Sunday, May 30, 2010

Macau Casinos - Wynn Macau

Las Vegas casinos have moved into Macau in a big way, and casino magnate Steve Wynn’s Wynn Macau seems to be the most daring, occupying a strategic area right opposite The Lisboa. It is like an open challenge to Stanley Ho – “Bring It On !”

The design of the hotel and casino is a direct copy from the one in Las Vegas. The hotel itself is a long curved building with a champagne-coloured glass façade. The main entrance is fronted by a huge circular pool where a sound, light and fountain show is staged every evening.

Architecturally this casino is one of the least interesting - it is a hotchpotch of different styles. The hotel itself is a sleek modern design, but the entrance is Classical. The podium which occupies a whole city block is also pseudo-Classical or "American Colonial", and at the back is another curved tower which mirrors the hotel block but is much taller and symmetrical in plan.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Eating in Macau - Crab Porridge

Many Bloggers have waxed rhapsodic about Macau's Crab Porridge, so we were looking out for a place to try this delicacy. We found a small eatery near our hotel which lists crab porridge as one of their specialties, so we were in luck. The place was a bit dingy - which is quite typical of small little eateries in Macau or Hong Kong. That didn't put us off as it was quite full with locals, always a sign that we are on to something good.

The small alleyway near our hotel where we found the eatery.

From the menus pasted on the walls, they must have like hundreds of items. We stuck with the crab porridge, ordered another porridge with minced pork and century eggs, and some siew mai.

The crab porridge was very good ! It had the right consistency of Cantonese porridge - tgooey but not too thick. The porridge was seasoned with fish stock, a bit of ginger, and the sweetness of the whole crab inside. The crab was a bit small, but its job was really just to impart its flavour.

The minced pork porridge was also not bad - quite typical of this long time favourite.

The low point was the siew mai which tasted a bit stale. They could have been store bought.

Crab porridge is one of those things which you must try when in Macau. It is not easy to find, but well worth the search.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Macau Casinos - MGM Macau

MGM Macau is another Las Vegas import that is located along Dr. Sun Yat Sen Avenue, the Main street on Macau Peninsula. The shape of the hotel tower is quite unique – kind of like a 3-tiered wedding cake. Each “layer” is clad in different coloured glass, and the wavy façade creates an undulating effect between the layers that is very interesting when viewed close-up. The MGM logo is visible right at the top of the tower, and a huge MGM lion stands guide at one corner of the building. Stanley Ho’s daughter Pansy Ho is a major shareholder together with the MGM Group.

Though the external design is modern, inside is another story. Once you enter the lobby, you are faced with a Classical courtyard modeled after a Portuguese palace. The ornate and elaborate design is a huge contrast to the clean and modern exterior.

The MGM has a collection of sculptures by Salvador Dali. One of these - "Alice in Wonderland" is right outside the main entrance to the building. Another one - "Dalinian Dancer" is in the main lobby. The glass panels behind the reception counter is by Dale Chihuly - the American glass sculptor famous for large scale glass sculptures that hang in many hotel lobbies around the world. There are also many other artworks by renown artists specially commissioned for the Casino. Most of these look a bit out of place in a Casino setting - instead of the jewels they become just the background - unnoticed and unappreciated except by perhaps just a very few.

Unlike some of the other casinos which try to be family-friendly, the MGM is mainly for adults and children are not so welcome. If you are after a kid-friendly place, look elsewhere.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Macau Casinos - The Grand Lisbao

Love it or hate it - the Grand Lisbao is without a doubt the most iconic building in Macau. With its onion bulb base and curved plant-like tower – it looks like a gigantic metallic transformer with a life of its own. Undoubtedly Feng Shui had a lot to do with it’s shape, and if you look carefully - the design at the main entrance look uncannily like huge swords - strategic elements which diminish the chances of anyone ever coming out ahead ?

The lobby is very grand with high ceilings and lots of gold trims. It has an overall kitschy look and feel about it. There are lots of priceless Chinese antiques which are displayed in glass cases. I found these a lot more interesting then the building itself.

At night – the whole building comes alive with a coloured light show built into the façade. It is quite a fascinating sight.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Macau Casinos - The Lisbao

The Lisbao Hotel and Casino was the main attraction in Macau. This was where the big spenders and gamblers gather, where great fortunes were made and lost in a night. It was also the lair of Stanley Ho – the Casino Tycoon of Macau.

The Lisbao Casino occupies a strategic position in the main street of Macau City, anchoring the developments that has grown up over the years. The building itself is quite an interesting example of art-deco design, with its distinctive circular hotel tower and round windows. Everything about the building must have been carefully designed by Feng Shui masters to ensure that great fortune remains with the house and not the gamblers. In fact the main entrance to the Casino looks a bit like the dragon’s mouth, swallowing everything that dares to go within.

The lobby is relatively empty except for an impressive ceramic dragon mural on one side of the wall.

At night the building transforms into a multi-coloured light show which is much more striking then the day views.

Though the casino industry has been deregulated and other big players including those from Las Vegas have set up base on the island, Stanley Ho and his family remain undoubtedly the kingpin of the Colony. Besides the Lisbao, he also owns the new Grand Lisbao nearby, and members of his family are involved in most of the other new casinos such as MGM Macau, City of Dreams, Altira Macau, L’arc Casino, etc. All in all Ho and his family own and run about 21 casinos here !

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eating in Macau - Ding Tai Fung ?

The main commercial centre of Macau is on the Peninsula facing the Outer Harbour. Dr. Sun Yat Sen Avenue runs along the Harbour, and several major roads branch out from here forming a rectangular city grid. Within this area you will find mostly office buildings and several major casinos such as MGM Macau, Wynn and Galaxy Star World. If you are looking for places here to eat, you are out of luck.

There are very few eating places off the streets - it seems like most of the eateries are either in the hotels or casinos. We came across this outlet which calls itself after the famous Taiwanese restaurant chain Ding Tai Fung. It even has "Taiwan" in brackets, in case you are wondering. The place looks very shabby compared to the outlets I have been to in Malaysia and Hong Kong. I did a search on the Ding Tai Fung global site and Macau was not listed there. I am wondering whether this is the genuine article.

Ding Tai Fung is famous for its dumplings and noodles. This place also list a large selection of these DTF staples. We ordered a few things to try.

The Xio Long Baos are quite good. The skin very thin, and inside its filled with very tasty morsels of pork and porky soup.

They even had these dumplings with pork and glutinous rice which are popular at DTFs. These are tasty but a bit filling.

We liked the dumpling soup very much, and even ordered a second. The soup really packs a punch - very savoury and rich, with bits of fried minced pork to give it extra flavour.

Pot-Stickers. Not bad, the skin was a bit thick and tough.

The food at this restaurant is not bad, but service is quite rude and the place is not very clean. Even asking for extra utensils got us a scorn from the waitress. I don't think this is the real thing, but I am dying to find out. Any Bloggers out there know ?