Dinner @ Le Mout (Taichung, Taiwan)

July 8, 2018 in French

Yeah! I am finally posting the last of my Taiwan’s fine dining meals from my September 2017 and January 2018 trips. My post on Le Mout took longer (compared to my posts on RAW, MUME, RyuGin and Kitcho) because I couldn’t remember which pictures go where. Ie, I mixed up the photographs that I took of my mom’s dishes and mine. Oops.

So while I could easily find information of the fine dining scene in Taipei, I didn’t know much about Taichung’s. It was only after googling with keywords ‘fine dining’, ‘Taichung’ and ‘recommended’ that I got to learn about Le Mout. And it’s crazy of me to have forgotten Le Mout when they were on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants by S. Pellegrino from 2014 to 2017. I follow this list, you see.

But again, I couldn’t find much information of Le Mout on the internet. Especially of their menu. Thus, I dropped them an email. And in their response, I was told that they offer 3 menus:-
  - Menu creation, NT$3500
  - Menu Sensation, NT$4500
  - Menu Souvenirs, NT$6500 (For dinner and weekends only. Require 3 days advanced pre-order)

With the ‘right now’ mentality, I decided not to postpone my-dining-at-Le-Mout since I wasn’t sure when I would be back to Taiwan. Least to speak, Taichung. Thus, I replied to make dinner reservation for 2. A few more emails were exchanged as they asked for our dietary restriction, etc.

Except for the outskirts, my mom and I explored Taichung by bus. So yes, we arrived at the restaurant by bus and were welcomed to a sight of a fancy 4-storey building. We waited at the lounge before we were led to level 2.

Upon seated, the waiting staff presented us our menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4). And because we pre-informed our dietary restriction, the waiting staff mentioned the beef main course was substituted with goose and pigeon for my Mom’s NT$4500 course and my NT$6500 course respectively.

And with that, we started our dinner with:-

  

1) Bread platter, Complimentary (above) – Taiwanese sausage bread (top, left) and macadamia-berries bread (top, right) made with honey and natural yeast. Paired with seaweed and salted butters.

2) Menu Sensation, NT$4500 comprised of:-

(A) Appetiser #1 (above) – Fermented cabbage ball and salmon.

(B) Appetiser #2 (above) – Le Mout’s take on Taiwan’s preserved turnip egg omelette (菜脯蛋). Made with with 12-years aged turnip sauce.

(C) Organic white asparagus (above) – With morels, borage.


(D) Green garden (above) – Summer vegetables, sun-dried fermented cabbage, chicken wing confit, “crema” goat cheese. Besides having the chicken stuffed with cheese, it was also served in different textures as paste and shredded meat. Really nice.

(E) Maine lobster (above) – With dill, taro and shallot.

(F) 7 day-aged goose (above) – With blazei mushroom, mustard green and rice sauce.

(G) Like “ispahan” (above) – With raspberry, rose, litchi, cacao consomme jelly.

(H) Tahiti (above) – Tropical fruits and vanilla. With an island theme, there was mango-jelly bikini, coconut-sorbet sand, handmade-choux-puff coconut tree, watermelon-flavoured-marshmallow starfish and vanilla ice cream. Too cute.

(I) Mignardise (above)

3) Menu souvenirs, NT$6500 comprised of:-

(A) Appetiser #1 (above) – A little different from my Mom’s where my fermented cabbage ball was served on dried scallop (干贝) julienness. This was interesting as it contained mousse inside too. And instead of salmon, I was served crisp roll with thick and creamy river clam puree within (top, left).


(B) Appetiser #2 (above) – Beneath the cheese foam was chopped melon, bitter gourd and scallop.

(C) “Blanc a manger” (above) – With hybrid sturgeon caviar, celery, white peppercorn, river clam. I was surprised to be tucking into a warm dish since it looked like a cold dish cause of the hybrid sturgeon caviar. Haha. With layers of river clam essence, celery purée with celery bits, meringue and white peppercorn (right at the bottom), I was impressed that the third layer of meringue maintained its foamy texture well despite the weight of the top 2 layers and after I dig my spoon into the dish. Keke.


(D) Organic white asparagus (above) – With kinmen beef, morels, borage. And the staff poured chicken broth through the hole of the bread. So to enjoy the soup, we would tear push the bread into the soup since that’s the way before we could access to taste the soup. Keke. But I was a little sad that while the original menu had beef for this, mine came meatless (since I don’t eat beef).

(E) Gourd (above) – Australian black truffle, rice noodle, salted duck egg yolk.

(F) Maine lobster (above) – With dill, taro and shallot.

  

(G) “Pigeon fermier de la drome” (above) – With sweet potato leaves, foie gras, almond, fig. Before my main was presented, the staff came up with a tray of 6 knives for me to choose from. And I went with Corsican’s Damascus U Cumpa knife with rhino horn handle. And it’s also after our dinner at Le Mout that I googled and realised the knife cost €500. Gasp.

