10 great restaurants to eat at in Macao
Forget the casinos, gamble on the food insteadUpdated: Nov 10, 2018 20:27 IST
I am 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 Portuguese-speaking 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.
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˚ cafe
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-you-can-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 Portuguese 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 favourite 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!
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 Portuguese 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.
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 old-style bacalhau and some grilled sardines. Banza is only too happy to suggest a good Portuguese wine. Only the Fado is missing!
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From HT Brunch, November 11, 2018
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First Published: Nov 10, 2018 20:25 IST