Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Petite Amanda – IFC Hong Kong 2012

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A fashion model who struts confidently on the runway and a pastry chef who works furiously a pot for choux pastry over the stove are hardly two scenes one can easily put together. One bathes under the explosion of blinding camera flashes while the other bears with pearls of sweat beading down one’s forehead and neck by a hot kitchen oven. Spotlight glamour and kitchen sink grime just ain’t things one can piece together readily. One can hardly image how these two seemingly distraught and disjointed characters could be living as one in a single person! Schizophrenia? Haha thankfully it is not. Amanda Strang is one such example, and might I add, a rather successful one! The Tahiti-born fashion supermodel turned celebrity currently based in Hong Kong, blessed with ravishing beauty owing much to her exotic French and Taiwanese parentage, Amanda Strang had a highly sucessful and illustrious career under media limelight, suddenly discarded her catwalking stilettos and traded them for kitchen clogs to enrol herself into the Parisian campus of the famous French culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu for training to become a professionally accredited pastry chef. Becoming a successful patissiere she most certainly did, and a couple of years down the road, after a string of stints at high profile establishments like Laduree, Jacques Genin and the three michelin star restaurant, Caprice, Amanda Strang felt that she was finally ready to take on the world and opened her first pastry shop, Petite Amanda at the IFC, Central Hong Kong last year. We knew that we have to pay this joint a visit during our trip to Hong Kong this May!

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Ms Strang piping over mille-feuille [1]

Unlike most pastry joints which I’d been to both locally and abroad, Ms Strang seem to adopt an altogether different approach in her business concept for Petite Amanda. Instead of coming up with her own unique signature pieces, she chose to, put politely “follow the footsteps and pay homage” to “pastry gods” like Pierre Hermé and 杉野英実 Hidemi Sugino by replicating their works. So when you step over the chiller display of this small takeaway joint located on the second floor of the Internation Finance Centre (IFC) in Central Hong Kong, you would be pleasantly “surprised” to find pieces like Plaisir SucréBrésilienne ブレジリエンヌ and B-Caraïbe ベー・キャライブ which you might have seen or sampled in Paris or Tokyo. Wilson and I initially and joked about this, and when he knew that I was gonna visit Petite Amanda in Hong Kong, he even suggested that I should bring along my copy of Hidemi’s recipe book, Le Goût Authentique Retrouvé and sashay parade around the chiller display and exclaim loudly “Hey I’ve seen this in here!” Oh well… all for good laughs!
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Her student days at Le Cordon Bleu Paris [2]

