Amber’s Sea Urchin

Perfection on a plate

One of the most complete dishes we have been served, Richard Ekkebus' sea urchin has become a legend in Hong Kong (and beyond)

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Sea urchin in a lobster jell-O with cauliflower, caviar and crispy seaweed waffles. Can a dish description sound anymore decadent or salivating? This is the name of Richard Ekkebus’ most famous dish.

It is magic, not just because it is nearly obscene to eat caviar, sea urchin and lobster (stock) in one bite. No, it is magic because in this dish Richard puts every single element in the right place. Every component of this dish plays a distinct role. A role that adds its own bit to the story, as this is cooking at its very finest.

But, but, but, let’s start from the beginning. That cauliflower goes well with seafood is no news. Think of dishes such as scallops with cauliflower and raisins that chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Jean Georges Vongerichten claim to have created; Or Thomas Keller’s cauliflower panna cotta with caviar. Joel Robuchon created the famous caviar with cauliflower, so there are plenty of dishes that combine these ingredients. They are delicious plates of food, all of them, regardless of who created them in the first place. Fact is, the slightly earthy, sweet notes of cauliflower work perfectly with the iodine, freshness of shellfish or caviar. As you can probably see yourself, many aim to combine these elements and create dishes that emulate the brilliance of very few. And yet, most fail to do so.

Not Richard. His dish has a sense of balance and refined power that you would rarely expect. Take its composition for instance. There is a creamy puree of cauliflower, the lobster jelly, sea urchin tongues and a generous quenelle of caviar. Apart from the slight crunch of the caviar, you might ask where does the crunchy element stay? Every brilliant dish must have contrasting textures Sergio Herman would say. That’s were the seaweed crackers come in that are served on the side. Have a bite of the latter, followed by the former and you will have a surreal experience.

Not as rich as one might expect, this dish plays more along the very fine, defined and concentrated line of a great white wine. Everything is in its place, has just enough punch to give you a nearly orgasmic experience, but is not over the top. There is nothing that makes you think this is too rich or too powerful. And yet, it has so much flavour that you can’t forget it. Everything in here is spot-on, the sea urchin definitely plays the leading role. It is creamy, briny and a tad sweet. Its supporting actors – the lobster jelly, caviar and cauliflower – merely add to the complexity of the dish and create a harmonious finish that makes you see what food can do to you.

This is a dish of such purity and brilliance that you can’t really compare it to much. It is so small in size, yet so big in the impact it creates. Kudos for Richard for treating us to such a delicious chef d’oeuvre, one that is more than worth the trip to Hong Kong and Amber.

Amber's Sea Urchin

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