WARNING: this article is long as the dishes were many
Chef André Chiang launching Sichuan Moon
It was only last year that the culinary world lamented the closing of Restaurant André in Singapore. This left Chef André Chiang to focus (we presumed) on his acclaimed RAW in Taipei, but he swiftly resurfaced with The Bridge in Chengdu, immersing himself in the ingredients and history of food from that region.
Chef Chiang has now introduced this (26 course) concept at Wynn Palace Cotai in Macau. Sichuan Moon is an unexpected foray into a category of Chinese cuisine seldom associated with fine dining or wine pairings.
Unveiling his concept, Chiang says, “As one of the most intricate and complicated sub-cuisines within China, there are 24 different types of flavour profiles in Sichuan cooking, which include dry, spicy, sour, garlicky and sweet. And we have 26 courses; we get to do something very special here with this experience. I am a curator of this Chinese cuisine to transform it to a language everyone understands.”
Indeed the heat normally associated with this region’s dishes is pruned thin to charm a broader international crowd less adroit at handling the intensely numbing peppercorns, revealing the latent breadth of flavours. “The 24 Sichuan flavour profiles are like an alphabet for us to create a different vocabulary here.” Referencing a traditional Sichuan saying, Chiang says, “Each dish has its own individual style; a hundred dishes have a hundred different flavours.”
Although we mentioned wine pairings, this is our own misnomer, as Chef Chiang doesn’t restrict his menu to wine accompaniments and instead artfully pairs each course with a combination of drinks. There’s a Pu’er tea to start, then a cocktail made with Chengdu pickle, then a host of wines, a renowned Tsingtao Original beer, then a Chinese wine from Ningxia, a Pipacha tea aged for six months in Niepoort port wine casks and so on; each is carefully considered to cleanly complement its dish. This particular culinary journey of discovery is further heightened by the pairings rather than using them as side notes. And it’s all effortlessly delivered by the chef’s skilled team.
Behind the commanding leather door lies an elegant dining room centred around a majestic chandelier of glass butterflies flanked by an imposing set of fu dogs – a striking setting fitting for the staggering 26-course menu ($1,888/person; +$1,200/wine and drink pairings) that Chef Chiang has created to both lionise and elevate Sichuan cuisine.
You read that right – there are 26 courses at Sichuan Moon.
Old Altar Pickles
You start with eight types of pickles.
88 Fortune Treasures
The unveiling of this stacked box was met with gasps around the table followed by careful examination and appreciation of the distinctive items contained within each component. From the deep-fried chilli cabbage rolls and pig’s ear terrine to the deboned duck tongue and wasabi cuttlefish, this course was a deep-dive into the flavours of Sichuan. Chef Chiang says, “With the 88 Treasures, each box has a different taste, with no overlap. It shows the complexity in taste of Sichuan cuisine.”
Chiang paired this hors d’oeuvre with a cocktail made with Chengdu pickle.
Passing by Chengdu cocktail
Hot-and-Sour Soup Before
The hot-and-sour soup contains 10 ingredients for 10 flavours as “double 10” means “perfect complement” in Chinese. Wheels of turnip surround individual centres of egg yolk, broad bean and black fungus, with equal amounts of white and green peppercorn infused into the broth and spring onion and red chilli oil drops added at the end. The heat from the pepper was balanced by black pearls of balsamic vinegar for the sour flavour that burst with intensity in every spoonful. Chiang says of this seemingly humble soup, “We take this soup to another level with no luxury ingredients, just a lot of effort and care into the creation and presentation.”
This was inventively paired with a Keller Limestone Riesling.
Hot-and-Sour Soup After
The Secret Recipe King Crab Leg
Chef Chiang’s self-exclaimed favourite course – the agony of choosing would send us over the edge – he calls it the umami bomb of the whole meal. The five-year fermented broad bean sauce is very special in Sichuan cuisine, and the king crab is served with a toro oil dip and Tsingtao Original beer. It’s all quite special.
Masterpiece Ma Po Tofu
This showstopper of a dish brings out some of that renowned numbing flavour from the red Sichuan peppercorn. This little pot contains four squares of four different types of bean curd. There’s a hard tofu, a silky one, a black version and one made of Japanese egg, so each bite has a different texture along with a cohesive fragrant heat. The 1,000 bay-leaf hand-braided bowl isn’t just decorative – it serves to keep in the heat and constantly creates an aroma that hits you while you’re eating. It’s an extraordinary show of creativity mixed with authentic flavours, resulting in a provocative yet respectful dish that lives up to its moniker.
