Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Revamped Don Alfonso

A few weeks ago we spent part of our weekend in Macau courtesy of the PR team at Grand Lisboa Hotel. Our ferry from Hong Kong in one late Friday afternoon got us in right on time for dinner at Casa Don Alfonso at the hotel after we checked in and settled. The restaurant just recently completed the transformation from Don Alfonso 1890, the restaurant serving fine Italian cuisine, to Casa Don Alfonso, still under the same culinary team headed by Chef Claudio Favero but in a more casual setting and a menu geared towards family-style dishes.

It’s been years since the last time I was at this space but the changes in the décor was definitely noticeable, with bright, recessed lighting replacing the big chandeliers, modern wall art replacing the classic paintings in wooden frames, and simpler booth-style tables replacing the formal settings completed with pearl-white tablecloths and traditional upholstery. Near the entrance was the open kitchen counter with the new state-of-the-art pizza on one side, and a bar on the other side – both of which were also new.

We got a sampling of dishes that was a good representation of the revamped menu of the restaurant. We began with a pair of pizzas – the calzone with salami and white pizza with parma ham. Both came from the Izzo Scugnizzo electric oven capable of going up to 450C and it only took a minute for the pizza to be cooked and ready to serve. They were both done with the simplest recipe, just the freshest ingredient and with the most traditional methods, and they were excellent, served immediately off the oven.

The eggplant parmigiana was another straight-forward dish with outstanding flavor. The slices of eggplant were cooked to almost mushy texture then baked with buffalo mozzarella underneath, so you got a good, slightly burnt crust on top then soft and creamy underneath, serving with fresh basils and the fresh and sweet tomato sauce. It has such rich but clean taste that I almost didn’t realize it’s a meatless dish. Loved it despite I normally don’t like eggplants.

With the new menu the restaurant broadened their cooking style with less emphasis on specific regional focus, but I could imagine our next course of prawns with arugula, cherry tomato and balsamic vinegar was the one dish staying true to the original root of Don Alfonso restaurant at Amalfi Coast. We were told that the fresh ingredients were jetted in from Italy a few times a week and they all showed in this very dish with typical Mediterranean ingredients and cooking.

A few other meat dishes were served as our main courses. Among them my favorite was the Veal alla Milanese. There’s nothing fancy here but it’s perfectly cooked, with the tender, bone-in veal chop breaded, deep-fried and served with a slice of lemon (and a side of salad in a separate bowl). The portion was perfect for sharing among 2-3 people, though I would love to have the whole thing by myself. The other two dishes were roast spring chicken with meat jus, and the veal ossobucco with saffron risotto, both prepared with solid execution and served in simple, family-style presentation.

With wine expert P at our table I couldn’t be bothered looking at the wine menu. We went for 3 bottles for the evening, and my favorite was the Meursault, unsurprisingly. Big with a subtle floral aroma, then rich in mineral taste and ripe stonefruit on the palate. But still not a fan of natural wine, which was our third bottle and the only red we got, hailing from Etna, Sicily by a renowned winemaker. Yes I can taste the complexity and the long finish but I honestly still didn’t get the fuss about natural winemaking, but nonetheless, it's good to try.

I went for their signature Neapolitan puff pastry for dessert – sweet, nutty, fluffy with a sweet accent of cherry coulis served underneath the well-baked pastry. That’s a perfect end to a simply delicious meal and a good way to start our getaway.

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

When? November 24 2017
Where? Casa Don Alfonso, 3/F, Grand Lisboa Macau, Avenida De Lisboa, Macau
Menu Highlights? Veal Chop alla Milanese
2012 Weingut Dr Burklin-Wolf Forster Kirchenstuck Riesling Trocken, Pfalz, Germany
2009 Domaine Henri Boillot Meursault 1er Cru “Les Perrieres”
2007 Frank Cornelissen Magma 6VA Vino da Tavola Rosso, Etna, Sicily
Web: www.grandlisboahotels.com/en/grandlisboa/dining/casa-don-alfonso

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