A mere two hours after a very interesting session with the two chefs, I'm back in the very same private room at Amber for the "four hands dinner" with Richard Ekkebus and André Chiang of Restaurant André. I was privileged enough to have snagged a table, and unlike a few hours ago, my stomach was now rumbling and I was ready to eat!
We started with a series of snackings, and I was pleasantly surprised that the person introducing them to us was none other than Sudarampai (otherwise known as 'Pam') - André's wife. Quite a nice change from the rude Singaporean girls André brought with him two months ago...
Wall Street Journal, FOUR, as well as yours truly - Richard has decided to take his most iconic dish off Amber's menu. And this dinner would be the very last service in which it would appear. Starting tomorrow, you couldn't hope to find it in the dining room at Amber even if you begged the man himself... (but maybe it's worth a try?)
This, unfortunately, was just a tasting portion... so it was gone all too soon. But what an amazing dish! The flavors of the ocean were all there... from the salinity of the oscietra caviar, to the sweetness of the sea urchin, and the umami of the lobster jello... all working in symphony with the creamy and sweet cauliflower.
Underneath the sheet of lasagna is a Gillardeau No.2 oyster that has been burnt, along with some aubergine purée. Garnished with some watercress for crunchy texture. The watercress emulsion was both savory and acidic, with bright and contrasting flavors.
André's last visit, and from the 'sel' part of Octaphilosophy (although interestingly enough, it's actually listed under 'texture' in the book). A dish made without any addition of salt, and relies entirely on the natural salinity of the ingredients.
The texture of the squid "spaghetti" was beautiful. The kelp jus and wakame (若布) powder were the sources of salt and umami, while the creamy mash of La Bonnotte potatoes from Noirmoutier (which themselves have salty flavors due to algae and seaweed in the soil) at the bottom of the bowl stopped the dish from becoming overbearing in terms of salt. The puffed granola added a little crunchy texture as well as some fragrance. A beautiful dish that I enjoyed having again.
My other complaint? Why the hell did Maxime think that sending me a reed-like strand of chicharrón would be enough to make me happy?! That's nothing more than a very long toothpick! Or as the Chinese saying goes, it doesn't even fill the gap between my teeth (不夠塞牙縫)!
The piglet ear salad on the side was a little spicy... and kinda interesting given what André said he wanted for his last supper.
The "sugar cubes" were actually like marshmallows, except they were coated with caster sugar and had a little more crunch. The "butter" was actually made from popcorn ground into powder, so there was both a little bit of sweet corn flavor but savory at the same time. It did kinda melt in my mouth just like real butter would... The "egg yolk" was basically treacle. The "flour" was made from yoghurt sponge that was frozen with liquid nitrogen before being pulverized. Finally, although the "milk" did have milk as an ingredient, the base was actually cooked jasmine rice.
Not the tastiest of cakes, but A LOT of fun to eat.
I was pretty happy with my dinner, even though the element of surprise had been somewhat dampened by the fact that I've had half the dishes at least once before. But the point was to be here tonight, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
We were pretty full and it was getting late. A quarter of our table had left us due to either professional or personal obligations, and the rest of us had taken the obligatory photo with André. It was time to go home, without waiting for the petits fours. And for once, I, along with the rest of our table, would leave the restaurant completely sober... and in no danger of falling asleep at the table or on the way home.
P.S. We did get some canelés as a parting gift, which were delicious.