Saturday, June 23, 2018

Overdue Encore at Chef Tam's Place

We went for a repeat of last year’s birthday celebration with a weekend stay in Macau, and dined at the same restaurant on Saturday night as the highlight of our itinerary. But before we got to that, we went to visit a few restaurants as well – with temperature soaring to mid-30s during day time, there’s nothing better to do to hide away and eat (or gamble, I guess, though we didn’t quite manage to do that this time since we were too busy eating)

Our first stop was Jade Dragon at City of Dreams. We were here before a couple years ago, dropping by for a quick early dinner before we took the ferry back to Hong Kong, and was blown away by the char siu dish, which we still thought was one of the best we have had anywhere. And since then I am also curious to check out more of Chef Tam’s signature dishes at the restaurant, so I asked for help from their PR team to make certain arrangement for us (something I rarely do)

This is why as we walked through the door of the restaurant – after checking in at the hotel across the street and a quick walk over – Chef Tam was already waiting for us. We were a bit overwhelmed by such warm welcome and we quickly settled down at our table and left everything else to chef to decide what he’s going to bring us, with our only requirement of having a dish of char siu of course.

The main reason why the meal experience at Jade Dragon was especially remarkable was the elegant presentation not commonly found in other Chinese restaurants. And that began with the "amuse-bouche" dishes served at the start of the meal. This time we were served a "liquid corn" on a porcelain spoon and a small piece of deep-fried shishito pepper stuffed with carp mousse. I love that sensation of the rich corn soup bursting in mouth, pulling the playbook ofChef Ferran Adria with his “liquid olive” dish, and the bite-sized piece of shishito pepper worked well to awaken the palate with its strong flavor.

I was happy with everything that was served this afternoon. The char siu, or barbecued pork was still as good as the one we had the last time, using the collar cut of iberico pork and roasted to perfection in the traditional grill, delivered to our table right when it’s ready to serve. I just love the balance of taste and texture, using the leaner part of the pork for the meaty taste yet being juicy with the subtle honey glaze on top with good portion charred crust for the smoky flavor and crunchy texture. This time we also managed to try the roast goose, which was as spectacular. I didn’t know how they managed to make the paper-thin skin perfectly crisp while the meat underneath was perfectly moist and juicy.

After a platter of a few dim sum items, two soups of different style were brought to us so we could have a sip of both. While the double-boiled soup du jour of yellow cucumber, dendrobium, pork, chrysanthemum bulb and barley (石斛老黃瓜菊胎薏米燉豬腱) was comforting, our favorite went to the hot and sour soup with kagani crabmeat. I had a terrible hot and sour soup a few weeks ago at a high-end restaurant in Hong Kong and I think their chef should really come to see what a decent version should be like. It was rich with the right balance of spiciness and acidity and the perfect texture, slightly thickened and with julienned shiitake mushrooms, tofu and picked crab meat inside.

The deep-fried oyster was another Chef Tam’s signature dish, with the piece of French Fine de Claire oyster coated in a thin batter with flour and seasonings then deep-fried. It’s done with the perfect timing, crispy on the outside, and soft and juicy on the inside, with the oyster cooked just right with a subtle hint of aftertaste of some shiso-like herbs. On the side was a piece of candied tomato with umeshu jelly for a good contrast of taste.

Chef Tam suggested we do a simple dish of sautéed vegetables in fish broth, and we are still scratching our head trying to figure out how this simple and straight forward dish can be so tasty – I suppose the secret lied in the umami-rich broth and the fresh cabbage boiled and cooled in ice-bath to remove the grassy taste before it’s poached again in the broth before serving. That combined with the tofu sheet and a thin slice of ham on top providing more texture and flavor. We were then served a bowlful of fried rice and noodles to share. I wouldn’t expect less of something called the “Jade Dragon Fried Rice” and it delivered in flying colors, mixing with sakura ebi for the subtle umami taste.

Then came the dessert time, and we were given quite a selection from the crème brulee topped with bird’s nest and arrived in a tea pot set against a bed of dry rice, to the mango pudding with a thin layer of pandan jelly for a southeast Asian touch (perfect in this weather, by the way), then it’s the “petit fours” with macarons, mini icecream cones and more. I didn’t expect such treatment even at the most elegant French restaurant, but this is just the many interesting touches Chef Tam put in to give everyone a great dining experience, and I am glad to be able to finally sit down here for a proper meal and it didn’t disappoint.

When? May 19 2018
Where? Jade Dragon, Level 2, The Shops at The Boulevard, City of Dreams, Cotai, Macau
Menu Highlights? Jade Dragon Prime Cut Barbecue Iberico Pork Collar

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