Monday, December 21, 2015

Amber - Charming as always

Cèpes at Amber
I don't think Amber needs any introduction. It's just funny to think that once upon a time I had to convince my bosses that it was worthy of being included alongside the Robuchons and other, older, hotel fine diners.

We were here for W's birthday. I wasn't sure if 3 weeks in advance was going to be far ahead enough to reach out for a Saturday night, so I panicked about not getting a booking and - full disclosure - I contacted chef Richard for a table.

We all got the 10-course degustation, and the kitchen very kindly sent us a few extras too.

I didn't have a proper camera with me, and the lighting at Amber is, well, atmospheric, so my phone photos are frankly awful, and I basically gave up on photographing all the courses.

The opening pic of cèpes with Jerusalem artichokes and hazelnut is probably one of my favourite dishes - I think I've had a a few times in the past couple years. It's rich and nutty yet light texturally, and the portion size is basically two tablespoons - but it's all you need.

Parsnip with black truffle
If I remember correctly, this is a parsnip cooked in a bed of salt. It's completely black on the outside but stays white within. I love parsnips so this was totally my cuppa. And yes, that's quite a bit of black truffle on top, and while it's not the best I've had this season (I can be a douche like that), it certainly had some pleasant aromas and had that nice humidity about it. I felt the deep-fried golden strands (mushroom?) on top took away from the natural sweetness and freshness of the rest of the ingredients, although it did add textural interest.

Hokkaido sea urchin
Yes, yes, of course we had the sea urchin. Growing Boy keeps threatening to #OccupyAmber if the dish gets taken off the menu, and I love it too - the delicious ocean flavours, fine chawanmushi-like base and airy nori waffle are a match made in heaven, but I agree with Chef's sentiments in my interview with him [PDF] - that he'd like people to try some of their kitchen's other (equally delicious) creations. When (or should I say, if) the dish is taken off in 2016 as promised, the only place you'll get to try it in the future is at Corey Lee's new restaurant in San Francisco's revamped Museum of Modern Art.

Cuttlefish carbonara
The cuttlefish was an extra course, and I reckon this has just as much potential to be Amber's "next" signature dish! The cuttlefish is sliced ridiculously thinly into pappardelle-like strands, and coated in a carbonara sauce. This and the cepes were probably my favourite dishes of the night.

This mint and chocolate number was the second dessert - the first being a gorgeous raspberry granita that just looked like a splatter of fuchsia through my phone camera lens. Does anyone else think mint + chocolate, ie. the "after 8" combination is having a bit of a renaissance? It had fallen out of favour for most of the 2000s and I feel like I'm seeing it and tasting it a lot more these days. Anyway, this was delightful - the mint came from the sorbet, not the deceptively green chocolate. There was a bit of a crumble underneath, followed a tiny, tender, warm dark chocolate fondant (or was it a really nicely moist cake? Either way it was elegantly chocolatey).

With wine, I feel like we had a bad stroke of luck that night. Service was impeccable, but my insistence on lower-priced Burgundies (yeah, I know, one should never choose lower-priced Burgundies) was my undoing. The first bottle was the last of the restaurant's stock and was corked, and the replacement bottle, Dupont-Tisserandot Gevrey Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2008 from turned out to have a way earthier, smokier nose than I bargained for. Having said that, no-one else at our table seemed to have a problem with it, so maybe it was just me.

Nonetheless it was another awesome night. My wallet will need time to recover, but it was money well spent.

Amber [map]
7/F, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental
The Landmark
15 Queen's Road Central
Hong Kong
tel: +852 2132 0066
Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily

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