April 23, 2016

Macau Michelin tour 2016: Iberico char siu showdown

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We were joined by the Fergies for our third formal meal on this trip, making this a real party.  Having had a pretty good dinner at the restaurant's invitation last year, I was looking forward to going back to Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒) - especially since they had gotten themselves a second macaron since my visit.  Since Chef Tam Kwok Fung (譚國鋒) had, after my last visit, very kindly offered to put together a menu for my next visit... I decided to reach out and ask him to do just that - with the view of trying different dishes.  The PR team at the City of Dreams also very kindly arranged a private room for us.

We were first presented with two bite-sized amuses bouches:

Yuzu kumquat jelly

Crabmeat spring roll - with a little aged vinegar and a sprinkle of chili powder.

Then came a trio of starters:

Signature deep-fried Fine de Claire oyster (酥炸法國生蠔) - Fergie and I both liked this from our previous visits, and we were pretty glad to have it again.  In fact, Fergie wanted a dozen of these for himself... and eventually did order a couple more later in the evening.  Deep-fried for just 10 seconds or less and very tasty.  Served with the sweet chili sauce ubiquitous at Thai restaurants, which actually kinda works.

Chilled abalone with mustard seed (芥菜籽鮑魚) - I found this a little more chewy than I would have liked, thanks to this being chilled.  The use of wholegrain mustard was expected.

Lychee wood roasted “Peking” Goose with blini (譽瓏片皮鵝配蝴蝶餅) - this was very, very good.  Underneath the crispy skin were thin slices of roast goose with hoisin sauce, and I added a few strands of spring onions for the kick.  If only I had a bottomless stomach... I'd take a few more of these.

I remembered from my last visit that the char siu (叉燒) was one of the best I've ever had... perhaps even better than what they were serving at The Eight Restaurant (8餐廳) in the Grand Lisboa.  I definitely wanted to have that again... but which version to order?  Both of the ones listed on the menu sounded tantalizing, and I was having a really tough time trying to pick just one.  So... the only sensible solution was to order both!

These were brought out at the same time, and served on white ceramic plates in the shape of a pig!  How cute!

Jade Dragon prime-cut barbecue Iberico pork pluma (譽瓏蜜汁西班牙黑豚叉燒) - I've started seeing restaurants in the region serving Iberico pluma lately, so I wanted to see how it would taste as a char siu.  This was very, very, very tasty.  You don't get the obvious chunks of marbled fat, but the cut is still incredibly tender and full of flavor.  I can't remember eating a better piece of char siu lately.

Jade Dragon prime-cut barbecue Iberico pork collar (譽瓏蜜汁西班牙黑豚梅頭叉燒) - previously my favorite cut for char siu has always been the collar (脢頭), which is very tender and tasty thanks to the marbling.  Yes, this was as good as the two pieces I remember having last year.  It's almost neck-and-neck (pun intended) with the pluma, but maybe just losing by a hair...

Double-boiled gastrodia with fish head (天麻魚頭滋補湯) - everyone else chose the other soup on offer so I decided to pick this one.  The flavors from Chinese angelica (當歸) was very strong and I could smell it as soon as the bowl was placed in front of me.  I didn't eat much of the fish nor the black chicken, but drank enough of the soup to try to get the health benefits.

Duo of French blue lobster (雙味法國藍龍蝦) - kinda interesting for the kitchen to use homard bleu instead of Australian or even local lobsters.

The first part was lobster tail steamed with egg white and Huadiao (花雕) wine sauce - the same signature preparation they use for garoupa fillets.  This was pretty good.

The claw was then pan-fried with black bean (豆豉), Chinese black olive (欖角), haricots verts, and chanterelles - all in a deep-fried edible nest.

