Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Robuchon au Dome: revisited (Macau)

July 2012

43rd Floor, Grand Lisboa, Avenida de Lisboa, Macau
Tel: +853 8803 7878

When we heard that our erstwhile favourite French restaurant in Asia, Robuchon a Galera, had moved from the rather old Hotel Lisboa to the more luxurious Grand Lisboa next door, we were curious to try it again and found the excuse to make a special trip to Macau during our recent trip to Hong Kong. In the Michelin Guide, 'three stars' means 'worth making a special journey', and this is what we did. Despite typhoon warnings and torrential rain, we got soaked to the skin and endured choppy seas to get to Macau by ferry from Hong Kong, for the sole reason of eating at Robuchon's acclaimed temple of food.

It seemed that the restaurant spared no expense in doing itself up, as if to make up for the rather old and dated decor of its previous restaurant. Up the lift to the top floor, we were ushered through a corridor of wine bottles showcasing one of the largest wine lists we've seen in Asia (it was the size of a telephone book, as we remembered it, although now it's hard to tell as we were only given an iPad to choose our wines from). The dining room which we were welcomed into was spacious and the tables were well lit but widely spread and discreet.

Being on the top floor of arguably the most gaudy hotel building in the Asia, the restaurant was encased by a large glass dome which should have given diners a nice view of Macau below. However, it was raining heavily that night and the city view was mostly obscured. On the walls were renaissance-period european paintings as well as some chinese art, and there were plenty of crystal and gold fixtures. It was as if it was designed by someone for whom taste wasn't a consideration but spending as much money as possible was. It wasn't to our liking but it must be catering to a certain other type of clientele.

The restaurant had a pianist  (playing on a gold-gilded piano) and a singer, and they would perform popular English and Chinese favourites. When they finished the songs, some guests would clap. We found this bizarre. It felt like we were dining in a hotel lobby lounge (maybe that's what it has become).

Similar to our experience at Otto e Mezzo the previous night, we were served our amuse bouche immediately after we had taken our seats, before we were given the menu and also before we got our breads, which we thought was odd. The cheese puff was quite nice but the very thin tuna sandwich was delicious.

Unlike what we have gotten used to in Robuchon, there was no bread trolley (and none of their famous brioches). Instead we were presented with a bread basket (the waiter didn't bother telling us what breads were in there). The cheese and walnut breads were favourites of ours and we ordered extra portions. The winelist was more expensive than we remembered it and we ordered a Gevrey Chambertin which was forgettable (forgot which vineyard or vintage it was).

Le Caviar - surprise of caviar in fine coral jelly with aniseed cream: A Robuchon classic and well loved and anticipated by us. Luxury in a tin.

Le Mais - chilled corn veloute with shaved foie gras, beef consomme jelly and fresh black truffle: We had corn (and popcorn) as dessert a few days ago and it was a similar taste again this time in the starter. The combination of the cold corn soup and foie gras was novel yet fascinating and we literally licked the plate clean.

L'Oeuf Organique - slow cooked organic farm egg with sauteed girolle and lettuce veloute under a fine crisp tuile: A very good dish with the warm egg yolk oozing out into the lettuce soup. The parmesan crisp and the mushrooms added the necessary flavour and body to the dish.

Le Homard - roasted lobster with Malabar black pepper, stewed herbs and baby spinach: Probably the best dish of the evening, the dark sauce in particular was heavenly, not to mention the generous chunks of lobster meat.

L'Agneau de Lait - milked lamb chop with baby pak choi, honey bean in own jus: The most ordinary dish of the dinner was my lamb chop which was cooked very nicely but was just too predictable.

Le Boeuf "Kagoshima" - grilled Kagoshima beef with slow-simmered shallot in red wine served with potatoes souffl├ęs: I had deliberately avoided beef because of my allergies but as it turned out I regretted not making an exception this time.  My wife had the classic Robuchon Kagoshima beef which was as good as she had remembered it.

Instead of the usual mash potatoes, these came with potato puffs instead. We regretted the unavailability of their signature mash potatoes.

Strangely for a French restaurant, after our main courses, we weren't asked if we wanted cheese. In fact, the cheese trolley was tucked away somewhere behind in the restaurant and it wasn't until we specifically asked did they push it out (we noticed that none of the other guests were having any cheese either). And when we asked, they were unusually stingy with the cheese, giving us the option of choosing only 3 types of cheese. To be fair the cheese was good, in particular the epoisses.

Being in such an over-the-top restaurant and surrounded by rather grand people, we decided to push the boat out ourselves and ordered a bottle of 1996 Chateau D'Yquem. It was quite simply the most exquisite sweet wine money could buy, 'Nectar of the Gods' indeed.

La Peche - fresh peach and verbena ice cream refreshed with rose Champagne: A lovely refreshing dessert, the peach was sweet and the champagne added a luxurious touch.

La Symphonie des Douceurs - dessert trolley: No ordinary dessert trolley, each dessert on this trolley was made to a very high standard and could easily be a standalone dessert dish. We especially loved the rum baba and the millefueille.

The petit four was more of the same great sweets. And to top it off, we were given a whole lemon pound cake to take home (it was our breakfast for the next 3 days).

Final Thoughts: Food-wise this was as good as it gets. Typically Robuchon, it combined classical French cuisine with a modern and often Asian twist, making each course a delightful surprise. The new dining room was as opulent as can be imagined but sadly some of the soul which the old place had in abundance was lost. Service too was bizarre, which we really didn't expect from this grand dame of French dining in Asia. Though service was professional, the waiters were somewhat awkward; for example, individual waiters served our food to us separately at the same time, and both waiters would then explain the food to us respectively at the same time, which resulted in us not being able to hear either of them clearly. In all, it wasn't the slick and silky smooth service we had come to expect from a three Michelin star French restaurant. Also, there was no offer of an aperitif when we were seated or any time thereafter, which we also thought was unusual. The live music was also quite distracting. All detracted from an otherwise fantastic meal.

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