Born in Hong Kong and immigrated to the US when I was only 11 years old, I really have no idea what good Cantonese food is. After all, all that’s available to me are restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley since I live in LA. So logically, I frequent the typical Sam Woo, Ocean Bo, Sea Harbour, Elite, Lunasia, etc…, but I often wonder, is that it? Is that all Cantonese cuisine can offer? Sure, I find them delicious, but I often miss that extra level of finesse that I often find in high end French, Japanese, and Italian cuisine. Is it a fair comparison given the drastically different price points? No! But that level of refinement and creativity is what keeps me wondering what’s out there in Hong Kong and Macau. With that said, I set my eye on what the next level dim sum can or might be.
Enter the 3 Michelin starred The 8 Restaurant:
The restaurant is located on the 2nd floor of the unique looking Grand Lisboa Hotel. The hotel itself is the only one in Macau that houses two 3 Michelin Starred restaurants.
The restaurant really caters to the Chinese crowd since “8” is considered as a lucky number so why not use it as the decor too?
One of the few 3 starred Cantonese restaurant.
Dining room is elegant but moody.
The good people at The 8 allowed me to customize my dim sum menu and served me ONE piece per order with no extra charge since I’m a lone diner.
The dance begins with a compressed hand towel. The server pours a dab of water in the glass which expands the towel dramatically. Neat trick.
Amuse Bouches: Duo of Braised Abalone & Pickled Cucumber with Pomelo and Grape Fruit
A pleasant minuscule bite of tender mollusk with the expected hit of ocean flavor.
I can taste the distinct individuality of the pickled cucumber, pomelo sauce, and pomelo flesh. Yet, they combined to be greater than the sum of its parts. There’s mild sweetness and acidity from the pickled cucumber. The flesh of pomelo added freshness and fragance while the sauce added depth and brought the bite together. This bite is what I’ve been craving for in terms of refinement out of a Cantonese kitchen!
House-made XO sauce is a umami bomb with a mild kick. It pairs well with almost everything given its delicate spice and flavor but I mostly ate it as a snack between courses. This is basically a dehydrated seafood galore! What’s not to like?
Steamed Crystal Blue Shrimp Dumplings in Goldfish Shape
AKA har gow. First thing to note is the thin, elastic, and very pleasantly chewy skin. You’re then hit with the sweetness of the tender yet snappy shrimp. This is not your normal har gow folks.
I’m speechless. Look at the attention to detail!
Steamed Pork Dumpling with Abalone
Quite an elegant bite with balance that rivaled some of what I had at the CTBF. I can distinctly taste it in this order, abalone, shrimp, then pork. The texture of the abalone mirrors that of the pork while the snappy shrimp added another layer of depth and texture to this surf and turf combo.
Fried/Pan-fried Trio (from right to left):
a. Baked Tartelette with Crabmeat in Curry Sauce
b. Crispy Barbecued Pork Buns with Preserved Vegetables
c. Puff Pastry with River Shrimp in Purse Shape
The crab tart consist of a buttery flaky crust enclosing a generous portion of crab meat with a Portuguese curry sauce. Again, the kitchen has a great sense of flavor balance with the coconut based sauce not taking anything away from the sweetness of the crab.
What a cutie! This is basically a cross between the panfried stuffed buns/shengjian bao and a barbecued pork buns. Who knew it could work this well?! The steamed bun by itself has good fluffiness to it but not close to the level of Benu’s. However, the slightly smokey and mild sweetness from the char siu and another form of sweetness and texture in the preserved veggie really brought this bao to a whole new level.
Can you imagine the time it takes to snip these spikes with a pair of scissor?
Did I mention that the extra layer of crispiness of the bottom bun added yet another dimension to this bao?
The purse consist of a flaky crust enclosing a mix of meat and shrimp. Although the shrimp is cooked well, its delicate flavor got a bit lost in the mix.
