Macau has long had a reputation for being slightly over the top, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to fabulous food and wine. (Among its restaurants, 30 Michelin stars can be found in Macau.)
Of these, only three restaurants possess the covered three-star accolade; one of them, Jade Dragon, has solidified its position as a destination for traditional Chinese food executed at the highest level.
Helmed by one of the greatest (and youngest chefs) in Asia with such recognition is 39-year-old chef Kelvin Au Yeung, who had some big shoes to fill after his predecessor, chef Tam Kowk Fung, led the restaurant to earn two Michelin stars. Last year, under the culinary direction of chef Au Yeung, Jade Dragon pulled in its third star.
Borrowing techniques and influences from other cuisines to amplify the flavours while maintaining the authenticity and character of traditional Cantonese fare, Jade Dragon continues its heavy emphasis on making seasonal and premium ingredients the star of the show. This is how the genius chef sets Jade Dragon apart from its competitors in both Macau and Hong Kong.
After a hearty meal in the elaborate private dining room, we caught a moment with chef Au Yeung to discuss his inspirations, his go-to restaurants and what’s next for Jade Dragon.
Every dish we had was so unique, yet so familiar. What on the menu excites you the most?
My favourite is the fish maw soup. The use of different ingredients really brings out the flavours. To complement something as delicate as fish maw, I used spring onions, fish, and also caviar. Caviar is needed because it really gives it a punch and pairs perfectly without being excessive. I also really like the crab shell made with local mud crabs from Zhuhai.
What’s the most underrated dish on your menu?
I personally really love the sea cucumber and pomelo dish. It might not be very apparent to the diners, but a lot of love and dedication goes into this dish. In order to get the texture of the sea cucumber just right [with a crisp exterior and a bouncy and juicy interior], we need to master the preparation perfectly. There are a lot of steps to this dish and sometimes it takes us a whole week to prepare and cook it. If any one of these steps is slightly off, the dish can’t be served.
The Chinese fine-dining landscape has changed a lot in the recent years. What do you think has made the biggest impact in the increasing interest?
The palate of our guests is evolving and customers are becoming more discerning when it comes to taste and appetite. Dining has really become more of an outlet for relaxation and experience instead of just getting fed. Chefs are also getting more involved in the menu creation, bringing forth new and seasonal ideas. For example, when I’m on holiday, I’m still very much “working” as I’m constantly on the lookout for inspiration. Nowadays, Chinese chefs are getting more creative and using new ingredients while still keeping the heritage and history of Chinese cuisine intact.
Aside from the seasonality of ingredients, what is the main inspiration behind your dishes?
I have two — the use of the most premium and everyday ingredients. I like using ingredients such as fresh seafood and dried seafood like lobster and sea whelk. I also like to challenge myself and the team to come up with something that will showcase our skills and techniques. Things like catfish, pomelo skin and bitter gourd aren’t popular, but we have a way of making these items delicious and luxurious.
Macau being such a fine-dining paradise, how does Jade Dragon come out on top given all the competition it faces?
I credit our success to our teamwork. We’re very much aligned in our goal, which is to maintain our reputation and credentials. Our products and services are really top of the line. We are attentive to each and every guest, we personalise everything in order to provide an unforgettable experience for them. After years of working together, we’re very compatible. I am also extremely lucky to be able to source some of the most amazing ingredients and create dishes that are incredibly special and iconic to Jade Dragon. Macau is a food mecca, and it’s our honour to be a part of that.
Where does a three star Michelin chef like yourself go to for a meal in Macau?
I don’t really eat Chinese food outside of our restaurant. I like trying different cuisines because it gives me inspiration. I am a fan of local Portuguese food and Sichuanese food. I like to go to A Lorcha as it’s really good and simple food with a lot of heritage. The former gentleman’s club Clube Militar de Macau also serves great Portuguese food.
I am also a huge fan of midnight supper. After service, I will take the team out for a late bite. Sometimes those meals don’t end until 3 or 4am! We like to recap what we’ve gone through that day, hang out and share a good meal.