What To Eat In Macau—The Best Egg Tarts, Cantonese Fare, And Chinese Wine
This former Portuguese territory may be known as the gambling capital of Asia, but in truth, there’s a lot more to enjoy in this autonomous territory just an hour-long ferry ride from neighboring Hong Kong. I was recently in Macau to cover the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony held at the Wynn Palace Macau. While a lot of the action was happening during the two-day celebration, there was much wining and dining as well to keep us happy in between events.
Cotai Egg Tart at Studio City
On our first day in Macau, the first order of business was to look for what some consider the best egg tarts in town. As many already know, Macanese egg tarts have their origins in Portugal, thanks to this European nation’s more than 400 years’ rule of Macau. Unlike those you’ll find in Hong Kong though, egg tarts in Macau are characterized by an intensely flaky, buttery crust and rich, creamy filling, with that characteristic burnt, caramelized topping. Cotai Egg Tart happens to have perfected this crust-to-custard ratio, with just the right dose of sweetness, that you won’t think twice about popping a second one.
Egg tarts hot off the oven
Located in Macau Gourmet Walk within the vast Studio City entertainment complex, the shop sells egg tarts, and only egg tarts, in their most classic form. What I love about these egg tarts is they taste great no matter when or how you eat them. I had my first one, freshly baked and still hot off the oven, and it was all soft and buttery, almost collapsing in my hand. I had another one after it had been sitting in my air-conditioned hotel room for more than a day, and it tasted creamier, with a richer more substantial texture. After hand carrying several boxes home to Manila, I also tried a tart warmed up in the oven toaster and enjoyed that same creamy sensation. According to the Filipina staff at the shop, the egg tarts are best consumed within 3 days of purchase.
All-Filipina staff at Cotai Egg Tart
If you’re going to Macau Gourmet Walk just for the egg tarts, you can also check out the other food stalls there selling pork chop buns, breads and pastries, homemade ice cream sandwiches, Cantonese wok-fried and clay pot specialties, plus popular Macau souvenirs.
Pearl Dragon at Studio City
After Cotai Egg Tart, we headed to Pearl Dragon, Studio City’s premier Cantonese restaurant, which boasts one Michelin star and a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award. While the restaurant is traditional in focus, Chef Lam Yuk Ming makes sure to imbue his dishes with luxurious touches to elevate the flavors even more.
Michelin-star dining at Pearl Dragon
The appetizer platter carries Roasted Honey Glazed Iberico Pork, Oven Smoked Parcel with Goose Liver and Honey Glazed Pork, and particularly appealing, Barbecued Eel Fillet. Even classics like Hot and Sour Soup, already very good, is made even better with Hokkaido Hairy Crab.
From top, Oven Smoked Parcel with Goose Liver and Honey Glazed Pork, Roasted Honey Glazed Iberico Pork, Barbecued Eel Fillet
Hot and Sour Soup with Hokkaido Hairy Crab
During our dinner at Pearl Dragon, we were fortunate to also sample exquisitely crafted Sichuanese dishes by visiting chef Lan Guijun, one of China’s most acclaimed chefs who runs Yu Zhi Lan in Chengdu and Shanghai. While Sichuan cooking is known for its fiery dishes inflected with the famous Sichuan peppers and chilies, Chef Lan’s dishes are surprisingly subtle and restrained, like his as-fine-as-hair Signature Homemade Noodles bathed in a simple broth, and his delicately spiced Sichuan Dumplings in Red Chili Oil.
Master Chef Lan’s Signature Fine Homemade Noodles
Sichuan Dumpling in Red Chili Oil
While you’re at Studio City, whether after your meal or before, there’s lots to do at this full-on entertainment center, with rides and attractions aplenty fit for the whole family. These include the Golden Reel, the world’s first and Asia’s highest figure-8 Ferris wheel embedded atop Studio City’s twin towers, the Batman Dark Flight simulation ride based on a digitally animated Batman storyline, and the Warner Brothers Fun Zone.
The Golden Reel at Studio City
Wing Lei Palace at Wynn Palace Macau
For those looking for excellent Cantonese fare, the Wynn Palace Macau (where I was staying) boasts Wing Lei Palace, which placed for the first time in this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants at No. 36. Wing Lei Palace is also a recipient of the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award. We enjoyed a special set lunch that showcased Executive Chef Tam Kwok Fung’s mastery of Cantonese flavors, especially its seasonality.
Wing Lei Palace’s grand foyer
Befitting its name, the setting is palatial, to say the least, with a gold and jade-decorated dining room overlooking Wynn Palace’s Performance Lake where diners get a great view of the fountain show—a music, light, and dancing water extravaganza—while enjoying Chef Tam’s food. We sat at one of seven private dining rooms that mimic European opera boxes with a view of the fountain show.
A view of the fountain from the private dining room
Chef Tam impressed us with his sophisticated renderings of Cantonese classics, especially a Deep-fried Crispy Baby Pigeon with Barbecued Black Iberian Pork Glazed with Honey, and Stewed Wagyu Beef Cheeks with Turnip in a Pepper Broth.
Deep-fried Crispy Baby Pigeon with Barbecued Black Iberian Pork Glazed with Honey
Most interesting were the wines paired with our meal, including two Chinese produced vintages—Jiabeilan Baby Feet Pinot Noir 2015 and a rare Ao Yun 2014—that worked beautifully with the pigeon and Wagyu, respectively. While it’s difficult to wrap oneself around Chinese wines, I can see these vineyards gaining more acclaim in a few years’ time as their production efforts increase and are rewarded.
Ao Yun is produced in the foothills of the Himalayas by Moët Hennessy
Wynn Palace Macau happens to offer other excellent Chinese options, depending on your mood. Red 8, situated within the casino, serves mainly southern Chinese fare in an open kitchen setting, with classics like stir-fries and dimsum, plus BBQ specialties, especially the Beijing Duck which is roasted in a wood-fired brick oven. 99 Noodles is another casual restaurant that serves northern Chinese noodle dishes using freshly hand-pulled noodles and one’s choice of broths, mix-ins, and sauces. Then there’s Sichuan Moon which now has renowned Chef André Chiang (last year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Lifetime Achievement awardee) at the helm to concoct his creative and modern takes on this regional cuisine.
Sichuan Moon in Wynn Palace Macau
Studio City, Estrada do Istmo, Cotai, www.studiocity-macau.com
Wynn Palace Macau, Avenida Da Nave Desportiva, Cotai, www.wynnpalace.com
Photos by Nana Ozaeta
Select photos courtesy of Studio City and Wynn Palace Macau