(H) Nympheas (above) – Nympheas being a French word for water lily, this dessert was inspired by Japanese painter Claude Monet’s water lilies painting. A very refreshing dish with varying textures; Winter melon jelly, tofu pudding in jasmine tea soup. I really enjoyed this.

(I) Tahiti (above) – Tropical fruits and vanilla.

(J) Mignardise (above)

My Mom and I really enjoyed our meal at Le Mout. Now… The interior of Le Mout was very elegantly done up. So one may feel conscious of oneself especially if one do not fine-dine often. So when we entered, my mom felt a little out-of-place. My Mom is really down-to-earth and frugal. Although beside the ambience, my Mom was conscious because she didn’t want me to splurge too much. But all thanks to the really friendly and professional manager Chester, my mom eased up and that really allowed her to enjoy the meal to the fullest.

Will I recommend Le Mout? A definite yes.

However… It’s unfortunate that owner-chef Lanshu Chen would be closing down Le Mout by December 2018 after 10 years of operation. As taken from their Facebook page, head chef Lanshu is not comfortable with the changing landscape of fine dining where everyone is a mass critic with nicely edited photos on social media, chefs having to interact with public by going to stages and speak, and handling public relations. In her words, the fine dining scene has become very far from what she was inspired by in the old days of grand chef era.

It’s a great pity but it must not be easy for her to make such a decision. So while it’s a loss to the fine dining scene, I respect her decision. So if one really wants to try her cooking philosophy of ‘haute cuisine de terroir’ which marries classic French techniques with sustainable local (Taiwanese) ingredients, do dine by December 2018.

LE MOUT RESTAURANT 樂沐法式餐廳
59 Cunzhong Street, Taichung, Taiwan
+886 4 2375 3002, Website, FaceBook
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Sat – Sun : 11:30 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 9
Wed – Sun : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 9
 
* Closed on Mon, Tues

Dinner @ Kitcho 吉兆割烹壽司 (Taipei, Taiwan)

February 26, 2018 in Japanese

Common phrases that I get from my foodie friends include “You must eat seafood in Taiwan” and “Taiwan is the next best place to eat sushi after Japan.”

So with that, I started my hunt for a sushi restaurant to dine at in Taiwan. But without the luxury of time to research, I decided to go with what was trending on my instagram feed. Yes, Kitcho. And it was a good thing Kitcho could accept my reservation request through their Facebook page.

Two days prior to my dinner, I received a whatsapp text to re-confirm my reservation.

Arriving punctually at 8.30pm, I occupied the last empty seat at the counter. With no (physical) menu, the staff (verbally) informed me of the menu choices; NT$3000 and NT$3500 courses, or omakase which ranges from NT$4000 to NT$7000. The staff continued to explain the exact amount for omakase will only be known at end of the meal.

I did a quick conversion (in my mind) and went with omakase cause it really wasn’t too expensive (compared to Singapore’s dinner omakase). And after stating my dietary restrict (no beef), I started my omakase dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Gingko nuts.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Flatfish (鰈魚).

3) Dish #3 (above) – Geoduck clam (mirugai).

4) Dish #4 (above) – Striped jack (shima-aji).

5) Dish #5 (above) – Japanese spotted prawn (botan-ebi).

6) Dish #6 (above) – Hairy crab topped with caviar.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Red sea urchin (aka uni) from Kyushu. I wanted to ask chef the reason for serving the sea urchin on wood instead of plate since the wood didn’t serve as a spoon, but my poor grasp of Chinese held me back.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Rock fish.


9) Dish #9 (above) – Hand-roll with minced tuna.

  
  

10) Dish #10 (above) – Sushi assortment of 愛魚女, big-eye snapper (kinmedai), baby snapper topped with chicken egg which was prepared with vinegar and sugar, and flounder (hirame).

11) Dish #11 (above) – Abalone served with sauce made with its liver.

  
  
  
  

12) Dish #12 (above) – Continued sushi assortment of lean tuna (akami), arctic surf clam (hokkigai), fin of flatfish (鰈魚的鰭邊), gizzard shad (kohada), premium tuna belly (otoro), sea urchin and egg omelette (tamago).


13) Dish #13 (above) – Chef asked if I was full and I shook my head. So he made me a special dish of caviar, minced tuna sandwiched between wafers. Wished he used something else besides wafers since I don’t like how it stick to the lips. Ha. But that aside, this was such a treat!

14) Dish #14 (above) – Fish tempura.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Clam soup.

16) Dish #16 (above) – Fruits and pumpkin pudding.

My omakase meal came up to NT$6600. I reckon the special (item 13) jacked up the cost by quite a bit. So was I happy with my dining experience at Kitcho? Well… I wouldn’t say I was unhappy, but neither would I say I was extremely happy. It was a mediocre experience.

