Generic selectors
    Exact Matches
    Search in title
    Search in content
    Post Type Selectors

    The Return of André Chiang : Sichuan Cuisine in The Palace|TastyTrip

    Author:Jocelyn Chen

    Located at Wynn Palace Macau, Sichuan Moon, with Chef André Chiang as its Culinary Director, has reimagined Sichuan cuisine by fusing local and international ingredients to create a range of home-style and classic dishes. Sichuan Moon was listed in the “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants” in 2020 and has been awarded two Michelin stars for two consecutive years.

    Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants was holding its awards ceremony at Wynn Palace Macau when Sichuan Moon first opened in 2019, and we visited the restaurant twice, once for a formal dinner and then for a midnight hotpot spree after the awards ceremony. Originally it only invited two tables of guests, but the restaurant ended up being filled with world-famous chefs for what should be one of my most memorable late nights of a lifetime.

    After visiting Restaurant ANDRÉ’s farewell dinner in Singapore, it was already clear that his dishes were a collection of beauty, high complexity, balanced flavours, bold and artistically colourful plating, and compelling, highly finished masterpiece. Perhaps because it was a farewell menu, there were two dozen courses in total, which seemed a bit dominating and yet justifiable – after all, you don’t want your guests to miss out on any of the classic dishes.

    André’s approach to Sichuan cuisine is infused with his own understanding, combined with his experiences in Chengdu and over twenty years in France and Singapore. It’s easy to imagine his uncanny ability to learn and grow. Having known André for a few years now, I have always admired his unlimited creativity. If the sky is the limit, then André’s reinterpretation of Sichuan cuisine has retained its DNA while expressing it in a language that can be understood by the whole world.

     

    Before Sichuan Moon

    It’s been two years since I last visited Macau, and I couldn’t wait to see André as he just got out of a three-week quarantine. When I arrived at the entrance of Sichuan Moon, I was greeted by an elaborately carved golden leather door and a spacious lobby decorated in an elegant beige colour scheme with a custom-made chandelier composed of over 700 Italian Murano glass butterflies.

    I was amazed by the magnificence of the dishes the first time I was introduced to the restaurant’s menu. Although slightly aggressive, the dishes are undeniably delicious and teemed with creativity, especially the aesthetic. Many young chefs look up to André as a role model and hope one day to become a chef like him. But success knows no shortcuts. How many potatoes did André peel in France? How much time did André spend practicing speaking French and English until full fluency?

    As I search my memory there are a few dishes that have left a deep impression for me, such as the King Crab Leg and the Ma Po Tofu. They were completely brand-new experiences but the aesthetics interpreted by Sichuan Moon were almost refreshingly eye-opening

     

    This life

    The menu was actually designed before the pandemic. André thought about what it would be like to eat Sichuan cuisine in a palace, and with this in mind, he convened the entire menu. What’s more, the menu is designed using different colours for each dish to present the flavours in a sensually delightful way, which was also new for André.

    After the previous head chef, Zor Tan, returned to Singapore to start his own business due to the pandemic, Wilson Fam joined Sichuan Moon as Executive Chef. With nearly 20 years of experience and superb culinary skills in interpreting both Chinese and Western cuisines, Chef Fam has his own perspective when it comes to ingredient selection, leading an extraordinary team to perfectly showcase André’s vision. Born and raised in Malaysia, Chef Fam started to cook at the age of 19. He worked as a Junior Chef at the prestigious Raffles Hotel in Singapore, before he came to Macau and met Cantonese cuisine Master Chef Tam Kwok Fung, who had a profound influence on him.Chef Fam has managed various establishments offering Chinese and Western cuisines, creating an open and innovative style with refined and varied cooking techniques. He also worked at the Michelin-starred Yí Macau before Sichuan Moon. André mentioned that Wilson is not afraid of sharing his ideas and is a great partner to work with.

