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Evergreens on the table in Macao

Updated: 2012-09-29 09:59
By Rebecca Lo ( China Daily)

Evergreens on the table in Macao

Macanese staples and international fare in a garden setting has made Cafe Panorama a favorite with locals for the past generation.

The cafe is the Westin Resort Macau's all-day dining restaurant and has been a preferred choice since the hotel opened nearly two decades ago. Set into the southwestern slopes of green Coloane on Hac Sa Beach, it is a welcome retreat far away from the bright casino lights and bustle of urban Macao.

Cafe Panorama was known for its home-style Macanese specialties that introduced international diners to dishes, such as African chicken and bacalhau. Yet after the opening of glitzy resorts on Cotai Strip, Cafe Panorama stepped back from the limelight as increasingly more restaurants vied for foodies' attention.

I was curious to see if Cafe Panorama still maintains its high standards and still dishes up old favorites in a city that welcomes change every other minute.

Upon being seated in the spacious dining room overlooking an outdoor terrace and The Westin's gardens, I was greeted enthusiastically by Cafe Panorama's new restaurant manager Bruno Santos. A Macao native of Portuguese descent, he is the president of the city's union of bartenders and won the World Bartending Championship in Amsterdam this year.

He recommended Ultramarino, a concoction of port, vodka, sugar and lemon that is a little like sangria on steroids. Being a fan of port, I readily agreed to a glass or two. It was a great way to start the meal, especially after Santos freely passed along his recipe so that I could try my hand at making it once I got home.

Glancing at the menu, I saw that there were a number of new Indian dishes alongside the Macanese and Asian selections. My dinner companion mentioned that Macao has become a very popular destination for Indian families, and they now employ an Indian chef to make fresh naan and rice to cater to this market segment.

I decide to go with caldo verde - a creamy Portuguese vegetable soup that is almost a meal in itself. It came with slivers of chorizo sausage that rounded out the richness of the flavors, along with potato and kale topped with a dollop of olive oil.

My main of Portuguese seafood rice and lobster contained fresh chunks of prawns, scallops, mussels, clams and lobster in a lobster sauce, while the rice was flavored with tomatoes and olives. It had a hint of saffron and was so decadent I had trouble finishing it.

The rice was perfectly al dente and the seafood was plump and meaty. The dish reminded me of paella, yet the tomato base gave it a freshness that complemented the seafood well.

Santos nudged us toward the dessert menu - but as I was still gazing sadly at my rice, I had to give up the struggle to fit more into my stomach.

It was nice to know that while some things in Macao had changed so much, other things, such as the yummy Macanese dishes at Cafe Panorama, have remained.

Dinner per person costs approximately MOP400 ($50) with a starter, main and dessert, excluding drinks.