November 14, 2014

3 Dutchies in Hong Kong

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A week after my fantastic long lunch with game meats, I'm back at Amber for dinner tonight.  Once again I'm tagging along with the boys from QLI, which means I was with not one but three Dutchies tonight.  If you thought Chef Richard Ekkebus was tall, lemme tell ya... I felt like I was in a show called "My Life as a Midget" tonight!

Our welcome drink tonight: Silver Needle (白毫銀針) tea, with cucumber marinated in soda water, a dollop of Granny Smith apple sauce, and a sliver of lemon zest.  Nice and refreshing.

Richard also started us with a glass of Champagne...

Alfred Gratien Cuvée Brut Classique - very ripe on the nose, ripe mid-palate but the acidity comes out on the finish.  Lots of toasty oak, with minerals and sweetness on the nose.

The menu was set by Richard, who just flew in this morning from Singapore.  First came the usual canapés:

Signature foie gras lollipops

Squid ink pita bread - filled with celeriac purée, topped with autumn truffle

Chestnut ravioli - with yellow wine and trompette de la mort, with apple purée on top

Our amuse bouche was the same one I had last week: diced Jerusalem artichoke, cep foam and cep chips on top.  Loved the earthy flavors brought out by the warmth of the dish, as well as the acidity whetting my appetite.

Ebisu winter oyster : with seaweed, potato and raw shallots slaw, in tomato water cloud with chipolata 'crumble' - the oyster was steamed, and served with strands of nori seaweed.  The tomato water "cloud" provided the nice acidity to go along with the saltiness here.  Those little bits of bacon... mmmm...

Langoustine : served raw with cauliflower couscous and purée, aka sea urchin and beef consomé jelly - with oyster leaves, chervil and croutons on top.

At the start of dinner, Sebastien came to show us the white truffle from Alba which we would be enjoying tonight, which chef de cuisine Maxime had called a "potato" on his Instagram account...

Now it was shaved over the dish.  Amazing balance here.  The strips of langoustine, sea urchin tongues, slightly savory beef consommé jelly, the mildly sweet cauliflower mousse... and then the incredibly fragrant white truffles.  Each has its own distinctive flavor, but nothing felt overpowering or out of whack.  That's not easy to achieve.

'Cèpes' mushrooms : autumn fruits and fresh 'wet' walnut salad, mushroom tea and mushroom 'duxelles' cigar with mushroom caramel - 'tis the season for mushrooms, and we got some nice ceps here.  There were also mushroom flavored caramels made to look like brown button mushrooms, until you cut into them and realize they're filled with cream.  This whole mélange also had slices of red and green apples, elderberries, golden raspberries, hazelnut chocolate wafers and walnuts.  The mushroom tea on the side is just one of my favorite drinks here - so warm and comforting with the earthy flavors of autumn.

The duxelles cigar was very, very nice.

Cuttlefish : a la carbonara with quail egg yolk, pearl onion petals and smoked Alsatian bacon - I looooved this dish last week, and I'm so glad I got to have it again tonight.  Carbonara is arguably my favorite way to have pasta, and here the quail egg yolk just made it so rich and tasty.  The tiny strips of smoked bacon made it real yummy, too.  Finally, I just can't get over the joys of biting into the cuttlefish "noodles" and feeling that slightly springy texture between my teeth.

Of course, just about everything gets better when you shave white truffle on top...

2000 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva Le Rocche del Falletto di Serralunga d'Alba - decanted around 8 hours before serving.  Ripe, very soft on the palate, very delicate, with a long finish that comes with a bit of acidity.  The boys had carried it all the way from Europe, so there was probably a little bit of bottle shock here...

Australian abalone : black pepper and vinegar seasoned tomato compote, braised then crisped oxtail and its jus - I had this earlier in the year and loved it.  The tender Tasmanian abalone is well-complemented by the chunks of oxtail which are tender on the inside but crispy on the outside.  Rich flavors from both the oxtail as well as the diablo sauce with a light kick.  The Dutchies, of course, found the kick to be stronger.

Red amadai : with konasu aubergine and rice vinegared daikon, cockles prepared with 5 seaweed in a 'umami' broth with Manni olive oil and yuzu - Richard's not called "Mr. Amadai" for nothing.  The fish came with Richard's signature layer of crispy scales, and this was just incredibly tasty.  On the side was a little "sandwich" with a thin slice of eggplant at the bottom, a thinner slice of vinegar-marinated radish on top, and a mix of wakame (若布) and nori (海苔) seaweed as well as herbs and flowers in the middle.  Interesting to see a "swoosh" of sweet white miso (味噌) here.  Finally, the broth was incredibly delicate, and reminds me of the Japanese "ichiban dashi (一番出汁)" that one finds at top restaurants like RyuGin (龍吟).

'Patis' poularde : breast poached with sauce albufera and crispy cereal, kabocha and chicken jus with virgin hazelnut oil - I love the crunch of the crispy cereal on top of the chicken breast, which also included pine nuts.

And of course everything looks prettier with shaved white truffle on top, no?

1998 Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Turque - decanted about 3 hours before serving.  More alcoholic than expected.  Tannins are still here.  Nose was initially muted, with only a hint of floral notes.  Ripe and sweet fruit emerged, and eventually the floral notes became more obvious.

French unpasturized cheese : matured by Bernard Antony - I would never pass up cheese from Bernard Antony... and I ended up picking all soft ones.

There was this very, very ripe Saint-Marcellin that was trying to make a run for it... showing very nutty flavors and that classic sharp bitterness.

Selles-sur-Cher - another goat's milk cheese I love,  rich and dense with nutty flavors, a little saltiness and an acidic finish.

Mont d'Or - how could I ever say no when it's nice and ripe?  So salty but showing acidity at the same time.  Nice and STINKY.

Époisses de Bourgogne - from Gaugry, which means it's still made au lait cru.  Wonderful.  It looked still kinda solid, but in reality it was very ripe and tasty.

Langres - very ripe and salty.

Dulcey chocolate : spheres coated in Manjari 64% chocolate, with salted and caramelized macadamia nuts and cocoa sorbet - I had this a few months ago, and I still love it tonight.  The creamy centers of the spheres were just so tasty... and that cocoa sorbet - so intense and rich!  I don't order many chocolate desserts these days, but I'd do this one every time.

Petits fours - yes, they know who we are.  Still love the calissons and pâtés des fruits.

Another wonderful meal at Amber... and now I've had quite a few over the last 2 years.  Let's just say that the experience of being surrounded by Dutchies was... interesting...  I've raved about Richard Ekkebus and Amber often enough so I won't go on any further, but yeah, I wish I could come back every week... or even every other week.  Many thanks to Richard for this wonderful treat.

This was my last meal with the boys from QLI, as they head off to another food paradise tomorrow.  It's been pretty fun over the last few days, and hopefully I can catch up with them soon.

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