February 1, 2016

An Italian gem in Macau

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I'm in Macau for a couple of days attending a conference, and as I have done for the past couple of years, I chose to be antisocial and skipped the first night's dinner.  Macau has a wealth of upscale dining options - some of which I would rate above anything else in their respective categories in Hong Kong - so I'd take them over the nice conference food catered by the Four Seasons Resort Macao any day.

I haven't been back to Don Alfonso 1890 in the Grand Lisboa since my first visit a couple of years ago.  I've kinda been focusing on my favorite Michelin-starred establishments in the big hotels - sometimes at said hotels' invitation - so I figured it was about time to come back to this underrated gem.

I looked over the menu and found the degustation menu a tad on the boring side.  There were a couple of items from the à la carte menu that really caught my attention, however, so I went for those instead.

The amuse bouche came and I found myself staring at some lightly-battered and pan-fried sakura shrimp (桜海老), along with some salmon roe, sitting on a bed of polenta.  These are a few of my favorite ingredients, but somehow the combination delivered some acidity, and almost seemed a little fermented.  Still tasty, though.

Warm seafood salad with potato and Sardinian bottarga - there are few words that manage to push my buttons more than 'bottarga'.  The intense flavors of dried fish roe just trigger something in me, and I'll salivate like one of Pavlov's dogs.

This was pretty interesting, with a disc of herbed mashed potato sitting at the bottom.  On top we have some grilled baby squid, a pan-fried scallop, some sea urchin, a piece of crab meat, and a beautifully grilled Sicilian gambero rosso.  All this topped with some herbs and very thin chiffonade of bottarga di muggine from Sardinia.

Oh yeah, I made sure to suck out all the goodies from the head of the gambero rosso.  Soooo damn good.

Linguini with fresh scampi and bottarga in olive oil, garlic and chili sauce - oh look!  There's that word again! 'Bottarga'!  Must. Order. Dish.

A beautiful pasta, this was.  So simple.  The scampi was perfectly fresh, with all the natural goodness and those flavors of the sea.  Then there were the slices of bottarga di muggine, and crunchy slices of garlic fried in oil.  These alone would have delivered enough flavors, but throw in some chili flakes and finely chopped bits of pancetta, and this dish really packed a punch.

The chef delivered a pre-dessert in the form of mango, banana sorbet, topped with yogurt foam with pistachio.  The banana flavors of the sorbet were just incredibly intense.

Famous Neapolitan puff pastry stuffed with cinnamon and candied sour cherries - the sfogliatella is the signature dessert of the house that I didn't order on my last visit, so I guess it had to be done.

The beautiful, crispy, flaky pastry pocket was filled with cinnamon cream and cherries inside.  Pretty tasty, indeed.

The restaurant has a whole spread of little mignardises on a table, and I sure wasn't gonna miss them.

Dried figs with almond

Candied lemon peel

Candied clementine dipped in chocolate

Caramel with chocolate


Amaretti morbidi - these are actually softer...

Limoncello chocolate - DAYAM!  These lil' buggers actually have limoncello inside, so they're pretty damn alcoholic!

A very satisfying meal.  The food was certainly delicious.  Given that I was the only customer in the restaurant until about 8pm, and then one of only two tables for the remainder of my visit, I certainly had the attention of manager Salvatore Scarpino and the rest of the staff.

But why was the restaurant so empty?  OK, so I know it's Monday night and probably the quietest night of the week, but this is a restaurant serving very high quality food, with fresh, imported ingredients.  Why aren't there more people coming to appreciate the cuisine?  Is it because, unlike many of the other restaurants within the Lisboa hotels (and other casino hotels), the restaurant wasn't awarded any stars by Michelin?  The Kitchen next door - whose main draw is steak - has held a star for the last few years.  I'd pick Don Alfonso 1890 over the Kitchen any day.

1 comment:

Michael L said...

No Sherlock! Don Alfonso has no star???

I prefer these simple pasta dishes over the more fancy French molecular stuff. They are certainly more spectacular and technically more advanced, but I prefer a good plate of pasta (or Cantonese noodles) over anything else.


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