Integrated resorts like Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace offer a high level of gastronomy, thanks to stellar chefs who are making a splash in the regional food scene. By Jessica Chan
The new foodie destination: Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace
When it comes to naming Asian cities with the buzziest gastronomy scene, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong come to mind but not Macau. My culinary knowledge of the country – Portuguese egg tarts, pork chop buns and
minchee – was paltry.
The former Portuguese colony is not only home to a 400-year-old Chinese-portuguese cuisine but also a community of plugged-in chefs who are constantly challenging the boundaries of the kitchen. It’s shaping up to be the quintessential address for gourmets, be it casual eateries or fine dining restaurants. The latter is a fixture of Macau’s culinary scene, thanks to a succession of mega-resorts opening one after another. Just this year, MGM Cotai launched with Mauro Colagreco as well as Morpheus with Alain Ducasse and Pierre Hermé. It’s timely for bon vivants to make the pilgrimage to find out what the buzz is all about. That, of course, is referring to the location of 2018 and 2019’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremony, Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace.
Walking into Golden Flower, Wynn Macau’s two Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant, begged the question: had I travelled back to the Qing Dynasty? Alluring floral centrepieces perfume the hallway while exquisite porcelain line the shelves. A tea sommelier daintily pours out yinzhen baihao (silver needle white tea) from Fujian before surmising in Cantonese that I nose its honey-like aroma, as executive chef Liu Guo Zhu lays down a bitter melon that’s been fashioned into a peony (albeit a green one). The intricacies of his knifework, a hallmark of a master Chinese chef, is evident with every crunch of the paper-thin slices.
Liu is a brilliant chef and not just because he had over 40 years of culinary experience in one of the most elite kitchens (the Beijing Hotel) for regional Chinese fare. It’s his polished execution of the elusive aristocratic Tan cuisine. His star dish is the Stewed Fish Maw with Crab Claw in Supreme Chicken Broth, where fish maw is soaked in oil to create a fluffy, porous carriage for a broth (of jinhua huotiu, yuan bei and old hen) that’s both sweet yet savoury, light yet rich.
Over at Mizumi, the weariest of travellers leave with a smile on their faces, thanks to master sushi chef Hideki Fujikawa. His bubbly personality and mastery of Edomae-style sushi trumps the language barrier. The Tsuyahime rice grains (from Yamagata prefecture) are kept at body temperature to allow the seafood (or meat) to shine. Particularly memorable was the bonito, smoked à la minute with sakura wood. It was hard to put down my camera to capture its immaculate presentation, but Fujikawa was adamant I savour it within 30 seconds of serving.
The next wave
Wing Lei Palace has been teeming with expectant dinners since the arrival of Tam Kwok Fung in July. The illustrious chef had already brought Jade Dragon two Michelin stars and the no. 28 spot on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2018. Tam had installed a custom-built oven just for his roast meats. Sweet succulent slivers of goose thigh are wrapped in gelatinous fat that’s juxtaposed against the crisp skin; it’s served with nothing else and is perfect. Yet, Tam is far from satisfied and humbly says, “It’s still a work in progress.”
It won’t surprise me to find executive chef Min Kim of Wynn Palace’s Mizumi on next year’s award list. Kim marries his fervent devotion to omotenashi and washoku for one of the most spectacular kaiseki meals I’ve ever had. Every dish was an art piece. A server would present the ingredients in its raw (or live) form before the dish. The one course that had everyone clamouring for more? The shime (finale) of charcoal-grilled Kyoto freshwater eel. What impressed wasn’t so much how fresh it was, but how Kim spends hours meticulously picking out over 300 small bones and slow-grilling the eel skin side down for a crisp texture.
Over at SW Steakhouse, the animatronics adds theatrics to the meal, but the star of the show remains the prime dry-aged cuts; the Rangers Valley Black Angus from Glen Innes is a crowdfavourite. Of the sides available, make a beeline for the Roasted Bone Marrow with Bourbon Braised Wagyu Oxtail. The barrel-aged cocktails by property mixologist Timothy Ching are a hidden gem. I’ve heard little of the cocktail scene of Macau, but his negroni and Wing Lei Old Fashioned, of bourbon and stout reduction at Wing Lei Bar, easily found a fan in me.
If you need another reason to book your next flight, the Wynn Guest Chef series ranks high. It’s an ongoing event where awardwinning chefs and bartenders will guest shift at any of Wynn’s restaurants and bars. What makes it special it that they will combine their signature style with the establishment’s.
A prime example? Hong Kong chef Alvin Leung. While known for his eclectic creations at Bo Innovation, he impressed with a more refined take on his and Wing Lei Palace’s Cantonese cuisine. I tasted his cheung fun with A4 Saga Wagyu beef and first press superior soy – his take on the Hong Kong snack – as well as a beautifully assembled har mi vermicelli with wild Kitimat queen spot prawn, served with a brackish burnt leek ash powder to achieve wok hei. What bowled me over was the “Bo” chicken rice which was presented as a risotto. Rather than shavings of Parmigiana Reggiano, he opted for sun-dried abalone and air-dried foie gras for that undeniable umami. Every dish was a complete cerebral experience.
Wing lei Bar, Wynn Palace
At Golden Flower, a tea sommelier prepares prized leaves sourced from various regions of China to go along with executive chef Liu's Tan cuisine. Mizumi Burger of uni, fatty tuna and crab by chef Hideki Fujikawa at the two Michelin-starred Mizumi.
Stewed Fish Maw with Crab Claw in Supreme Chicken Broth from Golden Flower.
Charcoal-grilled Japanese Eel from Kyoto at Mizumi, Wynn Palace Executive chef Tam Kwok Fung After months of experimenting with his custom-built oven, executive chef Tam Kwok Fung is ready to unveil his famous roast goose at Wing Lei Palace, Wynn Palace.