Amber, Central (Hong Kong)

18 March 2012
by Phuoc

Recently, I went to Hong Kong for a quick holiday. Most of my time was spent eating street food, walking around and window shopping. Ant and I managed to spend one night indulging in some fine dining during our stay. We were in Hong Kong during Valentine’s Day but decided against doing something on the actual day and delayed it instead. I basically told him to surprise me by choosing a place to dine at. With plenty of Michelin star restaurants to choose from, he settled with Amber and didn’t want me to know where we were going until we arrived at the restaurant.

Upon entering the restaurant, we received a warm welcome from all the staff. The decor of the restaurant was mighty impressive, soft warm tones fill the room with a stunning array of poles hanging from the ceiling.

On the night, a 5 course truffle degustation menu was offered but we decided to go for the regular 8 course menu (at $HKD1688 ($AU203) per person) as it allows us to sample the chef’s signature dishes instead.

We are no wine experts. The sommelier helped us through the massive book that was the wine list. We ended up with a bottle of 2008 Josmeyer Pinot Auxerrois from Alsace, France ($HKD880/$AU110) which was decanted (I never knew that you could let a white breathe) and regularly topped our glasses throughout the night. I liked how the empty bottle and cork were left on our table, as oppose to having it quickly taken away, so that we can know of our wine and appreciate it a little more.

Like I said, we are no wine experts. We thoroughly enjoyed this wine. It was fruity and light and not dry at all, slightly lingering on the tip of our tongue.

Throughout the night, a selection of bread was brought to us to choose from, our options were french baguette, sourdough grain, and olive and caramelised onion. As well as having a wonderful selection of bread to choose from, we got to choose whether we wanted to have our breads with salted butter, unsalted butter or olive oil. Knowing that I might have to sacrifice some stomach space later, I couldn’t help but keep asking for more bread because it too good to refuse. Crusty exterior with fluffy innards and slathered in salted butter goodness; I am in a happy place.

To start off our night, an array of canapes was brought out to us. Two crispy, wafer-like domes pieced together forms a parmesan cheese egg which held a delicate pommery mustard cream within. Crispy roll filled with anchovy & lime mousse was light and refreshing. The foie gras lollipop was a whimsical slight to see; a luscious, creamy centre was encased in a mixture of raspberry & beetroot and topped with crispy ginger bread, fortunately the flavours didn’t overpower one another and I enjoyed the contrast in textures. We were instructed to have the Iberian pork croquette in one mouthful as they contained some liquid within their crispy exterior. A explosion of delicious pork broth filled our mouths and we wished that we had more.

The amuse bouche of Jerusalem artichoke velouté sends us both to a happy place. It is velvety and creamy, not wanting it to end, we savoured this soup slowly and to the very last drop. The addition of black winter truffle and grated chestnut makes it truly indulgent.

Now that we’ve had our taste buds blown away by the canapes and amuse bouche, it was going to be smashed into smithereens with the next dish. A beautiful shell sitting on ice holds an extravagant dish of sea urchin and lobster. It is made more lavish with a dollop of caviar topped with edible gold, as well as serving it with a pearl spoon! A mousse of lobster and cauliflower sits underneath slithers of sea urchin in a lobster jelly, this dish is served alongside crispy seaweed and lotus leaf wafers. With every mouthful of this luxurious mousse, I am reminded of the freshness of the sea. Definitely a highlight of the meal.

Next up was the Tasmanian salmon confit coated with smoked squid ink crumbs and served with a puree of avocado and a cucumber and granny smith apple roll. My first impression was that it resembles Tetsuya‘s infamous confit ocean trout signature dish. The salmon melts in the mouth with a pleasant smoky element.

A perfectly cooked Brittany divers scallop was served with a black winter truffle coulis, toasted hazelnut sabayon and discs of pumpkin gnocchi, black truffle and a lardo & bellota ham tartine. To me, this dish seemed like it was ‘a little bit of this and a little bit of that’. Although the dish was nice, I failed to see how the other components complimented one another (besides the scallop pairing with ham).

This duck foie gras is truly an indulgent dish. My knife cuts effortlessly through the lightly seared, rich and buttery foie gras. Black pudding provides an additional richness to the dish whilst the puree of granny smith apples and warm red cabbage coulis seems to elevate this richness. Sitting underneath the foie gras is a layered white onion terrine and I’m utterly amazed by how perfectly constructed it is.

Kagoshima wagyu beef sirloin MS (grade A4) was cooked to medium rare and possibly the most tender piece of meat I’ve ever tasted. Simplicity has it with this dish. A puree of caramelised onions accompanied the beef provided a deep charred smokiness to the beef, adorning the sirloin was a piece of lettuce intricately topped with finely chopped chives; bringing it all together was a wonderfully fragrant beef jus which was poured at our table.

Served alongside the sirloin were wagyu short ribs, braised in red wine served with a puree of mushroom, crunchy croutons and fresh button mushrooms. Cubes of tender short ribs were cooked to perfection. This dish was extremely rich and decadent; I was overwhelmed by the intense umami flavours of the mushroom puree. At this point during the dinner I felt like I couldn’t take another bite, I was ready to explode.

Originally on the menu was a selection of French farmer cheeses matured by Bernard Antony. However, as we approached this course our waiter may have noticed we were beginning to feel full and offered us the option to opt out of the cheese course and have a pre-dessert instead. I was beaming inside. Not really favouring cheese courses, we happily took up this offer.

