Sunday, October 16, 2011

describing the indescribable

I knew my palate would be pleased during my recent trip to Hongkong here. But I didn't expect it to be this indescribable.

Amber is the signature restaurant of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel. We chose the 8-course degustation menu even if the price was pretty expletive-inducing at HK$1,588 per person. But it was well worth every HK dollar x PhP5.8 -- right from the very first course: the sea urchin in a lobster jell-O with cauliflower, caviar & crispy seaweed waffles.

The second course was tasmanian salmon confit & smoked -- with avocado, horseradish & granny smith apple on the side. There was a dramatic flair to this dish as the salmon came covered in glass and the smoke rose when the glass was lifted.

By the fourth course - the red amadai with fennel & orange confit, 'bottarga' grated new potatoes, 'bouillabaisse' & manni olive oil emulsion, my friends and I were overwhelmed at the realization that we could not even force-rank the dishes. They all deserved to be at the top - each so different from the next, you couldn't compare them - and none falling at the bottom three. 

As I posted on Facebook by the 5th course, "No words are worthy to describe this meat course. The kagoshima wagyu beef melted in my mouth and left me utterly speechless."

It's funny though, because my friends and I had much to say throughout our 4-hour dinner. Here were a few of our quotable quotes that night:

"You know it's good when you're already reminiscing about course #5 at course #6."

"So good, I cannot even fi-- [nish my sentence].

By the french farmer cheeses course, while we sampled the blue cheese, our lame quotes were proving that the flavors in our mouth were totally indescribable:  "Sarap ng amag!" [The molds taste delicious!].  I have always loved sharp cheeses. Brie & Camembert were never sharp enough for me as I told you here. That is, until I tasted Amber's Camembert.

The first dessert (yes, there were 2 desserts!) - the malaga wild strawberries mascarpone semi freddo liquor 'fraise des bois' tipsy cake was too wonderful for words.

The abinao 85% chocolate souffle with brown rum anglaise & cacao sorbet was the biggest and most perfect-looking souffle I had ever seen. My friend's description? "It's like eating God's chocolate cloud."

Before we could dig into each course, one of Amber's well-informed staff would describe the dish with an eloquence we obviously lack, as you might have noticed through our quotes. But what I loved about them was, as their website accurately depicts, there was a "fresh absence of pretention" in their staff. Despite the fine ambiance of this French restaurant, Amber's staff made us feel comfortable to enjoy every one of those 8 courses in an unpretentious way. Had they not, how could we make such uncultured comments like "Sarap ng amag!" or "Ang Amber ay hindi na lang peachy-peachy ngayon."?

Amber was such a delightful gastronomic experience that we wondered how we could go back to eating regular food. How could we go back to eating without an articulate preamble about the dish? How could we hop on a plane after this and allow our meal to be preceded by just "Chicken or Beef"?

Oh, and in case you're finding it odd that I am raving about French cuisine when I had traveled to Hongkong and not Europe... We also enjoyed the best dimsum & the creamiest Deep-Fried Creamy Buns with Egg Yolk at Maxim's Palace and the best porkchop-rice at Delicious Kitchen. 

Photos from Amber.


  1. Wonderful entry! In fairness, I'm still reminiscing about the meal until now...A great start to a Sunday! Positivity rocks!

  2. I cannot imagine spending that much in a meal! But everything looks and sounds great :)

  3. @ocmom Neither could I. But if Bertus thinks it was worth it, you'd better believe it really was!