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Tough Cookie

Petrus, Caprice or Amber?

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My husband and I will be heading to Hong Kong for a week or so and would like to have one memorable French dinner. We usually prefer tasting menus and I am having a tough time which restaurant to try. I am sure all three are great but would love to hear people's opinions. Which one would people recommend: Petrus, Amber or Caprice? Thank you!

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aprilmei   

I don't suppose you have time to go to Macau for a few hours? Because if you do, you should go to Robuchon a Galera - especially for lunch, where it's just an amazing deal - something like HK$688 for a five-course meal (you can also order three or four courses, but we always go for five). It's a Michelin three-star, and totally deserving of them. You should count on at least three hours, if you want to give me meal justice.

Of the others, I'd go for Caprice or Amber - both are excellent. You might also want to consider Cepage.

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I second April's suggestion of Robuchon at Macau, it is certainly the very best Robuchon restaurant in the world, and quite impressive. Equally impressive as a whole is Amber. It is very bold, deliciouis food based on excellent products. Service seems to be an issue, but in my 4 visits there over the last 3 months, it never posed a problem. Wine lunch on the weekend is great value something like HKD700 for 6 courses, wines and coffee.

Caprice is also great, lovely view, very good service and solid classical cooking. Compared to Robuchon and Amber perhaps a tad less interesting in terms of food. However, what makes Caprice stand out are the cheeses and the desserts. The former are perhaps the best there are in the world (not only me thinking that!) and the latte delicious.

Petrus is a perfectly decent restaurant, but simply not on the same level. THe menu reads like that of the LOuis XV in Monte Carlo, but doesn't deliver on product quality or flavour.

There you have it, if you can do two: Robuchon and Amber!

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FDE   

Related to this topic, after my recent visit, the best French meal I had in Hong Kong was at Amber. I have not been to Petrus or Caprice for years though. The signature Sea Urchin was a memorable dish – a sea urchin shell elevated by a bowl of ice with a shiny caviar spoon on the side. I knew this would be a winner by simply imagining the marriage of creamy sea urchin and velvety cauliflower mousse. Chef Ekkebus further enhanced this combination with a layer of lobster jello before crowning it with a quenelle of caviar and a gold leaf. He cleverly served a seaweed waffle on the side, providing a crispy texture to the dish. Each component had its flair but it was the harmony of all these elements that perpetuated in my mind.

From the kitchen to the dining room, from the ingredients to the plate, from amuse bouches to petits fours, everything flows seamlessly.

Full meal here:

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Amber, the signature restaurant of the Landmark Oriental, actually has been in my radar since 07-08 but somehow it failed to persuade me. I read some mixed reviews discussing about inconsistent performances at Amber; instead at that time I opted for dinners at Caprice and Pierre – when both restaurants just opened. Recently, Amber has become the talks among Asian’ critics and bloggers alike, in the positive way of course. 2-michelin star, HK top restaurant (according to Tatler and Restaurant magazine ‘Asia version’) and Miele’s top 10 are some accolades that the restaurant has received. Hence, I really cannot help it that Amber became a “must try” place when I visited to Hong Kong last month.

Amber has been lead by the hotel’s Executive Chef, Richard Ekkebus – a Holland-born man who has been trained in France under some nouvelle cuisines genius such as Chef Passard, Gagnaire and Savoy. I usually like the cooking of L’Arpege alumni chefs. Chef Ekkebus shared that Alain Passard was a demanding chef but he learned a lot from the vegetable master during his stint there. In the past 2 years or so, the day to day kitchen operation has actually been managed and executed by Paul Froggat, the chef de cuisine who used to work at Saint Pierre Singapore. Nowadays, Chef Ekkebus role is more like Yannick Alleno or Franck Cerutti; most of the time, they will focus on the hotel’s kitchen overall performances. I went for lunch and decided to savor the degustation menu since many have said that the portions at Amber are relatively small.

From the total of 8 dishes, I enjoyed very much nearly half of them.

- The famous Hokkaido uni was decadent and always worked well with caviar. There was a smooth cauliflower ‘cream’ underneath to bring additional depth for this dish; the seaweed waffle added texture contrast as well as balance the rich cauliflower & lobster gelee. The only problem for me: there’re too much cauliflower and not enough sea urchin. Also, I cannot help to compare this dish with Waku Ghin’s botan ebi, uni and caviar dish .. I would say Wakuda-san’s dish is slightly more superior due to the fresh and sweei of Japanese shrimp

- The New Zealand seared langoustine was well executed; it's tender and slightly sweet. The puree and bergamot enhanced the overall experience of the dish. As long as you have high quality langoustine, the side dishes are secondary

- The A4 wagyu was cooked medium rare; the beef was buttery, tender and succulent as expected. The short ribs was rich and decadent, nicely complemented by mustard onion. However, I found that the caramelized shallot (black 'puree') was too intense. Japanese wagyu is generally a safe choice for main course at any Asian fine dining place; more adventurous foodies should try lamb, duck or pigeon – the kinds of meats that French cooking usually does fantastic job

The sayori dish as the opening course was alright, teasing your palate. Somehow, I wasn’t too impressed by Chef Ekkebus singnature smoked salmon confit probably due to the squid ink bread crumb that covered the fish was too salty. Moreover, its side dishes (avocado mousse and a couple forms of green apple) were ordinary. I usually avoid cheese course unless when I dine in Europe for ‘strange’ reasoning: Asian generally dislike (farmer) cheese so I often wonder how long those cheeses have been around in the restaurant untouched. Though I could be mistaken ... Whenever you have multiple desserts in any degustation menu, the pattern is almost always: one will be fruit-based and the other will chocolate-based.

