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I stopped in the other night at the Macao Trading Co., which occupies a desolate block of the Tribeca landscape (or at least it seems desolate at 11 PM when there's sleet blowing in your face). It's a neat trick, then, to walk in and abruptly find oneself transported back to some fanciful version of colonial days in Macao; Somerset Maugham may have spent more time at the long bar at Raffles in Singapore, but I still wouldn't have been surprised to find him lurking in a linen suit somewhere in a back booth.
The restaurant brings together the disparate talents of David Waltuck, Chanterelle's longtime chef-owner, and Dushan Zaric & Jason Kosmas of the West Village cocktailian watering hole Employees Only. Waltuck handles the food end, which splits somewhat oddly between Portuguese-influenced and Chinese-influenced dishes (a nod to Macao's colonial history, but—like that history—a somewhat conflicted relationship). For my part, the winning dishes were mostly on the Chinese side of the menu, like an appealingly earthy-briny bowl of Manila clams with black beans and chilies, and a whole sea bass with a ginger-scallion sauce that was fun to pick at and expertly cooked.
But the real reason to head here is the cocktails. In the interests of scientific inquiry, I felt it incumbent on me to try all nine or ten of the house cocktails. They were uniformly excellent both in concept and execution, the sort of cocktail experience that's becoming oddly easy to come across in NYC these days (think Clover Club, Tailor, Pegu Club, PDT, and six or seven other places) and that tends to make one think we're living in a kind of cocktail golden age—an excellent thing, since every other aspect of our age seems rapidly to be turning into some base metal, say lead, or brass.
Anyway, here are two of my faves, recipes courtesy of Mssrs Zaric & Kosmas:
3 cubes of fresh honeydew melon
1 heaping demitasse spoon of cubed ginger
2 demitasse spoons of sugar
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1/4 oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1 1/4 oz. Esmeralda Cachaça
Directions: Muddle the melon, ginger and sugar in the bottom of the mixing glass. Add the rest of the ingredients and ice. Shake and pour unstrained back into a rocks glass. Garnish with a honeydew cut as a "sharks fin."
3 oz. Kaffir leaf infused Plymouth gin
1 oz. fresh lime Juice
1/2 oz. agave nectar
Directions: Wash the inside of a cocktail glass with Green Chartreuse. Pour Gin, lime juice and agave nectar into a mixing glass. Add ice and shake vigorously for 7-8 seconds. Strain into the prepared cocktail glass. Garnish with a Kaffir leaf.
I'll add as a final note: go for the Esmeralda, if you can find it; it's a great aged cachaça, and has more depth than run-of-the-mill white cachaças (for more on artisan cachaças, see my F&W article here). And if you don't feel like infusing your own gin with kaffir leaves, Hangar One makes a kaffir-lime vodka that would probably work as a good substitute.