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The Eight is one of only two three-Michelin starred restaurants in Macau, the other one being Robuchon au Dome which I also reviewed here. It is impressive that both of the highest rated restaurants are located in the same hotel, the Grand Lisboa, right in the old part of Macau in the flashiest building in town. The Grand Lisboa is also one of the best places to stay in Old Macau, for more options check this post out.
Macau is known for its heritage, its casinos and its food and it does not disappoints in either of these three areas. There are also more fascinating facts about Macau which you can read about here.
The Eight Macau opened in 2007 and has held the three stars since 2014. It is the only Chinese cuisine restaurant in Macau to have been awarded the highest standard. Although I went there for lunch, the restaurant also offers a more affordable and casual dim sum lunch menu which seems to be very popular. I went for dinner and enjoyed their main menu.
Booking and arrival at The Eight Macau
I booked the restaurant via email prior to our arrival in Macau. I wanted to enjoy some of the country’s awarded cuisine and thought The Eight would be a better representation than Robuchon au Dome. But I ended up booking a dinner on two consecutive evenings at both of them. The two restaurants could not have been more different. If you are looking to read my review of Robuchon au Dome head over here. For a review of The Eight, continue reading.
The Eight Macau is located on the second floor of the Grand Lisboa hotel in a black and orange/red room decorated with a large floating crystal ball and painted goldfish. The number eight and the goldfish are symbols of wealth and prosperity in Chinese and were used to design the main room. The Eight has separate private rooms, as is common in Chinese restaurants, for meetings or private gatherings.
To arrive at The Eight Macau one needs to cross the opulent and permanently crowded lobby of The Grand Lisboa, the flashiest hotel in town and the tallest building. The yellow gold and silver paneled building in the shape of a bunch of flowers is hard to miss in the city’s skyline. It can be viewed from practically every part of Old Macau.
If you make it past the hordes of tourists taking photos of the latest extravagant exhibition to fill the lobby, you finally arrive at the restaurant which welcomes you with a grand entrance. The black doors open onto a welcome area and a smiling waitress then walks you over through a black corridor flanked with waterfalls on both sides, towards the main entrance. The corridor looks like it is suspended and the main entrance doors are always closed so you do not know where you are going. As you approach, they finally open onto the main room, where the floating crystal ball welcomes you to a sort of Food Eden.
The main room at The Eight is cozy thanks to the design of the seating area with rounded tables and booths and some tables for two places at the edges against the goldfish painted walls. We had one of these tables and were seated with our backs against the wall facing the main entrance doors.
The ambience and atmosphere at The Eight Macau
As I was mentioning before, the decoration at restaurant The Eight Macau is grand but tasteful. Sometimes, fine dining Chinese restaurants can be well over the top. They are filled with gold and intricate designs and painting which can be a bit too much and distract from how delicate the food is. The Eight had a pleasant atmosphere with a spacious main room where you could be far away enough from the next table, while still having a perspective on the entire room. The floating crystal ball presides in the middle and breaks the atmosphere and the red/orange colours used for the wall paintings are warm and welcoming.
The menu at The Eight
The waitress did not allow me to photograph the menu, something which I thought was a tad strange but the very long menu included several pages with over 400 dishes. Thankfully, they were organised in sections including:
3. Barbecue specialties
4. Pork, beef and lamb
5. Shark fin
8. Rice noodles
9. Bird nest
12. Chinese tea
A lot of the dishes on the menu were the typical fine dining and premium options in any Chinese menu including shark fin or abalone and other unique ingredients like cordyceps or whelk. For anybody not living in Asia, most of the dishes, ingredients and recipes might sound strange and might require a quick Google search.
Thankfully, the menu had pictures so you could identify the food well and understand how each dish looked, quite useful considering it is hard to figure out how some of the Chinese dishes really look. I found a few of the names quite amusing. There was a dish called “Buddha jumping over the wall” which was basically double boiled cordycep abalone shark fin sea cucumber and fish maw.
The menu also contained a lot of dishes which had to be ordered ahead of time. Because of the time of the year we visited, there were special crab recipes on offer including 10 hairy crab dishes.
Aside from the main menu, there were also two degustation menu alternatives. I always like to go for the set menus as they are the best expression of the chef’s skills and a good way to sample a few of his or her recipes. Also, they tend to be well priced. In this case, there were two set menus one of which featured a lot of the more unusual ingredients and dishes which neither I or Edwin eat out of principle, like shark fin soup, so it was easy to decide which one to go for.
The degustation menu had an option for a wine pairing although there was not a glass of wine per dish but rather 5 small glasses to go with the eight dishes on the menu. Price-wise, this was a more economical option than getting two glasses of wine as the options for wine by the glass were obscene (e.g. $30-50 per glass).
The Eight Macau being a Chinese restaurant where wine is not a traditional drink to have, it is difficult to find good pairings. The restaurant website, and other reviews, pointed at the very extensive wine list for The Eight which is shared with the other restaurants at The Grand Lisboa, like the Robuchon au Dome. However, we were given a very small wine list with a few options of wine by the glass, as opposed to the very extensive multimedia wine list on an iPad that we got at Robuchon au Dome.
