2015 marks the 10th anniversary of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental and that of its signature restaurant, Amber. Culinary director Richard Ekkebus has been with the hotel since the very beginning and, as the brand prepares to enter its second decade, there has been a lot of soul-searching—with some drastic changes underway.
Last year, we remarked that there are several Amber signatures, many that have remained with the restaurant since its inception, that would spark a revolt should they ever be removed from the menu. But as a milestone comes into view, perhaps it’s time to let go of the past.
Those familiar raspberry-red foie gras lollipops, the small fatty spheres that were an enduring symbol of Amber, known across the city and the world of fine dining, are already long gone. In their place is a new globular amuse-bouche—an ode to vegetables in the form of a delicate round “tomato” biscuit filled with a fennel purée.
A teapot of intensely flavoured tomato consommé goes along with it, cleansing the palate and setting the tone for the meal to come. It sends a clear message: Ekkebus and chef de cuisine Maxime Gilbert are embarking on a new chapter for Amber—one that feels lighter, more refined and absolutely certain to titillate.
So what is presented in this search for the new classics? When the Hokkaido sea urchin with lobster jello, cauliflower, caviar and nori crisps are eventually retired (as may be the case by the time you read this), we’re more than happy to embrace the newbies: Korean abalone, for example, paired intriguingly with black pepper and vinegar-seasoned tomato compote. They’re served regally in their shells with an unlikely partner—braised and then crisped cubes of oxtail. This esoteric elopement of surf and turf makes complete sense, the muscular abalone withstanding all of the intensity of the umami-packed accoutrements thrust upon it.
Following its anniversary, Amber’s famed dining room will also undergo a welcome facelift to reflect its step into the next decade of business. If the restaurant’s aesthetics follow in the same footsteps as its new menu, it should be a thrilling reveal.