Sweet and sour Iberico pork with fresh pineapple (鮮菠蘿咕嚕豚肉) - this was a request from Hello Kitty, and she ended up taking down a good portion of the dish.  The chef uses the same Iberico pork neck as the char siu, and it certainly showed.  Nice and crispy on the outside while tender and succulent on the inside.  Absolutely delicious.  The only issue I had with this was the use of pickled Chinese onion (蕎頭).  I bit into one thinking it was a pearl onion, and I forced myself to swallow the whole thing...

Stir-fried chicken with chopping ginger in “Hakka style” (火焰沙薑客家走地雞) - Chef Tam seems to have a thing for serving flaming hot plates, and once again I found myself watching flames dance around a golden sheet of foil...  Apparently the flames were heating up some Mei Kuei Lu (玫瑰露) meant to provide some rose flavor.

Inside the foil we find chunks of tender chicken, garlic, and shallots.  Definitely tasted the ginger, too.

Tossed noodles with shrimp roe in abalone sauce and wagyu beef cheek in Port wine (砵酒和牛頰配鮑汁蝦子撈麵) - the original menu from Chef Tam included slices of char siu with the noodles, but since we already had two places of char siu earlier, this was changed to wagyu beef cheek cooked in Port.  Well, this was really, really delicious.  Normally I'd be happy enough just having the egg noodles with shrimp roe, but these chunks of beef cheek were so tender... and rich in flavor.  On any given day, a bigger bowl of this would have made me a very happy camper.

Double-boiled Hokkaido milk in whole coconut (原個椰皇燉鮮奶) - this isn't something I would normally order, as I'm not a fan of double-boiled milk.  At least this was done in a coconut and picked up some of the flavors.  Gotta admit that the texture was very smooth.

There were three flavors of ice cream in cornets - milk tea, corn, and purple sweet potato soup.  The latter definitely had the ginger kick.

The mignardises included hawthorn (山楂) gummies, almond and fritillaria (川貝) sponge cakes, lemon sponge cakes, walnut cookies, and salted plum (話梅) macarons with chocolate ganache.

The milk tea I ordered wasn't bad, but it was miles away from my favorite milk tea at The Eight.

Fergie and I don't do meals without wine, so we planned on bringing our own wines to dinner.  Having checked with the PR team beforehand, we were told that corkage was MOP 400 per bottle but they were very kindly going to waive corkage for two bottles.  We ended up bringing four bottles and were fully prepared to pay corkage for two bottles... only to find that the restaurant had very generously waived corkage for all the bottles.  Given this special treatment, I decided to add a good amount of gratuity to show our appreciation.

2005 Kistler Chardonnay Stone Flat Vineyard - the toasty nose was very overpowering, to the point it smelled like burnt charcoal, so we had the wine decanted.  Things got a little bit better afterwards, but remained heavily toasted.  Ripe on the palate.

2007 Lucien Le Moine Clos Saint Denis - double-decanted.  A little lighter on the palate than I expected.  After 1½ hours the nose really opened up to reveal lots of sweet fruit.  This drank reasonably well.

2002 Bertagna Vougeot 1er Cru Clos de la Perrière - this had been shaken around earlier in the day, so it wasn't a surprise that it didn't show very well.  This was also a little more tannic after shaking, and frankly pretty one-dimensional.

1988 Suduiraut - the nose was surprisingly a little smoky at first, with some burnt rubber notes alongside some plastic and acetone.  Palate was not as sweet as expected.  After more aeration I found honey and a little nutty notes in the nose.

We were all very stuffed by the end of the evening... and just a little buzzed, too.  Really happy to have come back here, and even happier to have ordered the incredibly delicious char siu.  The next time you catch me humming "Sweet dreams are made of these...", you know I'll probably be thinking of the Iberico char siu here...

Many thanks to Chef Tam for composing our menu, and Manager Arman Chan for taking such good care of us.

P.S. One of the nice touches from the restaurant comes in the form on a hand-written menu done by their resident Chinese calligrapher, which is presented at the end of the meal.  It's a small thing but a very nice touch nonetheless.

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