Saturday, 19 January 2013

Amber @ The Landmark Mandarin Oriental

Elegance French cuisine with a touch of Far East influence


On my holiday in Hong Kong, I visited Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Central. The highest ranked restaurant from Hong Kong in the 2012 World's Best restaurants from the Restaurant magazine at 44, and holder of two Michelin stars, one of only two French restaurants in Hong Kong to manage to do so in the 2013 edition. (The other being Spoon by Alain Ducasse) I was on a mission to see the level of consistency of Michelin guide in another part of the world as it has always been a big topic to see if the Hong Kong guide is getting it right.

So back to my Amber review, Amber is located within the busy shopping district inside the grand Landmark Mandarin Oriental. I stopped at the Mo Bar inside the hotel first as it is suppose to be one of the best Hong Kong Hotel bars providing top class cocktails. The décor of the bar is beautiful, easily the most glamorous bar I have been to. Below is a picture from asia-bars.com as my own picture from my crappy phone just simply doesn't do the bar justice. 

Mo Bar, photo from asia-bars.com


Opening the menu and the first thing I saw was:
Syrups, macerated fruit and infusion are made in-house
All fruit juices are squeezed fresh daily
No flavoured vodkas unless distilled with real fruit

I like what I saw! By doing the above it increases the cost and effort for the bar greatly but trust me, this really increases the quality of the cocktails as nothing beats freshly made syrups and freshly squeezed juice. Too much bottled syrup and fruit juices have added chemicald, artificial colouring, and flavour one way or another. The Mo Bar way guarantee freshness and as natural as possible. I went for the Motox cocktail, which contained Belvedere Citrus Vodka, Luxardo Limoncello, coriander, ginger root, cloudy apple, pineapple and lemon. This is one refreshing drink, sweet and sour with a hint of spices coming from the ginger, this is the drink you want in your hand on a hot summer day. I would have loved to stay for another round but I had to go as I know I had plenty of wine waiting for me at Amber and I didn't want to be wasted whilst I ate!
Motox cocktail

So off we went to Amber, the décor is a typical five stars dining room setting, we went for the weekend 6 course menu with wine pairing. To start off the menu, we were offered the Alfred Gratien Brut Classique champagne by the lovely head sommelier John to go with the bread and amuse bouche. the best bread I have had so far in Hong Kong, the olive bread was so soft with both great aroma and taste of olive in the bread, even better after adding little bit of olive oil and just a few dashes of vinegar. And out of the three amuse bouche the foie gras lollypop really stood out, reminded me of the Meat Fruit from Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental London. The smooth and creamy foie gras parfait clothed with sweet and fruity jelly texture. This is the ultimate lolly pop for the grown up!
amuse bouche

Next up came the starter, Foie Gras Ballotine, wrapped in aged Culatello Di Zibello, with madeira jell-O, black autumn truffles, celeriac, served with grilled bread. A very solid plate of foie gras, rich and bold, good depth of flavours with the Italian ham releasing a hint of fattiness and saltiness around the edge to add a more robust taste, with every mouthful giving a different and exciting texture and taste depending if accompanied with the jelly, truffles or celeriac. The crisp, clean and light body of the Riesling Gobelsburger was great to clear up your palate to allow you to experience the next mouthful of a different taste sensation.
 Foie Gras Ballotine

On to the middle course: Line caught John Dory, steamed with prawns and espelette pepper, heirloom carrots, braised fennel and prawn bisque. Steaming is a popular Chinese way to cook fresh fish, besides water bathing, it is probably the best way to maintain all the sweetness and freshness of the fish, so it was interesting to see the John Dory steamed but in a French style. The fish was cooked nicely, the flavours of the vegetable and prawns mixed nicely with the fish whilst in the steaming process it created a light and unique taste which I really enjoyed. And with the rich and salty prawn bisque sitting at the base, this was a smart dish using Chinese techniques to create a French plate of food. And I've got to hand it to John for the wine selection of the Chateau Larrivet haut-brion blanc. The smooth and creamy taste worked great with the fish. It was almost like a creamy white sauce but in a wine form!
Line Caught John Dory

Now the main, Iberian pork 'pluma' dusted with 'quatre Žpices' then char grilled kabocha pumpkin, fresh hazel nuts and vintage sherry vinaigrette. A very interesting concept having a touch of nutty and sour taste over on top of the sweet and mild flavours of the pork and pumpkin. For me, the spices should have been a little bit more to lift up the pork, the pumpkin tasted wonderful, the wine matching: Digioia Royer Bourgogne, a sweet and fruity wine from France. The tasting profile matched the dish but would have been better if the body was a little lighter as the pork was a rich dish.
 Iberian pork

Over to the sweet, three tasting desserts one after another, as usual I am already pretty full at this stage! First was the Cassls sorbet, blanc-de-blancs champagne meringue over a lemon custard, the lightest desert of the day with a shape sour taster coming from the champagne and lemon, I guess the idea was to clear up your palate. It was ok but nothing special.

However, I really enjoyed the second dessert: Chestnut with William pears cassis coulis chestnut ice-cream. Well balanced with the lovely pear nose and a hint of nutty after taste, Then it is the Tainori 64% chocolate with black tea over a meyer lemon jell-O milk sorbet. I found it just a little bit too strong as a final desert, it tasted great but I just couldn't finish it as I am not a fan of rich dessert when its come to a 5+ course meal.


We finished off the meal on a high with lovely petit four and Earl Grey tea. I really enjoyed the petit four, it really showed off the great pastry skill with a good balance of sweet and softness. Probably the best petit four of 2012 alongside Hibiscus' in London.


I had a little tour around the kitchen at the end with Paul, the chef de cuisine who used to worked with Michael Caines at the famous Gidleigh Park in the UK. The scale of the kitchen is massive. A lot bigger than other Hotel restaurants in London such as Alan Williams at Westbury and Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley. Paul showed me around each section and it was wonderful to understand a bit more how the magic happened at the kitchen before transferring on to our dinner plates. The service was spot on as expected in a 2 star restaurant. Knowledgeable, friendly with great attention to details. I recommend it if you are searching for a memorable haute cuisine experience in Hong Kong.

Food 4/5

Executive chef: 
Richard Ekkebus

What I paid: 
£81 per head, with 4 glasses of wine

Average cost without drinks and services:
Lunch menu: £49
Tasting menu: £227


The Landmark Edinburgh Tower (the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel)
11-19A Queen's Road Central, Central, 
Hong Kong

www.amberhongkong.com

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