Thursday, December 16, 2010

Remarkable Night at Amber

I just realized I am in a dry spell lately as far as blogging is concerned... not that there aren't any remarkable things happening recently worth reflecting on or sharing, especially as far as eating's concerned, so I decided to bring them all on in one go...

Going back and forth several times and a few tweets to Chef Ekkebus later, we landed back at Amber on our 6th wedding anniversary on this Saturday night in December, and we love it!

With the memory of leaving the restaurant as two very satisfied customers on Valentine's Day still living vividly in mind, it seems to be an obvious choice for us to return for another celebration. After arriving promptly at 7:30pm (okay that's not true - we were late), we were seated near the entrance of the elegant yet lively dining room - and in my opinion the more quiet and comfortable section away from the crowd and the kitchen. I love the setting of this place actually - chic decor, well-designed space with tables organized sparse enough that you don't feel intruded yet close enough that you can take a peek at what other people are eating and don't feel you are sitting in a room by yourselves.

The menu left us with a very simple decision - everything in the degustation menu sounds enticing so we spent no time settling on it without even bothered to look at the a la carte options. We are very eager to see what the best the chef has to offer us through the creation of his signature dishes on the menu. Ian our sommelier was very helpful in making our wine selection a straight-forward exercise too. Being my favorite wine region along with Ian's affirmation, picking a Chablis is a no-brainer and glad it worked well with most courses on the menu.

We started with the familiar amuse bouche of foie gras lollipop and iberian pork croquette. We loved the lollipop when we first had it in February, and we still do this time, even though the amusement bit has faltered somewhat with the second try, naturally.

Chef Ekkebus' signature appetizer dish - hokkaido sea urchin served in a lobster jell-o with cauliflower mousse, caviar and crispy seaweed waffles - is easily the one dish that made a lasting impression on us tonight and rightfully so - the presentation is impeccable - it's served in a shell of sea urchin with fine layers of delectable colors inside; the combination of classic regional flavors - uni from Hokkaido - and modern techniques is simply flawless, and the delicate taste and texture are divine - we felt like we are tasting the essence from the sea as the sea urchin roe and lobster jelly along with the caviar's "swimming" in our mouths. CYY mentioned the dish reminded her of the equally adorable "oyster and pearl" that we had in a small yet significant culinary outpost in Yountville a couple years ago, which I totally agreed. I can't say this is fusion, but the chef certainly took full advantage of regional ingredients for this unique and spectacular dish. An absolutely genius creation, I must say.

We also love the melt-in-your-mouth and intense-flavored waghu beef with the main serving oven-roasted and served in its own jus, and in comparison, the second serving - short ribs braised with passion fruit-glazed root vegetables - is just okay (to me, I don't even mind doing it without the second serving altogether) It's so soft and tender that I don't even need to force my knife through. Once again, he made use of regional ingredients - in this case the exquisite Kagoshima beef - and cooked to perfection. I like the light yet flavorful texture of langoustine and foie gras dish, but the scallop's a tad bit overcooked to my liking, which left a slightly rubbery taste on the surface as a result. Nonetheless I think the combination of toasted brioche mousseline and kabocha squash that was served with the scallops an interesting one.

Other courses in the menu included salmon that's cooked to pinpoint accuracy, presented in a somewhat playfully manner with a crust of squid ink-dyed bread crumbs (pretending to be a roast beef tenderloin) and worked in harmony with avocado puree and apple "rolls" on the side, as well as a more-than-decent selection of cheeses wheeled in on a cart after our beef main course.

After a surprising treat of champagne - courtesy of the very man behind the kitchen - we moved onto something sweet. The first dessert of vacherin "coque" with blood orange yoghurt inside was refreshing and did its job of cleansing our palate (and I also like its neat and clean presentation), and by contrast, the chocolate souffle and cocoa sorbet which followed is a rich and comforting winter dessert that is equally enjoyable.

It is a memorable evening to us no matter what but a fine meal like this certainly added a nice touch to it. How appropriate to celebrate our time together with something that we enjoyed doing together most - going on a culinary adventure that is. Will we go back soon? You bet. I am already looking forward to its spring menu coming out in mid-January.


when? December 4 2010
where? Amber, at Landmark Mandarin Oriental
occasion? 6th wedding anniversary
menu highlights? Hokkaido Sea Urchin, in a lobster jell-o with cauliflower, caviar and crispy seaweed waffles
Chablis Premier Cru "Fourchaume" 2008, Bouchard Pere et Fils
Krug Grande Cuvee NV

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