Saturday, December 30, 2017

Lunch for 8 at The 8

Burning off some calories with a quick walk of the historical district of Macau got me in the right mood (and appetite) for lunch at the Eight as part of our weekend getaway at the Grand Lisboa Hotel. We knew full well the lunch was going to be awesome given the caliber of the restaurant (with the Michelin 3 stars and all), the chef and the fact that we dined at the invitation of the hotel PR team, and somehow they still delivered beyond our heightened expectation.

The décor didn’t change much since our last visit almost 2 years ago with the grand entrance with the sliding door leading to the dazzling dining room in contemporary style. We were the last of our party of 8 to arrive at the private room right next to the main dining area, so we began our meal as soon as we settled down at the table.

We went through quite a number of dishes (and wines) in one afternoon and overall I thought they were all excellent and memorable. We started with 5 different dim-sum items delivered in 3 rounds (after another 2 served as amuse-bouche). First was the Xiaolongbao with the seasonal hairy crab roes. We had quite a few of this in the past few weeks but the one at The Eight was by far the best we had, with just the well-balanced flavor and distinct crab taste from the filling mixed with minced fatty pork and picked crab meat and roes.

Har Gau and Siu Mai may be the most common items found in just about every dimsum restaurants, but the ones we had here were the fancier version than the regular ones. The Har Gau, or shrimp dumpling, was made into gold-fish shape with crystal blue shrimp filling. Then the siu mai, or pork dumpling, was made with pork wrapped inside a spinach-infused wonton wrapper and topped with the whole abalone. The crispy barbecued pork bun was another beauty with the hedgehog-shaped bun complete with the cute pointy spines (we were told it's a crafty manual process to cut the dough with scissors to get those spines one by one). It's then steamed and than pan-fried like a pot-sticker to get the crispy bottom.

I am glad we added Char Siu to our menu at the last minute because it's truly extraordinary. It all started with the meat, with only the top collar butt was used (aka The First Cut in local butcher term) with the right balance of marbled fat, giving it rich meaty flavor with a good bite. Then it's brined, marinated, roasted in the traditional way with constant basting of rose wine-infused jus and finished with a deep honey glaze. And it's cut in thick chunks and with my favorite charred bit on top. We came to the restaurant last time only to find out they sold out of the char siu for the evening, so this is a well-worth redemption with me grabbing more than a fair share of the dish.

We continued with a couple seafood dishes - first the delicate mandarin fish balls with "chrysanthemum tofu" in chicken consommé. A dish based on the famous Huaiyang-style "Wensi Tofu" (文思豆腐) which involves cutting the silky cube of tofu into numerous thin shreds like a blossoming flower with the clean and delicate fishballs, tofu and consommé contrasting with the earthy flavor of the matsutake mushrooms. The second dish was the steamed crab claw with egg white custard in fish broth, which was another delicate dish with rich flavor.

I also loved the seafood fried rice with fresh shrimps and dried sakura ebi, which was brought to the table in a clay casserole and served in individual bowls after our vegetable course. The combination of dried and fresh shrimps gave the bowl of rice good umami flavor and some crunchiness with the rice well cooked with a thin coating of the egg wash and soy sauce on each grain - this simple dish took some skills to perfect and it showed. We then finished with a black and white sesame pudding and sesame icecream, both tasty too.

Again, the responsibility of picking the wines fell on the shoulder of our friend P. We began with a young, dry Riesling followed by something (much) more mature (and slightly off-dry). One can't go wrong with the classic Riesling vintage of 1971 - well-concentrated, a pleasant floral, honeysuckle aroma and good acidity to hold up the sweetness. Towards the end of our lunch the restaurant sent us a surprise with an exceptional 1978 Chateau Mouton. With the dark ruby color up to the rim I wouldn't have guessed that's a 40-year-old bottle, with medium body, deep leathery nose and some dark fruits, pencil shavings and sweet tobacco on the palate all rounded up nicely for an enjoyable sip. What a treat.

More photos in my Flickr album:

(Meal was part of the weekend Macau fam tour arranged by the Grand Lisboa Hotel)

When? November 27 2017
Where? The 8 Restaurant, 2/F Grand Lisboa Hotel, Avenida de Lisboa, Macau
Menu Highlights? Honey Glazed Barbecued Pork
2013 Weingut Keller Hubacker Riesling Trocken
1971 Weingut Elisabeth Christoffel-Berres Erdener Pralat Riesling Auslese
1978 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild

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