Located on the second floor above the shopping area in the City of Dreams, this is the latest addition to Macau’s family of Michelin 3-star restaurants. The previous Head Chef had been Chef Tam Kwok Fung, thought to be the most highly-paid Cantonese chef, but rumour had it that it was his second-in-command, Chef Kelvin Au Yeung, who was actually doing the cooking. Whether this rumour was true or not is impossible to say, but the fact is that Jade Dragon had Michelin 2-star status for many years under chef Tam Kwok Fung, and it was only when he left to be Executive Chef at Wing Lei Palace, and Chef Kelvin took over, that the restaurant finally gained the ultimate Michelin rating. Coincidence? Or truth in the rumour? You can make up your own mind.
Ambience-wise, the restaurant is delightful – the dining room, with its gold and black theme, is both traditional and exquisite. There’s also a tea area at the back, and an open kitchen, where we spotted Chef Kelvin in discussions with his Cantonese BBQ chef next to the brick oven. Most of the staff here speak Chinese, both Cantonese and Mandarin – only the manager and one other member of staff can speak English.
As a group of six, there was enough of us to sample quite a few dishes, ranging from dim sum to classic dumplings and Cantonese BBQ, as well as a few house signatures. The steamed dim sum, which included crab soup dumpling and Jade Dragon prawn dumpling, were all well made, with skins that were soft without being too doughy or sticky. However, what really shone through was their frying technique, which produced a wonderful crispy coating while preserving the freshness, taste and moistness of the inner ingredients. It made dishes such as the mantis shrimp, the stuffed crab shell, and – in particular – the lightly battered Gillardeau oyster, into delicious highlights of the meal. The key to this process was later explained by Chef Kelvin, who told us that it’s a matter of using exactly the right thickness of batter – and then it’s all about timing. They use a “flash frying” approach which, if it’s just a few seconds too short, would yield soft, gluey results, while a few seconds too many would completely destroy the freshness of the high-quality Gillardeau oysters (which are freshly delivered from France every morning!) In short: superb ingredients with equally superb execution!
After this came a few classic dishes, featuring Chinese delicacies. The sea cucumber with pomelo peel was done the traditional way, which has never been my favourite, while the equally classic fish maw, topped with Russian caviar, was unnecessary and a bit out of place. The main course of the meal was a selection of Cantonese BBQ, which included the nice, juicy thick cut of char siu, a crispy-skinned roasted goose leg and a fall-off-the-bone pork rib. The star of the show, though, was a whole suckling pig stuffed with sticky rice, which came with the whole pig’s head! Basically, this is really just a posh version of sticky rice, but instead of being wrapped in lotus leaf, it’s encased in crispy suckling pig skin. And what a treat it was! The textural and flavour contrast between the crunchy skin, with its thin layer of fat underneath, and the gummy rice was sooo satisfying. Another aspect of the course that impressed us all was how the skin had already been stripped from the animal and rolled into individual pieces… very “eater-friendly” and visually extravagant. Definitely top marks for originality in presentation! Usually, suckling pig has to be pre-ordered several days in advance, but the chef told us that they’ve started the practice of preparing a few extra ones each day, as guests tend to wait until the last minute before using their phone to see what signature dishes the restaurant is known for. Just (blush) like we did!
The final course of our meal was a traditional dessert – a whole double-boiled coconut with freshly baked mini egg tarts. This was followed by a platter of petits fours that included cones of sweetcorn and milk tea ice cream, served in a tea pot, and pandan macaron, served in a steam basket. We all loved the playful addition of Chinese elements into the final touches of the meal.
Staff were attentive throughout and very helpful in answering all our questions about the food, while the timing of the courses was well-paced without being rushed. The dining area was sophisticated and tasteful, and – last but not least – every dish was not just beautifully cooked, but beautifully presented. I think that, with Chef Kelvin, Jade Dragon got the real deal, and that he’s a genuine culinary star. There aren’t many Chinese restaurants I would consider worthy of Michelin 3-star status, but this is definitely one of them!