Steps” and fountain of Roman fame.

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 The main dining room table settings

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Semi-private room- with heavy velvet curtains across the entrance

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Spectacular setting of the head table- which can be enclosed with the velvet curtain for privacy

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Raised dining section with featured full-height wine racks extending across the walls

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The walls of wine bottles provide an attractive background to the dining environment 

The kitchen at Gaia has been headed by Chef Paolo Monti since the inception of the restaurant. He brings a depth of  culinary experience from both his native Rome, and subsequently a number of years cooking in some of the leading Italian restaurants in Los Angeles. The blending of his Italian culinary heritage with the contemporary style of California is now expressed in the modern Italian cuisine served at Gaia.  Authentic Italian dishes are served in a “lighter”, more health conscious style than “classic”, old-style Italian restaurants, a modern style more in balance with the preferences of contemporary diners.

The menu is structured along classic Italian lines- commencing with antipasta; followed by primi piatti with selections of pasta and risotto; a selection of Roman style- thin-crusted pizzas; secondi piatti feature grilled and roasted meats and seafood, and finally dessert selections.  The Roman-style pizzas are particularly popular at Gaia- the super thin, crisp crusts are stacked with fresh ingredients – such as the “classic” Rughetta & Prosciutto- fresh arugula and thin sliced Parma Prosciutto. Main dish highlights include the  Carre’ d’ Agnello in Crosta de Nocciola Gentile del Piemonte- slow oven roasted lamb rack with hazelnut crust; and Costoletta di Vitello con Battuto d’Aglio ed Erbe, Orzotto ai Porcini- Pan roasted veal chop with garlic and herbs, porcini mushrooms and barley risotto.

The wine cellar holds an impressive list of over 600 labels of mostly Italian and French wines- selected to perfectly compliment the cuisine served at Gaia.  Bottle prices range from HK$300 up to HK$30,000 for the most rare vintages. The bar serves a selection of Signature Cocktails- including classic martinis, frozen margaritas and innovative fruit based concoctions.

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Gaia Signature Cocktail- RASPBERRY COLLINS- fresh raspberries and lime shaken with vodka and raspberry liqueur, topped with soda

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Antipasta Selection- lobster, grilled octopus, blue fin tuna and smoked caviar antipasto salad

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Primi Piatti- Spicy wheels pasta with succhine, eggplant, dried tomato and smoked mozzarella

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Secondi Piatti-  Tuscan sea bass roasted on maple wood with bay leaf and vanilla tomatoes

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Outdoor tables in the piazza setting

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Gaia Ristorante –  Hong Kong

Address: G/F The Piazza, Grand Millenium Plaza, 181 Queen’s Road,  Central. Hong Kong
MTR:  Sheung Wan station –  Exit E2 – 2 minutes walk
Reservations: +852. 2167 8200
Website:  www.gaiagroup.com.hk/gaia
Opening hours:  Daily  12:00 noon  ~ 12:00 midnight
Attire:  Smart casual