Saturday, August 24, 2013

Macau - one night at the Grand Lisboa

So somebody had a last minute "bright" idea to spend a night in Macau to celebrate a birthday.  Hmm...  I'm not a huge fan of the ex-Portuguese enclave but ok there is some pretty decent F&B action there.  Where would we stay though?

When I got news that it was going to be the Grand Lisboa, I thought to myself "oh boy, here we go...". Apart from being in the heart of the city, and not having to battle for the shortage of taxis in the city now teeming with visitors from its new motherland since 1999, the hotel is not the most pleasant to stay at unless you are a fan of wading through crowds taking photos in the public areas of the hotel, which are decked with some museum-worthy sculptures and other feng-shui pieces.

The Casino
Of course the crowds are also there to take their chance at being a tycoon, much to the happiness of the tycoon owner I'm sure.  

Room with a view
Checking in was a slightly painful affair since we strongly insisted on a non-smoking room and almost got "duped" into taking a "treated" room on a smoking floor.  After all the haggling and a 45 minute wait, we got upgraded to a pretty decent room.  A big win considering occupancy rates seemed high for Sunday afternoon.  Rooms are styled in dark wood and while decent in size, had a pretty tight shower stall.  But Hermes toiletries are a plus.

"Dan Dan" Noodles with Minced Pork and Peanuts Paste in Chilli Sauce
Since we had to wait for our room, we ventured to the Noodle and Congee Corner for a late lunch of Dan Dan noodles and pork pie.  While the pie was pretty forgettable the Dan Dan noodles were actually very good, with al dente hand pulled noodles (which we would see from the open kitchen) in an addictive spicy and crunch peanut butter like soup that had the consistency of a thick sauce.  Added to this some minced pork and fresh julienned cucumber made me think they did a cross over with Beijing's famous "Zha Jiang" noodles.

Dinner was a 10 minute walk from the hotel at 陶陶居海鮮火鍋酒家.  A re-decked but old world restaurant serving traditional Cantonese seafood dishes.  Decent food but the MSG attack afterwards which lasted a night didn't seem worth it unless you are accustomed to or do not react to MSG.

Senado Square
Even a walk around Senado Square afterwards nor dessert of Yee Shun's famous milk pudding did not take the pain away.

Fresh Water Crab Congee
The best cure to waking up to a hangover Chinese style is congee.  And what better congee than the famous Macau specialty of fresh water crab congee for room service.  It was surprisingly good value and yummy in taste.  The crab had little meat but was flavorful enough to breathe life into the congee, which became almost the milky sea where the crab might have been swimming in not too long ago.  The dough fritters were dense but fluffy, a combination hard to execute, and salted duck eggs made the meal complete with a yolky richness.

Fresh French Beurre
But no amount of breakfast was going to stop us from enjoying our hard-earned reservation at the 3-starred Robuchon au Dome, which we scored after a myriad of unsuccessful attempts via phone and a face-to-face "begging" session the night before.  Service was impeccable from dealing with a difficult situation, and turning it into a win for both guest and restaurant.  A rarity these days worth complimenting again.  I should have remembered our manager's name but cannot but want to accord her with a big "thank you" again for making the experience memorable.  The world class training at the restaurant extends to our servers who were not only polite but also as knowledgeable as they could be considering their backgrounds.

Amuse Bouche
Of course, the food was definitely awesome and at very decent prices for lunch, it is no wonder that the restaurant is booked for months ahead.  Our amuse bouche was a refreshing gazpacho over a creamy bufala base.  The contrast in flavors made for an excellent tease on the palate before we started lunch proper.

Bread Basket
It is easy to go overboard with a very good selection of breads, especially the brioche and bacon baguettes so pace yourself.

French mussels in white wine and cream
These have to be the best mussels I've had in any long or short term memory.  The consistency in each mussel's sea-sweetness and even size was amazing.  The deceptively light sauce served to enhance each  shellfish.  Served with a gold leaf and flower on the top, it has also got to be the prettiest way to serve this dish.

Caramelized upper guinea fowl thigh with pan fried foie gras and marinated cherry
My choice of the fowl, foie and cherries was also perfection in execution.  What could have otherwise been a rich dish was appropriate for lunch by the clever use of cherries.  Unlike other berries which can be too tart, the freshly sweet fruit made bolder by its marinade complimented the fowl and creamy foie well.

Dessert Trolley
No French meal is complete without dessert and I was happy to see they still use the trolley here.  Needless to say, there was a lot of good choices, and what was outstanding was the Cherry Cheese Tart and the Napolean.  Just a perfect sweet finish with a shot of Espresso.

If you can leave aside a rough ride from the ferry terminal, and battling the crowds who can get rowdy, the one-night staycation at the Grand Lisboa wasn't too miserable.  Especially since the F&B within the hotel more than makes up for everything else.  I might just brave it again if I scored another reservation at the Robuchon au Dome.

Avenida de Lisboa
Tel: +853-28283838

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