15 Queen's Road, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental
The Landmark, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2132 0066
It's been a while since our last lunch at Amber, and after our last dinner at the 2 Michelin star Modern European restaurant a year ago (see earlier review: Amber), we decided to have a long boozy Sunday lunch and try out its wine lunch menu. The Sunday brunch crowd was quite different from that during the weekdays (when the restaurant is usually packed with businessmen in suits having expensed corporate lunches), and much of the clientele was well-heeled Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese having a nice meal with their families (including kids). The dining room was very bright with sunlight during the day (in contrast with the dark and discreet ambience during dinner) and this brought into sharp focus the beautiful installation art of brass tubes hanging off the ceiling of the restaurant.
The weekend wine lunch was a menu consisting of a choice of one starter, a middle course, a main course and three mandatory desserts accompanied by four glasses of wine chosen by the sommelier. For all that, the price was very reasonable, although in hindsight the paired wines weren't all that great (the sommelier did pour rather generously though). Amuse bouche in this case was a familiar raspberry-coated foie gras and discs of beetroot and gingerbread. It was well created and was a very delicious start to the meal.
The second amuse bouche was the ham croquette (which was also excellent) and a bowl of truffle soup, mushrooms and a pea veloute. The soup was beautifully presented and tasted as good as it looked.
Globe artichoke, cep mushrooms 'a la grecque' with sapporo barnabes bacon and summer leaves: One of the highlights of this meal at Amber was how beautifully the chef plates his food. There is clearly an emphasis on creative arrangement and placing of various food items and ingredients on each plate served. This meal was also memorable in respect of the thought put in to marry various ingredients to produce a balanced and light meal. In this dish, the vegetables were well matched in both taste and texture, but the dish was let down slightly by the overuse of balsamic which resulted in an acidic aftertaste.
'Maatjes' herring fillets, seaweed salad, creme fraiche, sherry and cevennes onion dressing: This was another pretty dish which had a light and clean taste. However, it lacked any real 'oomph' and ultimately came up a bit flat.
Tasmanian salmon confit and smoked, avocado, horseradish and granny smith apple: An Amber special (we have had this a few times here previously), the salmon was smoked perfectly and the strong sooty (meant in a good way) flavour was very apparent with each bite. It was a most unique dish and well complemented by the slightly tangy apple slices and creamy avocado puree. A word of warning for those who like their meats cooked well done: the salmon was cooked with hot smoke and not heat from a flame so the fish was very red on the inside and had the appearance and texture of being almost raw.
Grefeuille triple A lamb shoulder, braised with garden herbs, 'paimpol' coco beans, bellota ham with cuttlefish in a tomato broth: My main course was a very good piece of lamb braised just right, ad accompanied by rather large beans which were a good complement. The sauce was more tomato than cuttlefish (couldn't taste the seafood) but otherwise it was a good main course.
Duroc pork belly roasted and vintage sherry glazed, mustard new potatoes, spinach and girolle mushroom: My wife loved her nicely roasted piece of pork belly which was tender yet not that fatty, covered by a rich and classic glaze.
White peach poached in champagne and verbena ice cream: This was a refreshing dessert yet the peach in this instance wasn't ripe enough and was too sour.
Mara des bois strawberry sorbet and salad over an aged balsamic vinegar jello, cubeb pepper semi-freddo: This was an unremarkable dessert, which had more of a visual than a gastronomic impact.
Manjari 64% chocolate and port wine 'delice', bitter chocolate glaze and cherry sorbet: Another attractive looking dish which did not excite; the chocolate glaze was too sweet, the 'delice' (the jelly-like blob) was tasteless and the chocolate was quite ordinary.
Petit fours came in a container reminiscent of the one we had at Per Se in New York (except that the Per Se one contained so much petit fours that it was physically impossible to finish them). The quantity of food and wines was just right for a leisurely yet substantial Sunday brunch.
Final Thoughts: Amber continued to impress us with the highly professional service and beautiful decor, as well as the gorgeous food that they served, making them worthy of high acclaim. However, as with the dinner we had here last year, we still felt that it was missing a spark and consistency across the courses which could make this a truly outstanding restaurant. In this meal, the middle and main courses as well as the amuse bouche were outstanding but the rest were quite ordinary. While the cooking is solid and technically sound, it is our view, some more inspiration and consistency is needed in the food in order to match up to the already sky-high standards of its service, decor and presentation. But despite all that, this is still a very classy and elegant fine dining establishment worth having a special meal at.