Jonathan is home for a week, and I am sooooooo happy. He is sent by his company to do some research here. And last Friday, he met his sister, Miss Muffin, for the first time. Both of them greeted each other with a courteous handshake, and the introduction was basically peaceful and civil. But very soon, Miss Muffin realized this brother is NOT that NICE!
It was Celina's birthday yesterday, and we started the day with a wonderful lunch at Amber, a two Michelin star restaurant in the Landmark Mandarin Hotel. Chef Richard Ekkebus is a real culinary artist, and a grand master at that. I enjoy his food much more than at Robuchon. Why? Chef Ekkebus cooks from his heart, and it is so important to him that his customers enjoy his offerings on the table. Whereas in Robuchon, the chef is cooking to a formula dictated by Robuchon -- his senior assistants carry out his vision. Robuchon has institutionalized his restaurant, opening branches here and there. Just like Thomas Keller, one reads about the legendary Thomas Keller and his talent for creating beautifully conceived food, elegantly presented and as varied as the colours of rainbow. I therefore went there with extremely high expectations, like a pilgrim with hat in hand, humbly, anxiously and eagerly to pay my respects.
If you ask my opinion about Per Se, I believe a 15-course dinner sounds great, each comes with no more than two or three mouthfuls, but the truth is that not everything works. It is a challenge that is simply impossible to meet, maybe with Thomas Keller behind the stove and cooking just for 8 people, then a perfect 15 course dinner can be a reality.
I do not believe one can institutionalize cooking, as cooking is a purely creative and artistic expression. Talent can only be bestowed on one, not many, even if it is the legendary Thomas Keller who is the sifu to his disciples.
Although the crockery, with its hound's tooth motif, is custom-made, as is the linen and the silverware, and you have dozens of waiters/waitresses/ captains etc. hovering around you, the service is cold and distant, one cannot feel the heart, the passion. It is robotic, and when we finished with our bread and left a lot on the plate, plates were not changed, and the waitress just placed extra bread for our cheese on top of the stale bread. I refrained from speaking out, though I was disgusted with this neglect, especially given the price paid, this was definitely criminal to have such an oversight by the management.
But with Chef Ekkebus of Amber, it is a different story. Service is fantastic, the waiters and captains seem genuinely pleased that we enjoyed the food and they gave us their best. Congratulations to Chef Ekkebus and his team and thank you so much for giving Celina a wonderful birthday lunch. Chef Ekkebus has agreed to give my cooking club a cooking demonstration!