Shortly after I moved into my appartment in the Edificio Lung Tou Kok, I had elaborate and sumptuous meals together with colleagues from UNU/IIST four days in a row: on Saturday 13 January, I took dinner with Richard Moore, his mother, and Sue George in a restaurant of the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Taipa; on Sunday 14 January, I took dinner with Dines and Kari Bjørner in a restaurant close to our appartments; on Monday 15 January, I took lunch with a group of colleagues in a dim sum restaurant; and on Tuesday 16 January, I took dinner with Dines and Kari Bjørner, Peter Gorm Larsen and his family at Dines’ home. I ate out four days in a row. I got the impression that my colleagues lived a very luxurious life that I could probably not afford — a large part of my salary was transferred to an account in the Netherlands where I had a family to support.
Richard Moore was single at the time and had his mother staying. He lived on Taipa fairly near the Hyatt Regency Hotel and had a discount deal for the restaurants of this hotel. Sue George was without her husband Chris George who was in Vietnam giving a software engineering course. On Saturday, we had dinner in a luxurious Western restaurant of the hotel. I ordered a mixed grill of deer, ostrich and crocodile as main course. I could have taken zebra, kangaroo or something more ordinary instead. The Western character of the restaurant was conspicuous. It seemed to me as if I was back in the Netherlands. There was no sign of the unfamiliar surroundings in which I sought to live a life. However, I did not experience the character of the restaurant as something that I found pleasing. It was not my “cup of tea” as Sue would probably say.
On Sunday, Dines invited me late in the afternoon for a drink at his home. After the drink, we had dinner in one of the restaurant close to our appartments. That is, we went to Estrella del Mar, Restaurante Afonso III or Restaurante Fernandes. The next two years, I would very often have dinner in these restaurants and that is perhaps the reason why I do not know in which one we had dinner that evening. Restaurante Afonso III would become one of my most favourite restaurants in Macau. The food and service were excellent, and it had its own special pretty atmosphere, quite different from the slick atmosphere in the restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Afonso had set up two restaurants in luxurious hotels before he had set up this restaurant of himself. If he thought that people having dinner in his restaurant contributed to a pleasant atmosphere, they got good port on the house after dinner.
Restaurante Afonso III was popular with many people, including Macaneses with Chinese roots. Virtually everything on the menu of this rather unsightly restaurant was superb. Restaurante Fernandes was mainly popular with Western expats for its delicious lamb dish. Other dishes were popular with the many people with Chinese roots that came to Restaurante Fernandes. Estrella del Mar had several delicious dishes and the Philippine waitresses were very friendly and helpful. However, despite its relatively low prices, this restaurant seemed mainly popular with visitors to Macau. Incidentally, a few months after I moved into my appartment, a rather trendy Portuguese restaurant opened one minute walking from my appartment building, and even less from Dines’ appartment building. Its name was Praia Grande. It did not became as popular with Dines and me as the other three restaurants close to our appartments.
Shortly after a new staff member of UNU/IIST started working, the support staff organized a welcome lunch with a group of colleagues in a dim sum restaurant. For one reason or another, my welcome lunch was delayed till Monday 15 January. I had an enjoyable and sumptuous dim sum lunch. It included among other things baau, dumplings, spring rolls, steamed vegetables, steamed meat balls, lotus leaf rice, crispy fried squid, and chicken feet. My Macanese and Chinese colleagues explained me well how to hold my chop sticks and I could eat even peanuts with chop sticks before the end of the lunch. They told me a few things about each dish that was served, including their Chinese name. It drew my attention that virtually each dish was called very special. I did not agree in all cases. I considered some dishes rather weak stuff, but that is of course a matter of taste.
Anticipating the departure of Peter Gorm Larsen and his family a few days later, Dines invited them and me for a farewell dinner at his home on Tuesday. Dines’ wife Kari put lots of work in the dinner. Like on the day of my arrival, all adults drunk a tequila as before-dinner drink. Later I found that making cocktails and drinking them is one of Dines’ hobbies. While we were sitting happily together, Dines told me that I should drop by his house regularly. When I told him that I was not used to invite myself, he said that I had to get used to invite myself. I would get used to it soon because it became very clear to me that Dines would be very direct in a tactful way if he did not feel like my company. Because of this, I would grow more and more convinced that I did not wear out his welcome.
Because the cuisine was mostly Western when I ate out the first two weeks, it may seem as if I avoided the Chinese cuisine. This was not the case. Because I was unknown with the many restaurants in Macau, the choice of restaurants had not yet been mine. Being busy with settling in Macau and starting my new job, I had not yet paid any attention to this issue. Later I would lunch and dine in various Chinese restaurants, but I cannot any longer reproduce their names. Actually, I had already difficulties to memorize them at that time. However, I still know the location of three Chinese restaurants that would become my most favourite ones. Two of them were on the Largo do Senado and the third one was close to the Largo do Senado, namely at the beginning of the street at the right side of the Leal Senado.
Anyhow, I would dine more often in Western restaurants than in Chinese restaurants. The other Western restaurants where I have had dinner include the restaurant of Hotel Bela Vista with its fine view of the Praia Grande Bay, the historic colonial-style Clube Militar de Macau, the Italian Pizzeria Toscane, and Restaurante Fernando. The last two restaurants would also become two of my most favourite restaurants in Macau.
On my second visit to the always crowded Pizzaria Toscane, I ordered Mozzarella alla Pomodore as first course, just as on my first visit about six weeks earlier. The waiter told me that I might want to order something else since the Mozzarella alla Pomodore could be less good than the previous time because dry herbs would be used instead of fresh ones due to a delayed delivery of fresh herbs from Italy. This event was typical for the attention paid to food and guests in this restaurant.
Restaurante Fernando was a Portuguese restaurant apart. It was located at Hac Sa Beach on Coloane. Its atmosphere was very relaxed, as if you are eating on a beautiful summer day with a good friend who happens to be chef de cuisine in some good restaurant as well. You want to stick around because it feels like you are in another world and you consider it too pleasant to leave. You see on the faces of the other guests that they think the same. The place is old, simple, but charming. And also important, the food is really good. Among my most favourite dishes of Fernando were Fried Prawns with Garlic and Portuguese Style Green Salad. The restaurant was popular with virtually all people living in Macau. It was usually very crowded and reservations could not be made. When you arrived and all table were occupied, you were asked for your visiting card by the owner. You could then take a drink at an outdoor bar and wait till your name was called. I have never got the impression that I had to wait too long.
By the way, it seemed as if everyone in Macau had his or her own visiting cards. My visiting cards had been printed on one of my very first days in Macau and I had been immediately instructed about the way in which I should hand them over to someone from East Asia or India. I had been told that not handing over your visiting card in the right way is considered an example of impoliteness. Therefore I have always handed over my visiting card in this ceremonial way, but I still think that it is attaching too much importance to handing over a small piece of printed paper.
On Thursday 18 January, two days after the dinner at Dines’ home, the last indispensable household appliance, a gas cooker, was delivered. From that day I mostly prepared my dinner myself, although I would keep dine out much more often than ever before. I would usually buy most ingredients of my home-made meals on the market a few blocks away. By the delivery of various household appliances during that day and the days before, it had become somewhat dirty and messy in my appartment. Therefore I would clean it up thoroughly during the next weekend. I had to stay at home on the Saturday concerned for a telephone connection, by the way. Earlier I had planned to have a look at culturally or historically interesting places in Macau during that weekend. This had to wait.
© Kees Middelburg, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kees Middelburg with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.