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An alternative to Macau’s casino joints

BEYOND the mega casino-hotels and luxury shopping, Macau’s relatively unknown side like architecture, culture, food and its Sino-European cultural identity is worth exploring.

The historic city has more than 20 sites that highlight its architectural legacy and is well known to the tourists.

In Taipa Village, the local government, businesses and property owners are regenerating the area into a lifestyle destination to reveal the other side of Macau. It inspires warm nostalgia with its mix of Portuguese and Chinese culture, in sedate contrast to the glitz of the Cotai casino area.

“Taipa Village — Authentic Macau” is a new brand concept established by Taipa Village Destination Limited with the goal of promoting the area as Macau’s non-gaming destination — a premier lifestyle district that will include heritage, attractions, innovative dining, niche retail offerings and a diverse arts and entertainment scene.

“Sustainable heritage” is fostered by blending architecturally beautiful shop houses with vibrant retail and food and beverage concepts that benefit both the local community and tourists.

It’s recommended to start the journey from Pak Tai Temple with the history dating back to 160 years ago. Most of the local population earned a living by fishing in the old days and thus they followed the precepts of Pak Tai, known as the Northern Emperor, who is believed to have divine power to withstand floods and fire.

The interior is adorned with intricate paintings and decorations. A worship pavilion has been set up for its followers to pay tribute and offerings, which is rarely seen elsewhere on the island. A real local neighborhood life can be witnessed around the temple.

Many colonial houses in hues of yellow, blue, and green are dotted in the neighborhood which tell the stories of the bygone days. Step off the beaten track and you easily find yourself lost in quaint little lanes and exploring something unexpected. There are many corners, hidden lanes and lush gardens to check out while soaking up the authentic flavor of this vibrant neighborhood.

Among the historic houses dotted on different streets and lanes, some of them have been developed into new creative concepts that offer alternative options to satisfy today’s discerning tourists.

Macau is highly unlikely to disappoint foodies, and Taipa Village is the new food and beverage destination foodies should not miss out. The culinary scene is diverse, ranging from traditional street food and local specialties to restaurants inspired by Portuguese and Spanish culinary traditions.

The Portuguese influence continues to manifest itself through the number of restaurants in Taipa Village. Award-winning Michelin-recommended Portuguese Restaurant Antonio is more like a culinary institution inside the village that is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Portuguese chef Antonio Coelho is a real character who has witnessed the development of Macau. He stayed in Macau from 1971-72 and returned to the city in 1997. Coelho started his restaurant a decade ago in Taipa Village with the aim of promoting authentic Portuguese food and culture.

For him, cooking is like an art — every flavorful dish is a masterpiece, carefully crafted with culinary skill, taste and imagination. A passionate veteran in food and beverage, he loves to share his passion for food with the guests. Most of the ingredients are imported from Portugal including seafood, wine, port and beer.

For a decade, his eponymous restaurant has never failed his loyal customers as well as new guests in town. It has a string of international awards but the chef owner is not content to rest on his laurels.

He has also opened Tapas de Portugal opposite Antonio that offers a wide array of contemporary Portuguese tapas. A different approach but authenticity and creativity is the key. Tapas de Portugal is ideal for those who want to chill with good Portuguese wine, cocktails accompanied by sharing plates. There is a lovely rooftop terrace overlooking the village.

Located near popular Cunha Street, Restaurante Portugues Pescador is home to traditional culture of Cha Chan Teng (local teahouse) while also providing a contemporary Macanese fine dining experience under the same roof. The ground floor sets the scene with an authentic local teahouse ambience, complete with a mobile tea stall, traditional chequered tiles and four-bladed fans. Customers can enjoy traditional local snacks such as Portuguese spicy fish buns and curry sirloin buns, and classic beverages like clay pot brewed milk tea. The first floor features a contemporary Portuguese mood with beautiful blue-and-white tiles where visitors can tuck into Macanese dishes such as Portuguese chicken and Portuguese pork knuckle.

More interesting food concepts have been developed in Taipa Village, for instance DiGREEN (Diamond in Green). It was founded by four passionate young locals who are dedicated to enhancing healthy lifestyles by offering low-fat, low-calorie snacks and treats that will tickle your taste buds. It offers a selection of healthy, low-sugar snacks made from the freshest and most natural ingredients, including signature popsicles and cones with flavors ranging from mango, durian to popcorn, black glutinous rice and white coffee. They also whip up coffees, frappes and other beverages.

Before leaving the lovely, vibrant Taipa Village, head to O Santos Loja Portuguesa, a delicatessen opened by O Santos. The shop offers a treasure trove of imported Portuguese food and wine and daily items where you can probably only find here outside Portugal.


 

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