Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Chinese Tasting Menu

I felt we really didn’t stop eating since our long lunch at Morpheus’ Club Lounge followed by a quick tour of the hotel and a dip in their swimming pool on the top floor. We retreated to our suite and found a gorgeous looking cake in Pierre Herme’s signature Ispahan flavor and a bottle of bubbly sitting on the table (thanks Chef Sebastien and his pastry team and for the hotel PR to remember my birthday just a few days back) And soon enough, and a quarter of the cake after, we were back downstairs for our dinner after a couple drinks and plenty of snacks at the fantastic lounge at Voyages by Alain Ducasse.

There are a couple of fine-dining eateries at Morpheus and Yi is one of them (the other being Alain Ducasse’s namesake restaurant). Well, there are no lack of great Chinese restaurants in this town but Yi offers something slightly different from the rest, with more emphasis on contemporary presentation and combination of flavors from different parts of China rather than focusing on a specific region. And the meal was based on a tasting menu and we were only given brief description of the courses with words like “Fresh”, “Seafood” or “Vegetable” listed until the dishes were actually served. I quite like the surprise factor as each course was presented in order.

The décor of the restaurant, with the signature sculpture that resembles a flying dragon across the spacious dining area stretching over the esplanade a few levels up from the ground floor, was tastefully done with good mixture of gold and white color. And with only a dozen tables of so, it’s as good as sitting in a private room with total privacy.

We began with a few little treats served as amuse-bouche. The cold-brew tea was a great palate cleanser, then it’s the marinated Chinese surf clams in a shot glass and a bite-sized rice cake topped with caviar. I liked that touch of Sichuan pepper spiciness in the clams. The first course, described as “Premium” on the menu, turned out to be a bird’s nest “dumplings” wrapped in bamboo pith and served with a crystal gravy made by Cantonese superior broth plus bits of Guanciale ham. Both the bird’s nest and bamboo pith provided a perfect backdrop taking on the rich flavor from the sauce in this delicate presentation.

Our next course of hot and sour soup reminded me of the one served at another Chinese restaurant next door, but this time it’s served with fish maw rather than crab. I love the balance of hot and sour with the right touch of chilies and lemon juice, and plenty of different textures in play. The “Fresh” course was stuffed crab claw with minced prawn. A common dish found in Cantonese banquet-style menu but here it’s given a transformation with more crab meat mixed with the minced prawn in the stuffing giving it a richer umami flavor, and thin slices of toasted almond (in perfect golden color) nicely arranged on top like “scales” of a fish, or dragon, which matched the décor of the restaurant. That was a nice touch. The dish was normally served with a spoonful of vinegar splashed on top, but here it’s citrus-honey which added a sense of sweetness in the dish, and it was delicious.

After the seafood course of stir-fried shrimp with truffles and braised “rock rice” (barley-like grain said to be grown in mountainous region in western China), the pigeon – half of it to be exact - arrived on a ceramics deep dish laden in lemongrass stalks and a cloud of smoke. The young pigeon was roasted – Cantonese style with the crispy skin – then infused with lemongrass smoke. Execution was perfect though if I must have one complaint – I actually prefer pigeons to be slightly fatter.

Our last “main course” was vegetables, and I felt the presentation of the Japanese tomato stuffed with quinoa and vegetables and then steamed, and served with beet root puree, was intentionally matched with our first course of bird’s nest dumpling, except it’s more colorful, and well, “more vegetarian”. Then we finished with “Noodle”, which was inspired by the traditional Chiuchow Kway Chap, with thick rice noodles served in a soy and herbal broth with a soft-boiled egg and marinated pork belly, offals and tofu on the side. Not something one would find normally in a fine-dining restaurant but they pulled this off beautifully.

The dessert was an interesting combination of mango, pomelo, sago, coconut and crispy bean-curd “mille-feuille” – I joked chef must come up with this while craving for the Cantonese mango cream and pomelo dessert and the bean-curd sweet soup at the same time. However how he did it the dessert tasted fine. We started our dinner with a glass of tea and snacks, and we finished with something similar – an oolong tea this time served in a square vessel, and a couple petit fours served in a fancy ceramics piece that resembled a lotus fruit.

The dinner is great as something different – it's a well-curated menu to the finest details and we do need more Chinese restaurants and chefs that do more than just a good plate of roast and are willing to push the boundary in some other directions.

(Our weekend in Macau - including the hotel stay and meals - was organized by the PR team of The Morpheus/City of Dreams Macau as part of the media fam tour)

When? October 20 2018
Where? Yi, Level 21, Morpheus, City of Dreams Macau, Estrada do Istmo Cotai, Macau
Menu Highlights? "Fresh": Crispy almonds crab claws
2013 Domaine Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc 
2015 Domaine Lecheneaut Gevrey-Chambertin

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