    Left:Executive Chef Wilson Fam  Right:Culinary Director André Chiang

    The long-awaited new menu was kicked off with a luscious, unprecedented whirlwind of starters as one can feel that André is a sturdy pioneer in transforming the way of presenting cold dishes. I have tasted his farewell dinner in Singapore, and a common point with the original menu at Sichuan Moon was the intensive load, which took me five hours each to finish both times.

    But this time, the dishes were more matured and refined, without any sense of showiness or condescension. It’s still dazzling, though. I reckon that André wanted to cut back on the first year’s menu at Sichuan Moon, the same 20-odd courses as the farewell dinner in Singapore. He said it was difficult for him to do so because some dishes may have been presented for the last time at the original restaurant.

     

    The Show of Strength

    The Old Altar Pickles was a glorious array of twelve golden plates lined up in a circle on the table, and as André said, it was like eating in a royal palace. Each plate featured its own distinctive flavour and the ultimate pursuit in detail.

    The 88 Fortune Treasures is a complete revamp of the traditional lacquer box dish in Sichuan cuisine, offering just the right sense of culinary rituals. Self-deconstruction followed by rebirth with endless creative thinking, only André can surpass André.
     
    Each plate comprising the delightful 88 Fortune Treasures was impeccably produced with amuse-bouche standard. Although being appetisers, it would make perfect sense if they were to be served independently as formal courses. André is well aware of the tradition of not leaving the table empty in a Sichuan meal, hence serving them all at once. I could not help but be amazed by all those details.
    Cod Fish with Chillies Paste – American Alaskan cod is cooked at a low temperature of 55 degrees, slathered with a special Sichuan Erjingtiao green chili sauce and garnished with green, red and yellow peppers. This dish is on the spicy side but with the original juicy, tender cod.

    88 Fortune Treasures/Cod Fish with Chillies Paste

    White Bait Flavoured with Yellow Chilli and Soy Bean Sauce – Needlefish is wrapped in fermented soybean sauce and chopped yellow chilli, served with cucumber nori rolls, pickled crosne,turmeric oil, JapaneseGinger flower, and drizzled with bromelain for a spicy and sour sensation. The Yuzu Ice Plant features fresh ice plant and Thai yuzu garnished with jelly made with ice plant and chicken stock. The savoury ice plant is complemented by the sweet yuzu honey and wine, a perfect alternate to refresh your taste buds from the spicy cod.

    While Century Egg with Burnt chillies is a common Sichuan cold dish, here the century egg is completely deconstructed, with the egg white turned into a jelly, the yolk mixed with pickled baby ginger and made into a mousse. Then it’s served with roasted pepper sauce, finely sliced, crunchy cucumber, roasted Erjingtiao red pepper paste and green pepper. This is a dish that overturns your perception on the century egg.

    Chicken foie gras Rolled with Black Truffle Sauce is like a mini French chicken wrap. The chicken breast and deboned thigh are cooked at low temperatures to maintain the tenderness, and then seasoned with chili oil and wrapped with French duck liver, spinach and black truffle, a spicy, fresh and tender result. The next dish is the Milky Yam with Spicy (Mala) Jelly and Bean Curd – Chinese yam is steamed and added with milk to give it a creamy, buttery texture. Homemade chili dried beancurd is produced using a traditional Sichuan Suining recipe that seamlessly blends in with the taste of the Chinese yam.
    The Deep-fried Cordyceps with Truffle is a favourite of André’s – Yunnan cordyceps are deep fried at low temperatures until crispy and crunchy in the mouth. The fish-flavoured lobster roll boasts slow-cooked French blue lobster wrapped with pickled watermelon radish and baby lotus root, a shiningly delicate dish that you can’t take your eyes off.

