Unexpectedly in Asia Part 2: Macau…I really don’t know what to think…

After the troublesome process of getting a *proper* room in the odd hotel that is the Hotel Lisboa, I took some time to unpack what I needed and to figure out where I should check out first today. I could take it slowly today as I was still enjoying the effects of the fabulous food for late lunch at Guincho a Galera

I ended up falling asleep for a little while…bloody jetlag…before I emerged into a cool (for Macau) evening. Like in Hong Kong everyone had coats on, except me. I wandered out towards the “town square” — Largo do Senado. It’s strange to see the façade of colonial Portuguese with gaudy Chinese New Year decor hanging from them. I headed to the narrow Rua da Felicidade where there were many good old-school eateries, and I found one I had been looking for. It’s a little place called Cheong Kei, and I was given a shared seat in a crowded place. Friendly staff despite no English, and it’s best known for this dish.

prawn roe lomein

It was a tiny plate, but I wasn’t looking for a big portion. It almost looks like spaghetti with bottarga, but it’s similar. It’s lo-mein with dried prawn roe. It is a tasty little treat, with excellent al dente noodles. It is very, very much like a bottarga dish. Fantastic start to the evening’s food!

I walked around some more but nothing stuck out too much, and honestly I was getting tired of weaving around very slow-moving people on the streets. People here walk even slower than in Hong Kong, and I really cannot walk like that… I took in some of the colonial sights around Largo do Senado and Largo da Sé and of course Igreja da Sé, the main cathedral of Macau.

se

So then I walked partly back towards my hotel and hit another place on my list — Chan Kuong Kei. They gave a little attitude but I got my order through.

pepper duck rice

As you can see, this place specialises in barbequed meats — its most famous dish is the above, the roast duck in black pepper sauce. To be honest it wasn’t a good dish. The pepper sauce was dreamy, yes, but the duck was a tiny portion that was almost all bone. Very little meat on these poor things. It was a shame, this sauce could be so awesome in a serious place.

I headed back to the hotel, needing some rest. The jetlag is still playing havoc with my head… Of course I fell asleep and got up at 2am…and tossed and turned until about 5am then crashed for another few hours… Felt like rubbish when I got up. Not too hungry but headed to explore.

panorama

Macau is a crazy place, with these crazy casinos everywhere. These are all basically to service the mainland Chinese crowd. Very little infrastructure is built for visitors of other nationalities; the Japanese stay with their own hotel, for instance, and my hotel doesn’t even have a bar that stays open past 10pm. It’s all about the casinos…and I really can’t stand them, especially full of self-important people with shite attitude. Even though indoor smoking is now banned in Macau, it’s frequently flouted in casinos…

I had a long walk and had enough. Nothing looked appealing around town that didn’t have a queue out the door, and my sock actually ripped a hole so I headed back to the hotel. Dropped into the 24-hour cafe there, Noite e Dia Café, and had myself a quick dimsum lunch.

dimsum

The shumai (right) was particularly tasty. It’s probably why people don’t go out to eat when the hotel has such good food. This is the craziness of Macau; many places in town are not getting the rewards of the tourism boom as the quality restaurants caters to them competitively. This dimsum is of good quality. At 24 hours. Plus all for room service. Scary, to be able to get suckling pig at 3am on a whim… But it gives people no incentive to explore, as I hear mostly local Cantonese when I am out eating outside of hotels… That’s a shame…or is it a reprieve from the annoying tourist hordes?

I rested the late afternoon and headed out later for dinner around a similar area. I was supposed to explore Taipa and head to a great Portuguese place there, but unforseen circumstances forced the restaurant to close for the day (luckily I checked the FB page), so I stayed on the peninsula. This time I headed to a place I was told was the best in town, an old-school Chinese place called Tou Tou Koi. I had to wait 20 minutes for a table as it was rather busy, which is a good sign for Monday night. LIttle did I understand why it was so busy…because the staff was idiotic and slow…

I got a table and had to wait another 10 minutes for any service. Needed a drink by then but no wine (“only by the bottle”) so settled for a beer. Was tempted to buy a bottle of wine… Ordered 3 dishes, 2 starter-ish and one full. And steamed rice. So after about 10 minutes they told me the main dish (mutton casserole) was sold out. And like in Hong Kong (my first night) they didn’t come back to ask me what I want as a replacement until my first dish arrived, crispy roast pig another 15 minutes later. Thety had also run out of the proper suckling pig so I went with this. I was pissed off by then. It was not particularly good.

