On the hunt for Macau's lesser-known restaurants
I was on a hunt for fufu rice in Macau, but the good West African restaurant I knew had vanished.
I shouldn't have been surprised given that the restaurant was located on the bottom level of an abandoned shopping mall in northern Macau.
Run by a few guys from Angola, it had served a delicious yam and cassava fufu rice mash that added to Macau’s post-colonial palate and recalled flavors of the once mighty Portuguese empire.
Like many of the disappearing flavors of old Macau, I would have to search harder to find my fufu rice fix.
So I went to the AfriKana restaurant and bar at the boardwalk empire of Fisherman’s Wharf, figuring it must serve up some sort of fufu rice.
Turned out AfriKana has been transformed into an evening bar with a menu of all manners of meals. At least the giri giri chicken, kitsch thatched huts and open air ambience remains.
Nevertheless, with fresh barbecue and beers, AfriKana remains the best African restaurant in Macau, recalling the days when Cape Verde, Mozambique and Angola were under one Portuguese roof, together with Macau, Brazil, Goa, India, Malacca, Malaysia and East Timor.
AfriKana, Macau Fisherman’s Wharf, Avenida da Amizade, Macau peninsula; tel. +853 8299 3678; Sunday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.; Friday-Saturday and public holidays, 5 p.m.-4 a.m.
Beef ball soup success
Frustrated without fufu, I left Fisherman’s Wharf in search of a simple yet Macanese treat. Beef ball soup served in chicken broth with thin noodles and topped with pepperoncinis.
Just a block away from the MGM on the corner of Alameda Dr. Carlos d’Assumpcao and Avenida Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, I found my prized pepperoncini and beef ball soup at Sopa De Fitas E Café I Kuong Chiu Fok.
I found the simple eatery -- metal tables, neon lighting, no-frills decor -- under new management and changing its name from Sopa De Fitas E Café I Kuong Chiu Fok to ... what?
A young waiter with a gold chain on his neck wasn’t sure what the new name would be, but he assured me the glass jars of pepperoncinis would stay.
The spicy beef balls and noodles made a delicious meal for just 13 patacas. For the sake of my tastebuds, I hope this place has staying power.
Sopa De Fitas E Café I Kuong Chiu Fok, G/F, corner of Alameda Dr. Carlos d’Assumpcao and Avenida Dr. Sun Yat-Sen; tel. +853 6274 8221; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Owner of Yes Brazil, Maria Jesus knows how difficult it is to maintain a restaurant in Macau. A native of Brazil, her authentic restaurant is a stone’s throw down the hill from the iconic St. Paul’s ruins.
“The rents are getting higher and higher," Jesus told me. "I am surviving, but barely.”
Her daily rice, vegetable and meat dishes, however, draw in a regular Portuguese crowd, plus curious tourists on their ways to the St. Paul's ruins and Fortaleza history museum.
Her caipirinhas are the best in Macau, but must be ordered in advance so that she can procure the potent cachaca.
While local Brazilians rave about the Brazilian restaurant Fogosamba’s churrasco at The Venetian, Jesus retains the soul of Macau’s Latin American with her small Yes establishment.
Open Monday to Saturday noon-10 p.m., closed select Sundays and holidays. Yes Brazil. Travessa Fortuna Number 6, tel +853 2835 8097. Highly recommended to call ahead and ask for owner Maria Jesus for bookings and special requests.
There’s more soulful dining in a tiny courtyard behind the St. Francis Xavier church in Coloane Village.
“Kiu Kai,” said a wizened woman with a broad grin when I asked about the Cantonese name of a restaurant I found where the streets barely have names.
To get to this nondescript place, I wandered up the tiny alley Travessa Da Igreja just next to St. Francis Xavier church. Turning right at the end of the alley at the Rua Do Meio and the Travessa da Pipa, I found a little place immediately on the left.
The humble "Kiu Kai" restaurant offered alfresco dining next to an outdoor preparation board with a cooker inside a small room. I was told the macaroni pork chop soup with tomatoes is an instant hangover cure and that the place is popular with locals, seldom tourists.
Estabelecimento de Bebidas Kiu Kai (Cantonese nickname “Kiu Kai”), Travesa da Pipa, Coloane Village; tel. +853 2888 2139; Daily, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. Closed on public holidays.
If you want to muscle in on more hearty Macanese mains, consider the fresh mussels at Estabelecimento de Comidas Man Lei Cheong Seng.
I found it just up the road from the A-ma temple on the Macau peninsula. For 68 patacas, the mussels came stuffed with mashed potatoes. They were topped with parmesan, baked so the potatoes are slightly crisp, and served on a hot iron plate.
Other stunning plates here included baked bacalhau codfish with mashed potatoes and baked pork chops with cheese.
Estabelecimento de Comidas Man Lei Cheong Seng, Calcada da Barra, 17-19, Macau peninsula; tel. +853 2855 8355; Noon-3 p.m. and 6-11:30 p.m.
My trip could end at only one place -- Lord Stow's bakery, for a proper Macanese dessert of egg tarts. In Coloane village, I had three locations to choose from and opted for the one in Coloane town square. Walking by the riverside, I savored the tart's sweetness and crisp crust.
Lord Stow’s, 1 Rua da Tassara, Coloane Town Square; tel. +853 2888 2534; Daily, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Of course, many Macanese might contend that the best desserts are not to be had at Lord Stow's, which has become tremendously touristy.
The popular alleyway cafe, pastelaria and restaurant Caravela rests in the shadow of Dr. Stanley Ho’s Grand Lisboa casino. It is where many of the resident Portuguese community congregate for toasta mista ham cheese sandwiches, espresso, red wine and desserts. Plus gossip galore.
Caravela Café Pastelaria Restaurante, Patio Cmdt. Magta e Oliveira Number 7, Macau peninsula; tel. +853 2871 2080; Daily, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.