Henri's Galley Reviews
Jan 26, 2002
One of my favorite restaurants in the world is just that because of one dish: African Chicken. I have absolutely no idea what anything else on the menu tastes like, and I really don't care. There are rumors that the spicy prawns and curry crab taste good. Thanks, I'll stick with African Chicken. This dish is befittingly a Macau speciality. Macau is a former Portuguese colony on the south coast of China. It has Portuguese architecture, Vegas casinos, and Chinese gangsters. What's not to love? African Chicken is a reflection of Macau's unique heritage, combining Portuguese, Chinese, Indian, and African influences. I've had it at a couple different places in Macau and pretty much all the Macanese restaurants in Hong Kong. Henri's does it better than anyone else in my opinion.
It's been 6 years since I first visited Henri's and 4 years since the last time I went. But I'm assuming not a lot has changed. The restaurant is situated adjacent to the Bella Vista Hotel on Republica R/C, Macau, very near to Macau Tower. The owner Henri (naturally) is a very friendly Chinese man who will probably either seat you or come over to your table sometime during the meal. Nat King Cole's Greatest Hits album will be playing on the stereo. As a matter of fact, I believe they had Nat's song "There Goes My Heart" playing on continuous loop when I first went there. Despite that song having absolutely nothing to do with China, Macau, Portugal, or food for that matter, I cannot hear it without thinking of Henri's Galley. It's one of those things that will be forever programmed into my brain.
The decor is a maritime theme. Life preservers, oars, captains hats, and all the other cheesy boat decorations you've seen at tons of seafood restaurants are in full glory at Henri's. But Henri wouldn't have it any other way you see. The reason nobody over the age of 12 likes the decor is the same reason he doesn't change it. It relaxes people, makes them feel at ease, almost like a kid again. It's Macau after all, not its brash, macho, adrenaline-junky neighbor called Hong Kong.
A local recommended the place, and told me to go straight for the chicken. The portion is enough for two people and it takes a while to prepare. But, man, it's worth the wait. Just think Indian curry, with a little more garlic, maybe a little more peanut, and a little more crispy, and you have African chicken. They actually give you the recipe on the menu. But seriously, you can't make it like they can. I've tried, and it's just not even close. The aroma just hits you smack in the head and the deep red/brown/orange color reminds you of autumn leaves. Andrew Zimmern would call it the color of flavor, and he would be right. The skin is crispy, but the meat is tender and moist on the inside. Of course the whole thing is smothered in a sauce that I would gladly pay $20 a bottle for.
I believe the meal was served with some potatoes but I could be wrong. What I do remember were the pitchers of sangria and excellent mango pudding. Henri was quick to point out that those were "fresh mangoes from the Philippines". In fact he pointed it out several times and made sure everyone could hear him. It's his restaurant after all. He knows his food is good, but he wants you to know why. He wants you to know that he got those mangoes from the Philippines, and wants you to care about that. Six years later, I still remember, and still appreciate his little restaurant. Below is a link to the recipe for African Chicken. But trust me, you'd be better off hopping over the pond to Macau and tasting Henri's version instead.
Part of the Macau 2002 travel blog
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