April 26, 2023

Michelin HK / Macau 2023: buffet, gala, and supper

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After holding the revelation events online for the last few years during the pandemic, the Michelin Guide is once again making the announcements for the Hong Kong and Macau Red Guide in person. The title sponsor for this year has changed to the Grand Lisboa Palace Resort Macau, which has very kindly made all the arrangements for us. I got up bright and early this morning and headed to the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal to catch the ferry to Macau.

But first, traditions are traditions. I stopped by McDonald's at the terminal to buy breakfast for my ferry ride. Sausage McMuffin is just what I needed.

While this wasn't exactly a charter, a significant portion of Hong Kong's top chefs, PRs, and food media were on the same ferry. It was good to run into so many friends I haven't seen in a while.

After getting off the shuttle bus at the Grand Lisboa Palace, we dropped off our bags with the hotel staff and filed into The Grand Buffet (自助山) for an early lunch. In addition to what is normally available, the hotel also arranged for 5 well-known local eateries listed in the Red Guide to set up stations here today to showcase their dishes.

The longest lines were in front of the "caviar station" where the little black pearls were being scooped out of big tins from Kaviari. I had absolutely ZERO interest for that...

The char siu (叉燒) from Po Kee (波記) was pretty well-marbled and tasty.

The steamed glutinous rice with preserved sausage and duck liver dried sausage (鴛鴦腸) was not bad.

The Taiwanese-style vermicelli with oyster (蠔仔麵線) from Eight Treasures (八寶莊) was a FAIL... Tasted nothing like what it was supposed to. There were simply too many clumps of cornstarch floating around.

Bacalhau com natas from Manuel Cozinha Portuguesa was pretty decent.

Not feeling satiated, I defaulted to the Alaskan king crab legs. Couldn't possibly go wrong with these!

A friend reminded me about the barbecue station we passed on the way in, and sure enough, the grilled Brazilian sausage, barbecued beef brisket cooked for 6 hours, barbecued ribs cooked for 4 hours, and smoky black sausage from La Parilla were all winners.

Our hosts even threw in some girlie drinks, as there was no alcohol being served before the upcoming ceremony.

We were herded onto shuttle buses after lunch, and eventually gathered at the Grand Ballroom of the Grand Lisboa Macau for the press conference and announcement. There were a few nice surprises this year.

We went back to the Grand Lisboa Palace and got the key cards to our rooms. Good to take a breather and rest up a little.

I did have time to freshen up in the luxurious bathroom and get dressed up for the gala dinner tonight. After all, it IS a black tie event...

The gala dinner, as was the case in previous years, featured dishes from chefs from a number of restaurants with 2 or 3 Michelin stars. I have always kept my expectations pretty low for an event like this, as most of these chefs aren't accustomed to cooking for 500 people. It certainly didn't work out any better tonight compared to the previous editions...

Le caviar | king crab | crustacean jelly | cauliflower cream, by Julien Tongourian of Robuchon au Dôme - the sponsor gets the home court advantage and serves up the first dish - always cold and can be prepared easily in advance. And it's a dish some of us know very, very well. With 71 dots of cauliflower cream topped with parsley cream in 3 concentric circles. The serving for g4gary came with 78 dots so, clearly, I got robbed.

2021 Quinta do Vallado Branco Reserva - flinty with nose of tropical stone fruits.

Deep-fried wagyu and seafood roll | beef jus | coffee sauce, by Ken Chan of Le Palais - from the chef whose restaurant has at least 2 stars too many. Beef jus on the side that has been "infused with Nespresso Peru Organic". I guess someone needs to give face to the coffee sponsor...

So underneath the wrapping of what looked like kataifi we have a layer of shrimp or seafood paste, with wagyu in the middle. While my beef was OK and still tender, I heard from quite a few friends whose beef got overcooked and became tough. And not everyone liked the coffee sauce...

