January 25, 2014

Be good to yourself

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Some time very late last night - or in the wee hours this morning - I made a decision to take a "me day" today.  Once in a while, it's good to take some time out and make yourself happy,  since - as the song goes - "Be good to yourself, nobody else will".

It's been a while since I last made a major purchase, and I've had my eye on a certain camera body (and a lens) to meet my photography needs.  So I made my way into town in the afternoon and pulled the trigger.

With my new toys in the bag, there was no time like the present to take them for a test run... in another city!  I strolled over to the ferry terminal and hopped on the next available ferry to Macau.  I figured I'd stroll around Macau, turn on the camera's GPS for some geo-tagging, and grab some food while I'm at it.

I was talking to Mo' Unni yesterday about the joys of solo dining, and decided that it's been too long since I asked for a "table for one" at a fine dining establishment.  I'd made a couple of trips to Macau over the last few years, as KC's "plus one" at the invitation of Hotel Lisboa.  One place that we never visited together - and one place I still hadn't been to - was Don Alfonso 1890.  So this was an itch I finally decided to scratch today.

I walked up to the restaurant's reception with no reservation and asked for a table.  Not surprisingly, the restaurant was mostly empty, so they had no trouble seating me.  I was handed the menu and asked for the wine list.  As is always the case at the Lisboa, I spent much, much more time combing through the wine list than I did on the menu.  I first had to find a suitable half-bottle for myself, before having my choice of wine dictate the food I was going to order.

Henry the sommelier apologized and informed me that the wine I chose was tucked away in one of their cellars, and it would take at least 15 minutes for them to fetch the bottle.  I told him that I'd had the pleasure of visiting their cellar, and had an idea of how things worked there.  I was in no hurry to be anywhere else.

The waitress brought over an amuse bouche of tuna tartare and salmon roe, but I was busy fiddling with my new toys.  It took me a minute or two to come to my senses, and I informed the staff that I don't eat tuna.  Salvatore Scarpino, the manager, was quick to offer a replacement.

Eggplant Parmesean rediscovered - Salvatore brought a copy of Chef Alfonso Iaccarino's eponymous book so he could show me that this was the dish chosen for the book's cover.  But there seems to be some discrepancy between how the stylized dish looked and what the real thing in front of me looked like...

What I had in front of me looked much simpler... but maybe it's because it's only an amuse bouche and not a full portion...  The flavors, though, were all there.  Eggplant, warm and soft mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil coulis...  A pretty good start.

Home-made scallops gnocchi on a layer of black ink sauce with sea urchins and celery shoots - they made gnocchi out of scallops, and lined those tiny little lumps on the plate.  The scallop flavors were so strong that one could have easily mistaken the little lumps of gnocchi for real scallops. The scallops, sea urchin and the squid from which the ink came all came from Hokkaido.

Linguine with red prawns - this wasn't on the menu, but I was told that these Sicilian gambero rosso were available and could be made with pasta.  I asked for linguine and Salvatore made sure the kitchen would do it a little al dente.

Such a simple dish - prawns, cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil...etc with pasta.  Flavors were all there.  Nice presentation, too.  Perfect example of what a good restaurant near the coast from the Sorrentine Peninsula would offer.

I needed a little dessert, and Salvatore started by recommend items which would complement the flavors of my wine.  However, I was more interested in having something a little unusual or creative.  But first, a little pre-dessert...

Raspberries with yogurt foam - the raspberries are accompanied by a sweet raspeberry soup, along with strips of mint leaves.  Acidity from the yogurt foam balances things out.  Very nice.

Home-made chestnut ravioli in pomegranate juice and persimmon - definitely a little unusual.  I wasn't expecting the undercooked ravioli "skin", and it definitely had lots of bite.  The combination of sweet chestnut paste in the ravioli, together with bits of candied chestnut sprinkled around and the slightly acidic pomegranate juice... Flavors of the fall season.

I also checked out the nice spread at the petit fours bar, including this tasty little amaretti...

...and a cute chocolate lollipop.

With delicious food one needs an equally delicious wine, and there's no better wine list to choose from than the one at Hotel Lisboa.  Once again it was difficult to ignore the amazing selection of German Rieslings...

1976 Dr. Loosen Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel, from half bottle - nose of polyurethane, plastic, honey, marmalade, nutty, apricot, minerals.  Wonderful and soft on the palate thanks to the maturity, with mellow acidity and slightly bitter finish.  Round and slightly thick texture, which feels so nice on the tongue.  The finish was a little shorter than expected, and perhaps needs to be sure that the wine is drunk relatively cold.  Lovely dark amber color.  Yummy.  Worked really well to neutralize the strong "fishy" flavors of sea urchin.

A very happy and satisfying day.  I walked around a little, testing my new toy on the bright neon lights of this town before taking a late ferry back to Hong Kong.

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