    Cod Fish with Chillies Paste/ White Bait Flavoured with yellow Chilli and Soy Bean Sauce/ Yuzu Ice Plant / Century Egg with Burnt Chillies/ Chicken foie gras Rolled with Black Truffle Sauce/ Milky Yam with Spicy (Mala) Jelly and Bean Curd / Sweet and Sour Cordycep Flower/ Sweet and Spicy Lobster Roll

    Completed in one go, the eight cold dishes were as fine as amuse bouche, before I was introduced to the first hot dish.

    Truffle with Traditional Chicken Mousse and Consommé is presented with Sichuan traditional chicken mousse placed on top of chicken consommé while beneath white truffle bird’s nest confit. The dish is a new item on the menu and was originally a French culinary sensation called “Memory” created by André in 1997. The main ingredients were foie gras and truffles, the former being replaced by velvety chicken mousse floating in the consommé for a Chinese twist.

    Out of curiosity, I asked André how he did it and he told me it’s a “secret”. “Maybe the consommé is different? The dish was intensely rich with a distinct umami, fatty flavour of the chicken”, I thought to myself.

    Truffle with Traditional Chicken Mousse and Consommé

    André has always had a penchant for truffles, whether black or white, as they always have a place on his menu. This time it was white truffle bird’s nest confit, lavishly layered on the top. Served with freshly shaved French black truffles, it is a sublime Sichuan version of André’s “Memory”, a further step forward with a dense, melt-in-your-mouth texture and a rich, unforgettable aroma that lingers along.

    Eye-opening Creation about Timeline

    The Ma La Lobster Zhong Dumpling was the first to have amazed me.

    André told me the dish was about the timeline. He thought about how it would be like to go back to the moment before the sauces were mixed. So, in the end, right different sauces, deconstructed and sublimated, become vivid colours converging on a silver plate.

    “Ma La” Lobstr “Zhong Dumplings”

    The Zhong Dumpling (named for the family who first made them in Chengdu around 100 years ago) was presented “open-faced”, as though pulled back in time before the sauce was mixed and the dumpling wrapped. Open dumplings are common in both Italian and French cuisine. Underneath the dumpling wrap was an extravagant potion of Japanese lobster sashimi marinated in a spicy sauce, probably the most magnificent version of Zhong dumplings ever. A surprisingly delightful dish with potato soufflé and cold tofu to balance the spiciness. André’s French background serves him well in deconstructing the dish and giving Sichuan cuisine a new look.

    This dish is groundbreaking. The way of thinking will influence the mindset of the younger generation of chefs. Many want to become celebrated chefs such as the Italian chef Massimo Bottura and Grant Achatz of Chicago’s Alinea, who are expert in splashing colors onto their culinary canvas. But most of the time I see experimental, primitive results, which is often undesirable. An example is the overuse of powered ingredients, common nowadays but simply unnecessary. The road to success is not supposed to be easy. André has mentioned the lack of aesthetic training in modern cooking education.

    Secret Recipe-King Crab Leg

    The Secret Recipe King Crab Leg is a dish from the first version of Sichuan Moon’s menu, and a dish with flavours that no one would say no to. Inspired by the Cantonese dish – king crab with garlic and breadcrumbs, the dish blends in Sichuan chili paste and is chargrilled in homemade tuna brisket oil and basil sauce. André says he wanted Sichuan Moon to have dishes that honour local flavours and Sichuan impressions. With a mixture of saltiness, sweetness and spiciness, the firm and juicy crabmeat inside the crispy shell is so naturally elevated with the pairing chilled Tsingtao original beer.

    Perigord Black Truffle Rice Pancake with Salted Egg

    The Périgord Black Truffle Rice Pancake with Salted Egg is a wickedly delicious snack just by looking at the name. Made with Sichuan round glutinous rice and ingredients including Qingchengshan cured meat, Spanish Iberico pork and Japanese matsutake mushrooms, the rice patties are pan-fried until golden brown before smeared with salted egg yolk sauce, and finished with lavish Périgord black truffle shavings, macadamia nuts and sea salt, and brushed with homemade salted duck egg sauce. It’s a combination of all the great flavours you can think of – savoury, sweet, sticky and crispy, and a decadent indulgence to lure you in even when you are just thinking of it.

