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New York, City Secrets: Macao Trading Co.

06.14.2010

These days in New York, if there?s a bearded gent on staff ? you know you?ve come to the right place. If he?s wearing a chambray shirt and there are a few Jim Jarmusch-look-alikes in the crowd ? you better make a reservation. Which is the case at Macao Trading Co., located on the cusp of Chinatown and Tribeca on Church near Canal Street, a relatively desolate intersection after dusk, spotted by only a few of the ?Rolex-Rolex-Louis-Vuitton? vendors trying to make that last black-market buck. Thanks to a cancellation, one of my best girlfriends and I were able to get a table for two during prime Friday-night dining time.

These days in New York, if there?s a bearded gent on staff ? you know you?ve come to the right place. If he?s wearing a chambray shirt and there are a few Jim Jarmusch-look-alikes in the crowd ? you better make a reservation. Which is the case at Macao Trading Co., located on the cusp of Chinatown and Tribeca on Church near Canal Street, a relatively desolate intersection after dusk, spotted by only a few of the ?Rolex-Rolex-Louis-Vuitton? vendors trying to make that last black-market buck. Thanks to a cancellation, one of my best girlfriends and I were able to get a table for two during prime Friday-night dining time.

 
Macao Trading Co. has that speakeasy feel.  If that speakeasy were located in the hull of a pirate ship [think: Gwen Stefani?s video for ?Rich Girl,? but with less swashbuckling and more understated swank]. The decorative mezzanine overlooking the dining area is cluttered with antique furnishings, rusted fans, trunks and crab traps. The bar is a greenish-glowing crystalline tower of spirits: a few of Macao?s specialty cocktails, with names like Dr. Funk (highly imbibable) and General Tso?s Champagne, are topped off with absinthe; Portuguese vinho verde is also available by the bottle. Rockabilly music presides over the buzz of dinner conversation and flickering candlelight. Follow a stairway wallpapered in salvaged city dailies and vintage china-girl pin-ups to the cellar bar/(sans-) opium den. It all feels a little ? badass. But that would be the point: Macao, a former Portuguese colony, has got its element of seedy underbelly. After neighboring Hong Kong pulled ahead in the late 19th century, its ?Red Lantern District became a sanctuary for smugglers ? gamblers ? war-profiteers ? underworld characters and high rollers.? Today, it is the ?ber-Vegas of the East.
 
To start, we ordered the duck confit spring rolls, crab and shrimp jade dumplings, and tortilha de macao (traditional Iberian ?omelette? but with lump crab and curry aioli). Be sure to double dip your spring rolls; the vinaigrette bites through the crunch, tickling the back of your throat and inner ears for a full-body experience. The tortilha was a miss, dry and seemingly devoid of crab meat ? if nothing else, it?s filling. The jade dumplings, oh-so-pudgy and inviting, are perfection. The cilantro dipping sauce is creamy and unexpected. For our main course, we ordered the coconut curry organic African chicken with spinach, or galinha ? Africana, a signature Macanese dish [the Portuguese were also in Africa]. The delicious curry gravy is worth lapping up -- prepare to get your hands dirty. My only complaint here: more spinach, please. As we exit, too full for dessert, bossa nova music starts soaking into to the night, which for me, was filled with visions of jade dumplings and plans for premeditated gluttony upon my next visit. I?m thinking manila clams with chorizo, curry lobster and a few more Dr. Funks.
 
Verdict: It?s times like these that you want to thank the imperialists ? evil colonial practices notwithstanding ? for being so damn intrepid, and New York for playing host to its many tribes.
 
311 Church Street
New York, NY 10013
Dinner and Late Night Only
212 431 8750
 

www.macaonyc.com

 

Bar photo credit : Hannah Whitaker