311 Church St., near Walker St.
Seven days, 5 p.m.-4
CUISINE Global fusion;
VIBE Exotic speakeasy;
date, bar bites, festive group dinner;
DON’T MISS DISH Sticky
rice-stuffed quail, Portu-guese-style shrimp with green sauce, trio of
AVERAGE PRICE Appetizers $8, entrees $22, desserts $7;
RESERVATIONS Highly recommended.Macao Trading Company
At the moment, the most beautiful bar in New York may be the one at Macao Trading Co..
It’s a grownup’s bar – owned by grownups, staffed by grown-ups. But
really, it feels like a bar for 8-year-olds. That’s a good thing.
I suppose you could get a Grey Goose
martini, dirty. But why, when you can drink Drunken Dragon’s Milk or
down a Bashful Maiden or be treated by Dr. Funk? After all, what’s a
bar for, if not to free you inner 8-year-old?
The bar resembles the Nike
swoosh in mahogany. People sit at it, eying what looks like a mirrored
cage full of magic potions, their drinks resting in pools of light cast
by the stage lamps overhead.
The bartenders are wearing berets and
ridiculous mustaches, like characters in some French cartoon. A
second-floor gallery frames the room. It’s a warehouse for fantastical
junk, a balcony where people might eat if they were the size of elves.
You lean in, order a Lovee Long Time and suddenly you’re onstage. And all of this is the very reason the bar at Macao is crowded with 8-year-olds every night of the week.
What does all of this have to do with the real Macao?
Absolutely nothing. Which is just about
what the food has to do with the real Macao. In a way, the food is as
fictional as the mood at the bar. The real Macao is a Chinese territory
that was once ruled by the Portuguese.
But here, in Tribeca, instead of a fusion
of Chinese and Portuguese food, there’s an uneasy negotiation between
the two cuisines.
According to the menu, you can order things
Chinese-style or Portuguese-style. But whatever you do, don’t think too
hard about the meaning of “style.” After all, how would you feel if you
were served ribs “American-style”?
Bottom line: This is fictional food. Forget
the Portuguese-style food – except for the prawns in green sauce. And
if it has tomatoes? Skip it. There are musty-tasting tomatoes in the
mackerel escabeche, sautéed black bass and the braised ribs.
What’s left? There are the dishes with
sticky rice – those are good. At first, this doesn’t seem like the kind
of place where you’d imagine yourself picking meat off of a fried
quail. But the sticky rice-stuffed quail is worth it.
The Chinese pearl balls are just a fancy
name for steamed pork rolled in really sticky rice. And you’re safe
with the chicken or the lobster dumplings. And the trio of flan –
coffee, dulce de leche and vanilla.
A final food note: Do not order the ants climbing the tree.
The real mystery at Macao Trading Co. is the brains behind it. What were they thinking? The chef is David Walluck
from Chanterelle. The management is the mustached gang from Employees
Only. Surely, they know better. This is the problem with fictional
food: The fact that you can dream it up doesn’t mean anyone wants to
Eating at Macao Trading Co. makes you wonder what they’re eating in the real Macao tonight.