The nice thing about tea restaurants – or cha chaan ten – in Hong Kong is that they are basically open all day. They can serve you your breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and something to satisfy your midnight munchies. Even though this location of Macau Restaurant is in a touristy area, it nevertheless serves a more-or-less authentic, everyman (and everywoman) Hong-Kong-style breakfast. I could’ve gone to a whole host of other cha chaan tengs, but I chose this one because it at least differentiated itself by serving well-known Macanese food items along with typical HK-tea-restaurant fare.
I’ve been to this place a few times before, but never for breakfast. The last time I visited was more than ten years ago. I remember absolutely nothing about the restaurant except for a faint memory of having a roasted squab that either tasted pretty good or pretty bad. Let’s just say that the squab probably, possibly looked as pretty as a little, deep-fried dead bird could look.
Of course, visiting the restaurant for breakfast, I wasn’t about to order something as heavy as the fried squab. I ordered this instead:
A few shreds of lettuce, one triangle of ham, two seeing-eye eggs (one patched up by the ham), one sliver of cucumber, half a cherry tomato, and two halves of a pork chop bun. I guess everything in this dish probably combined to be heavier than the squab weight-wise and probably also calorie-wise…but…at least…there’s less oil ? Let’s just say that I perceived the dish to be ‘lighter’ in my own brain-cell-deprived kind of way. It was definitely an unique breakfast dish. Macanese pork buns for breakfast…I don’t think I’ve ever had pork buns for breakfast. Uniqueness factor aside, the pork bun was some of the worst Macanese pork buns I’ve ever had. The bread was stale and tough and the pork was way, way overcooked. The seeing-eye eggs were ok. The yolk ran away once you breached its membrane. The patch of ham was thin, which was in itself quite an achievement in terms of frugality. You know the whole host of cha chaan teng’s I could’ve chosen for breakfast but didn’t? They all served a better breakfast than this.
And sadly, before I could experience the awfulness of the pork buns in my sad-excuse-for-a-breakfast-dish, I ordered another for my son.
This one was exactly as tough and stale and tough and tougher and jaw-busting as the one I got.
You know what I wish I got with my ham and eggs instead of the pork buns? Instant noodles.
My daughter, wise beyond her years, ordered the instant noodles with ham and eggs and it instantly tasted about fifty-one times better than mine – which meant that the instant noodles tasted exactly like actual instant noodles you cook yourself. I definitely could’ve cooked the same instant noodles the same way in my hotel room using the hot-water-bottle-coffee-brewing-thingamajig, but I wouldn’t have been able to fry up the eggs and slice the ham so thin. I guess that’s the value-added difference in having instant noodles at a restaurant as opposed to having them in my hotel room.
I probably could’ve also cooked some congee in my room if I really wanted to, but it would’ve probably messed up that hot water coffee pot gadget and, you know, gotten a crazy-expensive-more-dineros-than-the-amount-my-entire-stay-costs charge on my credit card. Yea, I ordered the congee – Actually, my wife ordered the congee.
The congee was probably the best-tasting item of the meal. It tasted like tea-restaurant quality congee. The grains of rice were discernible yet melting to the touch of the tongue. Combined with the water, it was cottony-soft yet thick as a creamy soup. It was enjoyable. It was enjoyable in spite of the other ingredients dumped into the clay pot it resided in. The corn, thousand-year-old egg, ham, and everything else sparsely swimming in the congee did nothing, Nothing to enhance its flavours and textures.
Being in Hong Kong, I of course had to order some oil-fried-ghosts – otherwise known as dough fritters, also known as you tiao – to go along with the congee.
The ghost was oily; it was fried; it was stale; it was chewy; it was old. It was not right. Sitting right next to the you tiao was the Portuguese egg tart that was ordered because it had to be ordered in a restaurant that called itself ‘Macau Restaurant’. It was very sweet; too sweet. The charred dots could be seen on the surface but could not be tasted. The crust would’ve been flaky and crispy if the egg tart came to my table directly out of the oven, but it didn’t and it wasn’t. The crust was stale and limp.
The carafe of iced milk tea I ordered was also way too sweet and a little on the weak side.
I like my HK milk tea strong and creamy-smooth and only slightly sweet. This one was smooth but a little too ‘thin’, a little too ‘weak’, and a lot too sweet. I wouldn’t necessarily say that this milk tea was bad-tasting or that it was made the wrong way, it was just not the type of HK milk tea that suited my preferences. I’m sure it suits the preferences of a lot of people other than me.
Even though the food was overall a disappointment, there was one redeeming quality of the restaurant that, above all else, satisfied me and made me feel like I had an authentic HK-style cha chaan teng experience: the service. I loved, absolutely revelled in the surly, inhospitable, unfriendly, and downright inhuman and inhumane service. I would not have expected or wanted more from a cha chaan teng in Hong Kong.