Desserts:

-The fruity dessert (william pear with dried fruits, yoghurt and biscuit) features sweet and sour taste with soft and crunchy texture – OK; I prefer my cheese replacement: Amaho strawberry - sweet and refreshing, served in earthy hibiscus with pepperand soft cold granite.

-Chocolate souffle: a common French dessert that's perfectly executed with high quality ingredients (Abinao 85% chocolate). The souffle was sweet and smooth in contrast to the bitter sorbet; a very comforting dessert towards the end of the meal

Verdict for food: 93 pts (about 2 ½* by Michelin standard). If the degustation menu represents the best items Amber can offer, it has a long way to go for the Red guide 3rd star. I hope it may not be the case

Amber is not only famous for its food, but also its decor. The dining room is grand and elegant; nobody could not help but notice the suspended chandelier consisting of more than 4000 bronze rods designed by Adam Tihany, a renowned interior designer. The distance between tables are spacious while the couch & booths are comfortable. The center piece is filled with floral arrangements inside slender black vases. It’s essential for the restaurant to have a beautiful dining room since it has no views of Victoria harbour/Kowloon peninsula

The service in Amber is generally good with some contrast between local and foreign “waiters”. Like in Singapore, the local waiters tend to be (or tried to be) more formal and rather stiff; they’re knowledgable about the dishes though it looked robotic when they described the food. Luckily, I was also often servd and entertained by Hector Lugo, a Mexican assistant manager – he’s easy going and has vast knowledge about hospitality in general. Towards the end, I got a chance to have a chat with Monsieur Noyelle, the restaurant manager who had been trained for almost a decade as maitre d’ under Denis Courtiade (Ducasse Paris); no wonder his service was smooth. I don’t know how, but I wish Asian maitre d’ could have “more interesting” personality so that they can ‘connect’ with their guests better

Overall experience: 93/100 and I agree with Michelin’s assesment thus far

Here are the pictures of the dishes: https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/AmberHongKongChina


Edited by Bu Pun Su (log)

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Several years ago, Four Seasons hotel HK boasted itself as the only hotel with two 3-star Michelin restaurants: Caprice and Lung King Heen. Nearly a decade ago (prior to HK Michelin era), I had a good dinner at Caprice under the former Le Cinq chef, Vincent Thierry. Probably because it was not overly impressive and the fact that I don’t come to HK that often, I have not returned there until last month.

 

In terms of “hard” materials, nothing really changes here. The 2-tier dining room is lavish and spacious with crystal chandeliers, plush carpets, central open kitchen and leather arm chairs. I was seated at the corner of the lower level in which I could take advantage of the always pleasant harbor view during this lunch. Now, I noticed Caprice also has a bar where guests can enjoy its famous cheese as well as plenty other small dishes. Given its location at the heart of Hong Kong financial district, it should not be surprising that it’s filled with lots of people doing business lunch; nearly ¾ of the tables were occupied.

 

As I perused the menu, I noticed that there’s (finally) white truffle menu – somehow I was told via e-mail that the restaurant did not serve any Alba truffle yet even in late October. I find the white truffle promotion of 5-course set menu during lunch reasonably priced (only slightly above HKD 1,000 including coffee/tea). As a comparison, the a la carte pasta course at Gaddi’s under Chef Boyer would cost more than HKD 1,300++. Hence, I decided to go for it.

 

Bordier butter seemed to have invaded numerous fine dining places around the world and Caprice was no exception. I quite liked their olive and seaweed bread. The amuse of (a rather tasteless) tuna belly with cucumber and its cream was average.

-The real deal started with the usual winning formula of egg + white truffle. The nicely farm poached egg with luscious béchamel sauce, salty ham, and spinach leaves was flavorful. The truffle made it more decadent.

-The next 2 courses were fine but not too memorable: soft poached foie gras with bitter daikon and double boiled consommé – the clear soup was the best part. Followed by Monalisa gnocchis (not airy and quite dense) with walnut and parmesan cream; the white truffle improved this ‘normal’ dish.

-The kitchen raised the bar for the main course: perfectly cooked milk-fed veal fillet (succulent and delicious, simply divine). It was accompanied by tagliatelle pasta, cooked al dente, with girolle and shaved white truffle. The combination was seamless. Even I think that the pasta could be served as its own dish. It was a dish executed and tasted at 2.5-3 star level

-Lastly, I requested for the restaurant signature’s dessert, La Framboise (having a highly aesthetic presentation). It’s a very suitable dessert for those who liked not-so-sweet things. Inside the giant and delicate confit of raspberry, there were lemon sponge cake, smooth mousse, and crisp almond biscuit. The 2 real raspberries on the sides was not so sweet either        

 

Fabrice Vulin was not available in the kitchen during my visit, but I think overall his kitchen brigade performed well at the 2-star level (about Les Amis’ / Gunther’s level in Singapore but slightly inferior to Amber @ Oriental Landmark). The service was impressive – attentive, friendly, and efficient. Near the end, as I about to leave, I wanted to pour the last glass of my sparkling water myself. One staff noticed it and rushed to my table, insisted to do it for me. It showed the strong hospitality commitment from the beginning until the end. I was taken care of by Timothy most of the time; he’s been with the restaurant since ‘05

 

Lunch meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157673912761714/with/31508275012/

 

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