They finally asked and every selection they said would take upwards of 40 minutes. After all that waiting, no friggin’ way. I went with something else. Then the “prawn sushi” came out. Nothing special, I thought they were something else. Disappointed. Then the main came out, pig tripe with peppers. No rice. I asked (I had ordered) and they wanted a surcharge, so fuck it. Ate it plain…again, nothing special…

Tou Tou Koi

I was seriously unhappy. It looked good, but it was very ordinary. This was supposed to be the “best” independent (read non-hotel/casino) but it failed badly. Horrific service to boot. Bill looked dodgy too but I didn’t want to argue; I noticed at least 2 other tables argued about their bill (in Cantonese so they were local). I was livid leaving. Bloody awful. Everything that is wrong with dining in Asia in one meal.

Of course this was when I wandered back and found the bar had shut by 10pm. This is like a crazy world…so I just went upstairs and tried to crash out… And once again, a horribly interrupted sleep through the night…

So today, my last full day in Macau, I needed to maximise it. I headed through the centre again looking for food. I had found an offal place but the queue was ridiculously long. It was similar to the Block 13 Beef Offal stand in Hong Kong, sp I gave it a miss. I wandered around and found a good place for lunch called Lei Hong Kei.

It was surreal when I walked in…they were butchering a huge fish in the main part of the restaurant and I had to walk through fish blood and avoid the butcher’s cleaver to get to my table. The service was surprisingly friendly and they took my order. And my elderly server showed his cheeky side and switched to fluent English after my order was done…geez…

I ordered cuttledish with chives and what I thought was “fried fish belly” according to *both* the English and Portuguese version of the menu, but it was actually fish stomach (not quite belly as we would think it…) stir-fried with scrambled eggs and bean sprouts.

Lee Hong Kei

I gotta say the portions here were huge…biggest I’ve seen, and this scared me. These were *huge*. I dug in and finished both, though it took nearly 45 minutes (a lifetime in a Chinese restaurant solo). The cuttlefish was excellent, and you can taste the freshness here. The young chives were a nice addition and I scooped it up with glee. The “fish belly” dish was actually excellent, the sublime taste of fish stomach (reminds me of the cod tripe I had at Taberna del Alabardero a few weeks ago) with the rich egg and refreshing sprouts.

I really enjoyed this meal, although it was heavy. The whole thing was very cheap and good, and this blows away the crap meal I had a block away last night. Both are very similar inside in appearance, so why do people go to that one is beyond me. This is worth going to. I headed out and took a 2-hour walk around the entire west side of the peninsula. I needed the exercise…

It was a great climb up to the top of the hills, and some of the views were fabulous. And of course, there is the Portuguese Consulate — a grand building for the former colonial power.

consulate

After that long loop and hike, I headed back to the hotel to chill, and to pack. I had a dinner planned at one of the best places in town tonight, Tim’s Kitchen (review forthcoming), and an early night. I have to wake up at 4.30am, rush to the ferry and get back to Hong Kong, then race to the airport to fly out to Manila…

But I have to say Macau is a place I’m not sure I’d ever come back to. It’s utterly catered to a mainland Chinese audience, and there’s little appreciation for visitors from elsewhere it seems. It bares some resemblence to Tallinn — a place where a neighbouring population comes to play, treats its people poorly, flaunts wealth unnecessarily. I feel bad for the locals. Maybe this is why they cling to places in the old city and feel at home in those restaurants in ramshackle buildings. That’s the Macau I want to see, not the bloody casinos and the rude, chain-smoking, self-important guy from Beijing treating his hooker from Guangdong like crap in the hotel lobby.

I really cannot wait to get out of the sinosphere and to the Philippines…

Cheong Kei
68 Rua da Felicidade

Chan Kuong Kei
19 Rua do Dr. Pedro José Lobo

Noite e Dia Café
Hotel Lisboa
2-4 Avenida de Lisboa

Tou Tou Koi
6-8 Travessa do Mastro

Lei Hong Kei
33-37 Rua da Felicidade

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3 thoughts on “Unexpectedly in Asia Part 2: Macau…I really don’t know what to think…

  1. Pingback: Review: Tim’s Kitchen | melhuang1972

  2. Pingback: Unexpectedly in Asia Part 3: Manila…nearly killed me… | melhuang1972

  3. Pingback: Review: Sushisho Masa | melhuang1972

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