We felt that wine was an afterthought at The Eight. The Sommelier was perfectly trained and capable, but the rest of the guests dining that night did not seem to be enjoying any wine and the waiters were not very wine savvy.
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We settled for the simpler The Eight Signature Degustation Menu with the wine pairing for MOP3,000 ($375) per person and this is what it included.
1. Roasted pork belly with caviar and shredded jelly fish.
2. Double-boiled sea cucumber and matsutake mushroom with supreme pork loin. Contrary to what the name indicates, sea cucumbers are not vegetables but marine animals which have a leathery skin and look like cucumbers, only darker in color and living at the bottom of the ocean. If you have traveled across the Pacific and parts of Asia, you will have seen them on the shallow shores. As I had seen them on many a beach, I was a bit apprehensive to eat them in a premium restaurant. After all, they can be found extensively and look a bit funny, so I approached this dish with skepticism. So both me and Edwin asked for this dish to be replaced and the chef suggested a spinach soup with shrimp. The dish was surely a downgrade as it was simply a creamy spinach soup with one single shrimp in the middle. It was tasty and nice, but I can probably make it equally nice at home.
3. Steamed garoupa fillet in supreme soya sauce. A light and simple dish with a piece of garoupa fish that was delicately cooked to perfection. There was nothing exceptional in this dish other than the perfectly cooked fish which was sublime.
4. Stir-fried Boston lobster with egg, minced pork and black bean. This dish was filling and quite complete and presented in a relatively messy format, all mixed in the dish. The pieces of lobster were large and I reckon we each had an entire lobster. The sauce accompanying the lobster was flavourful and rich and the simple steamed vegetables added a good balance to the dish, although I would have liked some rice to go with it. It was quite hard to eat the lobster with chopsticks. I am quite used to using them as I live in Asia, but the slippery sauce made this quite a challenge.
5. Pan-fried sliced A5 Kagoshima beef rolled with watercress. The beef in this dish is absolutely incredible, I had never tasted something like this until my meal at The Eight and, next evening, at Robuchon au Dome, where they also serve it. The Grand Lisboa and the two 3 Michelin starred restaurants in it, are known for using this premium grade beef from the Kagoshima prefecture of Japan. While this may not be as well known as Kobe, the beef they use is of the highest quality. The small portion of watercress that was rolled inside the beef was essential in complementing the richness and fattiness of the beef. As I bit through the beef, the crunchiness of the humble watercress was perfect. The dish was served with a side of pomelo vinegar sauce which was perfect to cut through the fattiness.
6. Crystal blue shrimp wonton noodles in superior broth. This was a strange dish to have at the end of our meal. The broth was refined and subtle, with not much flavour, as it is expected of the noodle soups served at the end of a Chinese meal. The wanton was flavourful and packed with shrimp. It was strange for us to get a bowl of soup at the end of a meal, but the practice is customary in Chinese meals.
7. Chilled mango pudding with fig honey. This came with a gold flake, winter melon and bird’s nest sauce, which was not advertised in the menu.
8. Premium tea, jasmine silver needle. This is not just any type of tea. Silver needle tea is a premium white tea made of thin, needle-like leaves that are considered the highest quality Jasmine tea. The tea was served in a small China cup from a teapot where the leaves were soaking. The waitress added hot water into the teapot and poured it into our small cups, leaves and all, until we did not want any more tea.
The meal started with a small serving of amuse bouche consisting of a fungus and half an abalone served with pomelo jelly. This appetizer has been served at the restaurant for a few years, judging by the reviews of others who also feature it going back to 2015. The dictionary describes abalone as an “edible rock-clinging gastropod mollusks that have a flattened shell slightly spiral in form”. That may not sound very appetising to many, like me. I had never tried abalone before and I was as apprehensive as I was with the sea cucumber. But it turned out to have the same texture of chicken and a mild pleasant taste.
The service at The Eight Macau
Some people had mentioned the service at The eight was not up to par, however, our experience was much the opposite. They were parsimonious and elegant, with very attentive servers helping us through the evening. We were the last ones to leave the dining room, mostly because we arrived at 8pm and went through the entire set degustation menu, and they were kind and pleasant all the way.
I found their request to not take photos slightly weird, but they were quite apologetic and were happy for me to take photos of the food otherwise and even left us a copy of our menu for reference through the meal as requested.
At the beginning of the meal, when we sat down, we ordered two negroni cocktails and the staff were quick to point out that they were a Chinese restaurant and did not stock such liquors but checked back and eventually managed to serve us the cocktails we had requested by taking the spirit from other restaurants in the hotel.
The verdict – My review of The Eight Macau
Our dinner at restaurant The Eight Macau was perfectly pleasant and we tried a few things we had never eaten before. The service was excellent and the dinner relatively well priced for a degustation meal with wine pairings ($370 per person). However, I was not impressed or wowed by the dishes and wondered if I simply do not understand what a premium Chinese meal is meant to look like. All the recipes were perfectly prepared, the dishes were tasty and nice but our palates were perhaps not trained to appreciate the subtleties of a premium Chinese meal. Perhaps I was expecting a more refined and creative menu when in fact, where The Eight excels is at presenting the classic recipes with the best ingredients, perfectly cooked.
If you’d like to read more restaurant reviews, check these posts…