Eight, which opened in 2007, is on the second floor of the Grand Lisboa hotel in Macau, the tallest building in the city. You enter through a corridor where clever lighting creates an illusion of wading through water as you walk down it. The dining too itself is large and opulent, with marble floor and tables with mother of pearl inlay. No fewer than 164 diners can be accommodated, with half a dozen private rooms in addition to the main dining room. There is a goldfish decoration motif on the walls, and it is clear that no expense has been spared. The mainly Cantonese menu was extensive, with dishes such as French duck breast with ginger and honey sauce at HK$ 190 (£15), and steamed coconut rice at just HK$ 15. There was the occasional Huiayang (the cuisine of the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu) dish too, such as steamed minced scallops with goose liver pâté with ham and sea moss at HK$ 180. Mr Au Kwok Keung oversees the kitchen.
The winelist, which is shared throughout the restaurants of the Gran Lisboa, including Don Alfonso 1890 and Robuchon au Dome, is without doubt one of the most comprehensive in the world. There were over 450,000 bottles stored, the list covering no less than 1,260 separate wines, many of them across multiple vintages. To give a sense of scale, the printed list fitted on to 527 large, close typed pages. Just looking at the normally neglected treasure trove that is German dessert wines, there were 45 pages of Trockenbeerenausle wines and 18 pages of Eiswein. Yquem wines went as far back as 1821. If you were to be picky you could find the occasional curious gap: there were just five red wines from New Zealand, and no Albarino wines from Spain, but Portugal had five pages of choices available. There were few wines at a low price point, with very little under HK$ 800. However it seems churlish to point out such things when the list has such riches in depth, frequently at moderate mark-up levels that you would rarely see at a high end restaurant.
J. J. Prum 2010 Riesling Spatlese Wehlener Sonnenuhr 2010 was HK$ 700 for a wine that you can find in a shop for HKD 387, Chateau Musar 2004 was HK$ 750 compared to a shop price of perhaps HK$ 341, and Kistler Dutton Ranch 2004 was priced at HK$ 1,800 for a wine that costs about HKD 945 to buy in a shop. For those successful at the many local casinos wanting to splash out, there was the magnificent Guigal La Landonne 1985 at HK$ 21,600 for a wine that would set you back about HKD 11,449 retail, and the legendary Domaine Romanee Conti 1985 was HK$ 200,000 compared to a price of around HK$ 182,450 if you could ever find it.
A couple of nibbles set a high standard. Abalone and pomelo jelly had very tender abalone and a hint of acidity from the delicate pomelo, a sweet tasting relative of grapefruit (17/20). Minced beef with Chinese celery had an extremely delicate pastry base and meat with excellent flavour (18/20). Steamed blue shrimp dumpling, in the shape of a goldfish, had good quality and sweet tasting prawn, though the dumpling itself was not the most delicate that I have eaten (15/20), Shanghai dumpling with crab meat had the luxurious flavour of crab in its liquid centre but was otherwise good but unremarkable (15/20), though I liked the witty touch of a fluffy barbecued pork char sui bun carefully prepared in the shape of a hedgehog (16/20).
The meal stepped up a gear with deep fried crab craw with spicy salt, the crab having superb flavour with the delicate batter enjoyably but not overwhelmingly salty, enlivened by a little green chilli (18/20). Imported Kagoshima A5 grade Japanese beef was rolled with watercresss and simply pan fried, a suitably low key treatment that allowed the superb beef flavour to shine (18/20). Fish mousse soup with bamboo shoots had shreds of crab and bean curd with a richly flavoured stock (16/20).
The main savoury course was whole lobster (from Boston at HKD 950) served on a base of minced pork with egg and red beans. The richness of the base went nicely with the shellfish, which was of extremely high quality. I usually prefer European lobster to American (they are separate species with slightly different flavour characteristics) but this specimen was superb, beautifully cooked and with lovely inherent sweetness and delicate flesh; on the side were very delciate baby bak choi (18/20). A dish of prawns, red chilli, cashew nuts and red pepper was very good indeed, the prawns carefully cooked and the chilli flavour nicely controlled (16/20). Gai lan was delicately steamed and flavoured with the small shrimps that it was cooked with (16/20). Finally, rice noodles with mixed seafood were prepared at the table, cooked in a very hot stone bowl. The seafood was very good, with tender scallops and red shrimps enjoyably sweet, and the texture of the noodles was lovely (16/20).
For dessert, a pomelo jelly topped with pomelo was genuinely impressive, the sweetness of the fruit with just a hint of acidity but without the bitterness of its grapefruit cousin an ideal finish to the meal. The texture of the jelly was lovely, as well as the dish being prettily presented (pushing 18/20).
The bill came to HK$ 4,435 (£168 a head) including service and a bottle of lovely JJ Prum 2001 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese. Service was excellent throughout the evening, our waitress charming, attentive and efficient. Given that we ordered a lot more food than was sensible, it would be possible to eat for quite a lot less than this. If you had a regular three courses and a modest bottle of wine to share then a typical bill would be more like £85 or so per head. Overall I was impressed with Eight: the best dishes here, such as the crab claw and the lobster, were really excellent, and the skill of the kitchen was shown in less obvious touches such as the delicate pastry base of the minced beef amuse-bouche and the clever pomelo jelly dessert. Overall this was perhaps the best Chinese food that I have eaten in Hong Kong/Macau up until now, easily 17/20 level overall with some dishes of an even higher standard.