For­get the casi­nos, gam­ble on the food in­stead

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Front Page - Text and pho­tos by Ru­pali Dean

Iam in Ma­cao and let me tell you, go­ing to casi­nos is far from the only thing to do here. Sure, it’s the best known of Ma­cao’s must-dos, but I would rec­om­mend eat­ing as a close sec­ond – and if you’re like me, al­ways seek­ing a cul­tural con­nec­tion via food, casi­nos are ac­tu­ally way down the list.

Be­ing one of the ports of the Lu­so­phone, or the Por­tugue­ses­peak­ing world, it’s only nat­u­ral that Ma­cao’s food is supremely Por­tuguese in­flu­enced. But given that it shares its bor­ders with China, its cuisines are also deeply in­flu­enced by its neigh­bour, with a sug­ges­tion of In­dian, Malay and Brazil­ian in­flu­ence. The city’s clas­sics, from al­mond cook­ies and jerky to egg tarts are a must try, but do not leave with­out get­ting a taste of these 10 restau­rants. I guar­an­tee that a meal at any of these places is no gam­ble.

1. AN­TO­NIO Au­then­tic­ity at its best

An­to­nio isn’t pre­cisely a se­cret. I have to wait for a ta­ble, and when I get it, I find the restau­rant packed. It ar­guably dishes up Ma­cao’s most au­then­tic food, and it has a pic­ture per­fect Por­tuguese set­ting as ev­i­dence, from the vi­brant tiles on the floor, to the paint­ings that adorn the wall, to the 60-some­thing Por­tuguese chef and owner An­to­nio him­self.

An­to­nio hits a home run with a menu of clas­sics such as seafood rice, Ma­canese chicken curry, Chorico As­sado and Crêpe Suzettes. I am right on time to watch An­to­nio carve out Pata Ne­gra from a mar­bled leg of smoked ham, and it’s a plea­sure to watch this culi­nary ge­nius at work. A spe­cialty here is the home­made sausage made with minced pork, salt, pep­per, gar­lic pow­der and fat, which is placed in a clay casse­role and flam­béed at the ta­ble. The wine list is some­thing to write home about! Say hi to An­to­nio for me when you visit.

2. RESTAURANTE LITORAL Eat with the lo­cals

‘Are you Ma­canese?’ my cab­bie asks, though he rightly pre­sumes that I am a tourist. This ques­tion comes be­cause he is sur­prised that I’m headed to Litoral for lunch; the restau­rant is pa­tro­n­ised only by lo­cals. The menu at Litoral has been the same since its in­cep­tion in the colo­nial days, and the place is rife with old world charm. The African chicken tastes ex­actly the same each time, as does the ox­tail soup. An­other rec­om­mended dish is the Por­tuguese rice cooked with toma­toes and crowned with sausage and ba­con chunks, and I do a dou­ble-take when a waiter passes me with an in­ter­est­ing-look­ing dish of chicken liver pipis. But Litoral re­ally hits the mark with its sole, pork bal­achan and mango pud­ding. If you want to ex­pe­ri­ence Ma­canese cui­sine, this is it.

3. ESPACO LISBOA For food like home

Home style cook­ing… one can say that about very few places these days, but this eatery in the quaint and his­tor­i­cal Coloane dis­trict is fa­mous for it. As I climb the stairs to grab a ta­ble at the bal­cony, I ad­mire the Por­tuguese de­sign. Though the dishes seem ba­sic, the chef suc­cess­fully brings out pri­mary flavours. I or­der the cod fish cro­quettes and grilled sar­dines, fol­lowed by gar­lic shrimp and the African chicken. They are won­ders of sim­ple ac­cu­racy. And don’t even get me started on the egg tarts. Re­mem­ber­ing that I can’t get them just any time, I want to cry.

4. MA­CAU TOWER 360˚ CAFÉ Eat with a view

I do like do­ing touristy stuff, if it’s easy to lo­cate, and be­ing the tallest build­ing in the city, Ma­cau Tower has that to its ad­van­tage. The

views are fan­tas­tic and since the restau­rant is just a floor be­low the bungee jump­ing bal­cony, I en­joy see­ing peo­ple jump as I dig into my scrump­tious meal. The all-youcan-eat buf­fet is a smor­gas­bord of dishes with some­thing for ev­ery­one. I stick to the Asian sec­tion and end with my favourite egg tart!

