Long line to delights of Macau

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 February, 2000, 12:00am

IF there's any truth to the saying that one can judge a restaurant by the size of its queue, then the perennial queue outside Macau Restaurant must say a great deal about the quality of its food.

Some time ago we heard about this restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui, which offers authentic Macanese fare at fantastic prices, but the queue always discouraged us from going there. However, on a recent Tuesday evening, we finally decided to check it out, and were confident that it would not take us too long to get a table.

But we were in for a shock. The queue was so long that we could see it from the other end of the road. Despite that we decided to join it. After a good 40 minutes wait we were finally shown to our table, which we had to share with three other customers. The menu is extensive, and filled with the delights of former Portuguese colony Macau. But with the waitresses darting to and fro, we felt pressured into making up our minds quickly.

The place is typical of many canteen-style eateries round town, where tables are packed together and diners are so alarmingly close that it is hard to eat without touching elbows. The place is brightly lit and even the staff wear fluorescent-coloured uniforms.

Given the overwhelming demand, it is not surprising that the restaurant's supplies can be strained. We were told that they had run out of Coca-Cola that evening, but that there were plenty of other drinks to choose from.

Both hot and cold beverages are served in interesting metal containers. We loved the iced kumquat juice with honey and lemon ($15), which was sweet and refreshing. The iced-coffee ($15) is also a good option. It is served with a sprinkle of instant coffee granules, which adds extra potency to the drink.

As a rule, we do not like eating liver, but the pork liver soup we ordered was a pleasant surprise. It was clear and delicious, and good value for money. Priced at $20, the portion was generous and it even came with a crusty roll. The two did not go well together, but the roll was lovely when eaten warm with butter.

The Macau fried rice ($38), as its name suggests, is a house speciality, and it deserves recommendation. Packed with succulent ingredients such as prawns, squid and barbecued pork, it was extremely tasty and the tiny pieces of salted fish spiced up the whole dish. But it would have been tastier if the chef had gone lighter on the salt.

We were, however, not impressed with the Portuguese chicken ($48). Served in a ceramic pot, it did not taste as good as it looked. The sauce lacked flavour save for an overwhelming saltiness. The chicken came in such large and irregular pieces that it was difficult to eat.

The stir-fried bacalhau (salt cod) with vegetables ($38) seemed to be a favourite with every table. We were disappointed to learn that tung choi was not available and that it would be replaced by spinach. It turned out well nevertheless and the vegetables tasted wonderful with the bacalhau.

The baked eel with spicy honey sauce ($48) came straight out of the oven and was still steaming when served. The eel was not very fresh but it went well with the pungent sauce, and the sweetness of the honey helped to tone down the spices.

Desserts were beyond us, but those with a sweet tooth can always enjoy a traditional almond biscuit or even take a box home.

Given its good food and reasonable prices, it is no surprise that the restaurant is attracting such big crowds. In fact, it is doing so well that two more branches have opened, one on Granville Road and the other in Shun Tak Centre in Sheung Wan. But it seems that the branches have done nothing to reduce the queues outside the Lock Road shop, so be prepared for a real test of your patience.

Macau Restaurant, 25-27 Lock Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. Phone: 2366 8148 (no reservations), Open: 6.30am-2am