Wednesday, 27 December 2017

French Cuisine with an Inventive Twist at Amber, 2-Star Michelin Restaurant in Hong Kong

Savouring exquisite creations at Amber

   Amber Restaurant, located at level seven of the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong is one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world. A 2-Michelin star restaurant six times running, Amber has garnered an impressive list of accolades including being No.24 on The World’s 50 Restaurants List and No. 3 on Asia’s 50 Restaurants List, sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna and Best Restaurant in China. It is also listed as Forbes Five Star Restaurant.

   The exquisite restaurant is helmed by Dutch Culinary Director, Chef Ekkebus, who has honed his culinary skills in the kitchens of Alain Passard, Guy Savoy and Piere Gagnaire. While his cuisine is deeply rooted in French tradition, he introduces an inventive twist to French classics by including ingredients from Japan and other parts of Asia.

   Service is immaculate and the F&B team impressed me with their knowledge in the ingredients and preparation methods.

The elegant setting

   The dramatic chandeliers are the main features of the restaurant with 4,320 bronze rods suspended above the elegant dining room. Designed by international design maverick, Adam Tihany, warm metallic glow is blended with Australian walnut window louvers, allowing natural sunlight to illuminate the interior. Be charmed by the glass walls surrounding the private dining rooms which showcase a dazzling display of 3,000 –bottle vintage wine collection from around the world.

   I was delighted to have the opportunity to try the Weekend Wine Lunch which was a luxurious treat for the senses. All the various elements such as taste, presentation and service combined seamlessly together to offer a sublime dining experience. For the wine pairing, I requested to have a mix of Champagne and cocktails.

   The meal commenced in three sessions of small bites awakening the senses, focusing on five basic tastes including Salt, Sour, Bitter, Sweet and Umami.

Selection of Light Bites

Session 1
Salt
   The first appetiser consisted of aerated and frozen distilled sea water pearl with seaweed jam on an oyster leaf served with sea grape and seaweed dust. The savoury and briny flavours were captivating.

Sour
   Another item from the first session was the lemon caviar lime and clove macaroon which  comprised crispy egg white macaroon filled with a savoury lemon custard topped with a caviar lime gel and closed with a clove and lime brandy snap. This offered a contrasting tangy flavor which helped me to refresh my palate.

   Pinot Noir NV was served to accompany the appetisers. The crisp taste and fruity notes enhanced the overall taste of the appetisers. 

Session 2
Bitter 
   I like the Guinness dry stout beer with onions, salted hazelnuts and crispy cereals.  The onion stew was deglazed with Guinness beer and shaped into a sphere through a meticulous culinary process of spherification and topped with puffed and crispy fried cereals. It was a harmonious blend of savoury, sweet and bitter flavours coupled with the crispness of the crunchy cereals.

Sweet
   Another item from the second session included the crispy feuille de brick tart shell with concentrated Hokkaido milk gel, topped with sugar pea purée and mint and extra virgin olive oil seasoned sugar peas. This was pleasantly sweet without being too overwhelming.


Session 3
Umami

  The chawanmushi with fruit tomato confit was very smooth and silky and melted instantly in my mouth. The  creamy custard was superbly prepared with eggs, dashi, sake, miso and a little soy sauce and topped with Japanese tomato simmered over low fire. It was served in a nori (seaweed) broth and topped with seaweed crackes.  The absence of salt allows one to truly appreciate the umami taste and the seaweed crackers were a delightful accompaniment to the chawanmushi.

Duck foie gras

   For starter, the duck foie gras was attractively assembled on a stone and served with kombu-jime and confit salad of wakame and daikon, organic lemonrind, gel and dust and seaweed brioche. The taste was fresh and inviting, preparing my palate for the mains. Oolong tea with cranberry and lime was served to accompany the foie gras. The distinct taste of the Oolong with citrus notes complemented the foie gras excellently.

Hokkaido milk ravioli

   The next course was the Hokkaido milk ravioli simmered in an organic lemon butter with green peas, nicoise olives, tomato confit, smoked anchovy and basil leaves. This was a complimentary dish from the chef which hit all the right notes. I love the lovely, creamy texture and rich flavours. Each morsel was a burst of delight for my taste buds. Mango, pineapple juice and agave syrup was served to accompany this course, revitalising the taste buds.

Cantarian octopus

   The cantabrian octopus was another well-executed dish. It was grilled over charcaoal with coulis of fermented bell pepper with pearl onions and octopus cooking juice emulsion. The octopus was succulent with a hint of smokiness, delivering gratification in every bite.

Line caught madai

   For the main, I had the line caught madai imported from Japan. The madai belongs to the seabream family and has a sweet aroma and delicate texture. The madai was deftly executed with ‘lardo di colonnata’ (Italian cured meat), fava bean and fava been sauce. Overall, the taste was well balanced with the sweetness of the fava beans and the slight saltiness of the ‘lardo di colonnata’.

The kabocha pumpkin

  The kabocha pumpkin was the transition course which helped to cleanse my palate before the dessert. This is probably the most unique palate cleansing dish I have ever tried. Kabocha is a type of Japanese winter squash or pumpkin which is prized for its sweet taste and velvety texture and resembles both the sweet potato and the pumpkin. When you sink your teeth into the kabocha pumpkin, you’ll be amazed by the cool, icy menton lemon and nutmeg sorbet within. Pumpkin seeds were also added to enhance the taste. The delightful contrast of the flavours and textures of the kabocha and pumpkin made this a very distinctive and memorable dish.

Coconut and kaffir lime sorbet 'vacherin' with pineapple cream, poached pineapple and coconut mousse

   A skilful combination of coconut and pineapple topped with meringue, the coconut and kaffir lime sorbet 'vacherin' with pineapple cream, poached pineapple and coconut mousse is ideal for anyone desiring something fruity. 

Ethiopian coffee and hazelnut praline mousse

   Desserts at Amber were spectacular, ending my epicurean experience on a sensational note. The Ethiopian cofffee and hazelnut praline mousse was exquisitely crafted with an 'ébène' chocolate ganache centre glazed in coffee with cold infused ethiopian coffee ice cream. It was refreshing and perfect for coffee connoisseurs. I personally found the taste very invigorating and satisfying. 

Petit Fours

   The finale course was the petite fours which consisted of almond and elderflower financier with peach which is gluten free and baked with corn starch, the young carrot and amanatsu paste with green cardamom and bitter ‘kacinkoa’ chocolate and mineral water ganache with lime zest and coconut chantilly. All were artistically presented and served in dainty portions. My favourite was the bitter ‘kachinkoa’ chocolate with lime zest and choconut chantilly which was divine and was the ideal conclusion after an awesome meal.

   The Weekend Wine Lunch is priced at HK $1,038+, which is a little on the steep side. However, the impeccable service, flawless and meticulous execution of dishes, exquisite flavours and refined setting made up for it.

   Amber Restaurant is located at level 7 of the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong (15 Queen's Road, Central, Hong Kong).

   For reservations, please call +852 2132 0066, email lmhkg-mail@mohg.com. Alternatively, please visit the restaurant's website here.



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