Entries in Macao Trading Co. (3)


The Payoff: Macao Trading Co.

Today, Frank Bruni bestowed one star on Macao Trading Co., once again cementing the perception that the rating means “mediocre,” not “good,” as the Times claims:

One of my companions put it best. “This…is a deeply silly restaurant.”

That’s what makes it sort of fun, and that’s what keeps it from being anything more than that. In the right mood, with the right stretch of the menu, lubricated by the right cocktails, and with the right tolerance for ear-decimating decibels, you can definitely enjoy Macao, in a minor way….

I think fewer New Yorkers these days are looking for restaurants that “ooze sex and decadence,” which is how the publicist explained the aim behind the erotica. But if New Yorkers are looking for croquettes that do that, Macao’s their place.

We and Eater both took the one-star bet, winning $3 on our hypothetical one-dollar bets.

Eater   NYJ
Bankroll $123.50   $144.67
Gain/Loss +3.00   +3.00
Total $126.50   $147.67
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 56–25

Rolling the Dice: Macao Trading Co.

The Line: Tomorrow, Frank Bruni reviews Macao Trading Co., the new Sino–Portuguese cocktail bazaar in West TriBeCa. The Eater odds are not yet posted as of 5:23 p.m., but we’re going to go ahead and bet anyway.

ETA: The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

 Zero Stars: 4 - 1
One Star: 3 - 1 √√
Two Stars: 15 - 1
Three Stars: 10,000
Four Stars: 250,000 - 1

The Skinny: Bruni waited a while to review this place, which has been open since late November. If his reaction was anything like ours, when we visited in mid-December, then Macao Trading Co. is a mortal lock for one star. There were too many things wrong with it to justify two stars, but a David Waltuck menu and a strong cocktail program will keep it out of goose-egg territory.

We don’t entirely rule out a repeat of the Double Crown Affair—a similar restaurant that inexplicably got the deuce—but one star seems like a safer bet.

The Bet: We are betting that Frank Bruni will award one star to Macao Trading Co.


Macao Trading Co.

[Horine via Eater]

Note: This is a review under chef David Waltuck, who is no longer at the restaurant. His replacement is Josh Blakely. We also note that Macao now has a prominent sign—which it didn’t when this review was written.


Most restaurants want to be found. Macao Trading Co. takes the opposite approach. It’s on a crazily obscure block in TriBeCa, without so much as a sign to let you know it’s there. The door looks like a service entrance. Even if you’re looking for Macao Trading Co., you’re liable to miss it—as I did the first time. If you just happen to be walking by, you’ll keep on walking.

That’s not stopping people from patronizing Macao Trading Co., which was doing a brisk bar business even at 6:00 p.m. last night. They serve food and drinks until 4:00 a.m. in an allegedly “semi-private lounge” downstairs called the Opium Den. There’s a built-in clientele, thanks to the same owners’ acclaimed cocktail bar cum restaurant, Employees Only, another peculiar place that makes virtue out of the perception of inaccessibility.

The story is completely different at the perpetually-empty Dennis Foy next door, as it was at Foy’s short-lived predecessor, Lo Scalco, which not even a star from the Michelin Guide could rescue. There aren’t any “bad blocks” in Manhattan, but some are bad for certain types of restaurants. In this place, Macao Trading Co. fits right in.

The restaurant is named for Macao, a former Portuguese colony on the Chinese mainland. The décor is tricked out like the 19th-century trading warehouse of our dreams. If Disney had a Macao ride, it would look like this. The spectacular back-lit bar is the visual highlight, and it’s the culinary highlight too. The cocktail list is impressive; the food feels like snacks that are meant to dilute the alcohol.

David Waltuck of Chanterelle is responsible for the fusion menu. Many dishes are shown in pairs, where you can choose either the Portuguese or the Chinese version of the same ingredient, such as meatballs, prawns, or ribs. Each table is set with a knife and fork, and chopsticks.

There are appetizers and entrées, but the menu seems to be evolving more towards small plates and snacks. The server steered me in that direction, suggesting I order two of the small plates. That wasn’t quite enough for a meal, so I later ordered a third, followed by dessert.

Mackerel Escabeche ($8; above left) was like a deconstructed ceviche, served cold. It tasted fresh and mildly tart, but slightly bland. Portuguese lamb balls filled with cheese ($8; above right) were tender, but overpowered by a flood of tomato sauce. The identical green-flecked leaves seem to be the default seasoning for both dishes.

Mushroom croquettes ($12; above left) benefited from a generous helping of truffle oil, but I thought the barren plate needed something to dip them in. Fried milk ($7; above right) was one dish that didn’t need any more help. A dusting of cinammon and a light honey citrus salad on the side worked perfectly together.

The cocktails are impressive, though expensive at $14 apiece. I’ll leave it to the cocktail specialists to describe them. The wine list seems to be an afterthought. There was just one token red available by the glass, and they served it in a water glass.

Service was attentive, though I was there quite early and had their mostly undivided attention. I especially appreciated the server’s modest ordering advice, as restaurants that specialize in small plates usually try to sell you more than you need.

All four of the items I tried struck me as enjoyable complements to the cocktail menu, but I wouldn’t come here for the food alone.

Macao Trading Co. (311 Church Street between Walker & Lispenard Sts., TriBeCa)

Food: *
Service: *
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *