Macau has been a significant restaurant in Belfast for the last two decades - many would say it serves the city's best Chinese food. The restaurant opened at a time when Belfast Chinese food was hip and savvy, and its customers were both the city's Chinese community and the community of Northern Irish chefs. For some reason we could never quite understand, that changed quickly: the Asian clientele disappeared, and the bowls and chopsticks were replaced by knives and forks, and the edgy ethnic-seeking cognoscenti shifted their attention to Dublin's Parnell Street. Macau mellowed but, even though it's glory days are behind it, it still serves some pretty echt food. Aubergine stuffed with prawn paste could be renamed aubergine clouds - you've never tasted aubergine so billowy. It comes laminated with a thick black glaze made from fermented soy beans. This is a mesmeric dish. Other highlights are the ginger, spring onion dipping sauce placed on every table: just try to stop yourself eating it up with prawn crackers even before the food arrives. They serve both Cantonese and Peking duck, both cooked to perfection - the island of Macau, the most densely populated place on the planet, with over 600,000 people living on an island only 30kms square - is known as the Las Vegas of China, and seems to be somewhat autonomous in its style of cuisine. The room is informal, dominated by a mural showing a curious scene based around Macau's most famous church. The tablecloths are paper, the staff are generally impassive. They only accept cash and it's BYO.
Belfast used to be a mecca for authentic Chinese cooking. Today, little Macau, on the Ormeau Road, keeps the flag flying.
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