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The Perfect Weekend in Macau


New openings and old classics with understated allure balance the bombast of the city's mega casinos. By JULIANA LOH.

Published on Nov 29, 2016


THERE'S MORE TO MACAU than meets the eye. Look beyond the blinding neon of the next new giant casino-hotel opening, and you'll find a lesser known and quickly developing side of the city that offers a subtler slice of life. Independent restaurants and shops, designed by a pool of upcoming local talent, are dipping into Macau's history and natural bounty to offset the modern brightlight behemoths. Here, a weekend exploring the best of the city's past, present and future.

Taipa Bridge
Macau's neon light at night. Courtesy of St. Regis.

 

FRIDAY

4:30 p.m. | Strip Down
To kick off your weekend, start with the big bling. Check in at The St. Regis for unrivaled views of the strip, a Vegas-style boulevard lined with hotels and casinos in a kaleidoscope of constant action, then drop your bags and head out to explore the dazzling Cotai area on foot. doubles from HK$2,488.

The St. Regis Macao
Living large at The St. Regis Macao. Courtesy of The St. Regis.

5:30 p.m. | Stroll the Streets
Take a break from baccarat and wander towards Taipa Village for a Portuguese treat at San Hou Lei, a local diner that is famous for their delicious bird's-nest egg tarts. Take in the antiquity of beautiful old tiles and cobblestone streets as you meander the little alleys of Taipa Village. 13-14 R. do Regedor; +853 2882 7313; tarts for two MOP24.

7:30 p.m. | Favor the Saber
Samurai some bubbly at the champagne sabering ceremony at The St. Regis Bar. Next, order their signature Bloody Mary cocktail "Maria do Leste" inspired by Portuguese mariners, with spices from the trade route they once sailed. Hungry? Head next door to The Manor for a great steak or fresh seafood. dinner for two MOP1,000.

Maria do Leste
The "Maria do Leste" cocktail at The St. Regis Bar. Courtesy of The St. Regis.

11:00 p.m. | Dance 'til Dawn
Revelers and night owls head over to Pacha at Studio City, which brings in a stream of international DJs to rock the 90-square-meter dance floor for parties that last 'til daybreak. cover charge MOP200 including one drink, cocktails for two MOP200.

Pacha
Smoking beats at Pacha. Courtesy of Pacha.

 

SATURDAY

8:30 a.m. | Peer at the Pier
For a window on local life, take a walk along the Ponte 16 pier and watch the last batch of fishermen arrive with their catch of the day before the thrashing hauls of grouper, sole and pomfret are carted off to the wet markets for sale.

10:00 a.m. | Get Sandy
Walk over to Nam Ping and order the savory miracle that is their omelet, ham and char siu pork sandwich, which has been on the menu for more than half a century. And save room for a Chinese donut, endearingly called sa wong in Cantonese, which translates to "sandy old man," perhaps a nod to the dusting of powdered sugar. 54 R. de Cinco de Outubro; +853 2892 2267; breakfast for two MOP44.

11:00 a.m. | See the Future
Head to A-Ma Temple, built in 1488, a UNESCO World Heritage site also famous for its fortune tellers, with experts in the art using an ancient technique of shaking a bamboo cylinder to answer their patrons' questions about job opportunities or love. If you are more interested in the past than the future, there's still intrigue here aplenty. This is the spot where the Portuguese first set foot in Macau in the 1500s, and hearsay has it that when these pioneers asked where they were, the locals answered with the Cantonese name of the temple, "Ma Kok Miu," which is how the name Macau stuck for the peninsula. A-Ma Temple, Barra Square.

A-Ma Temple
Past and future collide at A-Ma Temple. Fuse/GettyImages.

12:30 p.m. | Meat Up
Owner of Casa do Porco Creto, Vanda Rodrigues serves family-style Portuguese cuisine, and prides himself on the quality of his farm-to-table meat and produce. The animals are raised in Galveias, the Portuguese region of Alto Alentejo known for agriculture, farming and cork production, and then served in his restaurant in Macau: not entirely slow food, but one can taste the richness and flavors of the pork, lamb and beef thanks to the free-roaming diet of luscious Portuguese grass. The menu is large, but start with the signature leitão assado, or suckling pig. 310 Fong Son San Chun Block 5, R. do Almirante Sérgio, Barra; +853 2896 6313; lunch for two MOP600.

Casa do Porco Creto
Casa do Porco Creto imports melt-in-your-mouth meats from Portugal. Courtesy of Casa do Porco Creto.

3:00 p.m. | Get Fishy
Sardines are a staple of the Portuguese diet, and this influence is very much alive at Lojas das Conservas Macau where shelves are lined with beautifully packaged cans of sardines of various vintages, qualities and marinates. Check the wall for information on each fisherman and producer, a form of preserving part of the artisanal food craft. 9 Trv. do Aterro Novo; +853 6571  8214; can of sardines MOP35.

7:00 p.m. | Snack on Japas
Japas is a beautifully fitted restaurant with classy rustic interiors helmed by Macau chef Anthony Sousa Tam whose culinary experience includes working in kitchens from Noma to Michel Bras' Laguiole. Only set menus are available, featuring a fusion of Japanese staples and Spanish tapas resulting in well balanced dishes like steamed egg and sea urchin or the yuzu tart served with lemongrass ice cream, but you can never count on a specific recipe to appear in the line up; their menu is always changing based on the freshest seasonal produce available. 165-307 R. do Padre Eugénio Taverna; +853 2852 1199; set menus from MOP380.

 

SUNDAY

11 a.m. | Brunch Like a Local
It is easy to see why the Tromba Rija in the Macau Tower is where the Portuguese community gathers for traditional family Sunday brunch. The setting is bright with floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the sea and there's an equally expansive buffet spread that includes fresh seafood, salads, meats and traditional desserts. buffet MOP378 per person.

Tromba Rija
Fill up on fresh lobster at Tromba Rija's famous brunch. Courtesy of Tromba Rija.

1 p.m. | Fuel up, Fly out
Before heading to the ferry terminal or airport, pop into Rethink Coffee, a cute little shop serving craft coffee and tea. Here, baristas roast their own coffee beans and the menu is divided into classics, exclusives and alternatives—so whether you're craving a flat white, Macanese latte or a fresh cold lemonade, they've got you covered. 76 R. de Berlim, Alameda Dutor Carlos d'Assumpção; +853 6309 1619; flat white MOP36.

Rethink Coffee
Alternative café Rethink Coffee. Courtesy of Rethink Coffee.

 

   GETTING THERE

 

 

Regional airlines all fly into Macau, including several budget carriers like Tigerair, Thai Smile and Jetstar Asia. Alternatively, arrive by ferry (turbojet.com.hk; tickets from HK$158); it's just an hour from Hong Kong or Shenzhen, and the ferry rides are pretty stable except for during bad weather and typhoon season. For those with deep pockets, take a helicopter (skyshuttlehk.com) from Hong Kong (HK$4,300) or Shenzhen (HK$5,900) one-way and get there in just 15 minutes.

 

 

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Brunch or bungee at Macau Tower. Courtesy of The St. Regis.
  • Pacha at Studio City heats up. Courtesy of Pacha.
  • Japas serves up Japanese tapas in a modern setting. Courtesy of Japas.
  • Roasted suckling pork at Casa do Porco Creto. Courtesy of Casa do Porco Creto.
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