Amber’s sister restaurant owes its success to bold flavours and innovative design elements

After months of renovation, Landmark Mandarin Oriental reopened its cluster of fine dining establishments, from the refreshingly new Amber to relocated Sushi Shikon and Somm, a new wine-forward bistro concept.

This new restaurant has taken over the space where Amber’s bar once resided. Guests turning left from the elevator are met with an inviting full-view of the establishment, aptly designed with warm, subtle lighting and an abundance of dark, walnut wood curated by New York interior designer Adam D Tihany, who also designs the old and revamped Amber adjacent to Somm. The curved, fluid lines along the bar area overlooks the vast display of wines, coherent with the round banquettes surrounding the perimeter of the establishment.

As a wine-focused bistro, Somm offers a more casual dining approach to its adjacent fine-dining establishment; nibbles are great for sharing with wines while more substantial courses are best for a structured dinner. Somm offers a full breakfast menu as well as all-day dining options. We began with kadaifi fried Taiyouran egg, sour cream, and smoked pike perch roe. A soft-boiled Japanese egg is wrapped with a golden cocoon of thread-like pastry, deep fried and served on a bed of lemon-flavoured sour cream and topped with a quenelle of pike perch roe. A clean cut into the crusty exterior allows the molten egg yolk to ooze, while the sour cream cuts its richness ever so lightly.

Crispy white asparagus and tarragon sabayon is a signature dish, where slender stalks of French white asparagus are dipped in sourdough breadcrumbs and deep-fried, accompanies by a herbaceous tarragon sabayon—a playful yet light foam, freshening the palate between bites. The foie gras kombu jime with kabu pickles and lemon, is a fusion of French and Japanese cuisines. A new edition of the foie gras dish formerly made famous in the old Amber, the duck liver is carved and wrapped in kombu, a technique often found in fish ageing. The rich liver absorbed umami from the kombu, while the lemon gel and tart pickles of white radish slices added tartness to balance the sophisticated combination.

Saba mackerel with lime, daikon and dashi is a winner. Two fillets of the rich fish are first steamed with sake for mere minutes before the fish was torched to a caramelised finish, as the heating releases the richness of the fish. A clear dashi broth made with mackerel bones kept the fresh shiitake mushrooms and radish rounds light and refreshing.

Flavours travel to the other end of the spectrum as Japanese pork belly is grilled and glazed with a homemade barbecue sauce and a generous wedge of grilled Hakata cabbage. The meaty main dish is paired with a fresh salad on the side, where crunchy leaves are topped with thinly-sliced watermelon radishes and served with a zesty yuzu vinaigrette. The richly-portioned pork belly sourced from Okinawa was succulent, and the barbecue sauce can seem a bit on the sweet side, but only if one tastes the meat with a dab of the sauce and a sprinkle of the chilli spice blend served on the side to reach an optimum balance of flavours from sweetness to smoky depths.

Desserts at Somm are mostly season-driven, as guests can indulge in sweets prepared with seasonal fruits from Japanese strawberries to Indian Alphonso mangoes. We were particularly impressed with the classics, as the pastry team, led by chef Michael Pretet, stops the show with his signature Abinao chocolate souffle with cacao sorbet, a double dose of bitter sweetness that rounds up the meal nicely. Raspberry 1000 feuilles with whipped pepperberry ganache is a lighter choice, where caramelised puff pastry layers sandwiched the light whipped cream filling with just a touch of floral pepper berry, lightened with tart raspberries and a sweet raspberry sorbet.

The wine list at Somm is nothing short of impressive, as the hotel has appointed three professional sommeliers to form a panel that have consulted on and designed the beverage programme, which showcases more than 100 wines served by the glass as well as in different capacities—from tasting portions to half-bottles and full volumes. Guests can choose to sample in small portions before ordering in larger volumes, served in hand-blown glassware designated for fuller appreciation of wines. A highlight of the wine list is a half-and-half option, where guests can sample two different wines selected by the sommelier team based on the properties of the bottles, a novel concept rarely seen in the Hong Kong dining scene.

Service is attentive at Somm, as the service team demonstrates comprehensive knowledge and personal stories to share over the establishment’s food and wine selection. The level of attention remains consistent for us and other guests despite we were recognised as reviewers on our visit. Suggestions are sound and did not seem rehearsed as the staff members stay friendly and attentive while maintaining a good pace through the meal. 

Somm has matched high anticipation with bold execution in its comfort-inducing food and generosity of wine and sake collections, ensuring many returns. No doubt it will join Amber to be another popular dining destination in town.

A meal for two plus drinks and service amounts to HK$2,000

Rating: 4.5/5 

How we rate
Each of our reviewers score restaurants based on four main criteria: setting, food, service, and drinks, taking into account more than 35 different points of reference including manners of staff, usefulness of the wine list, and whether or not the restaurant makes an effort to be environmentally aware. 5/5 indicates an exceptional experience; 4-4.5/5 is excellent; 3-3.5/5 is good to very good; and 2.5/5 or lower is average to below average. Before visiting a restaurant, the reviewers will book using a pseudonym and do not make themselves known to restaurant staff, in order to experience the venue as a regular guest—if this is not possible, or if we are recognised, we will indicate this in the review.