Macau restaurants often feature dishes from across Asia. // © 2014 Thinkstock/fuse
Given the frenetic pace that accompanies a casino-based destination such as Macau, a visitor might be excused for not expecting to find an exceptional culinary scene boasting truly elegant settings. But that’s just one pleasant surprise awaiting visitors to this distinctive Chinese city-state.
At last count, there were more than 1,000 restaurants in the city. Of that number, the “2014 Michelin Guide Hong Kong & Macau” listed 74 starred restaurants in Macau. One restaurant, The Eight, in the Grand Lisboa Hotel, was added to the list in recent weeks and accorded three stars. Many restaurants boast chefs trained in Michelin-starred restaurants abroad, and it’s impossible to categorize the creative and diverse fare as Chinese, Western or even Macanese, a distinctive combination of Portuguese and Chinese cooking.
Even experts in the culinary arts are amazed at the scope and quality of Macau’s fine dining.
“In the past six or so years there has been a complete transformation of Macau’s restaurant scene,” said Jean Alberti, a professional chef and restaurant writer who owned two restaurants in San Francisco before moving to Macau.
Perhaps a decade ago the city was quite provincial, Alberti recalls, with little cuisine of merit. But that’s all changed.
“With every new luxury resort hotel that opens, perhaps 60 more restaurants open. It’s pretty amazing,” said Alberti.
Since the overwhelming majority of visitors to Macau are from China, Japan and other countries in Southeast Asia, it follows that the city has an especially strong range of cuisine from those countries. In fact, visitors who are curious about cuisines that are distinct to specific regions of China or other countries in Asia are in luck — they can find Cantonese, Sichuan, Beijing, Shanghai and Hongkongese menus. There are also restaurants that specialize in Taiwanese, Malaysian, Singaporean, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Burmese, Vietnamese, Thai and Spanish fare. Of course, there are many offering Portuguese and Macanese specialties and, of course, Western menus as well.
Stand-alone restaurants can be found throughout the area, but fine-dining menus by world-class chefs, with presentations that are practically works of art, are mostly located in Macau’s major hotels.
For a distinctive Chinese cuisine experience, visitors will enjoy the Xin restaurant in the Sheraton Macau. Xin (meaning “fresh”) elevates the familiar hot pot. Here each diner has his or her own pot and selects the specific type of broth desired, as well as a choice of ingredients.
At Jade Dragon, in the City of Dreams, executive chef Kwok Fung specializes in menus that reflect the best ingredients of each season. In the Galaxy Macau’s Gosto, authentic Portuguese fare, mainly seafood, is one specialty of chef de cuisine Mario Gil.
The Grand Lisboa Hotel offers one of the largest buffet selections in the region, with more than 200 dishes on offer. The diner has such mouth-watering choices as roast rib eye, Mongolian barbecue beef or roasted pork.
The charming Albergue 1601, located in the heart of old Macau, offers a far more intimate dining experience. Lunch or dinner here is a true Macau experience, as the establishment offers a Mediterranean menu, with such specialties as jumbo scallops with garlic and Portuguese sausage and entrees that include African chicken, salted codfish with eggs and shredded potato fries and stuffed cabbage rolls.
As a result of the culinary revolution that has swept through Macau, the city-state offers distinctive dining venues in addition to gaming and historic attractions, giving visitors a truly well-rounded experience.