Wynn Macau is home to some of the city’s most celebrated chefs at its Michelin-starred restaurants, Golden Flower and Mizumi.
For the gourmet traveller, Macau is a veritable goldmine of culinary gems, from traditional eats and street snacks to exquisite fine dining in some of the city’s top restaurants.
Perched along the Pearl River Delta, this former Portuguese colony (it was returned to Chinese rule in 1999) has long drawn visitors with numerous delicious specialities, from its famous Portuguese egg tarts and pork chop buns to steamed milk pudding and salted fish. A leisurely traipse down its bustling Happiness Street will net you several foodie gems, and for a taste of traditional Macanese cuisine, family-run establishments abound.
But it’s not just good for street eats and local food. Over the years, Macau has morphed into a destination of Michelin-starred proportions with the launch of Michelin Guide in 2009. Earlier this year, all eyes were once again on Macau when the city hosted a series of events for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants at Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace Cotai.
Today the city of slightly more than 600,000 is a delicious blend of tradition and modernity, East and West, with a cityscape of colonial architecture punctuated by sleek, gleaming skyscrapers. It is also home to some of Asia’s celebrated restaurants and most talented chefs.
With its plush, ornate setting inspired by the dining room of a British shipping tycoon paired with the Oriental aesthetic of Venice in the 19th century, Golden Flower takes Chinese fine dining to a whole new level. An intimate and exclusive space, the restaurant sits just 69 in its sumptuously appointed main dining room and another 20 in its private room.
Its menu is a celebration of Tan Cuisine. A Chinese Imperial cuisine developed by Qing Dynasty official Tan Zong Jun and originally enjoyed in the privacy of his home in Beijing, Tan cuisine draws from the best of the Northern and Southern Chinese culinary canons. It places great emphasis on retaining the original flavours of the ingredients through slow gentle cooking and precise control of the fire. Premium ingredients such as abalone, fish maw, sea cucumber and bird’s nest are typically associated with the cuisine. Throughout the late 19th century and well into the 1930s, Tan cuisine gains great repute for its subtle balanced flavours and artful presentation.
A Rare Treat
Compared to other tenets in the Chinese culinary tradition, Tan cuisine has long been an exclusive cuisine reserved for a privileged few. Today, Golden Flower is one of the rare places where one can partake in this celebrated Imperial cuisine, and certainly the only one in Macau, thanks to its Executive Chef of Chinese Culinary Operations Liu Guo Zhu.
The master chef began his rise in the culinary world as a lowly apprentice at the legendary Beijing Hotel. “It was 1964 and the country was weak economically,” chef Liu recounts. “I had little qualifications, and I thought I would become a chef as my father was also one.” At Beijing Hotel, the young Liu learnt the ropes and impressed his superiors. Eventually he was taken under the wings of chef Peng Chang Hai, who had learnt his craft in the original Tan household. Under Peng’s mentorship, the young Liu gained a deep appreciation of Tan cuisine and mastery of its techniques. Over the years, chef Liu rose through the ranks in the culinary world, becoming the first executive chef overseeing the entire culinary operations of the new Beijing Hotel, then the chef instructor of Chinese cuisine at the prestigious Chinese Culinary Institute of Hong Kong. Through it all, he remains a proud champion of Tan cuisine.
Says the 72-year-old, who has cooked for international royalty and personalities, such as Queen Elizabeth II, Henry Kissinger and Chinese leader Deng Xiao Ping. “I hope to preserve and continue the traditions of Tan cuisine.” At Golden Flower, he takes on the role not just of Executive Chef of Chinese Culinary Operations, but also that of dedicated mentor, one who is generous in imparting knowledge to a younger generation of chefs and above all, sharing the culinary finesse of Tan cuisine with a new international audience.
Asked to pick a dish that represents the best of Tan cuisine, chef Liu answers, “To a chef, every single one of his dishes must be good. You can’t choose just one.”
But if one has to name the first among equals at Golden Flower, then the signature Tan dish not to be missed is the Stewed Fish Maw with Crab Claw in Supreme Chicken Broth. The secret of the dish lies in intricate laborious preparations characteristic of Tan cuisine, chef Liu shares.
“We use free-range old hen, aged duck, and quality Jinhua ham, dried scallops and lean pork, and cook them for more than 10 hours,” the chef explains. The result is a very rich thick broth; with its sweet, layered flavours, it becomes a nuanced canvas for the fish maw and crab claw in the dish. Master chef Liu goes on to explain that unlike in Hong Kong and in Cantonese cuisine, the fish maw is carefully cooked in oil at low temperature in Tan cuisine. This technique gives the fish maw a full bloom and an attractive beehive shape, making it as appealing on the eye as on the palate. The fish maw is then carefully simmered in stock till fully cooked.
It is such attention to detail that sets the Tan kitchen and its signature dishes apart. “The ingredients must suit the method of cooking, and vice versa,” chef Liu reiterates.
Apart from Tan cuisine, the restaurant also serves dishes from the Lu (Shandong) and Sichuan culinary repertoires. Accordingly, the restaurant’s signatures draw from the rich spectrum of the three traditions for a truly gastronomic experience—for instance, sweet and sour cabbage with chilli vinaigrette, braised sea cucumber with Shandong leeks, Sichuan-tea smoked duck, braised Yoshihama abalone in brown sauce.
But be it Lu, Sichuan or Tan dishes, chef Liu emphasizes that quality is key at Golden Flower—in the ingredients used and the preparation and presentation of the dishes. It is clear that both diners and critics approve. The restaurant has been highly rated both locally as well as internationally. Since 2013, Golden Flower has also been awarded two Michelin stars, in recognition of its unique and exquisite culinary offerings.
