The Four Seasons Restaurant closed this summer, and while I never had the chance to dine there during the brief interlude I lived in Manhattan, I figure the power lunches and impress-your-clients can’t have been too different from a meal at Amber.
Hong Kong is not New York, and Central is not Midtown, but sometimes they feel the same: the anonymous buildings of steel and glass, the rustling of suits. When I think about my former classmates, the ones whose paths led inescapably toward Wall Street, I imagine them in settings like this, surrounded by similarly high-powered bankers and consultants and attorneys. The conversation erupts in a bout of hearty laughter and another bottle of Mouton Rothschild is poured.
With some tasting menus, I feel quite alone with my food. The meal is a holy experience, like visiting a shrine, and everything is done in hushed tones. Amber is not one of those restaurants, and if I close my eyes and forget how pricey everything is, it sounds as if I am sitting in a cafeteria.
The table in front of me seats a group of Japanese businessmen and their wives. Elsewhere in the room are well-heeled diners on dates and double dates. To my left is a pair of business contacts, one of whom—encouraged by alcohol, I suppose—is vociferous in commenting on my food photography.
In spite of being far younger and far poorer than these neighbors, I feel an odd familiarity with them, something that straddles nostalgia and dismay.
Because they are just the future selves of my college friends, the dreamers and the believers and the optimists, who once huddled under a cloudy night sky in a brick-walled courtyard and wished that those years, those bright college years, would never end.
Set under a dramatic chandelier, Amber is the two-Michelin-starred French restaurant of the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. Amber is not shy about using luxury ingredients—just about every culinary shorthand for “expensive” imaginable, from truffles to wagyu beef, has worked its way onto the menu—and some courses, like the Hokkaido sea urchin served with caviar and lobster gelée and flecked with gold leaf, seem excessive. Nonetheless, nothing can be said to fault any of the dishes; steamed foie gras with daikon, for example, stands out. (And, in spite of the excess, sea urchin, as sea urchin is wont to do, is divine.)
7/F, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong
Mon-Fri: 07:00-14:30, 18:30-22:30; Sat-Sun: 07:00-14:00, 18:30-22:30
Around 2275 HKD per person (not including drinks)