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Amber
The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel
15, Queen’s Street, Central, Hong Kong, China
Tel: (852) 2132 0066

Food type: Contemporary French Gastronomy

Nearest tube: Central

Website: Amber

I really struggled whether to write about this meal and our experience this time around. However, given my glowing write-up of Amber previously, I felt it only fair to give a different perspective of my meal this time around.

For the final meal of our Hong Kong trip, we decided that a revisit of Amber was a must. After all, we had such a fantastic meal here last time around it was a complete no brainer. As an added bonus, as we were staying at the Mandarin Oriental, the Landmark MO was a 5 minute walk around the corner. I had initially planned to dine here for lunch, but as my fiancee wanted to do a day trip to Ocean Park, followed by an evening cruise on the Aqua Luna, I had to do a bit of swapping around. The restaurant offered us a 9pm booking which I was very happy with. Little did we know what was to transpire later that evening.

We arrived early for our 9pm booking. Our table was not ready but we were more than happy to have a drink at the bar. Unlike the MO Bar located at the top of the Mandarin Oriental with stunning views of Hong Kong, the bar located here was as lifeless and boring as you can wish for. No view, and there was just another couple who were also waiting for their table to be ready. The peach bellini I had was pretty decent served with some salted almonds, olives and chorizo. At 9pm, our table was still not ready. Our waitress came to apologise stating that the table were in the process of paying up and leaving.

At about 9:15pm, we were led to our table. As it was truffle season, there was an additional white truffle tasting menu (HKD$3,500) alongside their standard tasting menu and the a la carte menu. We travelled some near 6,000 miles to eat here again so it was a no brainer that we opted for their white truffle menu. John Chan, the head sommelier informs me that there was no wine pairing available but suggested a couple of half bottles of Burgundy to match the menu. First, a bottle of Corton by Bonneau du Matray 2006 followed by an excellent Grands-Echezeaux 2008 from Mongeard-Mugneret.

With our orders placed, we were served a couple of nibbles before our truffle menu began. First off was the traditional tea ceremony, this time an intense mushroom consommé poured over a delicate egg custard, with additional umami boost from some seaweed. It was pretty hard to figure out what was served because our waiter, a young French lad with a ‘trainee’ badge quickly mumbled the description of the dish and then walked away. Next were Mushroom macaroons playfully served on a wooden log. The macaroons had excellent flavour. Keeping with the mushroom theme, the next snack was a mushroom beignet served amongst pine and autumn leaves. The last snack was a cep foam covered with jerusalem artichoke chips. I loved how all the snacks tied in thematically with the autumn/ winter season and each element tasted wonderful.

Langoustine served raw with cauliflower couscous & puree aka sea urchin & beef consome jelly

Langoustine served raw with cauliflower couscous & puree aka sea urchin & beef consome jelly

The first proper course was a langoustine tartar with sea urchin and beef consommé jelly finished off with some white truffle at the table. I am personally not a big fan of langoustines served raw. I find that a lot of the inherent, sweet, bold, crustaceany flavour of the langoustine is not present in its au naturel state. While the pairing with the sea urchin and beef consommé was sensible, I am not sure the role of the white truffle here. The langoustine was somewhat lost amongst all the strong flavours on the plate. Not my favourite.

Veal head & tongue with aromatic vegetables & capers in sauce poulette

Veal head & tongue with aromatic vegetables & capers in sauce poulette

Next was my favourite of the night – veal head & tongue with white truffles. There was certainly a perfect sense of marriage of flavours with the meaty yet not overwhelmingly beefy flavour of the hot veal with the truffle. The flavours on the plate were offset by the acidity brought by the vegetables and capers. All fine except the dish was dumped on the table, truffle shaved and the waiter just walked away with no description of the dish. Something tells me that service tonight was not going to be the finest.

Cuttlefish ala carbonara with quail egg yolk, pearl onion petals & smoked alsatian bacon

Cuttlefish ala carbonara with quail egg yolk, pearl onion petals & smoked alsatian bacon

This was followed by their take of carbonara with cuttlefish used as a substitute for pasta. The use of cuttlefish as a pasta substitute is not new, having encountered it before a few times (e.g. Koffmann’s, Hedone) but the execution here was near on perfect. The balance with the quail egg, bacon and parmesan foam. The white truffles helped enhance all the flavours on the plate.

'Patis' Poularde breast poached with sauce albufera & crispy cereal, kabocha & chicken jus with virgin hazelnut oil

‘Patis’ Poularde breast poached with sauce albufera & crispy cereal, kabocha & chicken jus with virgin hazelnut oil

Our main course was a breast of chicken served with two sauces – a classic chicken jus and sauce albufera (made from madeira and foie gras). The pairing of chicken, sauce albufera and truffles is as classic as it comes and here it was executed very well. The chicken itself had plenty of flavour and excellent texture. Not surprising given the provenance of the chicken, supplied by famed butcher Hugo Desnoyer. I particularly liked the addition of the cereal as it added an additional texture to the dish.

At this point, as the waiter was clearing up the dishes for the main, we requested for some cheese prior to our main course. No problem he answered. 10 minutes later a different waiter came over and informed me that the kitchen had already plated the desserts so could we have cheese after desserts? I basically stated that if cheese could not be accommodated before desserts, I’d rather not have cheese altogether. Said waiter then proceed to say very loudly to another waiter “Cancel cheese as customer does not want to have cheese after dessert”.

Let me speculate as to what had happened here. We were the last table for the restaurant. The waiter looking after us probably saw that we were close to done with our mains and decided to inform pastry that the customer was nearly done with their mains and to start plating up desserts. When I then requested for some cheese, it threw a spanner in the works since pastry were already starting to plate the desserts. Now, instead of heading in and letting the pastry chef know that the customer wanted cheese and to hold the desserts (and subsequently get a massive bollocking from the chef), he chose to take matters into his own hands to postpone cheese until after desserts. I wonder if all this was done to get us out of the restaurant as soon as possible for an early night.Now we were by no means slow eaters, and at this point it was 10:30pm. Make of that what you will of the pacing of the meal given that we were only seated at 9:15pm.

Gianduja panna cotta with macadamia nuts & crispy cacao tuille, vanilla & white truffle ice cream

Gianduja panna cotta with macadamia nuts & crispy cacao tuille, vanilla & white truffle ice cream

It is a shame the above incident happened since I was in a pretty foul mood when desserts did arrive. No I did not want it. I wanted some Bernard Anthony Comte first. The gianduja panna cotta itself was pretty amazing – silky, creamy yet with excellent texture from the tuile and nuts. If all panna cottas were like that I would order them a lot more.

The final straw for awful service was the petit fours which were simply dumped on the table. “Here are your petit fours” said our waiter and then walked away.

I asked to speak to the maitre’d and explained the problems we had with service throughout the night. I stated that the meal itself was fantastic but the service was completely appalling in particular the handling of the cheese/ dessert incident. He was very apologetic and was not aware about the whole incident. He did offer us some cheese to which I declined because I do not enjoy eating something savoury after having something sweet. To be fair, he did remove the pre-dinner drinks from our bill (but not the service charge) and sent us home with some extra macaroons and a box of cheese. I think he handled the situation very well but was obviously let down by his team who took matters into their own hands.

It is a shame that our experience this time around was marred by service issues because the cooking here is truly world class akin to what you would find at a top Parisian 3* restaurant. Richard Ekkebus’ cooking goes from strength to strength. While Michelin have always stated that their ratings are judged solely on the cooking alone, you do have to wonder if service has a role to play in their final decision.

5/5 (cooking), 1/5 (service)