Hong Kong’s dining scene is among the world’s most vibrant. Over the last few years however, one restaurant has become better and better, and firmly established itself as the best French restaurant in town: Richard Ekkebus’ Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental.
Two things differentiate the food Ekkebus and his chef de cuisine Maxime Gilbert cook at Amber: The quality of the produce he uses and the technically impeccable cooking. Add to this a keen sense for combinations of flavours and the playful use of textures and you end up with a unique style of cooking.
Most of Amber’s food would not be what it is without the products Ekkebus imports mainly from Japan and France. His amadai, used for one of Amber’s signature dishes is killed using the traditional Japanese Ike Jime method. Not only does it give the meat a much more interesting texture, but the fact that the fish is of very high quality and perfectly cooked makes this simple dish so succulent and memorable. Whilst it has been served with rouille and other Southern French garnishes, the kitchen has recently played with more Japanese accompaniments to this fine fish. What all of them have in common is the precise cooking, and bold flavours.
Another product that Ekkebus often has on the menu are langoustines. Served raw with sea urchin and cauliflower, Ekkebus serves a dish that combines the sweetness of the shellfish, with the creamy sea urchin, and a bit of bite coming from the cauliflower cous-cous. To finish it all off, a consommé and white truffles are added, making this a suitablty decadent starter.
One dish that Ekkebus serves is probably more emblematic than all others at Amber, and will probably stay on the menu for a long time: the sea urchin with caviar, cauliflower panna cotta and lobster jelly. From the textures to the balance of flavours, every element is judiciously proportioned, making this one of those truly memorable dishes.
If one is to describe the way Amber has evolved over the past years, the most distinctive turning point came with Maxime Gilbert’s arrival, who might have played a role in pushing for ever more precise, and minimalist dishes. Ekkebus and Gilbert seem to constantly push each other further, producing food at a level that you will have trouble finding outside a handful of restaurants in France or Japan.
But of course that is not all there is to this restaurant. Its wine list is huge (if on the pricey side) and features a great selection of mature vintages of rare wines. Additionally, the selection by the glass is particularly interesting. Sommelier John Chan deserves praise for featuring interesting wines by the glass, and looking to get the most interesting producers from around the world onto his list.
If one looks at the way in which Ekkebus’ cooking has become more and more refined over the past year alone, it will be interesting to see how far he can push things. At the moment, we can safely say that Amber is the most impressive French restaurant in Hong Kong, and indeed most of Asia.