It’s still a delicious piece of dim sum, but it just didn’t reach the esoteric refinement of the previous offerings.
Dip for the upcoming XLB. The sauce is mildly tart with just a hint of sweetness and rounded out by the kick of finely julienned ginger.
Steamed "Shanghainese Dumpling with Crabmeat
There is a ton of crab meat inside. BUT, its freshness is somewhat muted by the gallons of intense pork broth. On the other hand, the skin was pleasantly chewy but a lacking elasticity (can it droop?) and thinness that I crave. I had high hopes that this rendition of XLB will top my reference at Benu but it wasn’t meant to be…Is it still streets ahead of TDF? Hell yea!
Steamed Dumpling with Lobster and Black Truffle
I’m first hit with the cilantro flavored skin that’s that the perfect “Q”. Then comes the perfectly cooked briny lobster followed with just a hint of earthy black truffle which shows real restraint unlike the typical LA dim sum establishments. Finally, there are contrasting textures from the pop of the fish roes and that thin slice of vegetable. This dumpling is a work of art!
Steamed Glutinous Rice filled with Abalone, Sea Cucumber, Fish Maw and Shark fin wrapped in Lotus Leaf
It’s a pleasant mix of flavors with each luxury ingredient contributing a different texture to the dish while the lotus leaf perfumed the chewy rice.
French Goose Liver with “Char Siu” and Chinese Preserved Sausage
The interplay between the gamey flavor of the foie, big punch from the savory char siu, and preserved liver sausage worked well but almost over the top heavy. Luckily, the sweet reduction that has a touch of tartness tied everything together and saved the day.
Pan-fried Superior Bird’s Nest with Crab meat in "Pei Pa Style
The exterior is pan-fried to a crisp which encloses a generous portion of crab and bird’s nest. Together, these 2 ingredients offer contrasting soft and snappy textures. Flavor-wise, the freshness of the crab shined through with notes of cilantro and mild sweetness from the sauce of the bird’s nest.
Steamed Sponge Cake with Date Jam
I’ve had plenty of steamed sponge cake, but they’re all shit compared to this. This sponge cake is incredibly light and fluffy. It’s like I’m eating a cloud! Then there’s the date jam which has the perfect sweetness that paired extremely well with the sponge cake that’s been sweetened with brown sugar.
Chilled Mango Sweet Soup with Pomelo and Strawberry
It’s slightly sweeter than I would like, but the soup is oh-so-silky with the generous use of evaporated milk. The varying texture contrast between the chewy tapioca, tender mango pieces, popping sensation of the refreshing pomelo, and slight crunch of the tart strawberry is pure heaven. It’s the Cantonese’s “answer” to Gazpacho…I kid…
Chilled Sweetened Tofu Fa with Pear and Almond Juice
The intensely flavored sweet almond milk sits atop and nicely complements the silky soft tofu custard. On the other hand, the accompaniments of blueberry, mango, pear, and tapioca offer different textures and various levels of acidity to keep my palate fresh. As good as this dessert is, however, the bitterness of the alcohol soaked pear definitely threw me off.
Petit Four’s A: Portugese Egg Tart
The outer pastry crust is exceptionally buttery and flaky while the center is meltingly custardy with the expected hit of eggy goodness.
Petit Four’s B: “Pantyhose” Milk Tea
Extraordinarily smooth and an unusual harmony between tea and milk flavor unlike any that I’ve experienced before. What a way to end the meal!
Balance, creativity, attention to detail. They can all be found at The 8. This restaurant, bar none, offers the best dim sum I’ve ever had by far…right alongside Hong Kong’s 3 Michelin Starred Lung King Heen which I tried 2 days later.
Here’s the kicker: 17 “dim sum” later, it’s only twice as expensive as my last lunch experience at Sea Harbour in Rosemead. Should I be happy that The 8 is “cheap” or angry that Sea Harbour is “expensive”?
The 8 Restaurant
Av. de Lisboa, Macau