After guiding ÉPURE to a Michelin star, Chef Nicolas Boutin has sailed across Victoria Harbour to headline Ami, the newest member of Gourmet Dining Group’s portfolio of restaurants. The restaurant group is no stranger to good taste, also running two-Michelin-starred Arbor as well as a host of Dalloyau patisseries across Hong Kong.
Ami, located at Alexandra House in Central, features two dining experiences under one roof: “fine bistronomie” Parisian cuisine and casual fine dining. Two private rooms (Salon and Gallery) within the restaurant offer a more intimate dining experience while the main lounge offers a casual dining concept overlooking the expansive terrace. A “chef’s inspiration” tasting menu and a casual all-day à-la-carte option are available at both dining concepts. Wood Ear, a bar showcasing 400 labels of rare whisky from Scotland and Japan, flanks the main dining area of the restaurant.
Designed by Yabu Pushelberg, the restaurant is awash in soothing dark wood and charcoal tones, with a large garden terrace centred around a curved bar, perfect for al-fresco dining and drinks. The overall ambience is a blend of sophistication and ease, which perfectly matches the casual yet refined finesse of the food.
We couldn’t resist trying the signature cocktail Whisperer ($148), an earthy blend of Maker’s Mark 46 infused with shiitake, black fungus, honey syrup and herbal bitters. The Maker’s Mark 46 is poured tableside from a circular silver flask over a honey-glazed wood ear fungus. This strong drink is surprisingly (and dangerously) easy to drink.
Harmony ($148) is another instant favourite thanks to the refreshing blend of KI NO BI gin, Seifuku Awamori Yuzushu, Mancino Bianco, grapefruit bitters, yuzu jam and calamansi syrup.
The three drinks on the left-hand side of the photo collage above are mocktails, ranging from a crisp green apple libation, to a spice-infused concoction, to an Earl Grey gimlet.
Freshly baked fougasse with herbs accompanied by a green olive and mustard spread whetted our appetite.
First to arrive was the hand-cut beef tartare ($260), featuring choice cuts from world-famous butcher Alexandre Polmard. Bejewelled with finely chopped chive, gherkin and red onion, this hearty yet refreshing dish is flavourful without masking the natural texture and aroma of the beef.
It takes a whole kilogram of raw onion to make each portion of Ami’s onion soup with Comté ($200), with the pungent vegetable slow-cooked and reduced to sweet, luscious perfection. A layer of creamy, savoury Comté purée blankets the bottom of the soup, adding flavour and textural contrast.
Part of the all-day menu of casual yet refined bites, we sampled a mini platter of croque-monsieur ($240), which is usually served with fries, fish friture ($98) and crab cake ($200). We especially enjoyed the crisp cheese coating the sandwich, which uses 24-month Comté.
The black truffle pasta ($380) should really be renamed lobster pasta; it’s drenched in an umami-rich sauce made from lobster and other shellfish. Pops of Thai basil add a touch of zingy freshness and a hint of Asian flavour to this rich pasta dish. In our opinion, the black truffle shreds are unnecessary as their flavour is masked by the strong seafood.
A sharing dish for two, the pressed duck ($780) is adorned with sweet morsels of plum and earthy mushrooms. The duck is incredibly tender and packed full of juicy, robust flavour.
Classic rum baba ($138) is given a lighter, more summery touch with brûléed mango and a Greek yoghurt crème topping. This is a delicious, more delicate version of the boozy French dessert.
Ami is sophisticated take on a casual dining concept, although we could still see and taste the exquisite finesse of fine dining throughout the menu. More easy-going and less stifling than classic fine dining without sacrificing on quality and execution, the prices at Ami still don’t warrant it as an everyday affair, but it would make for a worthwhile treat once in awhile.
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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