Although I didn’t see Nicki Minaj with her entourage at the opening of House of Macau in Hollywood, rumor has it that she might stop by when in LA. This sleek modern restaurant is the newest endeavor by her manager, music mogul Manny Halley. It’s a convenient dining destination for locals and visitors to enjoy a drink and dinner before or after a show at the Pantages Theatre located just one block away.
The bartenders mix inventive and beautiful cocktails that include The Macau, made with light and dark rum, Campari, simple syrup, pineapple juice and mango puree. I ordered a lychee martini made with cranberry juice and lychee fruit before taking a tour of the multi-level space that includes an additional bar upstairs in a more intimate lounge space.
Hues of black, red and white embellish the 140-seat restaurant, and large sparkling mirrored balls hang down from the ceiling, illuminating the space. A spacious outdoor patio upstairs seats 60 people, offering a fire pit, private dining room, views of the W Hotel Hollywood and multiple VIP entrances.
Macanese cuisine, a lovely fusion of southern Chinese and Portuguese spices, gives each dish a special aroma and taste different from traditional Chinese food. This influence is due to the Portuguese Empire’s occupation in Macau from the mid-16th century until the 20th century. Under the direction of Executive Chef Christoffer Binotto, previously of Japonais by Morimoto and Michelin-starred restaurant Graham Elliot, and consulting chef Gabriel Morales, House of Macau creates Chinese-fusion hot and cold small plates in the elegant Macanese style.
General manager Brayner Ferry also served as our sommelier for the evening and paired four different wines with our appetizers and entrées. The first pairing, a bubbly flute of French Pinot Blanc Brut Hubert Meyer Cremant D’ Alsace, offered a delicate nose of pear and stone fruit with hints of honey. The sparkling wine enhanced the flavors in our first dish, an elegant row of bite-size crispy rice cakes topped with orange Santa Barbara uni, a splash of sweet soy sauce and chocolate powder.
Our next appetizer, caviar canapés made with half dollar size golden blinis, included tangy Yuzu pearls on cream fraiche, egg whites and thinly sliced shallots, adding zest to this one bite appetizer. Yuzu pearls were also featured in the oysters on a half shell with a soy mignonette, brightening the dish.
The menu offers four different lettuce cups filled with stir fried shrimp, beef, ginger chicken and spicy tofu. We tasted the shrimp and ginger chicken versions that Ferry paired with a glass of 2014 Giovanni Almondo Roero Arneis Vigne Sparse from Italy. This white wine, made from grapes grown in the Roero region, offered a crisp acidity that complemented these delicious appetizers.
Sriracha added a touch of heat to the small the small ginger Ahi tuna crisp. However, the addition of smooth citrus avocado cooled down the flavors and balanced the tasty dish.
Ferry believes “everything tastes better with wine,” especially the thick smoked Kurobuta riblets bathed in a hoisin-lemongrass barbecue sauce. He paired the pork with a glass of Red Tail Ridge Pinot Noir from upstate New York in the Finger Lakes region. Aged in older French oak barrels for 10 months, the wine offers notes of red raspberry, anise and plum with hints of vanilla, earth and sweet spice. This medium-bodied wine also paired nicely with the golden crispy duck spring rolls with a sweet plum sauce and the chicken satay with a thick house-made teriyaki sauce.
Chinese barbeque pork served with long green scallions surrounding a sunny side up quail egg won for the most beautiful presentation. The lovely dish included crispy pork cracklings that, though deep-fried, remained light, airy and perfectly seasoned. Chef Morales said cracklings are labor intensive and take about six hours to make before being served. We spooned some of the pork, scallions and egg onto the pork skin crackling. This perfect bite balanced the smooth and creamy texture of the egg with crisp and earthy flavors from the scallions and savory and meaty notes from the pork. Together with the crackling, the dish carried a delightful crunch and intense depth of flavor.
The last glass of wine was a Spanish Vispius Somontano made with 55 percent Tempranillo, 5 percent Garnacha and 10 percent Cabernet that paired well with the heartier grilled flat iron beef satay with a black pepper sauce and flavorful seaweed. It was a winning combination.
Macau is the largest gambling center in the world and the only place in China to legally gamble. I think Halley hit the jackpot when he designed this unique and glamorous destination restaurant with a lively nightclub.
The restaurant is open daily for dinner from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. $$$ 1600 Vine St. (323)745-5038.
This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers on July 23, 2015.