It’s a sad but true fact that many of the fanciest looking meals often turn out to be a case of style over substance. Having seen how utterly amazing all of the dishes at Amber in The Landmark Mandarin Oriental looked in photos, I’ll admit to being slightly worried that this might be the case yet again – but having now put them to the test, Jaime and I can tell you that their beautiful presentation is just the cherry on top of an out-of-this-world gastronomic experience!
I’m sure most of you are aware of the string of Michelin stars, glowing awards and rave reviews that Head Chef Richard Ekkebus has received at Amber, so let’s skip straight to the food itself!
From our selection of bite-sized canapés and mise en bouches (the magic is in quite how much flavour Ekkebus packs into something so tiny!), the signature foie gras chupa chup was the showstopper. The raspberry and beetroot shiny coating almost fooled us into mistaking it for its sweetie namesake but bite in, and you’ll discover that you much prefer this savoury version! The beetroot’s slight bitterness was a little overpowering initially but soon, the sublime smoothness of the perfect foie gras seeped through, melting in our mouths like honey and leaving us aching for more.
Our tasting menu soon became a string of highlight after highlight. An amuse bouche of cauliflower velouté with Taiyouran egg and black winter truffles was beautiful – delicate but utterly moreish, with that incredible truffle flavour shining through. The Hokkaido sea urchin in a lobster jell-o with cauliflower, caviar and crispy seaweed waffles was nothing short of phenomenal, somehow managing to perfectly encapsulate the taste of the sea without feeling like we were swilling out mouths with saltwater!
Next up, langoustines seared with bergamot, dark roasted brioche, caramelized parsnip puree and raw pear; another masterclass in perfectly combined flavours and textures. This might just be the best piece of langoustine we’ve ever tasted in Hong Kong – soft, tender, sweet and just lovely.
Neither of us are big fans of oysters (despite their well known “benefits”!), so we eyed the Ebisu oyster with some trepidation! Topped with shallots, duck gizzard, mushrooms and vin jaune, this dish proved a little too strong for Rach but swiftly had Jaime converted. The saltwater flavour of the oyster, cooked at 67 degrees in its shell, subtly came through but wasn’t too overpowering thanks to its perfectly partnered gamey topping – taking this dish from scary shellfish to a sublime surf and turf pairing.
Our main was a beautifully presented trio of Iberian pork. Forget the standard boring cuts of pork you’re served elsewhere; instead, we were served “everything above the shoulder” which translated into chin, cheek and pluma (a muscle in the neck), with cubes of head meat for texture. Accompanied by black truffle coulis, salt roasted celeriac and small chunks of Pink Lady apple, our favourite turned out to be the the pluma, challenging our normal pork conceptions with a deliciously deep flavour. The chin reminded us of pork belly and melted in the mouth, but we found the cheek a little too dense for our liking. Whilst this dish was delicious, it didn’t outshine the more delicate starters earlier.
Our cleverly planned menu had ensured that we still weren’t quite bursting at the seams… Which was lucky, as there was no way we could have resisted the pre-dessert (yes, you heard me, pre-dessert!) – strawberry in a hibiscus infusion with olive oil caviar, Sichuan pepper and cassis granite. The strawberry was perfectly sweet, complemented by the contrasting flavours of the more earthy hibiscus and subtle spice of the peppers, all rounded off by the light bulb moment when the olive oil caviar “popped” open in your mouth.
Such a light and elegant pre-dessert might have been ruined if followed by something too heavy, but the main dessert was an exquisite clementine sorbet with confit zest and an accompanying almond semi-freddo. The clementine sorbet was mind-blowing, filling your mouth with a tart, slightly sweet orange flavour that was wonderfully offset by the smoothness of the semi freddo.
We surveyed the empty plates and declared that Amber was certainly worth all the hype. Each dish was perfectly thought through, impeccably well paired and inventive enough to challenge your preconceptions and taste buds without seeming unnecessarily showy. This was French dining at its best, paired with the beautiful classy setting and top-notch service you’d expect of a modern five-star hotel. Of course, this kind of quality doesn’t come cheap – dishes on the a la carte menu can set you back up to $1400, whilst the 8-course degustation menu starts at $1888 per person – but with such premium ingredients, masterly cooking techniques and innovative flavour combinations, it’s worth every cent. Special occasion dining doesn’t come much better than this.
As we were contemplating how we could possibly ensure we returned at least once a month, three tiers of beautiful petit fours arrived. Each bite of perfect macaroon, marshmallow and biscuit cemented in our minds that Amber was worthy of every single accolade it has received – and no doubt, many more to come!
P.S. As Jaime is gluten-free, Amber had prepared us with a special tasting menu – although some of the portions are smaller and the ingredients differ slightly, most dishes can be found on the a la carte menu. If you want an experience similar to ours, check out the evening degustation menus.
Amber 7/F, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen’s Road Central
2132 0066 www.amberhongkong.com