Top Macau chefs create personalised dishes with an interactive approach
Restaurants in Macau have been redefining the fine dining experience, offering less formal, more relaxing surroundings in a ‘chef’s table’ atmosphere
With recent multibillion dollar resort openings and more in the pipeline, there’s certainly no shortage of upscale restaurants to choose from in Macau. However, a shift is occurring where the distant, stiff and pretentious manner often associated with fine dining is being replaced by more relaxed, intimate and personalised dining experiences where, in many cases, you can watch and interact with the chef as he prepares and cooks a meal to your own personal requirements.
“I think the context of fine dining is changing so much and the modern approach these days is to have it a bit more relaxed,” says David King, culinary director of The St. Regis Macao. “We’d like to have a more family-style gathering, intimate, and have them share dishes in a more informal style.”
Located on the first floor of The St. Regis Macao, The Manor Restaurant offers guests a variety of dining options in different settings all under the umbrella of fine dining. The Penthouse Kitchen is one of the options available and offers guests a private dining experience with a dedicated chef at the helm to tailor meals to the guests’ distinct preferences.
“We do private dinners, intimate tailor-made experiences in The Penhouse Kitchen,” King says. “Whenever we have to lay out something or cook something live for the guests – that’s where The Penthouse comes into play.”
Chef King and his team pride themselves on using only the highest quality prime ingredients with the emphasis being on straight forward food that’s delicious and not unduly complicated.
“A lot of places just look at trends, and try to base their food on trends and trickery,” King says. “We’re always trying to do something interesting and different but accessible as well. I think many places often forget that very simple premise of dining – it has to be a delicious experience, it has to be yummy, it has to be nice.”
Aside from the food itself, creating the best experience for the guests is something that King feels is largely to do with the service and the role that the chef can play in helping to facilitate the right atmosphere.
“I think everybody likes to see the chef – it’s also part of that modern context of dining where people actually want to have some modicum of control – a sense of being in control of their experience and what they’re doing. There’s nothing like talking directly to the chef – we often have guests who just want to see the chef and order directly from the chef and of course we accommodate that.”
Jean-Francois Nulli is the sous chef at French restaurant Privé, Sofitel Macau At Ponte 16. Chef Nulli describes the whole restaurant as “a chef’s table”, where the chef comes to the guests and explains the dishes.
The restaurant seats a maximum of 24 people and offers a variety of à la carte dishes which are enhanced by a selection of tasting menus and tableside classics. Like King, chef Nullli also believes that direct interaction between the chef and diners holds great value and presents an ideal opportunity to make sure the guests get the most out of the food and the overall experience.
“I make the effort to chat to the guests. People like it when the chef comes and asks them … how they enjoyed the meal,” Nulli says. “It’s also important because I’m able to educate the guests on how to eat the food to get the best flavour and the most out of it.”
According to chef Nulli, this is a particular advantage when the food is unfamiliar to guests or when there is any form of cultural barrier.
“Before, when the Chinese started coming to my kitchen, they didn’t know how to eat the dishes properly,” Nulli says. “They would eat everything separately and didn’t understand the dishes. So I started to explain to them that they need to eat it together. For example, one is crunchy, one is lemon, one is sugary, but they are designed to be eaten together to get the desired taste.”
The process of interaction between chef and diners that a chef’s table or intimate dining setting allows for is, in many cases, just as valuable for the chef as it is for the guest.
“Being open to comments and [criticism] from guests is very important as a chef because I don’t cook the food for me, I cook it for the guests,” Nulli says. “If a guest doesn’t like something then I don’t assume it’s because he’s got poor taste; I reflect … and ask him why he doesn’t like it. Humility is everything. If you think you are the best at something, then usually that spells the end for you.”
And looking to the future, Chef King feels that increased personalisation when it comes to dining experiences will be the way forward.
“I know one restaurant in Sydney where the guests sit around the kitchen and the chef’s chop and change their menus throughout the night, according to what feedback they’re getting from the guests throughout the experience,” he says.
“For me, the ultimate in dining is to be able to predict and customise dishes to a client’s personal tastes and wants. To be able to take into account their mood, what they feel like, and what is good for them at that time. We’re already starting to see this happen now.”
For a more personalised and interactive dining experience that’s tailor-made to your tastes, look no further than one of these fine restaurants.
The concept here is for guests and chefs to collaborate to create new dishes that exist in the moment, just for you. Choose your ingredients and how you want them cooked, and the chefs will do the rest.
Level 3, Grand Hyatt Macau
(853) 8868 1920
The Manor at St. Regis Macao
Serving up Continental and Asian cuisine, The Manor offers five distinct dining experiences including The Penthouse Kitchen, where a dedicated chef cooks specially prepared culinary masterpieces exclusively for you and your guests.
Level 1, St Regis Macao
(853) 8113 2777
Choose between a five or six course tasting menu of the finest French cuisine or a variety of sumptuous à la carte dishes. Chef Nulli is on hand to cook to your requirements and explain the dishes to make sure you get the desired taste and the most out of the experience.
6th Floor, Sofitel Macau At Ponte 16
(853) 8861 7213