The award-winning Champignons recently served up a sumptuous spread of Macanese cuisine as it welcomed guests for a Taste of Macao. Organised by the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), the dinner also served as the debut of the KL Gastronomy Dining Series – an initiative under the auspices of the Malaysian International Gastronomy Festival (MIGF).
Diners were treated to a bespoke five-course degustation menu designed by Champignons’ Chef Gary Chang and his counterpart in Macao, Chef Laurence Tai, who flew in especially for the culinary exchange. Together, the two chefs created a menu that incorporates the best of traditional Macanese flavours, but with the Malaysian palate in mind.
Chef Laurence Tai and Chef Gary Chang
The owner of Seek Your Choice restaurant in Macao, Chef Laurence honed his craft at the three-Michelin starred Robuchon Au Dôme, before joining the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group where he worked under Chef Gary, at the time the hotel’s Executive Sous Chef. In 2012, Tai struck out on his own to open Seek Your Choice, a cosy bistro-styled eatery where local delicacies prepared and presented with western sensibilities adorn the menu.
Chef Laurence’s dishes are a study in contemporary Macanese cuisine, with traditional flavours at the core and western styles in presentation
His efforts to help preserve and promote Macao’s culinary heritage fall in line with the city’s recent distinction as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, becoming the third city in China to join the organisation’s Creative Cities Network. As part of the four-year plans to reinforce its gastronomic culture and develop a sustainable tourism industry, Macao has embarked on culinary exchanges around the world, sending its top chefs to collaborate with those in other countries.
Making his culinary debut in Malaysia, Chef Laurence was eager to show diners the nuances of Macanese cuisine. Earlier in the week, he and Chef Gary led a cooking workshop at Taylor’s University which culminated in a heated competition where students had to recreate the classic Bacalhau à Brás. Now, the two chefs were ready to wow KL’s most prominent diners with their fare.
Champignons began operations at the end of 2017 and has quickly earned a stellar reputation for its contemporary European cuisine. It won multiple award at the 2018 Malaysia International Gastronomy Festival.
Among the group was MGTO representative in Malaysia Tunku Dato’ Seri Dr. Iskandar Tunku Abdullah who welcomed the group following cocktails and canapes in the cool evening air.
Dato’ Sri Dr Edmund Goh, Dato’ Steve Day, Datin Su Wai Fun, Datin Seri Maneesah Tunku Iskandar, Tunku Dato’ Seri Dr. Iskandar Tunku Abdullah, Dato’ Peter Yong and Datin Maylene Yong
Datin Sylvia Kam, Cherry Lee and Datin Su Wai Fun
June Liang, Sherlynn Tan, Dato’ Baharom Mohd Yatim, Tanny Tee and Sharon Woon
(From left to right) Jason Phang, Datin’ Sri Joey Low, Cherry Lee, Dato’ Sri Jackie Tor, Datin Su, Tunku Iskandar, Datin Maylene Yong, Dato’ Peter Yong, Dato’ Sri Dr Edmund Goh, Datin’ Seri Maneesah, Dato’ Steve, Veron Ng, Datin Sylvia, Chef Laurence, Key Soon Yue, Chef Gary, Ruby Elizabeth Chua and Chef Kingsley
(From left to right) Kenny Foo, Hazel Sian, Datin Vickie Yong, Jason Phang, Veron Ng, Cherry Lee, Chef Kingsley Kwoh, Chef Laurence, Chef Gary, Terence Chew, Cynthia Tan, Steve Eng, Sam Kwan, Ethan Keefe Peris and Eric Hia
“This month is an exciting month for MGTO, having begun with the workshop at Taylor’s University, then the Macao Super Sale Roadshow at Sunway Pyramid where we highlight various attractions in Macao, and finally this exciting menu of authentic Macanese dishes by two talented chefs,” he noted. This was met with applause from the group, which also included representatives from the travel industry as well as MIGF Organising Chairman Dato’ Steve Day and his guests.
Tunku Iskandar welcoming guests and introducing the team while Chef Laurence and Chef Gary look on. Tunku noted key events happening in Macao through 2019 including Art Macao, the 19th Macao Food Festival and the Macao Light Festival
Chef Laurence and Chef Gary sprang into action and quickly fired out the first course – an amuse bouche of sardine tin and toast, served with lotus root crisp and cumquat. Creatively presented in a customised tin, the smooth pâté-like sardine, crunchy toast and citric cumquat paved the way for the rest of the menu with its complimentary and contrasting flavour profile.
Lotus Root Crisp with Cumquat, Sardine Tin and Toast
Posters with some of Macao’s landmark events hung on the walls of Champignons, including mega international art festival Art Macao
This was followed by the baked seafood crab shell, made with coriander, turmeric, mashed potatoes and cheese – a subtle combination of flavours and textures that worked in unison. The seafood delights continued with the third course, a bacalhau soup with poached oyster, bell pepper cream and olive oil. This rich, laksa-like broth was packed with ocean-fresh flavours, with the star ingredient bacalhau, or salt cod, at its heart. A staple in Portuguese cuisine, it is also ubiquitous in Macao.
Baked Seafood Crab Shell Coriander, Turmeric, Mashed Potatoes and Cheese
Chef Gary decanting the bacalhau
Bacalhau Soup with Poached Oyster Bell Pepper, Cream and Olive Oil
While conversation flowed freely in between courses, toasts made and stories told between old friends and new acquaintances, the din quieted down as guests tucked into each dish when it was served. This was especially true for the main course, where a choice between seabass and duck rice, both baked Portuguese style, was offered. The former was clean and bright, while the latter was savoury and succulent. Each dish was well received by the diners who spoke enthusiastically at the moreish flavours.
Cheers to a Taste of Macao!
Baked Portuguese Duck Rice Seared Duck Breast, Chouriço Sausage, Cheese and Duck Sauce
Portuguese Baked Seabass Chouriço Sausage, Clams, White Wine and Tomatoes
Rounding out the menu, Chef Laurence and Chef Gary presented poached pear in port wine, a decadent dish that sees the pomaceous fruit cooked in a sweet and spicy infusion of port wine, lemon and cinnamon. Served with spiced orange ice cream, the dessert capped off the meal with sweet-tangy notes and just the right amount of sharp.
Poached Pear in Port Wine Port Wine Lemon, Cinnamon and Spiced Orange Ice Cream
As petite four appeared on the tables, the two chefs and their teams were called out to the front where they received a standing ovation for their efforts. Respected foodie and expert on KL’s dining scene, Dato’ Steve took to the mic to congratulate the teams on bringing the unique flavours of Macao into the heart of KL.
Dato’ Steve spoke on behalf of the diners and service teams and thanked the chefs for an exquisite dining experience
“Macao has certainly earned its title as City of Gastronomy with so many ingredients added to it over the centuries. It’s been a privilege tasting this cuisine here at this wonderful experience tonight, with two of the world’s best chefs who have outdone themselves,” he said in his closing remarks.
With that said, guests rose from their seats to congratulate the chefs and teams before leaving with a new-found interest in Macao’s culinary heritage.
A collective thumbs up for a successful evening!
The result of a centuries-long blend of eastern and western cultures, Macanese cuisine is a unique melting pot of flavours and textures not unlike that of the Peranakan or Nyonya in Malaysia. You can savour its distinctive flavours at Champignons from now until the end of July, where the set menu is available for dinner at RM188.
For restaurant reservations, call Champignons at 03 7832 2629.