psychoPEDIA: Daily News

Restaurant Road-Test: Macao Trading Co.
Millions of Smiles Talk Eat Drink Man Woman

While many designer labels feel compelled to display the trademark moniker prominently on pieces as a testament to their own prestige or popularity, the designers behind Millions of Smiles, Michael Swan and Chris Leba, prefer to let their talent speak for itself.

Much like the cohesion the two designers exhibit when creating their collection, which has attracted high-profile clientele like Britney Spears and Drew Barrymore, the duo also transmits an unmistakable synergy in other aspects of their lives– not unlike Tribeca's new hotspot, Macao Trading Co-– which does a lovely balancing act of its own. With an unconventional menu, of which most items are available in two seemingly polar culinary genres, Chinese and Portuguese, Macao offers dishes such as Manila clams Portuguese prepared with chorizo and a Chinese counterpart dressed in black beans and chilies.

Even on a recent night in the belly of a recession, the restaurant is perfectly full. However, this comes as no surprise, as Macao is the handiwork of the Employees Only creators and Chanterelle’s David Waltuck. Joining psychoPEDIA for a taste-test of the new eatery, Swan and Leba, already seated with glasses of Tsingtao beers in hand, discuss the dishes and much more:

Do you know the story behind this place?
CL: You know how Hong Kong was a British colony, Macao used to be a Portuguese colony. So it had this great mixture of heritage. Macao is like the Las Vegas of Asia. I always hear these outrageous stories. It’s very similar to Vegas– call girls, gambling, shopping.

Appetizers arrive: Chinese-style shrimp served in crispy wrappers, Portuguese-style Manila clams and Portuguese-style fennel and artichoke salad with chickpeas.

CL: That was faster than McDonald’s. The service here is awesome.
MS: I wonder how Vegas is doing right now?

I think people still drink and gamble even when the economy is struggling. Dating is up…
CL: I guess people want company during hard times. So you’re in a good place. I think you’re ready. Are you on Nerve? You’re going on Nerve. Are you Jewish? Then you’re going on JDate too.

What do you think of these appetizers?
CL: The clams are really good. They’re interesting. I’ve never really tasted anything like this. What is that?
MS: Chorizo.
CL: It’s really good. The salad is fine but I didn’t love it.
MS: I don’t think they needed to fry the chickpeas. But the shrimp is really good.
CL: OK. So you’re in a good place. You’re ready.
MS: I think you’re ready. You just need to say that you’re going to get back out there.
CL: Just say yes to the universe. It’s liberating to say what you want. You have to make a hard stand and it’s going to go one way or another, instead of waiting around forever. Women are so funny like that, they just decide– and then that’s it.
MS: I was just reading that we find people who we look like. Like the spacing of our eyes, the shape of our face. It’s interesting. What happens in your mind while you’re growing up that clicks, I like this, I don’t like that. Then suddenly, you have a type. Do you have a type?

I don’t know. I don’t think so. Do you have types?
CL: Most say they don’t have a type. Women are more open. All my girlfriends looked different but I definitely have a type. Guys have a blueprint. And they’re looking for the woman that fits that. Confidence and passion are hot.
MS: And there’s a physical thing that needs to be there. I think especially for men, because physically, they have to be aroused.
CL: Yeah, you can’t fake it.

Entrees and sides arrive: Grilled lamb chops with red pepper jam, Portuguese-style grilled sirloin with bleu-cheese butter, a Chinese-style whole bass crisp fried with ginger & scallions, Swiss chard with currants & pine nuts, and Bacalao fried rice.

MS: I’ve been married for ten years now. Every relationship breaks down to this: you have to have the skills. It’s like playing tennis. You have to be good at it. Meaning for example, being supportive. It’s just very easy. When I was younger I had this habit, if my girlfriend said “black”, I’d say “white”. Now I’m like, “totally”. “I totally see what you’re saying”. Even if I don’t agree– I trade that with, I’m on your team. It’s a skill. But it takes years and years.

I like that. So what do you think of this course? This whole fish is pretty spectacular.
MS: The fish is delicious. I like the presentation. And the fried rice is amazing. There are pieces of fish in here.

And how about the lamb chops?
CL: Really good. The red pepper jam is interesting. But a couple of them were cooked a little more than I’d have liked.

What do you think of the vibe in here?
CL: I love those lights over the bar.
MS: We were looking at them before. I like the vibe but the décor is a little over the top.
CL: They could’ve scaled back on the props.
MS: But I love the darkness and the rustiness.
CL: The rice pudding– that is insane.

By now dessert has arrived. It all looks amazing and my cappuccino smells so good, I sip it by the spoonful. The rice pudding is insane. And although the name might throw you, the fried milk, which tastes like custard covered in a cinnamon-sugar shell is unusual and delicious. And obviously, you can never go wrong with chocolate torte.

On the way to the restroom Chris runs into their friend, John, at the bar. He joins us with a fabulous looking drink.

What are you drinking?
John: I’m not sure. The bartender asked me what I like to drink and I said something with scotch or whiskey and he gave me this. It’s so good– tastes like there is cardamom, bitters, orange. It’s a little spicy.

Later, co-owner Jason Kosmas, tells me a few of the secret ingredients: J&B Scotch, Mahjong, Carpano vermouth, five-spice bitters and Navan, a vanilla liqueur. Sweet and spicy? Uh, pretty tasty. Like pretty much everything here.

~Lisa Germinsky

Macao Trading Co., 311 Church St, NYC. (212) 431-8750

The Verdict:

Taste: 9/10
Looks: 8/10
Value: 9/10
Service: 10/10 Overall: 36/40

First photo courtesy of Millions of Smiles
Second photo via New York Times
Third photo via Paper
Fourth photo via NYCFoodie
Fifth photo via Village Voice
Sixth photo via Time Out NY
Seventh photo via Bloomberg
Eighth photo via At First Bite
Ninth photo via

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