October 7, 2023

Bday in Macau 2023 day 2: long-awaited birthday dinner

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After more than 4 years, Foursheets is finally back at The 8 (8餐廳), her favorite Chinese restaurant in Macau. Due to the need to make special arrangements on wine for tonight, I made the reservation through our friend at the group, who told me in advance that Paul Lo, the Director of Food and Beverage at the Grand Lisboa, would be greeting us there. While I am certain that I am undeserving of Paul's time, it nevertheless gave me an opportunity to catch up with him and get a few important (to me, at least) questions answered.

Restaurant Manager Andrew Lo remembered me as the pain-in-the-ass who asked for a bunch of old German rieslings on my last visit - none of which could be retrieved from the cellars at the time - and who rebuffed his kind efforts to offer me alternatives from more recent vintages, because even 1993 isn't good enough "as I have stuff like that lying around at home"... Well, we didn't have any problems with getting the wine I wanted tonight as it had been very kindly retrieved by Paul and decanted by Andrew before our arrival.

I had expected to just order a few things off the menu for tonight, but Chef Albert Au (歐國強) - who still runs the kitchen despite someone telling me he has retired - had put together a menu for us. He was also on hand to greet us, and it's been quite some time since I last saw him.

Radish with Cristal blue prawn and mushroom (鮮蝦野菌白玉盞) - nice crunch in the radish, with good mushroom flavors and very tasty flavors from the New Caledonia blue prawns.

Abalone with celtuce stem (鮑魚萵筍)

Honey glazed barbecued pork (蜜汁黑豚叉燒) - as always, the Japanese kurobuta (黒豚) was grilled with lychee wood. This was sooooo tender around the marbling, so rich in flavor, and just enough of the outside bits are dry with chewy texture and the charring.

Chilled razor clam with Sichuan green pepper (青花椒聖子皇) - the razor clams were tender as expected, with the numbing from the green Sichuan peppercorn oil being very subtle at first but eventually builds up. Julienned celtuce stems, and okra had a slight sweet taste in the sauce. Really refreshing dish.

Chicken broth with fish delicate and bean curd in chrysanthemum shape (菊花魚圓) - the last time I had this was more than 5 years ago, and I do love the chicken broth. However, they ended up overpowering the very light and fluffy fish balls, which was a shame. The chrysanthemum shape of the tofu was achieved with 105 cuts, and remains a skill which requires a long time to hone. We also had slices of matsutake (松茸), which were OK.

Pan-fried spotted garoupa fillet in thickened broth (金湯煎煮東星斑) - I am normally not a big buyer of fish fillets when it comes to Cantonese cuisine, as whole steamed fish is much, much nicer in terms of showcasing the fresh flavors. These fillets were first pan-fried and then served with a fish broth, along with some pickled mustard greens and battonet of radish.

I didn't ask how big the garoupa was but DAMN! These fillets were BIG! And the execution was perfect. Nicely browned and crispy on the outside and still tender and moist inside.

Braised superior bird's nest stuffed in bamboo piths (官燕釀竹笙) - while I usually don't go ga-ga over bird's nest, this happens to be a dish that I truly love. I've only had it previously at my favorite private dining facility, and I was so happy to find it here tonight. I've always loved the delicate simplicity of the dish, and that was exactly what I had in front of me. The lightly starched ham broth was more delicate than I had expected, and the few thin strands of ham were there to add just a little 'oomph'.

Deep-fried chicken in "pei pa style" with Cristal Blue shrimp mousse (脆皮藍天使蝦百花琵琶雞) - I haven't had this dish since... well, actually, I've only had another version of this dish here once, and that was on my very first visit to the restaurant more than 12 years ago. The dish has since been upgraded somewhat. I gotta say, though, that three big pieces for the two of us was a little much.

The chicken was really, really succulent. In fact, I used the term "fucking succulent" in my notes. And the sweet barbecue sauce between the chicken and the shrimp mousse sure was tasty.

On my first visit to the restaurant, the kitchen was using a layer of crispy fried glutinous rice, but this has now been changed to a mousse made with New Caledonia blue shrimp, covered in sesame seeds for that extra crunch. This was so, sooo tasty.

Poached seasonal vegetables with lily bulbs and birch seeds (百合杞子浸時蔬) - the choy sum (菜心) was poached in a broth made with chicken, pork, and ham, and came with lily bulbs as well as wolfberries - not "birch seeds".

Stewed rice with diced abalone and chicken in clay pot (砂鍋鮑魚雞粒燜飯) - time for some carbs, and this came in individual clay pots.

In addition to the chunks of abalone and chicken, there were also shredded conpoy (干貝) lending their flavors.

There has been a little dish of XO sauce on our table, and it was time to make good use of it by mixing it into the rice. Of course they worked perfectly together.

Longevity bun (壽包) - can't be a birthday meal at a Chinese restaurant without some of these buns!

Delicious lotus seed paste inside.

Puff pastry with sweetened winter melon paste (白玉無花小鳳酥) - a very cute bird-shaped pastry.

Filled with winter melon paste inside. I ate a little bit of the crispy "bird's nest", too...

Pear sherbet (香梨雪葩)

Portuguese egg tart (葡式蛋撻) - always happy to finish with this.

Milk tea (奶茶) - still my favorite milk tea.

I had made prior arrangements to make sure the bottle of wine I wanted would be available and ready, and Paul very generously kicked off our celebrations with a bottle of bubbly from a fantastic vintage:

2008 Dom Pérignon - of course this was still very fresh, with nice salinity and minerality, nice nose of toast and a little brioche, with almost a hint of coffee. Good acidity balance here, and still got more acidity than the ripeness and sweetness. Drinking so well.

1982 La Conseillante - served 2 hours after decanting. Definitely got the smoky nose, got some of the ripe fruit that was not quite prunes. Very silky smooth now, sweet and ripe on the palate, but a little savory mid-palate and on the finish. Nose of leather, animal, and mint... really fragrant. After chilling for 10 minutes this became more rounded on the palate, cooler on the nose. After 3 hours in the decanter this was sooooo fragrant and woodsy, just drinking so beautifully. Started to taper off just before the 4-hour mark, but still lovely. Would rate this at maybe 97 points. Stunning.

We were completely stuffed and even took a doggie bag back to our hotel room. Moments later, there was a knock on the door and a "birthday cake" - the fourth one of the weekend - was delivered to our room.

Yes, this was the same millefeuille we had last night, and we had no space in our stomachs. But it would be a shame to waste it, and it wouldn't taste the same if we tried to take it back to Hong Kong with us tomorrow.

One final picture for the evening, with the bouquet of flowers from last night. What a wonderful way to close out a lovely birthday. Many thanks to our friends for helping me make this happen.

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