    Green Peppercorn Flavoured Chicken Soup Noodles with Fish Maw

    One of the strengths of André is that he can transform ordinary food into elegant beauty with lusciousness and attention to detail while retaining the original DNA of the food. Diners would have the sudden revelation: “No wonder!”

    The Ma Po Tofu uses two kinds of homemade tofu: the smoky black tofu and the silky firm tofu to offer different mouthfeel. They are coupled with meaty sea crayfish and a Wagyu beef sauce made with the mouth-numbing Chongqing Jiangjin green peppercorns and the aromatic Hanyuan Dahongpao peppercorns. The tofu is served in a hand-woven bowl made with spiced bay leaves, another detail exuding the sense of royal dining.

    Masterpiece -Ma Po Tofu/Cocktail: Tribute of Paddy

    The final highlight was a rice dish – the Claypot Rice with Crab Roe and Sea Urchin. Boiled broth from Macau’s local virgin crabs, Northeastern Wuchang rice, crispy pork lard and mullet roe are brought together in a copper pot to simmer, and when the rice is cooked, crispy rice, green onions and chives are stirred in as well as a lavish potion of crab roe and Japanese short-spined sea urchin. Even the serving copper vessel of the dish is an import from Kyoto. It’s more of a wicked rice dish that all Asians will love than just a Sichuan local flavour. How could such a combination not be delicious?

    Claypot Rice with Crab Roe and Sea Urchin

    Following on from the rice dish, the first dessert and palate cleanser is the Ice Jelly with Shizuoka Melon Juice, whose predecessor is the Ice Jelly with Glutinous Rice Balls, Sweet Fermented Rice and Lemon. Shizuoka honeydew is poured over the crystal clear ice jelly and served with a special tangerine-flavoured fermented rice. After enjoying the original flavour, the sommelier would pour some Klein Constantia, one of South African’s top-rated sweet wines, to create a balanced finishing touch of soothing sweet and pleasant acidity. The glitter in the ice jelly turned out to be edible gold leaf – André said with a smile, “That’s what eating inside a palace should be like”. I couldn’t think of a more extravagant version of an ice jelly dessert.

    The Reinvented Classic dessert was also delicious, in term of nostalgia and modernity. Inspired by a traditional Sichuan street snack, the Three Big Cannons (sweet rice mochi), the rice mochi is filled with peanuts, black and white sesame and crushed brown sugar, and wrapped in a four-coloured outer skin made from Japanese white kidney bean, soybean flour, spinach juice and dragon fruit juice. Another successful experiment turning an everyday fare into an elegant dessert.

    Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy

     

    How far would you go to master creative dishes?

    Almost every dish on the menu is unusually elaborate, and yet mastered in a refined way with Chinese delicacies and perfectly presented deliciousness. The menu design also takes into account of the order of revealing different flavours. With a much dedicated ambition to gain three Michelin stars, the restaurant currently only caters 20 seats per day.

    Wine Pairing of the day

    Having visited several of André’s restaurants over the years, I have to say that his popularity is by all means veritable. Hard work without talent can put you on the right path, but for some people the combination of the two will make this journey much, much easier.

    Apparently, André’s dishes are exuding his confidence and creativity. He shared that he quite enjoyed the time alone during the three weeks of quarantine, as he feels more relaxed taking things as they came.

    Returning to Sichuan Moon is the beginning of another journey.

    2018 Resturant André ( Pam , author and  André )/ 2022 Sichuan Moon


    (Visited 583 times, 1 visits today)
    Read previous post:
    Ensue X 102 House ‘4 hand dinner’ An Adventurous Culinary Treat

    At the end of last year, I attended a four-hands dinner in Shenzhen teamed up by Chef Miles Pundsack Poe...

    Close