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The Sofitel brand’s French heritage extends even to its signature Chinese restaurant, which blends Chinoiserie elements with European elegance. Dark wood furnishings are paired with silky fabrics, while cotemporary geometric light fixtures contrast with the striking displays of rose-red oriental vases that cut up sections of the room. The restaurant looks out over the water, though the low-rise buildings in the distance aren’t much of a picture. Tables are comfortably spaced so that even when the restaurant is full, there is little risk of eavesdropping on neighbouring conversations.
Classic Cantonese dishes with a few instances of French fancy form the menu at Le Chinois, and the house signatures offer glimpses into the chef’s creative mind. A traditional Hakka dish of braised pork belly with preserved vegetables is here transformed into a vegetarian-friendly rendition, where the slabs of fatty swine are replaced by thick slices of braised winter melon. It looks very much like the original, but falls short of the real thing – the melon is a bland vegetable, and it needed a far more intense braising sauce to imbue it with enough flavour. Another signature, a “chef special kung fu soup”, features a broth flavoured with pork and cordyceps, served in a teapot with a tiny cup (bringing to mind Chiuchow kungfu tea) and is tinged with a natural sweetness from goji berries. It starts off a little bland, but layers of flavour build as we sip. Our favourite dish is the roasted “Shiqi Superior Pigeonneau” – the bird features a paper-thin layer of crisp skin, and the meat is not at all dry. For dessert, you can choose to go east or west with options such as mango pudding with bird’s nest or the hotel’s signature crème brûlée.
Sofitel’s wine list is one of the few in Macau that goes a little above and beyond, with interesting wine flights and a sizeable by-the-glass selection that is very decently priced (in comparison, the beer and juices are poor value for money – very French). Selections by the bottle are slightly limited but cover most of the new and old worlds and will rarely break the budget.
Service is a little perfunctory here. While staff are generally polite, they failed to give convincing recommendations for food or wine. We also had to ask for serviettes (in a restaurant pitching itself as fine dining, we find it strange that paper cocktail napkins are used instead of cloth). A little more polish would be befitting a restaurant under the Sofitel name.
A meal for two with wine and service comes to around MOP800, which is fair value. However, we would want the food and service to be given some fine-tuning before we would consider making a return visit.