Don Alfonso 1890, which opened in 2007, is on the third floor of the Grand Lisboa hotel in Macau. It is the younger sister of the restaurant of the same name on the Amalfi coast. The dining room is windowless, but astute use of mirrors and pretty chandeliers of red Murano glass manage to create a pleasant atmosphere.
Chef Vincenzo Castaldo worked years ago at the mothership restaurant on the Amalfi coast, and will return to Italy in the summer of 2014 after his long stint here. The longest tasting menu available was HKD 1590 (£123) per person, with a lengthy a la carte menu and a set lunch at HKD 400 per person. The wine list uses that of the hotel, one of the largest lists in the world with 12,600 different wines and 450,000 bottles. Many ingredients are flown in from Italy, supplemented by somewhat more local products, such as fish from Japan. Bread was made from scratch and a selection included excellent cherry tomato foccacia, a signature of the Amalfi coast Don Alfonso 1890.
A nibble of aubergine, mozzarella, tomatoes and basil began the meal; this was pleasant though hardly exciting (15/20). My starter was scallop gnocchi with sea urchin and a squid ink sauce. This was an unusual and interesting dish, the sea urchin very high quality, the sweetness of the scallops nicely balanced by the taste of the sea urchin (16/20). San Marzano tomato soup had a couple of pieces of crab to liven it up but was a simple but enjoyable celebration of the lovely San Marzano tomatoes that are sent here from the Amalfi coast. It is hard to score a tomato soup but it certainly had lovely flavour, though for me a little more seasoning would not have gone amiss (15/20).
Sea bass was caught off the coast of Japan and had excellent flavour, carefully cooked and served with a refreshing lemon and caper sauce (16/20). I particularly enjoyed the ravioli of pork ragu, the pasta delicate and the ragu having intense flavour, topped with some fried julienned vegetables that gave a nice textural contrast (17/20).
A pre-dessert of wild strawberries with basil, yoghurt and mint was very pleasant, the potentially dominant mint flavour nicely kept under control (15/20). Limincello soufflé was accurately cooked through, having plenty of flavour and light texture, accompanied by a matching granita (16/20). Tiramisu was even better, though for me could have had even deeper coffee flavour (17/20). Service, led by Salvatore, the Italian maitre d', was charming, attentive and efficient. If you had three courses, a moderate bottle of wine to share, water and coffee then a realistic bill would be about £90 a head. Overall Don Alfonso 1890 was a very enjoyable restaurant experience. It is clearly difficult to take such an expression of local Italian produce and move it to another continent, but they do a very good job of it here.