Date of review: February 21, 2013 | Reviewed by: Tim Cheung
Following a few signs in the thronged Sands Cotai Central, we arrive at Bene, with its modern and rustic décor, on a seemingly quiet day. The Italian trattoria is one of Sheraton Macao’s five restaurants and is divided into two halves – the front resembles a quiet and intimate lounge with dark wood, dimmed lights and spaced-out tables catering to both small and large groups. A few more steps into the restaurant, past a brick wall, the restaurant lightens up into an upbeat, more casual dining area. With abundant sunlight seeping through during daytime, this is where most of the action takes place – evident in the full house and loud collective chatter. The colour theme is light with contrasting bold lines and a number of chandeliers are also installed for the gentrified setting. What we can’t deny is that the liveliness helped work up our appetite.
Simply put, Bene is not a pure fine-dining Italian restaurant – most dishes are reasonably priced – and the menu is presented, in a calendar-like display, with a bonanza of pastas and wood-fire oven pizzas, as well as an impressive list of vegetarian dishes. We recommend starting with seared Hokkaido sea scallops with crushed potato, asparagus and black truffle paste. Not only is the dish beautifully presented, but its mushroom and truffle paste adds layers to the fresh scallops that are mildly sweet and a soft mouthful. Bene also claims to make and serve its own pastas fresh every day, and we don’t doubt it a second. The lusso black truffle and Parmesan pasta is served al dente with a beautifully rich aroma. Here, a little more heat and less olive oil would’ve done wonders, rendering the pasta’s fine texture the highlight of the dish. Onto the second main, we are generally happy with the potato, rosemary and lardo pizza, for its novelty and crunchy but also chewy thin crust. The cheese base is slightly bland, but a slice of ham is there for the rescue, balancing out the flavours. Again, a little more heat would’ve made this a better dish here. For kickers, we wrap up with an almond liqueur parfait and Bene’s famous tiramisu. The former is almost flawless save for the extra sweetness – its almond liquor is very aromatic and the tiny apricot on top adds a welcoming sourness to the mix. Naturally, we finished it. The latter concoction served in a coffee mug, the tiramisu, we think could use more coffee flavour but the texture is soft and just right, without being overly dry or wet on the palate.
Wine lovers will not be disappointed by the depth of Bene’s cellar, as selections are extensive and range from as low as MOP300 a bottle to over MOP25,000 for a Bordeaux red. There’s a clear emphasis on French red and, naturally, Italian wines to pair with Bene’s many pastas and pizzas.
Staffers are friendly and very well-mannered but lack in training, which we would expect Sheraton to excel in. Our wine was delivered but not poured for minutes; when it was, we were not given a chance to taste it. While our table was partially concealed by curtains, it shouldn’t explain the amount of effort we had to put in to get the attention of one of Bene’s fleeting servers.
A complete three-course meal with wine adds up to just under MOP1,000 for two, which is fair considering the generous offering and that we are at the Sheraton. For lunch, Bene also offers a very welcoming set that is under MOP200 per person.