The end of the gambling monopoly in Macau in 2002 may not have been the best thing for those who loved the city for its once-peaceful, old-fashioned atmosphere, but it was great from a purely culinary perspective. Macau still manages to retain much of its past – the old Portuguese, Chinese and Macanese restaurants that give character to the city, but the cavernous casinos have added many high-end options.
In a previous article on Macau dining, we covered Michelin-starred bargains. This time, we’ll concentrate on some of the Michelin-starred Chinese restaurants.
The Eight ***
The Eight is one of two restaurants in Macau with the top rating of three Michelin stars, and both are in the Grand Lisboa. We’ve had a stellar dinner there in the past, but the dim sum also receives a lot of attention.
I rarely use the word adorable – I’ve never used it in a food feature – but it’s the perfect adjective to describe some of the dim sum at The Eight. A fried shrimp and mango dumpling looks like a very spiky fish, the traditional har gao takes the shape of a goldfish, steamed char siu bao comes as a porcupine – complete with quills, while other dumplings are shaped and decorated like cuttlefish and hedgehogs, with wrappers so thin you can glimpse the filling inside. They’re delicious little bites, too, although I wish they had served them slower, so we could enjoy each one while it was hot. It also would have been nice to have the lighter steamed items first, before progressing to baked, then fried.
Their siu mei (roast meats) are also very good. Siu yuk, made with pork belly, has a delicately crackly skin, and the char siu is tender, with nice charred edges. If you still have space, try the fried rice with sakura shrimp.
2/F Grand Lisboa, Avenida de Lisboa, Macau, tel: +853 8803 7788.
About 450 patacas for lunch without drinks or the service charge
Jade Dragon **
While we were relatively restrained in our ordering at The Eight, our dinner at Jade Dragon, the Michelin two-star in the City of Dreams, was a feast. A seemingly simple deep-fried oyster was plump, sweet and juicy; Peking goose (made in the same way as the more common duck) had delicate, crisp skin and moist meat, and was served in a thin steamed bun.
The restaurant serves two versions of char siu, made from Iberico pork pluma, and Iberico pork collar. Both are simply fantastic; served in thick pieces, the meat is fatty and succulent, with a mildly sweet coating. French blue lobster is served two ways: steamed, with egg white and rice wine, and stir-fried with black beans. A show-stopping dish is the chicken with ginger and onions, served flambéed in foil. Noodles with wagyu beef cheek, abalone sauce and shrimp roe is haute comfort food.
Level 2, The Shops at The Boulevard, City of Dreams, Estrada do Istmo, Cotai, tel: +853 8868 2822
About 900 patacas for dinner without drinks or the service charge
Zi Yat Heen **
We had high expectations of this Michelin two-star restaurant but were somewhat disappointed – none of the dishes was memorable. Our favourites were the bamboo piths stuffed with spinach in fish broth, which was subtle and comforting, and braised egg noodles with shredded fish maw, spring onions and abalone sauce. But the dish of char siu was inconsistent – some pieces were tender, while others were tough.
While the crispy chicken had good skin, the meat didn’t have much flavour, and the breast meat was dry. The stewed suckling pig knuckle with Japanese pumpkin and black beans was an oddly wintery dish for something on a seasonal summer menu.
Level 1, The Four Seasons Macao, Estrada da Baia de N. Senhora da Esperanca, s/n, The Cotai Strip, Taipa, tel: +853 2881 8818
About 540 patacas for dinner without drinks or the service charge
Golden Flower **
This is one of the most attractive Chinese restaurants we’ve visited: it’s dramatic, sumptuous and beautiful. The menu divides dishes by cuisine, primarily Tan (according to the press release, it’s named after Tan Zongjun, a Qing dynasty official, who “blended the best of China’s north and south”); Lu (also known as Shandong) and Sichuan, although some Cantonese dishes (mainly live seafood) are offered. Shredded pork ears with spring onions and chilli oil were a great start to the meal; the thin pieces had the perfect amount of resilience, neither too tender nor too rubbery, and the spice level was just right. Stewed fish maw with crab roe in supreme chicken broth was fantastic. The spongy fish maw soaked up the rich, thick, deeply flavoured sauce. We also loved two meat dishes: moist pieces of venison pan-fried with cumin and wonderfully sweet sliced onion, and battered and fried chunks of chicken with sweet and sour spicy sauce.
Unfortunately, the braised sea cucumber with Shandong leeks was disappointing; unlike the fish maw, it hadn’t absorbed the flavours of the braising liquid.
Wynn Macau, Rua Cidade de Sintra, NAPE, Porto Exterior, Alameda Dutor Carlos d’Assumpção, Macau, tel: +853 8986 3663
About 700 patacas for dinner without drinks or the service charge
Wing Lei *
The Wynn has a second Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant, Wing Lei, specialising in Cantonese food. While attractively decorated, with a dramatic, long crystal flying dragon, the style is more modern than Golden Flower.
My favourite dishes of the evening were the richly flavoured braised sea cucumber with dried shrimp roe and spring onions, and a lightly smoky roasted crispy goose with applewood. The pata negra char siu with maple syrup was nice and fatty, although I couldn’t detect the flavour of maple syrup. A simple dish of stir-fried kai lan with ginger was delicious because the vegetable was so fresh and sweet. Fried rice with softshell crab, minced pork and bean curd with spicy pepper sauce was an odd combination. We thought everything would be cooked together, but each element: ma po tofu, battered and deep-fried softshell crab, and the rice, was cooked separately, and the flavours didn’t really have time to blend.
Wynn Macau, Rua Cidade de Sintra, NAPE, Porto Exterior, Alameda Dutor Carlos d’Assumpção, Macau, tel: +853 8986 3688
About 280 patacas for dinner without drinks or the service charge
Estabelecimento De Comidas King *
The executive chef here is the same one behind Celebrity Cuisine, the two-Michelin-star restaurant in the Lan Kwai Fong Hotel in Central, Hong Kong. Although you can spend a pretty penny at Celebrity Cuisine, it also serves excellent home-style dishes, and that’s primarily what we ordered here. Double-boiled pig’s lung soup was light and comforting. Braised pork belly with preserved vegetable had well-layered pieces of tender, fatty meat that really absorbed the flavourful sauce. Roasted baby pigeon was just fantastic, with crisp skin and moist meat; we really should have ordered one per person. We rounded off the meal with Chinese lettuce cooked in a sizzling casserole with plenty of shrimp paste.
AIA Tower, Avenida Comercial, Macau, tel: +853 2875 7218
About 300 patacas for dinner without drinks or the service charge