(Last updated: November 9, 2023)
Even the Maven still makes mistakes ten years into his Macau run. A $128 buffet should have you running for the hills, and you’d better make that a mountain when the restaurant is located inside Casa Real. I got suckered in by Pena Restaurant’s seafood section though, which sounded and looked a lot better than it actually was. Locked and loaded with shrimp, clams, smoked salmon, marinated goose wings, and 9 different kinds of sushi, I was hoping to unearth a hidden gem that the locals were keeping to themselves.
Miracles may exist in some corners of the world, but they don’t extend to Pena Restaurant, and when you’re only doling out $128 for an evening buffet, you get what you pay for. The clams were like chewing on soft rubber while the shrimp preparation appears to have been non-existent.
In fairness, I have seen them served this way in other restaurants, most notably Jade Dragon which has 3 Michelin stars, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything to them. Without any sauce or seasoning you’re just chewing on the naked sea, and the naked sea tastes a lot like the naked Earth, my friends.
For some reason I thought the smoked salmon was sashimi instead, and was totally put off by the taste (naturally). When you’re expecting some pure delicious fish and you get worn out smoky salmon, it’s quite the letdown. Unless it’s in a salad I’ve never really seen the point.
The only part of the seafood section that was up to snuff was the sushi, which was tasty, fresh, and everything that good sushi should be. Whether they have 9 kinds or not is really up for debate, but I did see at least 4 or 5 different offerings. Before diving in I asked the waiter if they had any sake, a word the poor guy flat out admitted he didn’t know. He then pointed to the beverage section and said all they served was orange juice. In my opinion, sushi without sake is not sushi and you lose a lot of the enjoyment without it.
Before walking in, I had no expectation for the rest of the buffet outside of the seafood section, and my lack of faith was entirely justified.
There were about 12 other stations serving some pretty nasty salads, lamb, beef shank, fried noodles, and silver perch that is best left ignored. Desserts amounted to couple of flavours of ice cream, as well as cheese cake and tiramisu, which all looked okay but I was too scared to try.
Walking around town a few days later I stumbled across this ad for some Japanese restaurant close to Mong Ha Hill.
Looking at that now, and comparing it to the truly acceptable sushi I had at Pena, I cannot bury the restaurant completely. $328 is a pretty steep price to pay for only 32 rolls, when you can get as much as you want at Pena for only $128. Without the sushi, the buffet would get an easy 1 star. With it, it’s actually not such a bad deal if have a hankering for it and don’t want to spend that much somewhere else. To that end, I recommend smuggling in your own bottle of sake and then sitting in one of the corners, so that no one can see you secretly pouring some into your water glass.
Two and a half stars for the sushi then, and the only reason why you’d ever try this evening buffet, which is held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 6:00 to 10:00 pm. Apparently there is also a dining limit of two hours, but I doubt it ever gets enforced.
(Update: As of November 2023, this seafood buffet is no longer available at Pena. I went with bottle of sake hidden in my camera bag, but didn’t even get through the front door. Perhaps next summer!)