August 17, 2023

Back to the menagerie

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An online acquaintance is spending a few days in Macau, revisiting top Cantonese restaurants there after borders re-opened this year. I decided to take this opportunity to meet up with him for the first time, finally putting a face to someone with whom I have many discussions over the years, but never in real life and in real-time.

It's been 4 years since I was last at The 8 (8餐廳), and I do miss their dim sum menagerie... so I agreed to come for lunch. My friend had already visited the restaurant a few days ago for dinner and had gotten a few other dishes ticked off his list, so we figured we could just focus on dim sum.

Pomegranate and coconut jelly - I had to verify with a second staff member whether the top part was pomegranate (石榴) or guava (番石榴), as it certainly tasted like the latter to me... but was told that it was indeed pomegranate. 

Abalone with celtuce stem

Steamed dumplings with crystal blue shrimp in goldfish shape (藍天使蝦金魚餃) - OH YES! This is one of the most "Instagrammable" dim sum items (did you know "IGabledimsum" is an actual hashtag?) on the menu, and has been ever since I was first introduced to it in 2011.

They have since upgraded it with shrimp from New Caledonia and added some gold foil as the dorsal fin. As tasty as I remember.

Crispy barbecued pork buns with preserved vegetables (脆香叉燒包) - another one I love to order. Why get a normal charsiubao (叉燒包) when you can have these?!

Someone in the kitchen uses a pair of scissors to snip and form the spikes on the hedgehog's back. That's a lot of additional work and attention to detail.

Very tasty filling inside, as one would expect.

Steamed "Shanghainese" dumplings with chicken essence and vintage dried tangerine peel (老陳皮雞汁小籠包) - lots of places do decent versions of xiaolongbao (小籠包), but they use aged tangerine peel (陳皮) here... which is why I love these.

I've always loved the smoky flavors from the aged peel, but I found that adding the red vinegar - which is Cantonese and not traditional Shanghainese - also worked well and did not really detract from the original flavors.

Steamed dumplings in cuttlefish shape with satay sauce (像形沙爹墨魚餃) - yes! More cute animal-shaped dim sum!

In the years since I first tasted these, the kitchen has improved on them and made the shape more detailed and prettier.

Love the 'satay (沙爹)' flavors, but look at all those layers of filling inside! Nice and crunchy.

Steamed dumplings with pork and mushroom in X.O. chili sauce (X.O.醬豚肉刺蝟水晶餃) - noticeably more spicy with the X.O. sauce, and tasted like a Chiuchow-style steamed dumpling (潮州粉粿) with peanuts inside.

Meanwhile, the kitchen has also improved on this and the additional details are visible.

Deep-fried spring rolls with Alaska crabmeat, scrambled egg and spring onion (蔥花蛋長腳蟹春卷) - an unexpected combination, but very tasty. Love how crunchy the wrappers were.

Steamed rice flour roll with Argentina red prawns (阿根廷紅蝦腸粉) - the portion was much bigger than we had expected. Interesting to see Argentinian langostino come wrapped in bamboo pith (竹笙) and accompanied by mushrooms and asparagus.

Pan-fried drumplings filled with wagyu beef and enoki mushrooms (濃汁金菇和牛煎鍋貼) - very, very big flavors here, with tons of black pepper in the sauce for the filling. Definitely a crowd-pleaser, I think.

Deep-fried glutinous dumplings filled with roasted pork belly and dried shrimps in calabash shape (像形葫蘆菓) - another item I couldn't resist ordering...

Essentially a 'saltwater dumpling (咸水餃)', but so muich prettier.

My friend wanted some steamed glutinous rice so he ordered an item with '鮑參翅肚' - the classic premium ingredients in Chinese cuisine. But since it contains sharks' fin, I decided not to partake.

Coffee jelly (咖啡啫喱) - I have missed this very, very much. Really love the coffee jelly and coffee mousse.

Portuguese egg tart (葡式蛋撻) - the obligatory finishing touches.

Milk tea (奶茶) - I still love this milk tea, but after an absence of a few years, I wondered whether my memory still serves me well... or if the tea tasted just a tad diluted compared to years past. In any case, I'd still drink a big, big cup of this.

I was so happy to be back here after all these years, but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to pair it with some old German riesling... Admittedly I had been very spoiled in the past, when I could message my contacts before arrival and pre-order wines from the Lisboa's amazing collection. This would give them both time to fish out specific bottles from the cellars where they are stored - there are more than a dozen of them - and it also helps to have to request come from someone within the organization.

Today, however, none of the three wines I had asked for were available. The wine list is dated from May 2023, and the selections I chose were so esoteric that I find it difficult that all bottles have been sold. The only explanation offered by the restaurant manager was that maybe there are only 1 or 2 bottles left of the wine, and if they were being stored in a different hotel (such as the Hotel Lisboa and not at the Grand Lisboa Macau where I was dining), then that hotel would want the bottle to be ordered and consumed there - presumably so that the revenue can be earned at said hotel.

This was really sad to hear. I know that in the last few years, factions have developed within what we used to see at the Lisboa group, and Hotel Lisboa, Grand Lisboa Macau, and Grand Lisboa Palace each have their own turfs. It sounds like they don't really work as seamlessly with each other as they used to.

The amazing wine list had been one of the biggest reasons why I come to dine at the establishments within the Lisboa group. When I look at the 640-page list, I certainly won't know which wines are being stored at which hotel or even which restaurant. If a particular bottle can no longer to moved and transported to another location for consumption, that's gonna be a real bummer for me, and certainly not what I expect from people in the hospitality business.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I echo your sentiment when I dined at the Eight last week, firstly my choices weren't available and secondly the alternatives they proposed took so long to arrive that we risked finishing the food before the wine got to the table. I would have thought a restaurant of this caliber should know better to hold the dish until the wine is brought up from the cellar.


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