Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong Serves Up Contemporary Fine Dining
In partnership with Food Made Good

Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong Serves Up Contemporary Fine Dining

From their inspiring earth-conscious menu, to eliminating single use plastic to “pollinating” the community with its message, Amber is a pioneer in sustainable initiatives and well deserved winner of the Food Made Good ‘Environment’ Award, sponsored by WWF-Hong Kong.

Richard Ekkebus of Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental is a two Michelin starred chef with a start-up mindset. Being the director of culinary operations and Food & Beverage at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, he has all the support, status and accolades to rest on his laurels, but that’s not for him. What is most inspiring about Richard is his dedication to evolve, improve and disrupt. This attitude has in my opinion kept Amber at the forefront of the intersection between luxury dining and eco-activism - not a combination you come across very often.

Freshly shucked peas over bone marrow custard, topped with pea blossoms. Photo: Debbie Wong

In 2019, Amber notably relaunched with a modern, dairy-free, plant-forward menu and a newly designed eco-centric dining room. The new menu deliberately challenges the status quo of fine dining: “Should we feel uncomfortable after a luxurious meal?” “Why have cheese at the end of a multicourse dinner?” “Is dairy always necessary in French cooking?” 

The current menu expresses that modern luxury dining should be holistic, leave the diner energized, and feel just as good after the meal as well as during. The set menu, aptly named “The Amber Experience” consisted of a choice of 4 courses, and a few surprise mini courses dotted throughout.  

Sustainable fish and wild game, such as deer and pigeon were the carefully selected proteins on a decidedly plant -forward menu; many of the dishes were completely vegan, and some, even if they did contain elements of meat, saw it used thoughtfully as a flavoring agent, rather than the main focus, such as bone marrow custard to add depth and richness to a bowl of freshly shucked green peas, and chicken jus to compliment the umami of an matsutake mushroom appetizer. 

Related: How to Cook, Eat and Order Climate-Friendly Meals

Here are some other highlights of my delicious and inspiring “experience” that day:

Japanese fruit tomato

Japanese fruit tomato. Photo: Debbie Wong 

A refreshing and sophisticated Japanese fruit tomato with strawberries, a complex ice-cold broth with tosazu vinegar, made “richer” with extra virgin grapeseed oil, one of the many plant-based fats Amber now utilizes. The standout on this dish, a scoop of deep chlorophyll-green shiso sorbet. 

Scampi with corn polenta, prawn bisque and shaved truffle

Lobster scampi. Photo: Debbie Wong 

This felt like a modern retelling of truffles with lobster, undeniably rich and indulgent, yet dairy free and clean tasting. The shellfish was paired with corn to push the inherent sweetness of the protein, the vegetal flavor of the husk and cob pronounced, reminding the diner that all this luxury is still rooted in the earth. 

The dining room follows the same conscious balance as the food - natural elements woven seamlessly into luxurious details: modern gold chandeliers swirl over tables of repurposed wood, tinted with natural dye, organic shapes echoing throughout the calm, cream coloured room. I especially loved the taupe grey placemats inspired by the beautiful asymmetry of an oysters’ shell. 

Richard’s relationship with our natural environment as it relates to our food system is a personal one. He grew up in a small fishing town in Holland where he witnessed first-hand the effects of global warming in the form of rising sea levels. It struck him early on that one day, his hometown could end up underwater. For him, going green was never something shiny to put on his CV, but a universal responsibility.

Related: Food Made Good HK Awards Shines A Spotlight On Sustainability

Dessert of pine nut, Amalfi lemon, rosemary and cacao nib. Photo: Debbie Wong

To the general public, it might seem that Amber’s transformation came rather quickly, when in fact, it began nearly 15 years ago, with the implementation of segregated waste. Among working closely with WWF to source sustainable seafood, filtering their own mineral water rather than importing, and carefully sourcing ethical coffee, sugar and chocolate, as of next year, Mandarin Oriental worldwide will have eliminated single use plastic, an initiative that began 7 years ago. Richard’s leadership at the Mandarin Oriental around sustainability has helped change the company’s policies not only in Hong Kong, but globally. As for the menu, his next aim is for it to be 75% plant based. 

Equally as important to Richard’s work in sustainability is what he calls “pollinating”: building, growing and educating a team and community that will spread the word through their actions, and ensure the movement continues. For example, Amber’s chef jackets are made by a local independent shirt maker, and the restaurant’s artwork is by a homegrown independent artist. Richard understands that a 360-degree approach is the key to being a sustainable business, as well as to sustain as a business; for him these concepts are symbiotic, just like our relationship as humans to our planet. 

Thank you, chef, for sharing your story and inspiring work with me.

Related: Six Tips to Kickstart Your Sustainable Lifestyle

 

Debbie Wong is a professional cook, writer and classically trained actor based in Hong Kong. She is the host of Food Wars Asia, Kitchen Quickies, and her ongoing international culinary series on YouTube - Debbie Wong’s Wok and Gong. Follow her on all socials @ms.debbiewong.

This article was created in partnership with Food Made Good HK.

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