Dinner @ Longtail (Taipei, Taiwan)

September 30, 2020 in European by thywhaleliciousfay

My 2019 trip to Taiwan was a trip with my Mom and youngest brother. And I really wanted to treat them to delicious food, but also at a place where they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. Uh huh… Unlike me, they aren’t into fine-dining. And after researching, I felt Longtail would be a good venue to bring them to. With 1 Michelin star, Longtail was more of a semi-casual restaurant than a posh restaurant with strict dress code. And so, reservation was made for 3 through Longtail’s website for a Saturday evening.

And we arrived punctually at the restaurant at 7pm. From the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4), we ordered:-


1) Fig toast, ricotta cheese, port wine, lemon balm, NT$380 (above)


2) Foie gras and duck confit dumpling, nuoc mam, peanut, pomelo, NT$680 (above)


3) Char siu bao, house kimchi, coriander, NT$420 (above)


4) Fried chicken, sweet potato, piri piri, NT$480 (above)

5) Tilefish spring peas, parmesan, lemon, herbs, NT$980 (above)

6) Pork chop, sukiyaki sauce, taro, chive, NT$1080 (above) – The fried yam ball added a nice touch to the dish. Reminded me of our Chinese ‘yam dish’. Love it!


7) Whisky-chocolate mousse, maqau pepper, Taiwanese chocolate ice cream, NT$320 (above)

We had a lovely dinner at Longtail. I was relieved my Mom and brother enjoyed themselves. My favourite was the foie gras and duck confit dumpling, while my brother’s was the fried chicken. If one’s looking for a relaxed yet cool-to-be-seen-at eatery with good food and interesting cocktail concoction, Longtail would be an ideal venue. My brother and I ordered 2 cocktails, but didn’t take any pictures. Sorry.

Would I recommend Michelin-starred Longtail? Yes!

LONGTAIL
No. 174, Section 2, Dunhua South Road, Da’an District, Taipei, Taiwan
+886 2 2732 6616, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon, Wed & Sun : 18:00 – 02:00
Ambience: 7
Thur – Sat : 18:00 – 03:00
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Tues

Dinner @ Sushi Ryu 鮨 隆 (Taipei, Taiwan)

September 25, 2020 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

I try to keep myself updated with Taiwan’s Japanese dining scene, especially since I made a pact to myself (in 2017) to travel to Taiwan at least once a year. I mean… Although the primary purpose of the trips was to pray at temples, I also squeeze in some time to visit restaurants. Keke. And for my 2019 trip to Taipei, I made reservation for dinner at Sushi Ryu.

I initially wanted to make reservation at Sasa Sushi which was on my restaurants-to-try list for a very long while. But when I was about to make my reservation, I realised Sasa Sushi’s head chef Yang Yonglong had left to open his own restaurant in late 2017. Thank goodness I did my homework. And I read his restaurant was named Sushi Ryu because Ryu was the romanised Japanese for ‘Long’, which was his name in Chinese.

But on the day of my dinner, I did some last minute research on Sushi Ryu and realised there’s more than 1 chef. Ie, I may be served by the sous chef. And because I was heading to Sushi Ryu specifically for chef-owner Yonglong’s sushi, I quickly made a call (but 1.5 hours before my 8pm reservation) and requested for head chef Yonglong. And the staff, on the other end of the line, asked me to come down earlier.

Sushi Ryu was a 15 to 18 minutes walk from Zhongshan station. There were customers who were halfway through their meals when I arrived at the restaurant at 7.40pm. With some arriving much later after me.

The counter could sit up to 16 people. Once I was seated, the staff immediately served me pickled vegetables (radish and cucumber) and hot tea before asking if it was my first time at Sushi Ryu. After replying “yes”, the staff continued to explain there’s no menu. Instead, I was to choose either the NT$5000, NT$6000, NT$7000 or omakase menu. For the latter, the staff said the chef would only stop serving after I say I’m full.

And of the 4, I went with the NT$6000 menu. I normally would go with the most expensive menu. But just before my trip to Taiwan, I was conversing with a foodie friend who mentioned Michelin inspectors normally judge a restaurant by their cheapest menu. So yeah, I was slightly influenced by that… Instead of the NT$7000 menu, I dropped ‘one level’ and ordered the NT$6000 menu. Although I probably say it’s mainly because I wanted to save some money. Keke.

And I commenced my NT$6000 dinner menu with:-


1) Dish #1 (above) – Steamed egg (chawanmushi) with crab meat and (what I thought was) potato.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Yellowtail.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Ginkgo nut.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Barracuda stick sushi, with shiso leaf and pickled daikon.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Octopus. And head chef Yonglong said it was cooked with red bean instead of soya sauce. Interesting. Although I hope I didn’t hear him wrongly too. I admit, there were some moments when I didn’t quite understand what was being said. I blame it on the accent rather than my poor grasp of Chinese. Keke!


