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2015 marks the 10th anniversary of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental and that of its signature restaurant, Amber. It’s hard to believe this dining room has been around for a decade, as it seems as timeless as the first day it opened. Calming shades of caramel, bronze and —yes, Amber— fills the space, and the iconic undulating chandelier remains a talking point for new and returning guests alike. Vibrant flowers break up the colour palette and the soft furnishings are truly cosseting — a mark of true luxury.
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 (Editor’s note: the dish was retired on May 31, 2016 and will now be exclusively available at chef Corey Lee’s restaurant, In Situ, in San Francisco), 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.
Year after year, we’re impressed by the evolution of Amber’s wine list, which continues to be a joy for oenophiles as well as those who prefer a light drop with dinner. The selection of wines by-the-glass and by carafe is sophisticated (as befits the setting) but approachable, as evidenced by head sommelier John Chan’s friendly team. A considerable number of biodynamic wines pepper the list, with Clau de Nell’s Vieilles Vignes by Anne-Claude Leflaive (the pioneering biodynamic winemaker who died in April 2015) currently available by the glass.
There have been very few moments where Amber’s service has faltered. Staff are attentive but not overbearing, and seemingly always ready to answer a question or offer assistance.
A three-course dinner for two with wine and service comes to just under HK$4,000, which is expected from a restaurant of this calibre — a real special treat kind of place.