Chicken is considered to be a relatively bland meat. In most cases this holds true, due to the fact that they’re not raised properly and taken care of as they should be. However, the Bresse poularde of Richard Ekkebus at Amber in Hong Kong is everything but bland, and literally full of flavour.
Conceptually, this dish is not too far from the Alain Chapel/ Alain Ducasse Bresse chicken with Albufera sauce and Alba truffle. This iconic dish, which some French journalists consider to be the best dish of their entire lives (the re-interpretation of Ducasse), has to be tasted by every gourmand or gourmet, at least once in their lives. It’s all about the delicate harmony of the chicken meat, the truffles and a rich Albufera sauce. To say that Ekkebus’ version is a copy would not do it justice. Whilst it builds upon a similar flavour-profile, which you could describe as relatively earthy and complex, it introduces elements that do not feature in the aforementioned dishes. He for instance, does a clever thing of coating the hen’s breast with a farce that is generously topped with slices of Tasmanian winter truffles. This is then cooked (sous-vide one supposes, to keep the shape and flavours in the bag) and served with truffled potato puree, morels and a caillette. On the side you have some chicken jus and an emulsion of that glorious sauce that goes by the name of Albufera sauce. One thing you will already notice from the picture is that here, the dish is more complex than the one Ducasse serves in Paris. But, Ekkebus manages to present it in a way that nonetheless seems effortless and coherent.
What makes it so good is that accord of the hen’s meat, which has a subtle, but pronounced flavour, the truffles and the richness of the Albufera sauce. It is this simple combination of flavours that made Ducasse’s version so famous and Ekkebus takes a slightly different approach to it. He adds the morels, which also feature prominent earthy notes and are not too dissimilar to the truffles, and a truffled potato puree. That potato puree goes well with 99% of things is no mystery, and here it does go particularly well. It soaks up all of the juices from the chicken and the sauce, making it a tasty, truffly, edible sponge. It kind of brings it all together and calls for a great Burgundy to echo those earthy flavours and the complexity of the truffles. The caillete, a little green parcel stuffed with the hen’s legs, and some ham, gives an intense salty kick that has a more prominent flavour than the breast, without overpowering the truffles or morels. The only thing you could complain about is that the Albufera sauce in its emulsified form is a little less intense than the classical one.
This really is nothing but splitting hairs, and should not detract you from the dish’s brilliance. It’s the kind of plate of food that makes us drool with pleasure, so go on and have a try. There aren’t very many chefs, who can present such classical flavours in a decidedly contemporary manner, without appearing gimmicky. You certainly could do much worse in Hong Kong!