6) Dish #6 (above) – Scallop with mullet roe.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Smoked spanish mackerel (sawara) with diced onion. And instead of smoking the fish with hay (which was the norm), head chef Yonglong shared wood charcoal was used to better control the smoke because he received a lot of complaints from his landlord due to the high risk of activating the sprinklers. Haha. Such an interesting fact!

8) Dish #8 (above) – Cod with pepper flakes.

  
  
  
  
  
  

9) Dish #9 (above) – Nigiri sushi assortment. And I was served squid (ika), big-eye snapper (kinmedai), flounder (hirame) with flounder fin (engawa), sea bream (madai), prawn (ain’t too sure if it’s botan-ebi or shima-ebi), short spine sea urchin (bafun uni), monkfish liver (ankimo) with pickled watermelon, salmon roe (ikura), premium fatty tuna (otoro), slightly grilled premium fatty tuna (aburi otoro) and sea eel (anago). If I didn’t observe wrongly, head chef Yonglong didn’t slit the squid. Instead, he sliced them into thin strips, portioned them before pressing the strips down so that they stuck together. And it was interesting that the prawn was semi-cooked. Although there was no visible charred parts (most likely because it was upside-down), I could taste the smokiness that came from grilling it. And I was grateful that most of my sushi were kneaded personally by head chef Yonglong. Only the non-nigiri ones were done by the sous chef.

10) Dish #10 (above) – Egg omelette (tamago). This was not exactly airy. Neither was it dense. Although between airy and dense, it leaned towards the latter. Like a custard cake.

11) Dish #11 (above) – I was given the option to go with miso soup or clam soup. I went with latter. Sorry lah. When presented with choices, the ‘greedy me’ would surface. Oops.

12) Dish #12 (above) – Fruits.

Now… The reason why I was so particular and requested for head chef Yonglong was because I had (fresh) bad experience where the sushi head chef would just focus on his ‘stretch’ of customers. I wasn’t prepared to travel all the way to Taiwan and be served by the sous chef when I was headed to Sushi Ryu specifically for head chef Yonglong. But my worries were unfounded. Head chef Yonglong took care of everyone.

I noticed he handled the nigiri-sushi for everyone, including the couple who only came in at 8.30pm and ordered the NT$5000 menu. Nice! And it’s probably because he was just ‘one man’ making the sushi personally for all customers that our sushi-s came out slower when everyone eventually reached the sushi leg of their respective menus. But I honestly didn’t mind that because it allowed me to watch head chef Yonglong longer. I, generally, really enjoy watching chefs at work.

In fact, I noticed head chef Yonglong would knead the sushi slowly when he was just making sushi for 3 (me included). But when the 8 other customers caught up and he had to prepare sushi for 11, his hands moved faster. One could see how focused he was by his facial expression.

My meal came up to NT$6600. Would I recommend Sushi Ryu? Including Sushi Ryu, I now had sushi at 3 different sushi-yas in Taiwan. And of the 3, Sushi Ryu would be my favourite! Food wise, ambience wise and even service wise. So yes! I recommend Sushi Ryu!

And an interesting fact… Sushi Ryu was awarded its first Michelin Star just 6 months after its opening in Taipei in late 2017!

SUSHI RYU
No. 60-5, Section 2, Xinsheng North Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan
+886 2 2581 8380, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Orana (Adelaide, Australia)

September 20, 2020 in Australian by thywhaleliciousfay

After I arrived in Sydney in July ’19, I didn’t do much interstate travelling except for a trip to Canberra in October. You see… My flight tickets were mostly all bought for 2020. So while some of my trips were cancelled because of COVID-19, I was fortunate I managed to travel a bit before the lockdown (in April ’20). So yes, I’m actually very thankful I got to head up to Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.

  

For my dinner reservation in February, I made mine in December ’19 through Orana’s website since Orana accepted reservation up to 3 months in advanced. And as taken from their website, Restaurant Orana is home to chef-owner Jock Zonfrillo’s intimate dining room where he uses Indigenous ingredients to showcase Australia’s modern gastronomic identity.

The accommodation that I stayed in Adelaide happened to be within walking distance from Orana. And if one’s headed to Orana on a weekend and in summer, I recommend reaching the area earlier to check out Ebenezer Night Market too. It’s a pretty small market, but I walked away with 3 pairs of earrings. Haha.

I arrived at the restaurant punctually for my 7pm dinner. And as I took my seat, I noticed every unoccupied table had what looked like dough proofing in banneton baskets. And true enough, the staff said the dough would be taken to the kitchen be baked. Pretty awesome, I got to say.