5. O SAN­TOS COMIDA PORTUGUESA Value-for-money Por­tugese food

A five-minute cab drive from Co­tai strip takes me to a long queue out­side the restau­rant for hum­ble and value-for-money Por­tuguese food. The cod fish balls and the crispy suck­ling pig are more than tooth­some. I wash it down with a glass of white wine from the stel­lar list. Ser­radura, aka the saw­dust pud­ding, Ma­cao’s iconic dessert made from whipped cream and Marie bis­cuit is pil­lowy soft and oh, so creamy. Un­doubt­edly the best in Ma­cao.

6. A LOR­CHA An award-win­ning ex­pe­ri­ence

Sit­u­ated close to the famed A-Ma tem­ple, this Por­tuguese restau­rant is the per­fect stop for a hun­gry Ma­cao ex­plorer. The owner’s mother still holds the reins in the kitchen, mak­ing spe­cial­ties on the char­coal grill, us­ing first-rate in­gre­di­ents with ten­der love and care. The ser­vice is quite ca­sual, but the food is great. The gar­lic clams are ex­cep­tional. I love the cod­fish in cream sauce, African Chicken and Ser­radura (my fa- vourite af­ter the egg tarts by now). Also their San­gria makes me want to come back for more. Get­ting a ta­ble can be dif­fi­cult, so go early!

7. XIN Make your own hot pot

This hot­pot restau­rant at the Sher­a­ton is ab­so­lutely a must visit! I like the repli­ca­tion of a food mar­ket sort of con­cept. I pick and choose my meat, veg­etable, noo­dles, and seafood, to blend in the broth I have se­lected, and slow sim­mer it on my ta­ble on my per­sonal hot pot. The lush­ness of the broth, and the dip­ping sauce I made with sesame paste, gar­lic, chilli oil, and some crushed peanuts rank high among life’s sim­ple plea­sures! No won­der that this is the only hotspot


in Ma­cao to ever re­ceive the Bib Gour­mand Award by the Miche­lin Guide: the award that cel­e­brates “ex­cep­tion­ally good food at mod­er­ate prices”.

8. GOA NIGHTS For the love of In­dian food

Yes, I do miss my In­dian food on long trips, and this is prob­a­bly also my favourite bar in Ma­cao. The peo­ple are nice, the mu­sic is good, it’s el­e­gant and the prices are right. Per­fect for the Por­tuguese-in­flu­enced Goan style rava fish fry, de­li­cious chicken slid­ers and vindaloo. Yes, and the drinks? With own­ers Ga­gan and Shilpa Sethi at the helm, you are guar­an­teed to love them. These are craft cock­tails at their best.

9. GUINCHO a Galera Ma­cao’s first Por­tugese fine din­ing restau­rant

I have been to Miche­lin-starred For­taleza do Guincho in Por­tu­gal, which is phe­nom­e­nal. Its Ma­cao branch Guin­cha hap­pens to be Ma­cao’s first Por­tuguese fine din­ing restau­rant. Since the food is all about tra­di­tional Por­tuguese flavours, I be­gin with the salt cod with chick peas and snail co­quettes served with Alen­tejo bread. Dunk­ing my bread in the morel and Madera cream sauce as I poke my fork into the veal steak, I am al­most in heaven. Get­ting the wine pair­ings is a good idea; I now have a short but broad out­look of Por­tuguese wines. For dessert, not hav­ing the stewed pear with beer ice cream is sac­ri­lege.

10. BANZA For Ma­cao’s fresh­est seafood

The menu here is de­pen­dent on what the chef owner Banza finds fresh in the mar­ket ev­ery morn­ing. This is the place to eat Ma­cao’s fresh­est seafood. I am impressed with the flash fried prawns with a del­i­cate curry sauce. I also get my fix of old­style ba­cal­hau and some grilled sar­dines. Banza is only too happy to sug­gest a good Por­tuguese wine. Only the Fado is miss­ing!

DIN­NER DATE STRAIGHT FROM SEA Get­ting a ta­ble is not easy at A Lor­cha, a ca­sual but nice hotspot Banza in Ma­cao has the fresh­est seafood

JUST LIKE HOME Chef-owner An­to­nio serves a menu of Ma­canese clas­sics

the colo­nial life In­dulge in African Chicken at Restaurante Litoral

hot from the oven Sam­ple the firm and flavour­ful egg tarts at bak­eries

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