Exploring the signature dishes at Michelin-starred restaurant, Zi Yat Heen inside the Four Seasons Hotel Macao
Housed inside the Four Seasons Hotel Macao, you’d expect nothing but the epitome of quality from this award-winning Cantonese restaurant – and you’d be right. Zi Yat Heen is decorated with accolades from the Michelin Guide and Black Pearl Restaurant Guide. Chef Cheung Chi Choi, affectionately known as Chef Charles, has almost 40 years’ experience in the kitchen and it shows. From the selection of ingredients to the execution of the cuisine, the flavours are balanced and in harmony and perfectly presented to match the restaurant and its clientele.
Apart from his duties at the restaurant, Chef Charles also manages the Chinese banquet operations at the hotel. From the age of 17, he honed his culinary skills in some of the leading restaurants in Hong Kong, where his passion for fine food grew into an obsession when he took up a key role with East Ocean Gourmet Group, a well-established culinary institution in Hong Kong. Chef Charles credits mentor – a master of Cantonese cuisine, Chef Chung Kam. Under his tutelage, Chef Charles developed a further appreciation for the history and heritage of Cantonese cuisine, which in its finest form provides diners with a journey of the taste buds with every bite.
During our meal we were treated to the restaurant’s signature menu that starts with a beautiful appetiser platter comprised of red jellyfish, scallops, barbecued suckling pig and barbecued pork. The highlights were the Crispy Scallop with Fresh Pear and the Barbecued Suckling pig was a bite-sized square of crunchy cut of pigskin resting atop thin Chinese bread – or bao – along with a dash of hoisin sauce. This was precisely what suckling pig should taste like, and even though it was just a morsel, it served as a perfect illustration of the high standards that this restaurant is famed for.
In Chinese medicine, the mallard duck is regarded as particularly beneficial during spring and summer for replenishing “yin” energy and ridding the body of dampness. The second course on the menu is Double-Boiled Mallard Duck Soup, Morel Mushroom, Conpoy, where the morel was an interesting replacement for Chinese mushrooms as it provided a more delicate umami flavour to the soup and a light crunch that matched the soft texture of the meat.
Next up was the Braised Lobster Fillet and Bean Curd with Minced Pork in chilli sauce. Chef Charles says this is one of his favourite dishes that is an innovation of a classic recipe. The firm lobster meat made an excellent addition to the dish known as Ma Po Tofu, with the bite-sized pieces of seafood helping to break up the underlying spicy sauce. Chef Charles’ version is a perfect balance of spice and aroma, where the heat abates just in time for the flavours to end on the palate.
The most luxurious menu item is the Crispy Sea Cucumber stuffed with Minced Shrimp in Abalone Sauce. As the name suggests, the sea cucumber is stuffed with shrimp paste and then deep fried until in a crispy batter. It’s a testament to the culinary skills of Chef Charles to be able to stuff minced prawns into such a fickle ingredient as sea cucumber and to deep-fry it without compromising any of the succulent texture of the seafood. This is the work of a master-level chef.
Vegetable dishes are usually an afterthought on such decadent menus but not at this Michelin-starred institution. The Bamboo Piths stuffed with Goji Berry Leaves and Japanese Tomato in Fish Broth is one of the best dishes on the menu, and the magic is in the soup. Thick and milky in consistency, it’s hard to believe it’s only made of fish and water. Chef Charles said the secret to the dish involves using a large quantity of ocean fish such as grouper to make this superior broth.
Even a simple Fried Rice with Lobster and Seafood is exceptional at Zi Yat Heen. Every grain is coated with fragrant egg wash accompanied with fresh seafood.
Ending things on a sweet note, we were served Double-Boiled Bird’s Nest with Taro, Egg White Milk Custard and Gold Leaf. You might think you could not fit in another bite at this point of the menu, but we simply could not resist such a deliciously silky and fragrant dessert. The starchy taro was perfectly balanced by the egg white and strands of bird’s nest, which added to the opulence of this dessert.
We could not find a thing to criticise the signature menu at Zi Yat Heen, except only that it might be too many good things to have in one sitting. But what better reason to return to Zi Yat Heen?