There are many reasons I’ve developed a new found love for China’s island playground, Macau. One of them is the City of Dreams and its amazing restaurants, two of which feature in the star-studded Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Chef Tam’s stellar Cantonese cuisine lands Jade Dragon the #35 spot, and fine French fare sees The Tasting Room occupy #39.
The Tasting Room has recently undergone some changes, with previous chef Guillaume Galliot moving to two-starred Caprice at the Four Seasons Hong Kong, and in a strange twist of culinary chess, the chef from that very restaurant is now helming the kitchen at The Tasting Room. Strange, but somehow true. We dined soon after Chef Fabrice Vulin’s appointment so witnessed the start of a new era at The Tasting Room, but we hear that further exciting changes are coming under his direction that should be ready to reveal come October. For now, let me give you a taste of what is to come in the new chapter of The Tasting Room.
If there’s a word to sum up the ambience at The Tasting Room, it’s got to be elegant. A stunning rope chandelier hangs above The Tasting Room’s oversized Champagne ice bowl, the centrepiece of a room set to make the most of some stunning Macao vistas. The colour palate is admittedly on the unusual side, comprising brown, seafoam and green – it’s a little uneasy on the eye at first, but I’m told there will be tweaks coming towards the end of the year to showcase Chef Vulin’s new vision for TTR. It’s definitely a grand space, however, and that’s one thing there is plenty of – space. There’s just something about large tables set with swathes of room between that says luxury. No cramming the tables in, no overhearing your neighbors conversation (or rather, being afraid to make conversation due to the proximity of neighboring tables – hello, Martin Berasategui).
A Champagne cart and a bread cart are the perfect start to our (I’ll say it again) elegant experience. Glass of Champagne in hand, it’s easy to lose yourself in the intriguing vistas, vistas that surprisingly work in harmony with the unusual color palate, perhaps giving a hint as to its inspiration. As the afternoon grows long, the verdant hill in our view is gradually enveloped by shrouds of mist, echoing the green and seafoam colours surrounding us.
Our first bites of Chef Vulin’s food are the perfect introduction to a chef that treasures the very best produce of his home nation, with the two snacks echoing tastes that remind him of his favorite traditional flavors from home. Both the tart of radish and butter and the truffle and ham sandwich are simply sublime, I could have devoured platefuls of these miniature morsels. We mused in between delicate bites that each really was the perfect expression of its feature flavors.
The Tasting Room is rather seafood heavy, so lovers of fish and shellfish will be in heaven. I tasted an alternate menu, mostly vegetarian save for one beef dish. My co-diner however thoroughly enjoyed the seafood selection, especially raving about his dish of Brittany Lobster, Watermelon and Yuzu Vinaigrette. Surprisingly, of my selection, a dish of consommé with spelt was a real highlight. Definitely a dish that is a case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ – or rather, a broth.
As you can see from the plating, the food that Chef Vulin is putting up is as elegant as its surrounds. Every plate was beautiful, delicately dressed with well exercised restraint. The herbaceous, gentle flavours had just as light a touch on the palate as the plate. Desserts don’t disappoint either, our lemon and strawberry courses a delight to feast on from our special vantage point seated at the Chef’s Table in the kitchen.
Wine enthusiasts also shouldn’t miss the chance to try some Chinese wine – we were rather impressed with the sommelier’s recommended Chinese Chardonnay. Definitely something new!
I’m not sure theres a better way to let an afternoon float gently by than enjoying fine French fare in The Tasting Room. Its the perfectly soothing antithesis to the crazy casino floors of Macao (though that said, I love those too). I look forward to watching The Tasting Room evolve under Chef Vulin and can’t wait to see what changes come with the new menu (and some bespoke touches to the decor) come October. One thing is certain, however – Macao is certainly a rising power on the Asian culinary scene. Be prepared to see a lot more of it in the years to come.