November 11, 2013

Licking the plate clean

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It all started with an innocent post on Facebook.

Just days after I met up with him, the globetrotting Felix from QLI jetted off to Shanghai and put up a post about his meal at the new 58 Grill.  Apparently he had œufs en meurette for dinner, which is something I love but rarely have, because it's time-consuming to make.  I responded to the post, expressing my desire to have some eggs, and thought nothing of it.  Hours later while at dinner, a response came from Chef Richard Ekkebus, offering to make the dish for me at Amber the next time I had a craving.  A few rounds of messages back and forth, and I was havings eggs for lunch today.

My original plan was to rope in Tigger, as he is a big fan of Richard's and was seated next to me while this was going down.  Alas, the high flyer was busy today.  Fergie was also at dinner, but he was jetting off to a different time zone.  So I called on someone who I knew would appreciate the work that goes into a red wine reduction…

By the time I arrived at the appointed hour, I Love Lubutin is already seated in the Amber Bar.  Worse, she took the single-seater while leaving me with the loveseat, and as a result had no place to put her expensive handbag.  I had to convince her to place her bag on the ottoman…

Not surprisingly, we didn't have to do the ordering, as the menu has already been selected for us...

Foie gras lollipops - nope, not tired of having these yet.  Nice little wafer of beetroot and a brioche wafer on top.  One bite.  Nom nom nom.

Jamón ibérico croquetas - one bite again.  I don't mind the acidic, liquid center as it kinda balances out the otherwise salty jamón.

Ravioles du Royans in cep mushroom consommé - A little cup was placed in front of us and filled with the brown, aromatic liquid that was cep consommé.  Ahhhh… the scent of autumn!

Buried at the bottom were a couple of these tiny ravioles, which were filled with Comté and herbs.  This specialty from the Dauphiné region of France was kinda tasty.  There was also some brunoise of celeriac at the bottom.

The cep consommé came in a little glass teapot, which was fitted with this clever contraption to stop the solids from coming out.  As I tasted the very last drops which came from the bottom, it almost reminded me of aged Puer (普洱) tea.

Œufs en meurette - this is what we came for.  The fragrance from the red wine reduction was beautiful.  And that color… one look and you know that the egg had been poached in the reduction like this one.

Cutting the egg open released the yolk… Such beautiful color!  And the red wine reduction was so thick and rich… Richard said that they used up a whole bottle of wine for it.  That's pretty amazing… and would have taken a lot of time.  I was in heaven.

Of course, a reduction like this must be savored to the very last drop. So I dutifully used pieces of the baguette I had saved up to wipe my bowl clean.  And I thought I did a pretty decent job…

But I could never, ever hope to measure up against someone who's famous for helping the dishwashers do their job at Caprice.  Just look at those fingers in action…

Our waiter was speechless.  Had this bowl, in fact, been used?!  We asked him to show our bowls to Richard, but I'm not sure if he did…

French wild venison, braised with foie gras, celeriac confit, black trumpet mushrooms - this was our main course as we are in game season, and what a treat!  I kinda got full just staring at the bloc of venison with the foie on top… What an amazing dish… I realize there's no bone here, but I would still use the phrase "falling off the bone" to describe how tender the venison was.  It literally just fell apart at the lightest touch of the knife, and was probably the most tender piece of venison I've ever tasted.  We are told that another bottle of wine went into the venison…

Parmesan reggiano creamed spatzli with autumn truffle - in addition to the spätzli served with celeriac and trompette de la mort on the main plate, there was also this incredible side dish.  Screw mac 'n' cheese, I'll take this any day of the week!  Add a healthy sprinkle of chives and a generous pinch of black Burgundian truffle on top of the cheesy goodness, and what you get is a fragrant and tasty mouthful.

Richard came to greet us, and I thanked him for the privilege of this very special treat.  Something looked amiss to me, and it took me a few seconds to remember that he's participating in Movember, and the additional facial hair was what threw me off about his appearance...

Too full to take any dessert, we sipped on our espressos instead.  I was a little surprised that petit fours didn't arrive until after we finished our espressos, and I jokingly mentioned scumbag (人渣) because, coincidentally, this is the very restaurant where scumbag threw the infamous fit of "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?! I AM A FOOD BLOGGER!!!"  Well, I didn't need the extra calories today, so I left them all for ILL.

We asked our waiter to bring us the bill, only to be told that Richard had, once again, decided to comp the entire lunch - as he did on my last visit.

Well, this just won't do.

Time for me to throw a mini tantrum!  I asked the waiter to please go and tell Richard that we cannot accept this.  We are happy to pay for our meal.  Off he went, but came back a few minutes later with the same answer.  I insisted that the waiter re-deliver our message, and to tell Richard that we would no longer be coming back to Amber if he did not accept payment for lunch.  After all, it was nice enough for him to make the œufs en meurette especially for us just because I missed it.  That alone was enough of a special treatment.  I asked for Richard to come so we could talk some sense into him.

It was then Sébastien's turn to deliver the same message back to us, along with the promise that Richard will charge us double for our next meal.  Somehow I don't believe him… but resigned to the fact that our money's no good for Amber today.

Many thanks to Richard for the amazing treat today… all because I missed a dish dearly!  Methinks next time I come to Amber, me gonna slap some dollar bills right at the reception as soon as me walk in… and make sure they charge me double!

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