August 8, 2014

More fans for Dutchy

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Mere hours after I had the pleasure of enjoying the company of two ladies over lunch, I found myself at a table with three ladies for dinner.  The occasion?  Well, besides the fact that this turned out to be BFF's surprise early birthday dinner, it was an opportunity to introduce Chef Richard Ekkebus' magic to the ladies.  In much the same way that I was, the Specialist had visited Amber during its early days and had been unimpressed.  It took a very special dinner last year for me to convert to an unabashed fan, and I figured I could do the same for a few others.

So I made a booking and pinged Richard.  I told him that I was on a mission to convert a few fans for him, and was waiting to see what he could throw at us.  Basically, I threw down the gauntlet and told him to let me have it.  Of course, I had every confidence that he would deliver.

Herring and beetroot jelly on rice cracker, with sour cream and onion - very nice.

Foie gras lollipops - the kitchen was informed that one of us doesn't eat offal, so a cherry tomato was offered as a substitute.  As for the rest of us... the mouthful of foie gras was as tasty as ever.  And still love the beetroot.

Pita bread with aubergine caviar, bell pepper and anchovy - the filling was still very delish.

Jamón ibérico croquetas - gotta love the acidity from the liquid filling.

Girolles, carrots, shallots and green peas with tarragon emulsion and crispy bacon - pretty nice to have a mix of textures inside.  The tarragon emulsion was pretty rich.

"Pineapple" tomato, fresh almonds, niçoise olive and summer truffle salad - I had the pleasure of tasting this dish last year, and it was just as yummy tonight.  The peppers and basil were a lot more than just garnish.  As for the tomatoes themselves... really really yummy.  I think today's just a tomato day for me.

Clear gazpacho, stragiatella di buffalo - spheres of buffalo milk cheese, gazpacho, tomato hearts, cannelloni of tomato, Japanese Amelia tomatoes, cucumber and radish in a clear tomato gazpacho.  Slurp.

Bellota baguette soufflé - the baguettes were soooo light and airy, since they were practically hollow inside.  Can't tell you how much I enjoyed this.

Aji horse mackerel served raw over koshihikari rice and sake lees emulsion, pickled cucumber, turnip and wild fennel - loved the emulsion made from sake lees (酒粕) and Koshihikari (越光) rice, and the rice and sesame crispy.  The aji (鯵) was lightly smoked and a little spicy.  There were also a few pearls of olive oil caviar.

Violin zucchini, avocado, green olive and fresh almond tartar with black truffle gel and fragments - very nice with bûche de chevre from Corsica, black truffle gel inside the zucchini tubes, and chunks of black truffle.

Fougasse - with tomato and thyme and served alongside.  Very nice.

Kinki roasted unilateral on the skin, poached mitzutako, hand pounded condiment of barbeque bell pepper and anchovies - now this was really something!  I'd love kinki (喜知次) any day of the week, but to have it here (perhaps in place of Richard's signature amadai) was a real treat.  Needless to say the flesh was supple, and thankfully not as oily as usual.  The "hand-pounded" bell pepper (I was told tomato) came with fresh almonds and North Pacific giant octopus (水蛸) - something I love but don't see often.  The spicy kick from the peppers was really nice.  The seaweed waffle came with anchovy dots, which made it just full of flavors of the sea.  Finally, the kinki jus was flavored with citrus.

'Dombes' frog legs in crispy kataifi sprinkled with 'quatre epices' purée and chips of garlic, Italian parsley sabayon - this was so fun to eat!  Frog legs from Dombes, coated with a layer of ground kataifi and deep-fried.  Wonderful flavors from the spices and the chicken jus, and of course I had to roll these in the parsley emulsion.  I just pinched the bones between my fingers, picked these up and shoved them into my mouth.  The mixture of girolles, peas and some kind of stringy seaweed was really tasty, too.

Wagyu tongue fondant with kelp cured Omi wagyu, tomato salad with seaweed and bonito flakes - apparently this was a new dish, and someone almost didn't get to have it.  As the kitchen was told that one of the guests does not eat offal, they naturally assumed that anyone who doesn't eat offal wouldn't eat tongue, either...  Fortunately we were able to correct their assumption before dinner started, otherwise I think I would have had my head chopped off... because this was certainly the best dish of the evening - the unanimous opinion of the four of us.

It's a millefeuille of beef, with layers of kelp-cured tongue and Omi (近江牛) beef, with capers, onions, tomato, kelp, what seemed to be charred bits of beef fat, all deliciously wrapped with a paper-thin layer of beef sirloin and topped with a sprinkle of nori (のり) chiffonade and deep-fried potato puffs. The acidity of the tomato and capers helped to cut through the incredible amount of fat in each mouthful.  Absolutely incredible and melt-in-your-mouth.  You lookin' for some umami?  Try this.

On the side, chunks of watermelon and "salt tomatoes" (grown with volcanic ash fertilizers, perhaps?) from Fukuoka wrapped in wakame (若布), topped with olive oil caviar and bonito flakes.

French unpasteurized cheeses matured by Bernard Antony - Sebastien wheeled the cheese cart over and served us a small selection...

Camembert - I had forgotten how incredible this Camembert was!  I wonder if it's the same one I had last year... where the rind was washed with Calvados.  The flavors here were savory and nutty, so much more intense than your average Camembert.
Reblochon - very salty and pungent.
Gruyère - creamy and nutty.
Époisses de lait cru - from Gaugry.  Absolutely loved it.

Comté 24 mois - nice and nutty.
Mimolette 24 mois - wonderfully salty.
Saint-Marcellin - sooo ripe, acidic, stinky, funky and gamey.
Fourme d'Ambert
White peach poached in sake, citrus, nectarine cream marigold petals, sake lees ice cream and rice crispy - sooooo yummy.  So this was triple-sake: peach, ice cream and jelly.  Incredibly refreshing.

Dulcey chocolate spheres coated in Manjari 64% chocolate with salted and caramelized macadamia nuts and cocoa sorbet - loved the creamy milk chocolate centers inside dark Manjari.  Served with chocolate sponge on one of the spheres, and chocolate soil.

Petit fours - 6 different types, including cubes that were like orange blossom marzipan, raspberry jelly, hazelnut puff, (pistachio?) mint macaron, salted caramel and chocolate tart, and pine nut financier.

Fantastic food demands to be in the company of fantastic wines, and we were lucky enough to choose a few nice bottles...

1989 Krug - nice and aged, a little savory, salty plum, sweet grass and marmalade.  Slight hint of bitterness on the finish.  Very lovely.

2004 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet - nice and toasty, very big nose, crisp, pure and beautiful.  Later on sweet and butter.

2004 Dujac Charmes-Chambertin - very fragrant, fruity, a little smoky, very sweet on the nose but dry on te palate.  Nice woody flavors with some leather.

1999 Rouget Echezeaux - nose was a little spunky, smoky, tighter than expected.

This was a fantastic meal.  The ladies kept saying that judging by the food alone, we could be sitting somewhere in Europe, and for me Amber is undoubtedly up there with the best in the world.  Somewhere along the line, it was said that "that was the best meal I had in Hong Kong in many years".  Now THAT is high praise indeed!  Mission accomplished... with three new fans for Richard to add to his growing legion.

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