macau: first night, portuguese

Our first evening in Macau, we were still getting our bearings and didn’t want to head across the bridge into Macau proper – it’s a pricey cab trip and the buses had all but stopped by the time we found our hotel – so we wandered around the trendy/tourist area on the mainland side of Macau (the city itself is an island). The restaurant we finally decided on was tucked away in the back streets, but was said to be a bastion of traditional dishes according to the Lonely Planet we had with us, so we stopped it. There were famillies tucking into various dishes, so it seemed good to us. We immediately ordered a bottle of green wine (see note at the end for more on this) and perused the menu, ordering a bunch of dishes and waiting to see what we got.

Delicious fresh baked bread quickly arrived to help us await our orders. First up was the goat cheese – salty, but tasty. They apparently make it themselves here. There was a fair amount of the cheese, and this dish didn’t end up getting finished until the end of the meal. Too much food!

The cheese was shortly followed by the green soup (caldo verde). This is a very traditional dish here and can be found at almost any Macanese/Portuguese restaurant. I have to say we were less than impressed overall. I’m sure it was done well, but an oily-creamy broth with cooked green leafy vegetables and a piece of sausage in it just doesn’t hold as much sway when I see what else is done here. I understand it’s traditional, and it seemed to be quite popular, but this was the first and last time we ordered it. It wasn’t unpleasant, it was just very plain. It did make a nice dip for the bread, though.

Next came pasteis de bacalhau – fried cod balls. These were very tasty – cod is a specialty here and they do wonderful things with it. Freshly fried with lots of fish, these did not last very long on the table. No spices were used, but they weren’t needed – the cod is nice here. Not full of rich flavours, but it’s better than the tasteless whitefish you get in some places in Asia.

We were starting to feel a little full when the gargantuan dish of acorda de marisco arrived. This dish, whose translation I forget exactly, consists of seafood (and lots of it!), sauce, olives, mashed bread, and a raw egg on top to, well, top it all off. I think it might be giant bread seafood casserole, though it tasted like seafood stuffing. This dish is a meal for two by itself; being made of bread, it fills you right up without any need for soup or cheese or fried fish beforehand. It was a delight to eat, we were just so full by the end that we couldn’t even finish the entire thing. The sauce is a cream sauce and is mostly cooked into the bread – there’s no liquid in the dish at all. Again, not a lot of strong spicing (to my memory), but it didn’t need it. Everything this dish required was already in it. This was a traditional dish I could stand behind. Unfortunately, we had a lot to try and only a little time, so we never got to order this dish again, but I still think of it as my favourite Portuguese dish in Macau.

One of the best reasons for visiting Macau is the plethora of good wine. A steady stream of Portuguese wine makes its way into this city and into the tummies of residents and visitors. Nowadays, there’s a large selection of wines from all over the world in the grocery stores, but almost every restaurant has, in addition to these international vintages, what’s known as green wine (vino verde – it’s in the goat cheese picture). I’d heard of it before coming here, but I’d never had the opportunity to try it. It’s not actually green (as I had secretly hoped) – more of a pale straw yellow, though sometimes it’s put in a very slightly bluish bottle. I’m sure this is to enhance the green image.

The taste is quite fresh and light – if I remember correctly, it’s not typically aged a lot. It’s wonderful in the Macau summer heat to sit down with a bottle of this stuff. It’s truly delicious and it goes well with a lot of the food served here – no new flavour creations, but nothing unpleasant. We drank a fair amount without food, though. Of course, there are bottles for all price ranges – from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars – though oddly enough, we had to go to a specialty/tourist store – the local grocery store had lots of international wines, but nothing that you drank locally. Everything was from France and the US and so on. Weird. Regardless of what is at the grocery store, if you find yourself in Macau, you must absolutely have a bottle or three on a hot afternoon. It wouldn’t be Macanese to skip this nectar.

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