Fernando’s is an institution in Macau, a former Portuguese colony and now special administrative region of China. Online searches reveal excellent Portuguese food, and sometimes arrogant and inattentive staff proportionate to increasing clientele.
Our visit certainly confirmed the former. And as for the latter, I’d say we got overly attentive service especially from the restaurant’s namesake himself. Fernando, I can attest, is bonkers.
Located on the other side of Macau, the entrance to what looks like a grass hut takes you through the back dining room, past the kitchen and opens up into a bungalow and garden. It’s rustic, casual, red checkered tablecloth dining.
Fernando’s does not take reservations. It’s best to arrive early to snag a table; otherwise, you’ve got a long wait tempered by an open-air bar.
To order wine at Fernando’s, you walk to the shelves in the back and peruse the Portuguese selection. There’s no list, just Fernando haranguing you.
When Carolynne asked for a white wine recommendation because she’s prone to severe reactions to red wine, Fernando accused her of making up the allergy, and of lying about it to her husband for oh, the last decade or so.
We didn’t get to try any of the clams, as Fernando, in a moment of rare clarity, told us in English and then Cantonese that the clams that night were too sandy.
The food is, without a doubt, fabulous. I’ve never been to Portugal but now I want to.
The Portuguese salad ($38 MOP/$6 CAD) had fat, ripe slices of tomato with onions, lettuce and a light vinaigrette. The homemade buns were good too.
Then all the dishes came rapid fire onto our table.
Grilled fresh sardines were smoky and succulent.
The famous roasted suckling pig ($78 MOP/$12.50 CAD) , praised by countless other visitors, was amazing, with juicy, tender meat. The crispy crust was similar to the skin on Chinese roast pork, another mix of Cantonese and European that defines this former Portuguese colony.
The Chinese fried rice was solid comfort food with onions, green peppers — and sliced wieners. Mark was particularly enamored with the wieners. (He didn’t grow up with Chinese grandparents who added them to almost anything, like I did.)
The roasted half chicken ($72 MOP/$11.50 CAD) was so moist and delicious.
Both the chicken and the pork came with piping hot, golden fries. I don’t know if it’s because we had all been in China for too long, but they were, at the time, the best fries we’d ever had.
A heaping plate of sliced Portuguese chorizo was deliciously salty. (Sorry, very blurry photo of very yummy sausage.)
Almost all the dishes came with handfuls of olives. But other than a handful of salads, there wasn’t much selection in terms of vegetables (which I’m not really complaining about).
Amid all of this, we watched the lineup grow outside and Fernando working the room and holding court. I totally understand the entertainment factor. But it moved into the bizarre when Fernando walked around the tables showing off a cleaver.
When Fernando passed by, I asked if I could take a photo of him. Suddenly, he grabbed Mark by the head and held the cleaver to his throat, and said, “OK! Take the picture!” We were so stunned that I did.
After that, Fernando realized he had a minor cut to his finger. So he grabbed some white pepper off a shelf near Carolynne, shook some on his finger, and blew it off — into Carolynne’s eyes. He then wandered off, muttering something unintelligible.
We had a wonderfully memorable night. The highlight was obviously the amazing meal, but Fernando himself was well, unforgettable.
Fernando’s, 9 Hac Sa Beach, Coloane Island, Macau, phone 853-2888-2264, Open noon to 9:30 p.m.