On his culinary success, Chef Liu says modestly, “As chefs, we must constantly pursue excellence, by using the best produce in the world to create cuisine with taste, meaning and soul.” And that perhaps is the most apt description of his cuisine at Golden Flower.
G/F, Wynn Macau, Rua Cidade de Sintra, NAPE, Macau. Tel: +853 8986 3663
Sat & Sun: 11:30am to 2:30pm (Lunch)
Tue to Sun: 6:00pm to 10:30pm (Dinner)
One of Macau’s top restaurants, Mizumi at Wynn Macau offers an exquisite Japanese dining experience like no other. Upon entry, guests are greeted with a stunning dining room sumptuously appointed in red and white with gold accents. The setting is sleek and modern, balanced by subtle references to tradition.
The real star of the show here is the food. Mizumi offers not just one but three Michelin-starred collaborations under one roof: specifically chef Tsutomu Shimamiya (sushi), Junichi Yoshida (teppanyaki) and Kazuhito Motoyoshi (tempura), working hand in hand with the Mizumi award-winning team helmed by Chef de Cuisine Norihisa Maeda and Master Sushi Chef Hideki Fujikawa for the creation of new menus and ensure the consistently high standards. It’s no surprise then that the restaurant has the honour of being the only two-Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant in Macau.
The Art of Sushi
Hokkaido–born sushi chef Fujikawa takes charge at the sushi counter, dishing up signatures such as the Sea Urchin Sushi, a taste sensation created by using fresh quality sea urchin and premium rice in a strict 3:1 ratio.
Other signatures include the Thinly Sliced Fatty Tuna (ootoro) Sushi and Seared Fatty Tuna (chutoro) Sushi marinated with soy sauce and tuna broth. Says the 37-year-old chef who became an apprentice at the Michelin-starred Sushi Zen as soon as he graduated from school, “I don’t use exotic or unusual ingredients in my sushi. Guests can expect to find the freshest ingredients of the sea at my sushi counter. But fatty tuna is one of my favourite ingredients.”
Chef Fujikawa slices the toro finely and carefully cleans its tendons, pairing it with a dainty mound of organic Tsuyahime rice cooked in Kanon spring water. “This style of fatty tuna sushi (aka ootoro sushi) literally melts in your mouth. It has a unique texture compared to regular fatty tuna sushi.” The chutoro sushi, he shares, is an evolvement from this.
“Toro is the most precious part of the tuna,” chef Fujikawa explains. “To utilise it fully, I prepare a broth using the bones and parts of the fatty tuna not suitable for use in sashimi and sushi. I use this to marinate the tuna, together with my homemade soy sauce and other seasonings.” To further enhance the complexity of flavours and a subtle smokiness, he gives it a gentle sear.
“I wouldn’t say that my sushi is ‘special’,” says the affable chef. “I would rather say I have spent my whole life and all my efforts to improving my skills to ensure my guest’s satisfaction.”
Seasonality & Variety
Not just good for sushi, Mizumi also draws a well-heeled gourmet brigade with its authentic Japanese dishes. Its various kitchens are helmed by Chef de Cuisine Maeda, who was inspired by the Japanese TV programme Iron Chef at a young age to become a chef. He finally realised his dream when he stepped into the professional kitchen at 15. Over the years, chef Maeda has honed his skills in the art of kaiseki at fine dining establishments in Japan and abroad.
“Kaiseki reflects the most traditional and elegant Japanese cuisine that balances the taste, texture and presentation of each dish,” says the 48-year-old chef. At Mizumi, chef Maeda brings his kaiseki training to bear, overseeing the kitchen to create exquisite dishes that are culinary works of art. “It requires precise technique to prepare good kaiseki,” he explains. “Well-balanced dishes complement each other to create a sense of harmony and please the palate.”
Seasonality is key in kaiseki. “Fresh seasonal ingredients can make a big difference,” chef Maeda emphasises. Accordingly, guests can expect the freshest produce at Mizumi, showcased in signature dishes from its various kitchens such as Seasonal Seafood paired with Yuzu-scented White Miso spiked with vinegar, and the Sea Urchin Tempura and Abalone Tempura.
The Sea Urchin Tempura, for instance, comprises fresh shiso leaves from Aichi, which are carefully deep-fried on only one side, and then topped with rich creamy sea urchin. To ensure consistent quality, fresh Awabi abalone is airflown from Japan and cooked at precise temperatures to create the delicate Abalone Tempura.
Another speciality at Mizumi is the Wagyu Beef Teppanyaki, prepared with A5 29-month female’s wagyu beef from Yaeyama, Okinawa, which is exclusively available at Mizumi. “We cook it at a low temperature, allowing the fat to melt before quickly heating it on the teppan,” he reveals. The meat is then seasoned with sea salt from Okinawa and fresh wasabi from Shizuoka to bring out the flavours of the wagyu beef even further.
While catering to the diverse palates of his guests at Mizumi, who hail from all parts of the world, chef Maeda remains true to his roots. He sums it up, “I respect my guests and their feedback, no matter positive or negative. I can adapt to different cultures and trends, and I will adjust my recipe if it means it will be better. However, I will never forget the tradition of Japanese cuisine.”
G/F, Wynn Macau, Rua Cidade de Sintra, NAPE, Macau. Tel: +853 8986 3663
Mon, Wed to Sun:
5:30pm to 11:30pm
This post was created in partnership with Wynn Macau.
This story was first published in Wine & Dine’s Jul/Aug 2018 issue – Southeast Asia: A Journey of Flavours as a Special Feature