Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Amber at Asiate, Mandarin Oriental, NYC

Amber at Asiate, Mandarin Oriental, NYC, 6/10/2016 (4-Course, $125 excl. taxes & gratuity)

 Amber, a Michelin two-starred restaurant, is the main restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong. Asiate, the main restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in NYC has invited Amber’s culinary director Richard Ekkebus to host a 4-day event of special 4-course lunches and 6-course dinners from 6/8/16 to 6/11/16. I chose to have lunch.

It started with two courses of Amuse Bouche:

I. Cleanser – Ratatouille bouillon infused with oolong tea. The first process was making ratatouille using bell pepper, zucchini, egg plants, onion, tomato, and add basil at the end. Approximately, the preparation started with 10 kg of ingredients and water and reduced to half of the volume. Then the whole pot of ratatouille was frozen before it was defrosted. To collect the soup, let the frozen sauce drip while it was being defrosted. This is similar to ice-wine making. Sauce collected using the defrosting process is more concentrated and condensed, therefore, more flavorful. On the side, oolong (highly fermented tea) was brewed by boiled hot water. When the course was ready to be served at the customer’s table, pour some virgin olive oil at the bottom of cup, then soup and infused oolong tea. It was a very finely balanced soup even though oolong was a strong-flavored tea. The making of this dish is also very time-consuming.

II. Mise en Bouches – two items

a).Buckwheat toast with fennel, avocado and wild flowers

Avocado salsa was spread on toast, topped with fennel and a lot of cute tiny wild flowers for decoration as well as for eating.

 b).Virgin “Bloody Mary” tartlet with fennel pollen

Circle of Blood Mary shaped like an egg yolk created by dipping sodium alginate into calcium lactate. In many ways sodium alginate has become the poster child for modernist cooking (molecular gastronomy) due to its use in spherification. Inside this egg yolk looking ball, there was “Bloody Mary”. Ideally, you should eat it with one bite. This item reminded me of another creative work, Bloody Mary sorbet in soup, that I had a few years ago at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. 


1st Course: Sea Urchin – in a lobster jello-O with cauliflower. Caviar & crispy seaweed waffles

Cauliflower panna cotta was at the bottom of bowl. Sea urchin was placed on top of panna cotta and covered by lobster jello-O. Because lobster consommé was reduced during the cooking process, it yielded brown color. I read chef Ekkebus liked to use the sea urchin from Hakaido when he prepared this dish in Amber, Hong Kong. I later found out that chef Ekkebus ordered sea urchin for this lunch from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market. Certainly, what he used was the supreme quality, very fresh and flavorful. On the very top of the bowl, there was Osetra caviar.  It was juicy, sweet and fresh. Reasonably, I could not expect any better caviar because Beluga is still banned in US. To make the appearance appealing, chef Ekkibus placed a piece of gold leaf on top of caviar.The crispy waffle , sittinf on the side of the bowl, was made of rice flour and coated with powdery seaweed to be consistent with the seafood themed sea urchin and lobster. This thin waffle was very light and crispy, not greasy at all. This was a real sumptuous dish.

2nd Course: Abalone –Black pepper & vinegar seasoned tomato compote, braised then crisped oxtail & its juice

Chef Ekkebus liked to use abalone from Australia because its quality. What served in this course was green abalone from Jade Tiger farm for its minerality, nuttiness, tenderness and flavor. Tomato compote in devil sauce was served at the bottom of the bowl. It was made of tomato, onion, bell pepper, hint of sugar, fresh pepper and salt; reduced and added with a little French white vinegar at the end. Abalone was sliced and placed on top of tomato compote and topped with crisped oxtail and its jus, garlic and parsley. A few baby spinach leaves (with red veins) were on top for decoration. Abalone was delicious and virtually melted in your mouth. Abalone was traditionally considered a classic delicacy in Asia, especially in Hong Kong which is famous for its foodies’ fondness for seafood. It was a “must have” dish in the high end of gourmet meal. Chef Ekkebus probably has tried his best to refine his signature dish to entertain his loyal followers in Amber, claimed being the best French restaurant in Hong Kong.

3rd Course: Wagyu Beef – Strip loin; barbecued with dulse seaweed and red cabbage slaw, oxalis, horseradish and pepper berry emulsion

I requested my steak French blue (rare). Steak was wrapped around by nori which reminded me of the signature dish of “Baby Lamb with Nori Crust” at L’Epicure. The purpose of using seaweed was to enhance the flavor by utilizing the salt content and the extra taste in seaweed instead of salt alone. On the side, red cabbage was served in three styles – cole slaw, braised and chip. Tiny oxalis flower was place on top of cole slaw for the visual presentation. Sauce was made of Béarnaise sauce with grounded Australian pink pepper berry. The Assistant Manager of Amber was so kind to bring a little dish of grounded Australian berry so that I can have a taste as well as the look of it. It is brought to NYC from Hong Kong, in burgundy color, taste milder and sweeter than paprika. When the grounded Australian berry was mixed with Bérnaise sauce, it yield a pleasant and slightly spicy kick in the flavor. I enjoyed it very much.

4th Course: Dulcey chocolate – spheres coated in Manjari 64% chocolate, with salted & caramelized macadamia nuts & cocoa sorbet

The first thing that I noticed in the plate was the dark brown color of cocoa sorbet, I have never seen such a dark color of cocoa sorbet. It was full of flavor. I later found out that all chocolate used in this course was Manjari brand which is not available in NYC. There were two chocolate spheres coated in dark chocolate, adorned with gold leaf, with white chocolate dulcey inside. The texture of white chocolate dulcey was so delicate and smooth, it was almost like a creamy version of Crème brûlée. I can’t help to ask Amber’s manager what kind of processes required. It required some very demanding processes, started with taking approximately 50 minutes to make white chocolate caramel. It was one of chef Ekkebus’s special creation. In between chocolate spheres and sorbet, there were some milk chocolate ganache. It was a very gratifying chocolate-themed desert. I would not mind to have two more of these exquisite chocolate bonbons.

5th Course: Amber petite fours

Cannelé - A cannelé is a small French pastry with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust. It takes the shape of small, striated cylinder approximately five centimeters in height and is a specialty of the Bordeaux region of France. It tasted especially good when fresh while outside is crusty and inside is 80% done. It is more sophisticated than madeleine.

Raspberry Tart – A bite-size tart filled with mascarpone cheese. The special feature about this tart was the aged balsamic vinegar filled raspberry. It had a very refreshing taste.

Coconut Eskimo – Coconut lollipop with milk chocolate and nut coating.

I had a wonderful meal at Amber/Asiate. The Dutch born Chef Ekkebus brought his team, special ingredients, equipment as well as his signature dishes to ensure all guests had a memorable and gratified experience. Chef Ekkebus incorporated his Dutch refined techniques with skills honed from three French masters Alain Passard, Guy Savoy, and Pierre Gagnaire. Staying in Hong Kong, a place where East meet West, Chef Ekkebus has been custom to fully utilizing all the resources and created his own fine contemporary French cuisine with fusion style.

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