April 17, 2015

Friday night excursion to Macau

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For the longest time, the Great One has lamented about the fact that she has never eaten at The Eight - the Cantonese restaurant in the Grand Lisboa Hotel with three Michelin stars.  Her routine for Macau usually consists of a very long lunch at Robuchon, after which she no longer has any stomach space for the dinner she always planned to have.  So any other restaurant basically has zero chance of making it on her list...

Ever since my first visit there 4 years ago, I have been raving about this place... and I really do think it is the best Cantonese restaurant I have been to in the Hong Kong/Macau region.  Apparently Fergie decided to check things out for himself a few months ago, and he's become a fan as well.  So we finally decided organize an excursion to Macau tonight for the Great One's benefit since, as they say... when the Kat's away, the mice will play.

I rarely ever let establishment owners or chefs know in advance of my arrival - except for establishments in whom I have the utmost confidence.  As this is the Lisboa and I will invariably order up a bottle or two in advance, I pinged the PR team at the Lisboa to ask for help.  After consulting with Fergie, I put in an order for a few dishes, and asked them to fish out an old bottle of Riesling for me.  I also told them about the crew I was bringing with me.

We were greeted upon arrival by the lovely Eugenia, as well as the hotel's Chinese FnB manager Kenneth - whose father, Lai Yau-tim (黎有甜), is the man behind Tim's Kitchen (桃花源).  After introductions, they very politely left us alone in the privacy of the room they arranged for us.

We began, as usual, with two bites of amuse bouche.  The first was a little abalone with pomelo jelly...

...followed by wagyu beef cubes with pine nuts and celery in crispy bird's nest.

Barbecued and smoked pork (明爐叉燒不見天) - this cut of pork is apparently from the legs... and supposed to be lean (i.e. not marbled), but of course there was just a nice layer of fat on top!  It's my second time ordering this, and I really, really love this.

Barbecued pork (玫瑰蜜汁叉燒) - Eugenia very kindly arranged to send us their signature thick-cut char siu, knowing how much I love it.  It's also good as a comparison with the other pork dish.  Unfortunately, though, the lean meat tonight was the toughest and driest I've had from all my visits here.  The marbling and charring was still delicious, but tonight the thick cut backfired a little.

Deep-fried crystal blue shrimp mousse filled with goose liver pate (鵝肝醬藍天使蝦丸) - these looked pretty interesting on paper, and looked very old school when they arrived.

We were a little disappointed with the amount of goose liver pâté inside, and we also thought that the pâté would be a little softer and more gooey.   Still pretty interesting, though.

Steamed crab claw with egg white in ginger and vintage Chinese wine (薑米酒蒸蟹拑) - there was something else we pre-ordered which was no longer available, and Eugenia remembered that I liked this from my last visit, so she very kindly arranged for this as a complimentary substitute.

And what a substitute!  The giant crab claws were really fresh and sweet, while the steamed egg white custard was just full of the flavors of Chinese wine, and were mottled with tiny bits of finger.  One of us (not naming any names here...) inhaled the crab claw so quickly we were left wondering if the kitchen had forgotten to put one on top of the custard...

30 years vintage tangerine peel chicken (三十年陳皮雞) - one of my favorite dishes, and I was bummed when I couldn't order it last year when live chickens were banned due to avian flu.

The paper-thin, crispy thin was really delicious.  Underneath was a pile of shredded chicken with 30-year old tangerine peel chiffonade.  Now THIS was the reason for ordering the dish... the incredibly fragrant vintage tangerine peel, whose flavors had penetrated the moist and tender chicken meat.  Yum.

Suckling pig filled with fried rice and preserved meat (原隻乳豬焗飯) - it seemed wrong to come with this crowd and not order this... given how we're all such big fans of the Kimberley Pig.

Given there were only 4 of us tonight, we decided to just order half a pig.  In retrospect, this was a real mistake... and we should have just order the whole pig and go home with a bigger doggie bag!

The Great One promptly declared this to be her new favorite suckling pig, even better than the Kimberley Pig - whose standards had been slipping over the last couple of years.

As for me, I'm still kinda partial to the sticky rice stuffing from the Kimberley Pig, although there was no doubt the rice stuffing here - made with Cantonese sausage (臘腸) and liver sausage (潤腸) - was incredibly tasty.  At one point I was reminded of the fried glutinous rice with preserved meats (生炒糯米飯) we had at the private dining facility...

Rice noodle with pigeon fillet in a stone bowl (石鍋野菌鴿片過橋米線) - I was glad Fergie singled this out as a dish he wanted to try, because I remembered it as one of the tastiest soup noodles I've had in Cantonese cuisine.

The mushrooms were first stir-fried in the scorching-hot stone bowl, then Shaoxing wine (紹興酒) and the milky pigeon broth were added along with the rice noodles.  Finally we added pieces of stir-fried pigeon, sugar snap peas, more mushrooms as well as wolfberries to our liking.  The result?  An incredibly tasting bowl of noodles, with wonderful depth of flavors in the broth.  Perfectly comforting as it warms the stomach.

Baked Alaska with red bean sorbet (火焰椰子紅豆蛋糕) - I tried this on my last visit, and since I had just seen it on Lemon Tea's FB page, I figured I would order it again.

I do like the coconut-flavored red bean sorbet, but even a quarter of this was pretty rich.

Black and white sesame pudding with sesame ice-cream (黑白芝麻布甸配芝麻雪糕) - another favorite dessert of mine.  That black sesame half was just delish.

Coffee jelly (咖啡啫喱) - hands down my favorite dessert here.  So much coffee flavor here, and that layer of rich cream on top... Slurp!

Finally... the little petit four that comes at the very end.  Ever since my first visit, this had been a mini Portuguese pasteis, but tonight it was a little coconut jelly with mung beans in the shape of a rose, topped with some bird's nest and gold foil.

One must finish the meal here with this small cup of Hong Kong style milk tea (港式奶茶)... and it is still my favorite milk tea.  Period.

Fergie couldn't possibly go through a dinner like this without some wine, so we picked out a couple of bottles from the hotel's extensive cellar...

1971 Christoffel Berres Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese - wonderful nose of mandarin orange and marmalade, with some nutty and apricot notes.  Nice acidity on the rounded palate.  Finish was a little short, and also slightly bitter.  Beautiful amber color.

2007 Giuseppi e Figlio Mascarello Barolo Monprivato - decanted but still really young.  Very ripe and fruity nose, definitely strawberry and jammy.  A little sharp on the palate.

All of us - except for the Great One - were completely stuffed and could eat no more.  This was clearly too much food for the four of us, yet there were so many other dishes on the extensive menu that the Great One wanted to try.  I guess the only solution is to plan a return visit soon...  And no, none of us could have eaten that bowl of Shanxi handmade noodles that we talked about at the Noodle and Congee Corner (粥麵莊) downstairs, after dinner... even if there were only a single strand of noodle in the bowl...

Many thanks for the hotel for the wonderful arrangements and service, and of course for those delicious, extra dishes.

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