Diner’s Diary

Is Alain Ducasse’s new Macau restaurant worth two Michelin stars but apparently fabulous Yi none?

  • There is, by all accounts, a fantastic new restaurant at the Morpheus Hotel in Macau. And it’s not the one just awarded two Michelin stars
  • I had an uneven meal at French super chef Alain Ducasse’s place there, while others who ate at Chinese restaurant Yi raved about every dish they tried
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 12:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 12:43pm

Tuesday was the biggest food event of the year for Hong Kong and Macau – the launch of the 2019 Michelin Guide to the two cities. And it was a shock to see Alain Ducasse at Morpheus in Macau garnering two stars right off the bat.

The French super chef’s restaurant at the Morpheus Hotel only opened in June and, frankly, for all that the place looks pretty and the tableware is beautiful, the food is not up to par.

The ‘god of cooking’? Not Alain Ducasse or Joël Robuchon, says chef

Even before I was invited to sample its menu early last month, I’d heard rumblings that the restaurant was having teething troubles and no one had a good word to say about it. I walked in hoping for the best.

The service was impeccable, Ducasse’s collection of antique crockery is like a mini museum, and the VIP room has a fun peek-a-boo factor – press a button and an opaque window instantly becomes clears to reveal the action in the kitchen.

The dishes, though, were uneven. Ducasse’s signature Mediterranean gamberoni, an Italian red river shrimp in a gelee and gold caviar, looked impressive but tasted flat, while gnocchi with roasted pumpkin was divine, though the white truffles were not necessary.

The line-caught sea bass was perfectly cooked, but the presentation was hardly appetising, as the fish was placed on a pool of green purée, with broccoletti randomly placed on top. Finally, the dessert of toasted buckwheat ice cream sounded intriguing, but was completely tasteless; this may have been to showcase the home-made chocolate with which it was served, but shouldn’t each element taste delicious on its own?

At the same time as I was having dinner at Alain Ducasse at Morpheus, other Chinese food writers were non-stop raving about their meal at Yi in the same hotel, where two talented chefs, Angelo Wong and Wilson Fam, take Chinese cuisine to another level.

These writers were in raptures about every dish, but singled out the lemongrass smoked pigeon. It not only had an earthy, smoky flavour, but was also very tender and juicy. For some it was a nostalgic reminder of the roast pigeon they ate in their childhood.

So why wasn’t Yi on Michelin’s radar?

Asked to comment about the ratings in the 2019 guide, Gwendall Poullennec, international head of the Michelin Guides, would not say much except to reiterate the inspectors had done numerous tests on the restaurants to check for consistency.

The matter of Ducasse aside, the restoration of a third Michelin star at Caprice at the Fours Seasons Hong Kong hotel was a sweet victory for chef Guillaume Galliot, who switched places two years ago with Fabrice Vulin, head chef at The Tasting Room in City of Dreams (which, by the way, has only two Michelin stars).

We were pleased to see Arbor recognised with a star, as well as Belon. Both are French fine-dining restaurants headed by talented young chefs. We have yet to try Ecriture, which, like Alain Ducasse at Morpheus, leapt into the guide with two stars.

As for the rest of the list, it was a bit of a yawn, with the usual suspects all there: Lung King Heen, 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo - Bombana, and T’ang Court retained their three-star ratings, for instance.

Some things Michelin gets right, on some it’s way off the mark. There are a lot of dining gems in Hong Kong and Macau that aren’t recognised, and maybe for the rest of us that’s a good thing.