Macau Asian Tavern, a collaboration between chef Kuan Geo Lai (formerly of Kitima in Hout Bay) and restaurateur Seelan Sundoo (of Sundoo in Sea Point), opened in the heart of the city bowl in November 2018, taking over the space that was once home to Savoy Cabbage.
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Food type: Macanese cuisine
Best for: An intimate date.
Star rating: Food and wine 4, service 3, ambience 5
Billing itself as an Asian tavern, Macau is named after a region in China that was formerly colonised by the Portuguese. Knowing this important fact will clear away any confusion as you check out the menu, which offers everything from maki and massaman curry to paratha, chorizo and dim sum. Suddenly the seafood espetada and prego-steak bao make more sense! Macanese cuisine is unique, consisting of a blend of southern Chinese and Portuguese cuisines, with ingredients and seasoning from Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and India.
Bucking the trend in Cape Town, it’s not tapas for sharing, so you may have to ask the waiter which portions could be considered starters and which are mains. On some further advice of the chef’s specialities, we begin with chicken, chive and garlic potstickers, and a vegetarian bao. The dim sum twists are golden and beautifully crisp and then tender inside, with a superb soy-based dipping sauce. The bao filled with tempura veg and spicy mayo is also delicious, with textures that play nicely with the bun. It’s not the lightest dough, but it’s tasty.
Under the ‘From the land’ section, the crispy duck is flavoursome and executed brilliantly, with sweet, sticky sauce and fine julienned greens to roll up in thin Mandarin pancakes from a woven basket. All of the above is truly mouthwatering, but it’s the vegetarian dish, a china bowl of sizzling green beans in a complex Szechuan sauce, that might make the meal.
For dessert, Macau-inspired flavours are inserted into classics like a Portuguese custard tart with green tea ice cream and an admirably oozy chocolate truffle fondant with a light taste of wasabi soil but no basil ice cream, as promised.
A concise, one-pager wine list presents familiar bottles – both affordable and pricey – including Lourensford, Hamilton Russell, Spier and Alto. There are also one or two generously poured options by the glass per varietal.
Charming, if a little absent-minded.
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Macau is a stunning spot in the best possible sense. Your eyes will be drawn to the vases of flowers, artworks and plants decorating the heritage brick walls, shelves and ceiling of this double-volume space. A sunbeam-streaming skylight and whirling fans add an exotic atmosphere that whisks you straight out of Cape Town.
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