The Cantonese saying ‘bu shi bu shi’ (不时不食) is a time honoured philosophy of eating only what is in season. Inspired by this idea, Yí restaurant is the only Chinese restaurant to offer Omakase style – ‘leave it to the chef’, in Japanese – in Asia.
“We want to open a unique Chinese restaurant. The ‘no menu’ concept gives our chefs the opportunity to be more creative and guests can also have a more exciting dining experience,” says Wilson Fam, Executive Chef of Morpheus.
This contemporary Chinese fine dining is located on the sky bridge on the 21st floor of Macau’s newest destination – Morpheus at City of Dreams. The spacious area – featuring 12 tables with 8 dragon-scales-inspired golden semi-domes designed by late legendary architect Zaha Hadid – affords guests beautiful garden views.
More traditional Chinese elements such as the five elements are hidden in the details of the restaurant. “We can find ‘gold’ in our tableware that we spent one year to find, ‘wood’ in the furniture, ‘water’ and ‘fire’ in the restaurant and ‘earth’ in our manmade earth ports,” he continues.
Yi’s eye-catching ceramic tableware has been custom-designed by Monica Tsang Designs, who have applied the themes of nature and fortune to these exclusive new collections. The show plates come courtesy of illustrious French tableware brand Bernardaud, which has designed an exclusive gold-rimmed plate for Yí featuring delicate peach blossoms symbolic of fortune and luck in Chinese culture.
“Although we are a contemporary Chinese restaurant, we are definitely not a fusion restaurant. We follow time-honoured Chinese history and focus on traditional Chinese cooking,” says Fam.
There are no freezers in Yí’s kitchen; chefs select only the freshest ingredients, with freshly caught seafood delivered daily.
At Yí, diners can choose to have a tea pairing option with their meal carefully curated by experienced tea sommeliers which fuses the traditional with the modern. The Yí team has also sourced its sparkling water from Laoshan, an area in Qingdao renowned for its mineral-rich water sources.
As a surprise for guests, having discerned their food preference during reservation, Chef will design a menu based upon the fresh ingredients they can find every day in the market. “We always go to the local wet market – and we have a good relationship with the greengrocers!” Fam laughs.
Since opening, Yí has received many positive comments, with another meritorious person in the restaurant – Chef de Cuisine Angelo Wong – helping consolidate its reputation. Wong, who grew up in a village in Hong Kong, credits his mother, who cooked for her big family, with nurturing his love of cooking since he was very young.
“My family comes from Chaozhou, a city famous for its food. My mum comes from Shunde, a city in Guangdong known as the city of cooking. All this has encouraged my interest in cooking since I was young,” says Wong. “I also loved watching the Japanese cartoon Chūka Ichiban! (revolving around a boy whose aim is to become a master chef)”
When Wong was contemplating his choice of career, being a chef or a policeman were popular career hoices. “I was afraid of a boring job so I chose to be a chef,” he says, “because a chef can cook many different dishes for different guests in different restaurants.”
Having learned his trade at Maxim’s in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Chef Wong made his name at the Marco Polo Prince Hotel and the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, perfecting his resume at the Harbour Green Club, Greater China Club and renowned Howard’s. In addition, he has entered various local and global culinary competitions over the past 12 years, winning several awards.
Recommended by a friend, Chef Wong has joined the culinary team of Chinese fine dining restaurant Yí, where he oversees a team of specialist cooks from several Chinese provinces to bring a distinctly modern edge to a variety of classic Chinese dishes.
“As a chef, I’m always inspired by new challenges,” he says, “and the opportunity to create unique culinary experiences that guests will remember for a long time – and that is what we aim to do every day at Yí.”
Although Chef Wong has a rich experience in fine dining his cooking style is to keep dishes simple and clean because he wants to maintain the original taste of the ingredients: “I want to make the presentation as clean as possible, with most of the things on the dish to be eaten – nothing can be wasted,” he explains.
At Yí, Wong serves dishes for one-person portions, unlike the traditional Chinese restaurants filling up big plates.
“I won’t say we’re using Western style presentation. When chefs use Chinese ingredients and techniques for Western cuisine, people won’t think they’re cooking Chinese cuisine. Instead, if we just use a contemporary presentation people will think we are cooking Western food. It’s a bit unfair to us,” says Wong.
Homemade Rice Noodle with Soy Braised Pork Belly, Eggs, Pork Ears and Bean Curd is the signature dish of Chef Wong – all famous in his Chaozhou hometown.
“I’ve made some tiny updates in this dish. For example, I slow cook the Kurobuta (Japanese Pork) to accompany the soft-boiled egg.” Even the rice noodles are handmade by chef according to a traditional recipe.
Another must-try dish is Roasted Lemongrass Pigeon. Most restaurants normally boil the pigeon before roasting it to save time; at Yí, chef will roast the fermented juicy 23-day old pigeons from Shiqi directly without boiling. Cooking in this way, he says, can retain the juice of the pigeon for an incomparably delicious flavour. And chef says it is the only dish in the restaurant which guests can eat with their hands, making it much more yummy.
“I believe it’s important to strive for innovation,” concludes Chef Wong, “and so my team and I are constantly looking for new ways to take guests on memorable gastronomic journeys while staying true to the spirit of traditional Chinese cuisine.”