The pre-dessert of pineapple with olive oil caviar featured a sweet and juicy piece of pineapple sprinkled with some chilli and topped with balls of olive oil, no doubt made by spherification. It reminds me of the times of having pineapple with chilli salt; however, in a more sophisticated fashion. On the side was a slick of yoghurt as well as extra chilli powder for those who want an extra bit of a kick. I was one of those people but felt it didn’t really provide much heat to the pineapple. The olive oil balls pop in your mouth but you only get the slightest taste of olive oil from them.

The first dessert of clementines features a perfect quenelle of clementines sorbet, clementines jelly, candied clementines and a semifreddo inspired from calissons de provençe; a classic almond and fruit candy from South of France. Clementines are a variety of mandarins, typically sweeter and less acidic than oranges. Smooth and refreshing, the sorbet was a nice cleanser to slowly end the night. Made with almond milk and a hint of Cointreau, the semifreddo was creamy and luscious; it was like eating a frozen mousse. Both elements worked together nicely and I can just about picture myself eating one of those calissons from France.

I love these words; second dessert. Yes that’s right, the abinao 85% chocolate soufflé with cacao sorbet finishes our meal on a high & indulgent note. Fearing the soufflé would be insanely intense we were relieved that this wasn’t the case. We were eating soft pillows of chocolate goodness, forgetting it was made with 85% chocolate. Moving onto the sorbet, we initially thought it was bitter but got used to it after a while and didn’t find it bitter anymore.

Petits fours always make me happy. Could you imagine my happiness when a stack containing petits fours was laid out in front of me? With a slight twist and turn of the compartments, 2 petits fours flavours were found in each of the 3 compartments. It was like discovering hidden treasures within each compartment. Starting from the top, we slowly made our way down the container with complimentary teas and coffee.

Finally, we got to try the calisson that inspired the previous clementine dessert, reminiscent of marzipan with a hint of citrus, thankfully it wasn’t too sweet. The congolais was a moist coconut biscuit dipped in dark chocolate, very similar to a macaroon. Soft, chewy passion fruit caramel was a fine balance between sweet and tart and wrapped in edible rice paper. I found the lime and mint macaron lacking in filling and hence flavour, and the shells were slightly chewy. Petite profiteroles filled with coffee pastry cream were slightly on the soft side but still nice regardless. We overload with chocolate once again with chocolate madeleines which were moist and moreish.

Although the course sizes may appear small, we were extremely surprised to feel full by the end of it all. The staff were extremely attentive and informative. From the beginning of the night, we felt welcomed and well looked after, the staff certainly made us feel very special. Each time when we would return to our table, our waiter would lift the table cloth for us to sit down. There was a moment during the night where I had merely whispered to a passing waiter, as I had needed my jacket which had been stowed away for me, and to my surprise (he had his back facing me), he heard the whisper and attended to my attention. It’s just all the little things that make all the difference.

As we were about to leave the premise, I was presented with gift; a petite rose macaron to take home. It was a nice and thoughtful gesture to end a marvelous dining experience.

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  1. Ramen Raff

    Wow! A stack of petits fours sounds amazing! Love the HK food scene!

  2. john@heneedsfood

    What a gorgeous restaurant! I’m not sure if I’d go for the 5 course truffle degustation or the one you had. Too hard to decide. Looks like yours was a great choice anyway. Stunning food

  3. Rhonda (The Dainty Baker)

    Aww how sweet how he surprised you!! And looks like hes chosen a very scrumptious looking place too!! Mmm all the dishes look divine and not too big for an 8 course meal. Defo put it on my radar when I’m there next…. Did u try the healthy dessert place whilst u were there it’s like the only reason I go to HK hahaha

  4. chocolatesuze

    omg everything looks amazing and i love the presentation of the petits fours!

  5. Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul

    What a treat! Hong kong has some amazing Michelin starred places. Your degustation menu looks delicious but it’s those petit fours and rose macaron that have me excited!

  6. nic@diningwithastud

    What a stunning meal! I love the attention to detail and the service sounds great too

  7. Jacq

    Wow that looks like such an amazing meal! I love how you even got a little gift to take home with you – how sweet 🙂

  8. Anna @The Littlest Anchovy

    What a beautiful dining experience! That scallop made my heart skip a beat. I hope I get to go here one day…

  9. Tina @ bitemeshowme

    Your dining experience looks absolutely incredible. Everything looks so magnificent. What a lovely gesture to receive a take home macaron. I’m sure it would have tasted even better. Love how they presented the petit fours.

  10. Phuoc

    Ramen Raff: I love the food scene in South East Asia. Period

    John: Yes it was a tough decision indeed, but I’m glad we stuck with the signatures in the end

    Rhonda: Although they weren’t that big, they were very substantial in the end. I did try a healthy dessert place when I was there and loved it (imho it’s better than Meet Fresh); the place was called Honeymoon Dessert

    Chocolatesuze: I so wanted to take that container home lol

    Peter: There’s definitely a strong eating/food culture in Hong Kong; from cheap street eats to fancy Michelin-star restaurants, Hong Kong has the best of the Eastern and Western worlds.

    Nic: It’s the attention to detail that transforms a great restaurant into a memorable one. One of the top restaurants I’ve been too so far!

    Jacq: I know, it was really sweet of them

    Anna: Scallops and pork are a match made in heaven

    Tina: It was a great dining experience indeed

  11. Sara (Belly Rumbles)

    Everything looks so good, I mean every single dish, wow. Ant made a fantastic decision, well done! What an amazing culinary experience, with take home treats too!

  12. Phuoc

    Sara: Indeed he has made a good decision, a truly memorable meal

  13. Forager

    What an amazing looking meal – the sea urchin looks mighty impressive! That last shot of the petit four container – it’s exactly the same at Per Se in New York. I very much wanted to take it home when I saw it there too!

  14. Phuoc

    Forager: Cool!

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