Monday, June 25, 2018

Catching Up with Old Friends

It seems easy enough when CYY requested dinner at The Tasting Room in Macau as part of her birthday celebration this year – at least it’s not some almost impossible to book place that required my arms and legs for deposit or something.  We did exactly the same the year before, just as the restaurant was about to re-open after a 6-month makeover and our friend Fabrice settled in at his new post as Chef de Cuisine there. So I quickly shot an email to the restaurant to book, and told Fabrice we were coming to visit and eat.

Later we had our friends A and R joining us in Macau for the weekend so that became a table for four - even better. There were subtle changes in the restaurant than a year ago at our first visit, with a new cabinet showcasing the collection of antique Michelin guides displayed near the entrance and a new front-of-the-house team on board being the most evident ones. We had our Chef’s Table experience last time with a table set up for us inside the kitchen, but this time, we were comfortably seated in the dining room by the window.

We left the menu entirely up to the chef, just as we did many times previously – whether it’s here or at Caprice where he used to work – and this time we were presented a brilliant seven-course tasting menu tailor-made for us. After a trio of bite-sized canapes served as our “amuse-bouche” course, we began with a piece of lightly smoked salmon dressed with watercress cream and edible flowers on top. It’s beautifully plated to match the custom-made tableware with the theme of butterflies.

The lobster “tart” has slowly become the signature dish of Chef Fabrice, and one I didn’t mind having again and again, with the thinly sliced Brittany lobster carpaccio served on top of watermelon confit with caviar and yuzu vinaigrette “jelly”, and on the side was avocado puree, adding a new dimension of creaminess to the dish. I reckon this is the perfect summer appetizer, chilled with the salivating flavor all across.

The next few courses were new to us, and showed the evolution made by the Chef Fabrice’s team to adopt to the local clientele’s palate while up-keeping the heritage of French nouvelle cuisine cooking style in the highest standard. The frog leg confit was served with clams, fennel, onion custard with the creamy vin jaune reduction sauce done “cappuccino style” poured on top. Preparation was classic French, with complex and delicate flavor, yet it vaguely reminded me of the chicken braised in yellow wine as in the dish in Hakka Cuisine with a similar taste profile.

Our next course of “steamed” seabass was presented with much fanfare, with the last part of the preparation done at table-side by Chef Fabrice. With the large pan set on the gas stove with hot stones placed inside being wheeled in, the fillets of seabass was shown to us before being carefully placed on top of the stones, then the sauce was poured in and the pan was covered so the sauce – heated by the hot stones - essentially “steamed” the fish fillet inside, and in the process, filled the dining room with a fragrant aroma of herbs from the sauce. The fish was then plated with a spoonful of Sauce Vierge, and served with chunks of artichokes neatly arranged on the side. The meat has great texture, firm yet juicy from the low-temperature “steaming” and infused with the herb flavor, and the sauce – with olive oil, tomatoes, peppers and loads of herbs – was refreshing, aromatic and salivating with distinctly rich taste and clear Mediterranean influence. It’s my favorite course of the evening for sure.

The main course of the evening was pigeon, served two ways with the Racan pigeon breast roasted and served with a raspberry sauce and meat jus, then the leg meat cooked confit and turned into a cromesqui (similar to a croquette). On the side was a daikon “sandwich” with edible meadow flowers in between two thin slices of slightly pickled Japanese daikon adding to the overall presentation and a hint of acidity. I personally thought the raspberry flavor was a bit too much in this dish but the overall execution was impeccable and well-presented. And Chef Fabrice didn’t forget to pass me my favorite bowl of Pommes Souffles to go with the dish too.

The pre-dessert, dessert and petit fours were all fabulous too, starting with a small bowl of strawberries done three ways (puree, confit and ice cream) with crème Chantilly in the center, then the classic rum baba topped with vanilla-mascarpone cream and a choice of Martinique rum (from the lighter 6-year-aged bottle to the richer ones aged even longer in barrels) plus the rum ice cream on the side. And at the end, it’s an impressive series of small pastries and chocolates as our petit fours - so elaborate that only a handful of places can match this level.

We didn’t go for a lot of drinking this evening, starting with the bottle of champagne compliment from the chef followed by the Barolo we brought in, which showed good ripe red fruit character, and turned out it worked especially well with the pigeon course. It’s a great meal of celebration and to meet up with good old friends over some excellent dishes with solid execution. It's an absolute pity that with the commute distance we can't be here more often than we are now.

When? May 19 2018
Where? The Tasting Room, Level 3, City of Dreams, Cotai, Macau
Menu Highlights? Hot Stones Steamed Sea Bass, Sauce Vierge and Artichokes Declination
2009 Champagne Dom Perignon Brut 
2005 Elio Grasso "Ginestra Casa Mate" Barolo DOCG

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