April 22, 2016

Macau Michelin tour 2016: anything but Cantonese

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We’re on a mission this weekend. The Great One is writing some articles about restaurants in Macau with Michelin stars, so I helped her organize a “hard-core” eating trip to the city – with 5 meals at starred restaurants in 2½ days. And since we were hitting mostly Chinese restaurants, I even rounded up a couple of extra mouths so that we could sample a wider variety of dishes.

First stop was Golden Flower (京花軒) at the Wynn Macau tonight. Because we were starting dinner a little late, I thought it would be better to order our dishes as soon as we arrived at the restaurant. So I browsed through the restaurant’s menu online, narrowed down to a shortlist, and worked out the final choices with the Great One on the ferry ride – while trying to ensure that we get a decent sampling of the three non-Cantonese cuisines offered by the restaurant.

After sipping on the very fragrant welcome tea, we were presented with an amuse bouche of marinated cucumber with shredded spring onions the raspberry pearls. The sesame oil was very fragrant, and the spring onions were dipped in spicy chili oil, while popping the raspberry pearls released a little bit of sweetness to temper the heat.

Spiced braised yellow croaker (五香魚), Tan cuisine – this was very similar to the classic Shanghainese smoked fish, with some five-spice and smoky flavors. The main difference is the lighter touch with soy sauce and an almost complete lack of sugar.

Tossed shredded pork ears and spring onion with chili oil (乾拌豬耳絲), Sichuan cuisine – this was really, really good. I’ve always loved pig’s ears since childhood, but what I found in the bowl was some of the most tender bits I have ever had, mixed with shreds of crunchy spring onion whites which came with some kick. Then the chili oil added a good amount of heat that I found slightly addicting. Such a happy camper…

Stewed fish maw with crab roe in supreme chicken broth (蟹黃燒魚肚), Tan cuisine – this is one of the signature dishes of the restaurant and I had a similar dish all to myself on my last visit. Having been first deep-fried at low heat and then stewed for up to 12 hours, the fish maw was very tender. The flavors here were rich, the texture thick with both collagen and crab roe. A dish not to be missed.

Braised sea cucumber with Shan Dong leeks (香蔥燒遼參), Shandong cuisine – probably the biggest disappointments of the night. It’s nice to get a sizeable sea cucumber to share among the four of us, but the flavors were rather underwhelming as they came from the sauce… and hadn’t been absorbed by the sea cucumber itself.

Perhaps this was a question of personal preference, but I prefer my sea cucumber a little softer…

Stewed turtle skirt with Shandong leeks (香蔥紅燒山瑞裙邊), Shandong cuisine – I don’t get the chance to have turtle skirt often, and so we were a little excited to see this on the menu. Unfortunately, there were only three thin slices of the soft and gelatinous skirt – a far cry from the thick and satisfying slices we’ve had at our favorite private dining venue. The flavors were also a lot milder here – with very thin slices of bamboo shoots and some spring onions to round out the dish.

Pan-fried venison with cumin and onions (煎孜然鹿腿肉), Shandong cuisine – so, so, so happy to have ordered this. This was nice and crispy on the outside but incredibly tender and succulent on the inside. I love it when meat is seasoned with cumin, and the onions on the bottom were simply awesome. I could eat this all day. In fact, just gimme a bowl of rice and a plate of this…

Stir-fried crispy chicken with sweet and sour spicy sauce (宗堂脆雞柳), Sichuan cuisine – this, boys and girls, is otherwise known as General Tso’s chicken. But this isn’t the version with sweet glaze that one typically finds at Chinese restaurants in America. There was a good amount of garlic and a nice amount of chili, but otherwise the familiar crunchy batter coated the chicken. The only issue I had here was that some of the slices were too thin – which made the chicken either a little bit dry and chewy or otherwise somehow less satisfying to bite into.

Stir-fried string beans with minced pork (乾煸四季豆), Sichuan – this was always gonna end in disappointment… since in all my years, only once did I ever have this dish done by a restaurant that was almost as good as mom’s version. This is a dish that requires time and patience, as the beans need to be kept on medium heat over the stove for enough time for them to dehydrate and shrivel while delivering the right amount of char and smokiness. Unfortunately most kitchens and chefs just try to whip this out in a few minutes, resulting in beans that are simply too juicy and flavorless. While this didn’t measure up to my very high standards, it was admittedly better than most versions I have had. Not surprisingly the accompanying minced pork was pretty salty.

Mango panna cotta – once again I am surprised by the fact that the final act wasn’t Chinese, but this was nonetheless delicious.

Overall I was pretty happy with our dinner, and there were certainly quite a few highlights tonight. I’m grateful that we started our trip on the right foot!

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