It was an unusual anniversary, to say the least.
Hong Kong was deep in a season of unrest. Weekends were filled with massive protest marches that more and more often devolved into vandalism and violence. Oftentimes, the subway station would close stations or entire lines if the unrest reached a certain level in a neighborhood. This means, if you were in a protest area after the subways shut down, you could have trouble getting home.
Weeks earlier (Bryan, being the wonderful think-ahead planner that he is) had already confirmed a dinner reservation at Amber. Amber is located in the Landmark Mandarin in an area of Hong Kong called Central, basically the center of the city (and a popular protest spot).
To complicate things, Bryan was flying back to Hong Kong from a business trip that day, and the airport was another area in which protests were happening.
To make a long story short, we decided to book a night’s “staycation” at the Landmark Mandarin (the hotel where Amber is located) so that we could relax and not worry about how to get home after our dinner. Thankfully, Bryan was able to make it back from the airport just in time for us to make our anniversary dinner.
Despite the tough times, the folks at Amber were amazing and we had a elegant, flawlessly executed, and memorable anniversary dinner.
Amber’s new approach: dairy and gluten free
I was originally intrigued by Amber when I heard about Chef Richard Ekkebus’s new philosophy in the newly re-opened Amber (which opened in spring of 2019).
Chef Ekkebus desired to move towards food that is lighter, with less protein and more herbs and vegetables. Not only that, his menu is dairy and gluten-free. Imagine, a French restaurant without gluten (what? no more bread!) nor any dairy (whoa, no butter and cheese!).
I fell in love with the result. Refined, delicate food with a focus on flavors that reminded me of Japanese cuisine. The meal was indeed light and I felt so good afterwards (not uncomfortably stuffed).
We began with a beautiful riesling recommended by the sommelier. Crisp, complex flavors, not too sweet, and perfect for the type of food in this menu.
Our first course was a soybean tofu-like custard with black truffle and tomato water, topped with chili and tiny little dots of a green herb oil. It was refreshingly light and very elegant.
I really enjoyed the next course, a slice of aji (horse mackerel) and slices of kyuri cucumber served with wheatgrass, celtus, and virgin line seed oil.
Luxury in an uni shaped bowl – red aka uni served with a cream of cauliflower and lobster topped with Daurenki Tsar Imperial caviar.
Vegetables . . .
Next, a refreshing salad of teardrop peas, pomelo, cuttlefish, and wakame (seaweed).
For the next course, they invited us into the kitchen, which was fascinating. The newly renovated kitchen is state-of-the-art, and it hums along like a well-oiled machine.
It was fun to sit inside the kitchen to enjoy our stunning vegetarian course, a square shaped block that consisted of many artfully laid layers of pointed cabbage served with shiitake mushroom, button mushroom, and virgin hazelnut oil. It was very impressive.
Us in the kitchen!
Seafood and Meat
Blue lobster served with wild girolles mushrooms, kabu, hazelnuts, and vin jaune (yellow wine). The 1998 Pomerol from Chateau L’Eglise-Clinet was also fantastic.
A perfectly seared piece of A5 Wagyu beef sirloin served with baby romaine lettuce, onion, and an anchovy tamarind sauce.
Kyoho grapes, winter melon, lemon verbena, ginger, and tapioca.
Avocado ice cream, lime sorbet, Sicilian pistachio, granny smith apple, and Thai basil. Making desserts without dairy is challenging, and the pastry chef achieves this using nut milks, rice milk, and other creative alternatives.
Bitter chocolate, smoky bourbon barrel, Michters bourbon, and buckwheat. Yes, we splurged on dessert wine and enjoyed a glass of Chateau d’Yquem sauternes.
Similar to a tradition seen at a lot of Japanese restaurants, we ended with a slice of deliciously sweet melon. Because it was our anniversary, they included an extra cake for us to enjoy!
Amber Hong Kong – General Thoughts
What can I say, I absolutely loved Amber. The new approach suits me really, really well. I’ve always loved Japanese food and its meticulous focus on ingredients. Chef Ekkebus has taken some of Japan’s philosophies and uses of flavors in his new approach. In some ways, it’s not surprising that his new vegetable-focused, dairy and gluten free approach would take inspiration from Japanese food, which has much less dairy and gluten than traditional French food.
The flavors of the the different courses were excellent, and overall execution was flawless. We had a wonderful meal and really enjoyed the courses a lot.
The next day we were able to get home without any issues. However, things in Hong Kong are still not great, and there is much unhappiness and division in the city. Our hearts go out to those in Hong Kong who are struggling, and we continue to pray for Hong Kong during this difficult time.