Thursday, January 20, 2011

Robuchon a Galera (Macau)

January 2011

3F, Hotel Lisboa, 2-4 Avenida de Lisboa
Macau, China
Tel: +853 2888 3888

Robuchon is a 3-Michelin star French restaurant in Macau. It is also recognised as one of the best French restaurants outside of France (certainly one of the best in Asia), and it was with this expectation that we went there for dinner. The restaurant is located in Hotel Lisboa, which is one of the older establishments in Macau. Hotel Lisboa (not to be confused with its newer but no less tacky sibling, Grand Lisboa) is well lit at night and looks right out of the set of a 70's Cantonese movie.

It was quite an effort to find the restaurant though, as the rather kitschy hotel had an east and west wing and omitted to put signs to direct us, which resulted in us walking around the small stores and KTV joints for 20 minutes before finally finding the right lift lobby.

The restaurant itself has a rather dated decor (check out the glittering stars on the ceiling), though the tables are very widely spaced ensuring privacy for its diners. In fact, as the restaurant was not full that night (it was a Monday evening), patrons were deliberately placed as far apart as possible (which is a nice change from the usual bunching of all the guests together so that the wait staff don't have to move around so much).

We were given a nice table by the window overlooking the bright lights of the gaudy Grand Lisboa casino, and offered champagne. In spite of the early 90's interior, we could not help but feel that this was a restaurant which was comfortable with its high standing. The service staff was excellent: in being confident yet respectful, discreet yet attentive.

Interestingly, each table had a different geomancy crystal for feng shui. Our table had a gold crystal dragon which at some point during the dinner, inexplicably started to tick (maybe it was starting to work and our luck was going to be coming in). We didn't know whether to touch it or to cover it with the napkin (we did neither).

As was to be expected from a Robuchon flagship, they take their bread very seriously. In addition to a plate of cheese puffs and olive breadsticks, they wheeled out a bread trolley from which we picked out some amazing bread. Butter was carved from two large blocks of salted and unsalted butters (largest block of butter we've seen). We had to be careful with the bread or dinner would have been over before we even started.

The wine list here was amazing. It was literally a tome larger than the yellow pages phone directory, which was probably too heavy for me to hold and flip through in any case, thus it was sensible that they had an iPad version (a rare touch of modernity in a classical French restaurant). Forget about Cepage, this was the best and deepest wine list we've seen outside Europe (most top restaurants in Paris and London would struggle to match this too). In addition, the wine list had the full range of really high end stuff (wines like the Bordeaux first growths, Petrus, La Tache and the other DRCs had vintages going back to the 1940s) yet had a good range of the middle priced and low priced (under HKD 1000) wines as well, which was impressive. Markups were not as steep as we would have expected in a 3-star restaurant in a Macau casino. We picked up a bottle of 2002 Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru at the recommendation of the helpful sommelier. It was a soft and subtle Burgundy which opened up deliciously as the night wore on.

For our amuse bouche, we were wowed by the Robuchon signature caviar in a tin with the base of egg custard and shrimp. This is something we had at Robuchon HK as an appetiser, but to be served this as an amuse bouche was of a different class.

For the third night in a row, we decided against the set menu and went for the nicest looking dishes in the ala carte menu. My wife chose the crispy farm egg served with caviar and dices of smoked salmon. This was something which we had in Robuchon HK last year, but it was slightly disappointing then as the crispy bits were to salty and masked the taste of the caviar (see earlier review: Le Jardin de Joel Robuchon Hong Kong) However, it wasn't a problem this time as the accompaniments were more subtle and brought out the luxurious taste of the caviar. It probably helped that she was given a generous heap of caviar as well. An excellent starter.

I chose the equally exotic sounding crispy papillotes of scampi with basil, shining sea urchin royale in delicate wasabi emulsion and lemongrass roasted lobster with vegetable cous cous. This was essentially 3 different appetisers, and was a substantial course. I started with the sea urchin and wasabi foam, which was unbelievable. The roasted lobster was also very very good and the lemongrass added something different to its taste. By the time I got to the crispy prawns, I was already quite full and satisfied!

For the mains, my wife went for the Breton lobster baked in cocotte with black truffles and green asparagus. This was cooked in a glass pot, which was taken out and served on the plate by the table. It was a generous portion of lobster, and was cooked to perfection.

My main course was the pan fried amadai fillet with crispy skin with artichokes in Brigoule style. It is something which we have tried at Robuchon HK and really liked, except that this time I got 2 fillets instead of just one. The scales of the fish were fried to a crisp and were delicious. I really enjoyed this dish (which went very nicely with the wine).

We were then served with a coconut and pineapple palate cleanser before the cheese trolley came by. It was the usual selection of French cheeses for us.

We were quite stuffed by this point and decided to skip the dessert course and go straight to the dessert trolley instead (yes, you can have both the dessert course and the dessert trolley). The dessert trolley had a good selection of tarts, cakes, rum baba, chocolates etc.

Dinner was rounded off by the sweets trolley. In typical French fashion, main course is just the halfway point of a full dinner and they keep feeding you desserts and sweets until you surrender.

Final Thoughts: It was a great dinner at a fantastic restaurant, and everything from the food, wine, ambience and service was of the highest standard. Maybe it wasn't as flashy as some of the newer restaurants but this was one which was very assured of its billing as arguably the best French restaurant in Greater China and one of the top ones in Asia. The wine list is worth a visit alone and the service of impeccable (wait staff was attentive without being too pushy). Decor is quite dated but despite the 70's feel, it was discreet and comfortable.


  1. So did you go for the rum baba?

  2. Yes, its the bit on the left side of the dessert plate...

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