July 27, 2023

Occupy Amber: two quenelles

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Third anniversary, and another vegetarian day. This is now the third year in a row we are having dinner at Amber, and once again we look forward to the vegetarian creations from Richard Ekkebus, Terry Ho, and the team. As we have done in previous years, we chose the 6-course menu as we wanted a relatively light meal. Alas, the plan was never going to work...

First up were two amuses bouches:

Kohlrabi, wheatgrass, extra virgin olive oil - this was crunchy of course, but the flavors were more savory than acidic so this did not help to whet the appetite too much.

Corn panna cotta, passion fruit jam - the panna cotta was rich and creamy, and I loved the corn flavors. The fruity, acidic flavors of passion fruit was obvious, and there was even a little caramel, but something didn't jive here. The combination delivered some bitterness on the finish that was unpleasant.

Heirloom tomato ° strawberry ° AN soymilk 'burrata' ° rose ° lemon verbena ° extra virgin olive oil ° - the heirloom tomatoes from Japan came accompanied with a sauce made with strawberries, tomatoes, and rose. This was pretty nice and refreshing, and perfect for summer. However, the soy milk burrata just didn't do it for me. Some acidity here but also got umami. The problem was that texture was smooth and consistent throughout, and not runny or lumpy like actual burrata... so definitely felt more "fake".

I was happy to see the sourdough bread because it could only mean one thing...

Plant-based brown butter - apparently, they no longer call this "vegan" due to the negative connotation of the word, so the politically-correct term is now "plant-based". Whatever they wanna call it, this remained absolutely beautiful... as good as I remembered from last year. In fact, I just about finished my quenelle with one piece of the bread, so they brought me a second quenelle - which I also finished with another piece of sourdough. I had to decline the offer of a third quenelle because I wouldn't have room to fit in more bread...

Pointed cabbage ° kelp ° black garlic ° daikoku shimeji ° extra virgin black sesame oil ° - an updated version of the dish I first tasted 4 years ago right after the transformation. The crunch of the cabbage in the millefeuille was still very nice, now accented by a few layers of kelp. The daikoku shimeji (大黒しめじ) were nice and smooth, and the black garlic purée was OK. The vegetable and sesame oil sauce, though, really could use more sesame oil. When the dish arrived Foursheets joked that it smelled like we were getting served Demae Itcho (出前一丁)... but the sesame oil flavors were on the subtle side. Just a tad more would have been better.

We were next shown the salt crust that the onion for the next course was baked in.

Fermented bell pepper ° fruit tomato ° cultured cashewnut butter ° Sichuan pepper ° extra virgin grapeseed oil ° red onion ° ginger ° watermelon ° - one year on, the dish looks a little different. The red onion was still sweet as it got caramelized in the baking process, and the fermented bell pepper sauce still came with plenty of acidity... in fact a little more than last year, it seems. Smokiness was also dialled up, and it still reminds me of chorizo. Best of all, this came with more heat compared to last year, which is a good thing. The kitchen also took our suggestion and made the chunks of ginger-marinated watermelon bigger to make them more satisfying. A really good dish.

Cereal ° Western Australian winter truffle ° summer squash ° - the "risotto" of different grains ensured each mouthful delivered plenty of bite. The sauce was mushroom-based but included lots of finely diced truffle and a reasonable amount of black pepper. That, together with the slightly sweet balls of squash, gave the dish a hearty feeling.

The shower of black truffle shaved in front of us was certainly welcomed.

Purple artichoke ° Australian winter truffle ° Cippolini onion ° extra virgin Manni olive oil 'Per Me` ° - another rich and hearty dish that, for me, seems better suited for the cooler months. The morels were absolutely delicious, and the preserved truffles have been finely diced to go into the sauce. The arugula on top simply acted as garnish and were fairly useless...

I picked a simple bottle from the restaurant's wine list:

2020 Les Poëte Pouilly-Fumé - a little riper than expected but overall this still got plenty of acidity, although the front palate was a little on the soft side. Fragrant nose showing a little flint. Almost 1½ hours later this was a little grippy on the finish. Pretty decent.

Bourbon vanilla ° soy ° macadamia nut ° dragon fruit ° - Terry very kindly sent us an extra course of dessert. Spheres of vanilla mousse surrounded a quenelle of soy ice cream and some olive oil "snow", plus balls of sugar cane jelly, macadamia nut cream, and dragon fruit. I guess the crispy yuba (湯葉) was meant to work with the ice cream.

Terry also very kindly offered us a glass of Sauternes, although that's not exactly up Foursheets' alley.

1990 Guiraud, en double-magnum - with lots of marmalade, still got some acidity here. Somehow seemed a little flat.

Since Foursheets doesn't take desserts, of course I ended up asking for both of the dessert choices for myself.

Peach ° green almond ° soy ° lavender ° - the mousse made of almond milk and lavender tasted very strongly of the latter, and we've also got fresh almonds, and crunchy nuts. Lovely honey and orange blossom water. Nicely garnished with a lavender tuille.

The poached Japanese peach in the center was very nice.

Dak Lak bitter chocolate ° oat milk ° iyokan ° hojicha ° - the 75% dark chocolate was pretty bitter, but thankfully the hojicha (ほうじ茶) ice cream helped, as did the mandarin jam.

The usual petits fours arrived to finish the meal:

Yellow watermelon from Taiwan, local figs, and French black cherries.

Kacincoa dark chocolate tart - definitely bitter because it's 85%...

Sesame madeleines - the outside was still very grainy and powdery, but the middle is now much more moist than before.

Ambershu - yuzu again tonight.

We are grateful that we have the option to have a nice vegetarian meal delivered at such a high level. Many thanks to the team at Amber for their hospitality.

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