Sweetcorn on a Bed of Sponge Cake
In Sichuan cuisine, you balance out the spicy courses with tastes of sweet in between. This is a take on a traditional sweet street snack. The corn is ground up, squeezed of all its juices, then wrapped up and grilled like a tamale – welcome after the fiery hit from the previous dish.
Crispy Rice Coated with Spring Onion Dust
Diced shiitake mushroom and dried squid crispy rice with a thick chicken and rice soup.
Peppercorn-Flavoured Duck Foie Gras and Mushrooms Royale
This is the first dish that Chef Chiang says he ever called his own without pulling inspiration from elsewhere. Since the closure of Restaurant André, this is now the only place to get a taste of his signature Memory Dish. The rare tiger prawn mushroom from the Sichuan mountainside on the border of Tibet has an aggressive flavour and tiger-striped skin, hence its name. He has added a twist to this dish by accenting it with a touch of green Sichuan peppercorn jelly.
Spicy Buddha Jumps Over the Wall
This is a new take on a classic dish, with a clear broth of chicken and dried shrimp along with fish maw, abalone and an added oiliness from deep-fried pork chop.
Jia Bei Lan Baby Feet Pinot Noir
An exciting first foray into the world of China’s wines. From Ningxia, this Pinot Noir was rich, velvety and earthy, and we were charmed by it.
Longevity Dan Dan Noodle
The Pinot Noir came alongside this opulent bowl of dan dan noodles. One long strand of noodle sits atop a chorus of peanuts, and rather than beef, it comes with tea-smoked duck. If you want to see the feat of a 1.8- metre-long noodle being pulled from a tiny teapot, feast your eyes on this:
Wood-Roasted Meat in Unusual Flavour
From afar, you might think crispy duck pancakes. Get closer, you might think turkey wing, but it’s still not quite right. This is a turkey wing stuffed with Wagyu beef that’s grilled and then smoked. With the sauce and spring onion, you get a mixture of salty, sweet and spicy all together.
Burnt Scallop with Green Chili
The foam is made from the erjintiao, or heaven chilli, providing a pleasant spice that requires no fear.
With every course change, there is a new centrepiece that represents what you are eating. We will only include this one, which accompanied the dish above, as it was our favourite. If you want to see the other 25 centrepieces, you’ll have to wrangle yourself a booking.
“Yu Xiang” Eggplant
Super-soft aubergine with caviar, raw onion and sansho leaves with a sweet fermented carp chilli sauce.
Rice Is Gold
One of the aforementioned centrepieces comes in the form of rice husks that you pluck to add the final touch to this decadent dessert. Featuring rice espuma, rice ice cream, almond cream, almond tofu with meringue and a wanton touch of gold leaf on top, this is a dish of so many textures. It was gloriously good.
Spicy Goji Mocktail with Goji Berry Sorbet and Jelly
Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy
The final course is a piece of jelly that looks simple, but it’s so far out it’s more like a trip down the rabbit hole than a dessert. Aptly dubbed Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy (Chef Chiang says that the Chinese have a saying that in our life we go through all these flavours), he’s gone ahead and made a magic pill to take you through them on fast forward. Leave this jelly on the tongue for 10 seconds and you will experience all four unique sensations one after the other. It’s a crazy ending to a magical meal and a flourishing final display of the vast versatility of the gastronomy of Sichuan.
With the meal comes a hand-painted menu of the courses, a physical keepsake to accompany an unforgettable food memory.
Sichuan Moon certainly does what it sets out to do, showing that there is much more to Sichuan cuisine than mouth-numbing spice and that it’s all kinds of delicious. Along the way it also happens to showcase the extreme precision and talent of Chef Chiang and his team.
You’ll need to mark out a good three or four hours for this dining experience. There is also said to be a shorter menu upon request, if you ask nicely.
It might be tough to get a booking at this highly anticipated eatery, but if exploring the depths of Sichuan cuisine in radiant detail is on your bucket list, this is a once-in-a-lifetime, don’t-eat-breakfast-or-lunch, special-occasion meal, worth hanging on tenterhooks for.
G/F, North Esplanade, Wynn Palace Cotai, Avenida da Nave Desportiva, Cotai, Macau, +853 8889 3663
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
For more reviews like this, like Foodie on Facebook