2010 JL Chave Selection Côtes-du-Rhône Mon Coeur - very mineral, minty, lots of leather, a little farmy and stinky.

Grilled Vaucluse green asparagus | salad meli-melo | braised beef vinaigrette, by Vincent Thierry of Chef's Table Bangkok - the dish from one of my favorite chefs was, unfortunately, a mess. I know how much my friend loves green asparagus and this was nice. Unfortunately the "braised beef vinaigrette" was the problem. It came tepid, and no one wants to eat cubes of bone marrow and fat when it's cold.

The other issue was the addition of sablé and its placement below the salad. With the run-off of the vinaigrette, the sablé just got soggy.

I did give my honest feedback to my friend later when I saw him, and I hope to have this dish in his restaurant so I could experience it properly.

2020 Vietti Roero Arneis - some flint here, not very interesting.

Pan-fried spotted garoupa fillet | supreme broth, by Albert Au Kwok Keung of The 8 - the execution of the fish was OK, but the flavors were completely underwhelming and bordering on boring.

2020 Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay - nice and toasty. Beautiful.

Blue lobster | flavours of green curry | apple, by José Avillez of Belcanto - the surprise of the evening was that this became everyone's favorite dish, and it was near unanimous. The execution was spot on as the lobster was almost mi-cuit, which is so difficult when this many portions are served. The sauce was made with lemongrass and galangal... so reminiscent of Thai cuisine. The quenelle of apple salsa came with diced lobster and provided some nice acidity and crunch.

2017 Niepoort Charme - sharp nose of alcohol, very ripe but not in the way I like.

Braised pork cheek | capers | celeriac, by Sebastien Lepinoy of Les Amis - from a chef whose restaurant I rated as having "3 stars too many" on my last visit. The pork was reasonably tender and not really fatty. So why did the dish need so many capers with all their acidity?! When is this guy - who obviously knows how to cook better than I do - gonna learn that the level of acidity in his dishes far exceeds what many of us really care for? Oh and just like last time, I ain't the only guy who didn't like the dish...

2009 Larrivet Haut-Brion - minty, very ripe and fruity with cassis, tons of oak, some smoke. Pretty nice.

La perle rouge | Gariguette strawberry in many ways | vanilla red pearl | Bourbon, by César Augustyniak of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Hong Kong - good acidity here along with the sweetness.

2017 Domaine Franco Chinois Petit Manseng - a little metallic like pear which has oxidized, a little rusty. Syrupy. Very one-dimensional on palate.

La noisette | hazelnut mousse | chocolate shell | praline | yuzu, by César Augustyniak of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Hong Kong

Remy Martin XO - about as expected. The others at the table enjoyed this much more than I did.

Yes, I had a full dinner, but no, it wasn't satisfying. So a few of us followed Gourmet KC and went out for supper at Yat Gor Gourmet (一哥美食). A few chefs - some of whom headed kitchens at restaurants with Michelin stars - had arrived earlier and saved a few seats for us.

Stir-fried corn with salt and pepper (椒鹽粟米) - this was really, really tasty. The salt brought out the sweetnessw of the corn, and we had to order another portion.

Deep-fried Bombay duck with salt and pepper (椒鹽九肚魚) - this is always a good idea. So fluffy and delicious.

Steamed rice flour rolls with dried shrimp (蝦米腸) - I actually came here not for the signature congee but for these steamed rice flour rolls. Always love how thin and delicate they are.

Steamed rice flour rolls with deep-fried crullers (炸兩腸) - I guess I shouldn't expect the crullers inside to be crunchy, but they still taste nice after being smothered in sesame sauce and soy sauce.

Mud crab congee (水蟹粥) - for most people this is the highlight of a meal here. We had two big pots and ended up packing a few boxes to take to friends who were hungry at karaoke...

Stir-fried noodles with shredded pork (乾炒肉絲炒麵) - this was pretty good, although the pork wasn't exactly "shredded". Good wok hei (鑊氣).

Fried oyster pancake (家鄉煎蠔餅) - this turned out not to be what we had expected. Would have liked it to have batter and become crispy. Oh well.

With my belly really full now, I went back to the hotel for catch some sleep. Many thanks to Chef Hung for picking up the tab, and congratulations on the promotion!

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