It was a weekday when we’d visited and the spread was supposedly not as extensive as what they would carry over the weekend. Oh well, all is not lost as I’d identified quite effortlessly the pieces which I’d like to try out in situ and for takeaway. Despite being a takeaway counter, they do have very limited seating available, 3 tables to be exact. Given the number of entremets and petite gateaux they are offering, I would have imagined that in-house seating seemed almost a necessity as the mousse-based components would not bear with the heat and light of the day as one steps out of the air-conditioned comforts of IFC. And lucky for us, one table had just emptied when we arrived near evening time.
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A small but decent spread for a weekday
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For the dine-ins, we had to content ourselves with three mousse-based petite gateauxs, Amarina, Délice aux Framboise and Caraibe. They would have otherwise been too fragile to be transported back to the hotel. I had a shocking experience of watching Sadaharu Aoki’s Saya takeaway turned into a pink milkshake upon reaching our hotel in Taipei. Definitely not keen on repeating that!
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Caraibe, inspired by Hidemi Sugino’s similarly named B-Caraïbe ベー・キャライブ, usually banana, chocolate and crème chantilly as the main flavours.
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Instead of using regular biscuit joconde for layering the mousse aux chocolat and banana gelee, green tea sponge was used. While it provided good visual contrast against the earthy tones of the chocolate mousse and banana, the taste of matcha was regrettably non-existential. That said, the chocolate mousse and banana jelly layers were quite delicious, especially the highly perfumed jelly of over ripened bananas which I particularly enjoyed! Banana and chocolate, a combination which one could hardly fault. The vanilla chantilly cream was also quite smooth and luscious. I would have preferred if its presence is lesser felt, perhaps the layering to be made a little thinner.
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One component which I find rather excessive and probably redundant is the chocolate blanc décor flanked on the sides. For me, it did very little to elevate the flavour profile of the piece, nor did it do very much for it visually. In fact, the leached out effects of the dark chocolate pieces voided the dessert of a sharp and clean look. Quite a shame really…
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Amarina, in a lovely savarin-shaped pistachio green mousse au pistache with gelée aux griottes in the middle, sauce aux cerises filling the dimple in the centre, with a financier aux pistache base and embellished by a mini macaron
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This, though not spot on is aesthetically more pleasing than the Caraibe. The pistachio mousse was quite smooth and light, pistachio flavours apparent but not overpowering. The sour cherry jelly as a core was quite acrid, which worked very well for me personally. And I especially love the lava-like effect of the sauce in the dimple etching its way slowly down towards the base, providing a dynamic dimension to the piece. The financier base, while providing good support both structurally and texturally, did not taste as strongly as I’d have liked it. But then, it probably served merely as a pedestal for all the flavours above it more than anything else as it was intended to be.
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Délice aux Framboise, a dome-shaped mousse au chocolat au blanc with a coulis de framboise on a Sablé Breton base.
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This is easily my favorite amongst the three, despite it being the simplest. The white chocolate mousse was light and delicate and most importantly, not too sweet! For contrast, the raspberry coulis core was tart tart tart which was really lovely. Textural contrast was provided by the cookie base which was both crunchy and buttery! All goes to show that good flavours do not have to be complicated flavours.
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The pyramidal takeaway box provided by Petite Amanda was also quite peculiar, and so was the little nylon loop serving as its handle! Most curious indeed!
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It housed the two pieces we took away quite comfortably, though we were quite apprehensive on the MTR back to the hotel actually. I was the evening rush hour and the trains were packed!
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The two pieces we’d brought back are the french classics being replicated at Petite Amanda, Charlotte aux Poires and PH’s signature, Plaisir Sucré
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Plaisir Sucré is a piece which hardly needs introduction. Its liberal use of chocolat au lait in pastry making shook the french culinary scene when Pierre Herme showcased it more than 2 decades back. Petite Amanda‘s rendition was spot on in terms of texture, flavours and visuals with hardly anything to pick on, apart from the fact that it is Pierre Herme‘s creation and not hers. It was very successfully replicated, just as many amateur bakers at home have done.
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Neat layering work starting from a dacquoise base, roasted hazelnuts, praline feuillete and finally slabs of milk chocolate sandwiched by ganache and chocolate chantilly.
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My only grouse was really how petite it was made, quite literally finger food as one can see in the photo. Not exactly sure if its worth the HKD 48 a pop I’d paid. I’ll probably go to Bakerzin if I ever need a fix!
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Charlotte aux Poires is a French classic which celebrates the use of william pears and biscuits à la cuillère Boudoir,  the French equivalent of the Italian savoiardi.
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Instead of the traditional ladyfingers biscuits, Petite Amanda’s rendition uses a simple sponge for lighter textures, shaped around a mousse ring before pouring in a pear mousse embedded with bits of pear. The top is crowned with slices of the same william pear poached in syrup. The flavours from this piece were quite light and dainty to start with. Would have preferred the flavours to be more robust, like “White Delight” at the now-closed Pavé. Those who opt for very mild and delicate flavours would probably enjoy this cake but I found it lacking in character.

In a nutshell, some hits and misses, but that’s only to be expected from a pastry shop which just started out. Despite all the copycat outcries, Petite Amanda exudes lots of potential to growth and improvement. It had a good headstart with all the publicity from the media when it opened last August and hopefully equipped with all that she had learnt from her LCB days and subsequent internships, Ms Strang would be able to create more pastry pieces which are uniquely Amanda and perhaps even uniquely Hong Kong.
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The newly weds [3]

Petite Amanda

Shop 2096 on Podium level 2
IFC mall, 8 Finance Street,
Central, Hong Kong

+852 2234 7222

Monday to Friday:
9 am to 8 pm
Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays: 10 am to 8 pm

enquiry@petiteamanda.com

Photo credits:
[1]http://www.my-lifestyle-news.com/2011/08/amanda-s-x-petit-amanda.html
[2]http://www.cravemag.com/features/a-model-cook
[3]http://prestigehongkong.com/People/people21.html

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