January 23, 2010

Nino x4

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A couple of my friends wanted to try out the Macanese/Portuguese restaurant I had been telling them about, so I booked a table at Nino's Cozinha's new location and grabbed a few more friends.

Ever since Nino's first opened they have been busy like there's no tomorrow, and it became very hard to get a table on short notice.  They've recently moved to QRE Plaza and took up two whole floors, and it looks like they have easily 4x the space that they used to have.  On this Saturday night both floors were packed when I arrived.  Business is going Gang Busters.

At first it seemed difficult to get anyone to pay attention to me as I stepped off the elevator - all the staff was busy dancing around in their routine.  An observant waiter eventually came over and led me to our table, and throughout the evening I found him to be well-trained and courteous - as long as I could get his attention.

The menu at Nino's is fairly extensive, and my friends soon had that bewildered look on their faces.  So the decision was left to moi...as I'd been here a few times before.

Lulas salteadas com alho cebola e picante - the calamari was pretty nice, and the spicy chili sauce had a nice kick to it.

Bacalhao à braz - OK, OK... so I order this dish everytime I'm in a Portuguese/Macanese restaurant...but I really love it!  The dish looked a little different tonight, and the eggs and onions tasted a little more soggy than usual - thanks to the addition of tomatoes, but the shredded potato was crispy and yummy as usual.

Arroz chau-chau á moda Macanese - I still remember cracking up back in 1996 when I first found that the Portuguese expression for fried rice is "arroz chau-chau".  Well, I wanted to try something different here, and the Macanese fried rice at Cafe Florinda (澳門茶餐廳) is one of my favorites.  Unfortunately the version here is a complete disaster.  The rice was soggy, and the ingredients were chopped into pieces which I find too small.  I like the big chunks of chourico and other meats in my rice... Oh and one other complaint - why the hell was the rice served so early during our dinner?!

Rabo de boi guisado - one of our resident froggies requested oxtail, so here we are.  The meat was tender and came off the bone easily, and the carrot and tomato-based sauce was pretty yummy, especially with the use of cloves.

Couve branca assada com bacalhau e alho - yeah, this looks like a Chinese veggie dish, but with the twist of adding the yummy bacalhau to impart that savory seafood flavor.  I can't get enough bacalhau, and I tried to restrain myself tonight so that my friends don't get an OD of it...

Frango assado com piri piri - I ordered the piri-piri chicken for its authenticity instead of the Macanese chicken with its curry sauce.  I still don't think they give you enough of the sauce, so next time I'm gonna ask for extra.  In Portugal the chicken comes without the sauce, and you simply add however much you want from the bottle on the table...

After a long wait, the camarao com pimenta no forno arrived.  Earlier, one of my friends caught a whiff of the smell from another table and thought they were serving stinky tofu (臭豆腐). Well, the smell of that much peppercorns can be a little pungent, but I would prefer to call it fragrance.  The prawns were yummy, and I still picked up a few peppercorns and rolled them between my fingers liked I've done on previous visits.

We were still kinda hungry so we ordered the arroz de pato.  Not quite happy with this, and the group agrees.  As my friend remarked, this does taste and smell like Chiuchow duck - with the classic fragrance of five spice (五香).  The rice, unfortunately, wasn't up to par.  It was moist enough that the rice grains stuck together, but in this case I actually prefer them to be either soggy (because there was so much sauce) or just a bit dry and chewy.  In any case the rice on top wasn't crispy at all, which should have been the case.  Oh well, maybe they were rushing this one because they didn't want us to wait half an hour...

I brought along two bottles of wine, and after making sure that no one objected to having them (why would they?) proceeded to serve them.

2005 Château de Sancerre Cuvée du Connetable - initially nose was a little muted, with lemon, minerals, toasty oak and a little bit of buttery notes.

2001 Marqués de Riscal Baron de Chirel - one of the bottles I carried back from the winery a few years ago.  A very nice wine, with sweet fruit, vanilla and smoky nose.  Full-bodied and still a bit tannic, with a long finish.

Will Nino's do well after this massive expansion?  I hope the food quality can remain high while the success doesn't go to the owner's head.  Remember Ingredients?

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