July 27, 2021

Occupy Amber: All plants day

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We're going meatless for the whole day today, and Sankala wanted to do something nice for dinner.  It turns out Amber has had a vegetarian menu since Amber 2.0 started, as they move towards becoming more sustainable as a restaurant. On our last visit more than 2 years ago, Richard Ekkebus told us that he himself had been moving towards a more plant-based diet with reduced meat intake. So we decided to return to one of my old haunts for this occasion.

I still hate that the fluorescent lighting here causes banding on my Sony A9, but I've gotten better at dealing with banding over the last 2 years.

Love, love that they still insist on serving Nordaq Fresh. There's absolutely no reason to be forced to drink bottled water that's been shipped from a different continent. I have water filtration systems both at home and in my office, so why would I not want the same thing when dining out?!

We were taking it easy and took the 6-course vegetarian menu, but who were we kidding?! Richard was never gonna let us have "just" 6-courses and have us complain about leaving the place hungry...

But first, some Champagne. Richard very generously sent us a welcome glass of lovely bubbly. It's always nice to be pampered, of course... and we are always grateful for his hospitality.

2002 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon P2 - very toasty and nutty. Sooo elegant and beautiful.

Our amuse bouche was wakame (若布), girolles, and pickled shallots with vichyssoise, wakame oil, and tiny croûtons made of potatoes. The acidity in the girolles was nice and worked well with the refreshing vichyssoise, and the wakame oil was very, very tasty.

Aka and mizu aubergine ˚ pecan nut ˚ arugula ˚ Granny Smith ˚ extra virgin pecan oil ˚ button mushroom ˚ - "eggplant three ways".  Red aubergine carpaccio at the bottom was really salty and acidic, and I felt there was just too much salt... perhaps from the arugula pesto. Served with discs of button mushrooms and Granny Smith apples for added texture, and (arugula?) mayo dots on the side.

The aubergine caviar was on the left was fine, while the aubergine noodles dressed in Manni olive oil felt a little oily... although I was perfectly OK with that.  

Corn ˚ salicornia ˚ seawater ˚ sudachi ˚ - this definitely looked familiar, just without any caviar underneath the corn tuile with sudachi (酢橘) this time.

We still have corn at the bottom, but we also have finely diced salicornia along with some sort of diced greens which tasted salty along with the seawater foam, and whose textures reminded me of Chinese mustard greens (梅菜). There seemed to be some olive oil caviar, too, which melted in the mouth.

The sourdough bread and the salted Bordier butter deserve mention because, well, they weren't served the last time we came. Richard was going for "gluten-free" back then.

Bell peper ˚ extra virgin olive oil ˚ fennel ˚ saffron ˚ garlic ˚ orange ˚ - yes, there's a 'p' missing on the menu, but I digress...

This was the first extra dish that Richard sent us. We got chunks of braised fennel which came topped with quenelles of diced fennel compote that was interesting. The red bell pepper on the side was pretty nice, and the clarified bell pepper essence came with some aioli along with a dot which tasted of orange or kumquat.

Kabu ˚ watercress ˚ Savora mustard ˚ mustard Leaf ˚ - the lightly-braised turnips came on a bed of watercress emulsion, topped with some "ravioli" made of sliced turnip and Savora mustard, and garnished with mustard leaves and a sprinkle of mustard powder. I really loved the purity of the turnip flavors. The watercress emulsion had more salt than I expected but I didn't mind the full flavors this delivered. The mustard, not surprisingly, added a little acidity into the mix. I was really, really happy with this dish.

Purple artichoke ˚ tomato ˚ carrot ˚ onion ˚ Espelette chili ˚ basil ˚ - the second extra dish from the kitchen. There were pearl onions and tomatoes on top of the purple artichokes. The artichoke jus had some acidity and came with basil oil.

This was "ratatouille-style", with stuffing made of carrots, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

Violin zucchini ˚ avocado ˚ coriander ˚ jalapeño ˚ lime ˚ celtus ˚ almond ˚ - this looked like a pretty filling main course! We've got a bowl of coriander espuma on the side which could be used to add additional flavors, although I was kinda torn between using this or enjoying the zucchini on their own.

The zucchini came with some lime vinaigrette just on top, with celtuce (the correct spelling in English, I believe) and also Sicilian fresh almonds to add crunch and some light fragrances, and dots of avocado cream topped with jalapeños. I really loved the clean and pure flavors from the zucchini.

Rhubarb ˚ strawberry ˚ sansho ˚ begonia ˚ extra virgin Manni olive oil ‘ Per Mio Figlio’ ˚ honey ˚ - neither Sankala and I wanted the chocolate dessert, so the kitchen very kindly allowed us to substitute this. We've got a honey and olive oil panna cotta topped with a raspberry tuile and strawberry sorbet with sansho (山椒), plus Dutch rhubarb compote with begonia petals in the bowl, too. This was really fragrant and minty, floral and exotic. Very cool and refreshing, and just perfect.

Crown melon ˚ kyuri cucumber ˚ yellow melon ˚ yellow watermelon ˚ summer squash ˚ lime ˚ vanilla ˚ shiso ˚ grapeseed oil ˚ - this reminded me of curcubit from Mirazur, with yellow watermelon and Crown melon from Japan along with French yellow melon, cucumber and cucumber jelly, topped with pumpkin sorbet, vanilla, and caramelized perilla leaves. So, so happy with this.

The mignardises came as we needed to finish up quickly before the 10 p.m. curfew:

Our fruit plate included yellow watermelon, organic passion fruit, and local organic figs.

The tuile cookies were made with Amatika chocolate from Valrhona, which is apparently vegan!!!

Cocoa madeleines - made with olive oil and sea salt, to be paired with strawberry jam.


Now that I've clarified the restaurant's BYO policy - which seems to be different from what I was told 2 years ago - I decided to bring a casual bottle for our dinner.  I must compliment our sommelier - no, not the big guy - for suggesting that the bottle be decanted, as it wouldn't have opened up nearly as nicely otherwise.

2016 Cos d'Estournel Blanc - opened up after decanting as this was initially very muted. Green apple, flint, good depth on palate with good acidity.

OK, I admit that I took half of the sourdough with butter for fear that 6 courses of veggies wouldn't be filling enough. But with the two extra courses - and that big main course - we left the restaurant pretty full. It was a good way to end our day of plant-based meals, and we are certainly thinking about returning in the future when plant-based meals are on the cards.

P.S. It's always good to chat with Richard about sustainability and what we should be doing in this area. I am certainly looking to change my dietary habits going forward and reducing consumption of certain ingredients. Every one of us should be doing our part to ensure that we are not contributing to the disappearance and extinction of species on this planet. I took shark's fin off my list about two decades ago, followed by bluefin tuna (with certain exceptions) some years back. North American lobsters will be next on my list, if only to reduce consumption.  Neither Sankala or I will be converting to a full vegetarian or vegan diet, but increasing the plant-based portion while reducing meat or protein is certainly on our minds.  Let's see what the future brings.

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