In the parlance of our times, many say that Macau is the Las Vegas of Asia. It’s a common assertion by many people, especially those of us who find home in the Americas. Yet since 2006, Macau, China, and not Las Vegas, Nevada, has been the gambling capital of the world. In fact, in terms of revenue, it’s not even a close competition. As of right now, Macau’s annual gambling revenues topped out at over seven times that of the $6 billion per year brought in by Sin City.
Given the amount of capital flowing through Macau, it’s no surprise that many luxury hotel chains have put their foot down on the tiny, but densely populated, peninsula. Smack dab in the middle of what is now known as the Cotai Strip you’ll find the largest Sheraton hotel all the world over. Checking in at roughly 4,000 rooms, it’s easy to understand how thousands of tourists of all nationalities flow through the hotel’s massively foot-printed property on a daily basis. So it is no surprise that the Sheraton Hotel (and casino) offers a plethora of culinary outlets designed to feed its droves of guests.
While the hotel complex lacks an entrant in Michelin’s famed Red Guide, there are a plethora of eateries that suit just about any palate. Perhaps the most gregarious of the bunch is the poolside weekend pop-up Sala Churrasco. Drawing its inspiration from Macau’s Portuguese roots, Sala is a meat and seafood buffet bacchanal. As with any buffet, you’re bound to come across a few hits and misses, but by and large, the food slants toward the pleasing end of the culinary spectrum. So large is the offering that it’s easy to miss an option or two, but the 12-hour charcoal-roasted suckling pig is required dining. The smoke-infused meat against the crisped skin is a sign of attention to detail, and the payoff comes in the form of juice… porky, delicious, meaty juice, that squeezes from within from the first bite. Amid the multitude of other offerings, the other real winner for me was the “Portuguese” clams. While the seasonings were reminiscent of just about any other wine-cooked clams dish one is bound to encounter, there’s no shame in that game. Get you some.
Sitting at the other end of the all-you-can-eat culinary spectrum is the Chinese hot pot restaurant Xin. Consider my ill-advised attempt at pronunciation guidance at your own peril, but go with “shin” and people should know what you’re talking about. Xin’s sprawling interior is quiet and demurely decorated and it serves as a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the mall traffic that clusters just outside its doors.
Hot pot is a dangerous game for some, as the basic premise puts much of the responsibility on the diner. But the true test is in the broth, and to that end, the soups are balanced and prepared by a competent kitchen staff, leaving protein selection and execution to the diner.
While my eating buddy and I opted to share the Malay/Thai-originating nyonya laksa soup and the Szechuan homage of chile oil broth, my wandering chopsticks may or may not have found their way into many a tablemate’s pot.
A handful of dim sum options are available for order, as are a half-dozen or so Chinese-influenced dishes that are on their own buffet counter, but destiny is balanced by the free will of the seemingly endless supply of vegetables, noodles, proteins, and sea creatures that are available for a soup-lathered swim. Repeat trips to the grub bar are in order, and since there’s nothing stopping you from returning to the scene of the crime… you can rest easy while you cook your protein. Lose a squid at the bottom of your pot? Go back and get another one. Did you take that nice piece of beef and cook it until it’s dead a second time? No worries — while you might have an adverse effect on the carbon footprint, you can simply just try again.
Those familiar with my dining lifestyle might wonder why my beverage habits made nary a peep in this here recap. It would appear that the cocktail culture that is de rigueur stateside is in its infancy, if not embryonic state, in Macau. You’re better served by grabbing a bottle of your favorite brand liquor and retreating with it to your room than by pressing a befuddled “mixologist” to try and crank out even a competent old fashioned. That’s not a comment on best intentions, only that things take time to develop, and that’s one area Macau is still working on.
Whether you’ll find the Sheraton’s food to be at the forefront of your culinary journey is something I won’t predict. That’s entirely too personal of a thing. That said, there’s nothing here to get in the way of a wonderful experience. It’s no small footnote that the warmth and attentive service of all those engaged added significant amounts of enjoyment to the handful of on-premise meals I consumed. If food is to be considered a pathway to happiness, then the Macau Sheraton has that road paved with smiles, consideration, and plenty of tasty bites.