(Last updated: October 1, 2023)
One of Macau’s 10 Iconic Restaurants, Cozinha Aida is run by the son of the legendary “Godmother of Macanese Cuisine”, Aida De Jesus, who made it all the way to 105 years old. Perhaps the youngest looking centenarian of all time, she could have easily been mistaken for someone in her 80’s, while her daughter Sonia has never looked a day over 55. I don’t know how both got secret access to the Fountain of Youth, but a few pity splashes my way would make my day, week, month and year.
Here’s a pic I took together with her in 2019, a few years before her passing in 2021.
One thing is for certain though! Flaunting such fat flabby cheeks as those, there’s no way I’m making it to 80!
Cozinha Aida is technically a new restaurant, having opened up in April of 2021. It was really more of a re-opening though, one which any true Macau lover would see as a glorious revival. Allow me to explain. Miss Aida and her daughter originally ran a restaurant called the Rickshaw for decades, before selling it right around the start of Covid. The new owners took it over and immediately starting messing around with the menu and dishes, violating and disrespecting the time honoured recipes that Miss Aida had been using all of her extraordinarily long life. (The idea obviously being from their perspective to make the food more appealing to the mainland market and fill that cash register up.) The end result is that Rickshaw is Chinese food now with no connection to its past, whether that means Macanese food, Miss Aida, Sonia, or anyone else in their family.
Thankfully, the son stepped up and brought the old Rickshaw back to life, branding it Cozinha Aida in honour of his late mother. They even rescued their old chef from the Rickshaw kitchen and he’s working there now too, meaning all the food they serve is just as it was before.
Trying Macanese cuisine is a must while in Macau, and Cozinha Aida is the cheapest place to do it in town. Most dishes are between $68 and $130, and come served with one free plate of rice. Glasses of wine cost just $20 and they don’t skimp on the pour!
That certainly looks more like two glasses of wine to me! Corkage fees are just as generous too, only $30 for Portuguese wine and $50 for wine from other countries.
Cozinha Aida has two dishes in particular that are absolutely phenomenal. If anyone does better Minchi ($68) or Tacho ($98) than them, I certainly haven’t had it. If you’re unclear what Tacho is, it literally translates to pot, and is sort of like a feijoada, only with a more liquidy sauce.
Two other top options unfortunately aren’t available everyday, but sometimes appear as daily specials for $68 to $73. You can never go wrong with their Pork with Tamirand, while their Braised Pork is very similar to another classic Macanese dish, Porco Bafasso. It’s the sort of pork that is so soft and scintillating that it melts in your mouth, while the vegetables and gravy pair perfectly with rice.
If you’re a spice lover, the Curry Fish ($98) packs quite the epic punch, while the Feijoada ($73) is another outstanding choice that I always enjoy.
I’m not as high on the Roasted Chicken ($68) though, simply because other restaurants in town do it much better, especially O Manel down in Taipa Village.
The same goes for the Curry Chicken ($68) and Porco a Banho Maria ($68), two dishes that I probably wouldn’t order again. Not that the Curry Chicken is terrible or anything, just a little unexciting given that it’s not really a staple Macanese food.
The Porco a Banho Maria is very similar to minchi, except the meat is paired with one very strange and sour Chinese vegetable. The vegetable really obscures the pork in ways which are not enjoyable, while the somewhat heavy sauce could make it a chore to finish.
On the flip side, two dishes to avoid completely at Cozinha Aida are Bacalhau a Bras ($110) and Pato Cabidela.
Maybe Bacalhau just isn’t my thing because I rarely like it anywhere, often finding it far too oily. Save this one for when you’re down the street at Apo Mac, as they do it far far better.
As for the Pato Cabidela, it’s an old time Macanese favorite that can’t be found in Macau anymore, probably because it’s so hard to make. A slow cooked duck stew seasoned in red wine and duck’s blood needs patience, prep, command and care, but Cozinha Aida’s version felt super rushed.
Ultimately there was nothing to it: no taste, no texture, no foundation, no finish, just a pleasant sauce that went well with rice. Save your Cabidela adventures for places outside of Macau, preferably doing it in Portugal if you can, because it really is brilliant when done right.
People don’t go to Cozinha Aida for selfies or sommeliers, white table cloths or $800 bottles of wine, but that’s precisely why I love it so much.
Pretty much frequented by the same cast of local characters night after night, it’s the very definition of consistency. As long as you stick to their best dishes, you are guaranteed to have an awesome meal, at prices that still belong to last century.
To learn about the first time I visited this Macau institution when it was known as the Rickshaw, please follow the link to the 2014 Grand Prix Race.