December 14, 2016
Amid Macau’s construction boom, most semi-new resorts quickly fade away from public consciousness, even ones that received great initial fanfare. Melco Crown’s City of Dreams was the talk of the town in 2010 when it debuted The House of Dancing Water, the world’s largest water-themed live show. Its glamor soon waned as new megaresorts popped up left and right in Cotai. 2016 was a particularly tough year; eighteen staffs were arrested for breaching the anti-gambling laws in China and James Packer of Crown sold half of his stake back to Melco.
I hadn’t stepped inside the City of Dreams in years, and it would remain so if not for The Tasting Room by Galliot in the Crown Towers, one of the complex’s three hotels. My friend’s favorite, this Michelin-two-starred restaurant is headed by Guillaume Galliot from the Loire Valley, who previously worked as sous chef at Raffles Grill in Singapore and Jaan in Beijing. The long entrance is decorated by a display of wine racks on the left. A dining room was prepared on our behalf, but even had we dined in the main hall we would have ample of privacy as only one other table was occupied on this Wednesday evening.
Menu and wine were already decided — my only task was to sit down and enjoyed the night.
After a round of amuse-bouches including soft boiled eggs with savory custard, we began with Crab salad topped with cucumber jelly, caviar and gold leaf. A refreshing dish — the sour dressing accentuated the freshness of the crab. The black and gold eye candies didn’t add anything to the taste.
Next up was Vichyssoise with scallop and truffle. The timing of the seared scallops was just right — the centers remained translucent, but the highlight of the dish was the rich and thick potato and leek soup.
The first entrée was Turbot laksa, a rarely seen combination. The punchy coconut milk based sauce complimented well with the tasteless but extremely tender turbot. This was quickly nominated as the dish of the night.
Comparatively, the Baby lamb with cauliflower couscous was a more familiar dish. The lamb fillet was very tender and tasted almost like pigeon, while the slow cooked shoulder meat resembled a gamier pulled pork. The texture of the mashed cauliflower was as smooth as mashed potato but lighter.
Desserts were cheese (Comté, Roquefort, Brie) from Les Freres Marchand, a Nancy-based supplier, and Chocolate banana mille-feuille with cocoa sorbet. I was the only one able to finish the Roquefort, but my favorite was the Brie. The chocolate sorbet was pleasantly strong in cocoa and very light in sweetness, which also applied to a lesser degree to the crispy mille-feuille.
As we finished up our own wine and the complimentary sweet snacks, I asked my Macau-based friends how many of these high-end restaurants could even break-even without subsidy from casinos. Very few if any. Everyone knows fine dining in Macau is very much subsidized by the gaming industry, but they warned me not to take this weekday evening as an example — weekend usually is much busier.
The bill came to $15,000 for 8 before a 20% discount from my friend’s membership card. Corkage was also waived. While $1,500 per head is definitely not cheap, a meal of such level of setting, ingredient and innovation still offers a higher cost-performance ratio than almost any restaurant of equal status in Hong Kong.
Address: Level 3, Crown Towers Estrada do Istmo, Cotai Macau, Macau
Opening hours: 12:00 – 14:30, 18:00 – 22:30
Note: Guillaume Galliot has moved on to Caprice at Four Seasons Hong Kong in June 2017. The new chef of the Tasting Room? Fabrice Vulin, formerly of Caprice. Some dubbed this as a chef-swap, but the Four Seasons claimed this was purely coincidental.