First being my poor grasp of Chinese. And that’s in no way the restaurant’s fault, of course. I had much difficulty understanding the chef. So that probably robbed me (much) of the full pleasure in knowing and enjoying what I ate. Secondly, I wasn’t exactly blown away by the food. Yes, it was good. But somehow, it wasn’t any different from my dining experience at other (equally reputable) sushi-ya. I admit, I’m stricter because it’s an overseas meal.

So if one is traveling to Taiwan, has only 1 slot for Japanese cuisine, and is looking for the sushi-ya, Kitcho may not make the cut. At least for me personally. It was a good dining experience, but not special. And knowing that I’ll be back to Taiwan again, I won’t stop hunting for that sushi-ya which impresses and is worth using our limited meal slots for when traveling in Taiwan.

That said, I am very appreciative that the staff responded to my messages when I enquired the names of (a few of) the fishes after dinner. Yes, I sent them my pictures via whatsapp. Keke.

KITCHO 吉兆割烹壽司
No. 48, Lane 181, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan
+886 2 2771 1020, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Sun

UPDATE: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Taipei 2018.

Dinner @ RyuGin 祥雲龍吟 (Taipei, Taiwan)

February 21, 2018 in Japanese

After having just visited Taiwan in September 2017, it was an impromptu decision to return (so soon again) in January 2018. But no matter how impromptu a trip may be, I always have my list of restaurants-to-try ready. Keke. And for my second (short) trip to Taiwan, I decided to check out MUME and RyuGin (for restaurants which require reservation).

Reservation request was sent by dropping the restaurant a message on their ‘contact us’ page with 1.5 months advanced notice given. And within 2 working days, I received a response via email. To secure our reservation, we were required to pay a deposit where the amount was 50% of our selected menu. Noting that we had to order the same menu, I chose the 10-courses regular menu (NT$6500) over the 7-courses short menu (NT$4200).

  

RyuGin is located in the same building as RAW, but at level 5. Upon entering the restaurant, my Mom and I were brought to the (waiting) lounge where we were served tea before the staff led us to our table.

Having pre-selected our dinner menu, we started our 10-courses dinner (NT6500) with:-


1) Dish #1 (above) – Caviar, little silver fish, skin tofu, mizuna.


  

2) Dish #2 (above) – Eel, tomato. Tomato was super sweet, and eel was fresh and firm. I liked how the savory sauce pulled the entire ensemble together. I could easily do at least 5 of these. So, so good!



3) Dish #3 (above) – Clam, sweet potato leaves, lemon. I felt it was ingenious that fat, juicy clams were served on a crunchy deep fried sweet-potato-leaf-cracker cause it introduced different textures into the dish. Pretty good.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Threadfin, bamboo, burdock, snap beans.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Squid, sweet shrimp, fatty tuna, hairtail.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Tile fish, crown daisy, mullet roe.


7) Dish #7 (above) – Abalone, sea urchin.


  

8) Dish #8 (above) – Squab, rosemary. The skin was beautifully executed; Very thin and crispy, and most importantly, tastefully seasoned. And to keep the ‘smoked rosemary’ going, a small piece of charcoal was placed beneath the rib bone.


9) Dish #9 (above) – What’s supposed to be clam, green onion and tomato on koshi-hikari rice as mentioned on our menu, we were served tilefish tempura instead because of my Mom’s preference not to have shellfish (her skin may flare). And it was amazing! When the staff brought the pot to our table to mix it in front of us, we could hear the distinct crackling sound (of the fried tempura batter). It was music to our ears. I liked how I would bite into the crunchy bits of the batter and into the softer but firm texture of the fish. A must try!


10) Dish #10 (above) – Sanbokan.



11) Dish #11 (above) – Leicha powder, strawberry.

12) Dish #12, Complimentary (above) – A little something for us to bring back.

And because my Mom and I had (Taiwanese) desserts an hour before our dinner, we were feeling pretty stuffed by the time we reached our main course of rice. And one could tell how much we must have enjoyed the dish when my Mom couldn’t resist asking if the restaurant would pack our remaining rice. But for only 2 small bowls that we ate in the restaurant, it was disappointing that we were only given 1 small takeaway box cause I dined at other kaiseki restaurants and they would pack 1 portion for each diner.

  

Extra disappointing because the tilefish tempura was truly amazing and I wanted more. The batter remained crunchy even 24 hours later even thought it’s mixed into the rice.

I would recommend RyuGin if I do not need to take into consideration of the cost; Food was undeniably good but at a high price. I am fine with green tea being chargeable, but I was slightly put off to know that it was non-refillable. But! Their 十四代 sake-pairing menu sounded like a good deal. If I wasn’t paying for 2, I would most likely have gone for that.

RYUGIN 祥雲龍吟
No. 301, Le Qun 3rd Road, 5F, Taipei City, Taiwan
+886 2 8501 5808, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 6
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon

UPDATE: Restaurant was awarded 2 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Taipei 2018.