The degustation menu named ‘Alkoopina’ meant snacks in Aboriginal language. And yes, ‘Orana’ had a meaning behind its name in Aboriginal language too. ‘Orana’ meant welcome. And I commenced my dinner menu, AUD295 with:-


  

1) Potato damper & lamb butter (above) – Placed on hot coals, I was told to turn the potato damper on lemon myrtle branch skewer around after 5 seconds. Unfortunately I got a little carried away with my picture taking which explained why mine turned out to be more charred than it should be. Though the staff did come over with tongs to help me remove the burnt bits and excess ash. A neighbouring table got equally carried away, but theirs probably couldn’t be saved because the staff had theirs replaced.


2) Macadamia & native thyme (topmost, right) – And this was certainly interesting; Warm macadamia milk with native thyme oil.

3) Scarlet prawn, crocodile lardo & boab (above) – A close-up of the dish revealed boab powder, deep-fried-till-crisp prawn legs and thin layers of lardo placed over the prawn flesh. In fact, the slices of lardo were placed slightly overlapping one another to replicate a prawn shell. The attention to details was simply amazing. And this tasted so good too. Was also told to suck at the prawn head.

4) Streaky Bay abalone & gubinge (above)


5) Murray river cod, succulents & eucalyptus (above)

6) Bunya nut, wild salmon roe & long yam (above)

7) Set custard, Coorong mullet bottarga, bunya & saltbush (above) – And this staeamed egg (chawanmushi) dish was a surprise in terms of plating. The staff removed the lid to reveal the bunya nut miso and saltbush leaves ‘stuck’ to the bottom of the lid.


8) Surf & turf (above) – Smoked over coals, this was supposed to be cubes of blue-fin tuna belly with Davidson plum curry and wagyu beef with Dorrigo pepper. But because I don’t take beef for religious reason, the beef was replaced with mushroom.


9) ‘Tongue in cheek’ roti (above) – Jerked lamb tongue & leather jacket cheek. This was enjoyable, although I wished the roti was a little less oily.

10) ‘Soup soup’ (above) – Crocodile with Australian botanicals.

11) Kohlrabi, quandong, lemon myrtle & dorrigo (above) – Pickled kohlrabi discs rolled into tiny cones, and held together by chilled burrata foam within. Topped with pickled quandong strips, and each cone piped with lemon myrtle and dorrigo dressing.


12) Return of the bread (above) – With native thyme & macadamia butter. And yes, this was from the same dough that was proofing on the table under a glass cloche. Bakers would know we sometimes have our ‘off baking days’, yet Orana boldly placed the balls of dough on every tables. And that to me spelled confidence.

13) Marron, Geraldton wax & wild plum (above) – Orana usually served this dish with green ants. But I must have come when ants weren’t in season. Although to be very honest, I think I was secretly happy I got the ant-less version. Keke.

14) Quail, minya, Ngeringa farm greens & bunya nut shoyu (above)


  

15) Coopers sparkling ice-cream pop, paperbark ice-cream sandwich & Orana vovo (topmost, left to right)

16) Set buttermilk, strawberry & eucalyptus (above)

17) Twin Lakes Mob Jillungin tea (above)

18) MacRobertson chocolate – Freddo Frog (above)

It was a fun and interesting dining experience at Orana. I did a little research and realised bush damper is part of the Aboriginal culture. So yes, it’s pretty amazing how head chef Jock designed the dish to allow us to experience a little of the Aboriginal culture by getting us to ‘cook’ our own (potato) damper. So if I could say… The meal doubled up as being educational too. At least forty seasonal Indigenous ingredients were used. And the restaurant was decorated with different pieces of Aboriginal artworks and native flower arrangement.

One definitely has to give it to head chef Jock. Even though he wasn’t born here, he chose to take on the task of preventing the Aboriginal tradition and culture from being wiped out. I read from an article that he first came to Australia in 1990s. After a few years, he left before returning in 2000 because his fascination of Australia refused to swindle. And it was his past conversation with an Aboriginal man in 1990s that inspired him to establish the Orana Foundation. Wow. And the Orana Foundation is a non-profit venture that works with Indigenous communities to preserve and promote Indigenous food and culture, and share skills training and employment opportunities.

No surprise that 2 sachets of native tea leaves were in the souvenir bag, which the staff passed to me as I made my way to the exit. And it’s a pity head chef Jock wasn’t at the restaurant during my meal. It’s only later that I realised it’s probably because he was filming MasterChef Australia: Back To Win, which premiered on 13 April ’20.

Do I recommend Orana? Oh yes! It may be pricey than other fine-dining restaurants, but I feel it’s justified. Please dine at Orana and experience the incredible things that head chef Jock and his team are doing!

RESTAURANT ORANA
1/285 Rundle Street, Adelaide, SA, Australia
+61 8 8232 3444, Website
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Fri : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tues – Sat : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Mon & Sun