Dinner @ JL Studio (Taichung, Taiwan)

September 16, 2018 in Asian, Mod Sin

After trying Le Mout in my previous trip to Taichung, I was ready to conquer visit another (fine dining) restaurant in Taichung. And thus, I started researching for my August 2018 trip. And that’s when I chanced upon pictures of JL Studio on instagram. Mod-Sin cuisine? Eating modern-Singaporean cuisine in Taiwan? I mean… I would prefer to try Taiwanese cuisine. But the food looked so good in the pictures.

So reservation was made by dropping them an email. During which, I was asked to choose between discovery menu (NT$2800) and experience menu (NT$3800). And, yeah… No surprises. I went for the latter. Keke. JL Studio also offered non-alcohol pairing. NT$980 for Asian herb tea as welcome drink, Taiwan pineapple ice tea and longan tea, or NT$1200 with the mentioned 3 drinks and oriental beauty tea.


To arrive at the restaurant, I made my way by taking the bus. Taking the bus was really straight-forward, but the journey took time because the restaurant was not exactly located in the city centre. Although one could also take the taxi; I took it for my first time ever in Taiwan Taichung to return home after my meal at JL Studio and realised it’s actually pretty affordable.

And upon arrival at the building, I was led to second storey which JL Studio occupied. Having pre-selected my menu, I started my experience menu (NT$3800) dinner with:-

1) Kueh pie tee (above) – Rose shrimp, cuttlefish, Chinese radish. This was a challenge to eat. The herbs were piled really high. I concentrated too much in trying to stuff the kueh pie tee into my mouth in one go than to savour it properly. Oops.


  

2) Rose kueh (above) – Turmeric-yellow pepper sambal. Was surprised to taste liquid when I bit into it. Such a brilliant idea to inject turmeric-yellow pepper sambal sauce beneath the honeycomb cookie.

  

3) Satay (above) – Chicken skin, cucumber, peanut. Served on a bed of dry ice fog, JL Studio did a cold rendition of satay. Satay sauce was made into ice cream before it was shaved onto frozen foie gras, salsa of onion and cucumber, and fried chicken skin. This was honestly brilliant.


4) Lamb (above) – Glutinous rice, curry leaves. Another favourite of mine. Not sure which Singaporean dish this was inspired by, but it was so good. The dough-skin was so thick and chewy. Or could this be a savoury take of our 汤圆 (glutinous rice ball)?

  

5) Rojak, Complimentary (above) – I think this was a complimentary dish because it’s not indicated on my menu. Made with green mango, cucumber, tau pok, shrimp paste and peanut, owner-chef Jimmy Lim replicated our rojak dish to the dot. If not, better. I liked that there was sufficient peanuts within to add a crunch in the one mouthful. Superb.


6) I ❤❤❤ this roti (above) – Mint chutney, jackfruit curry. And instead of the familiar crispy roti, I was told this was made fluffier such that it was more like a naan. I enjoyed the addition of jackfruit which introduced a natural sweetness to the curry. But hey, I may be bias since I love jackfruit. Hee. And I honestly felt the dipping sauce of mint chutney and yogurt complemented the jackfruit curry well as it allowed one to refresh one’s palette if one was getting tired of (the heavier) curry. Unbelievably, I managed to finish the naan on my own despite my shrinking appetite.

7) Orh luak (above) – Lard, preserved radish. Preserved radish, which is an ingredient in oyster omelette, was made into ice cream which the staff recommended me to start with. So good! And it was this dish that made me realise I had been taking the dishes which I grew up on for granted. In the sense of… I always craved for Japanese and French cuisines, but never quite truly appreciated what our little island has to offer with her wide variety of Chinese, Malay and Indian food. And I was impressed by the attention to little details where the oysters were sliced into 3s for easier consumption. Egg shells were also made out of egg white. Wow.


8) Seafood ho fan (above) – Wok hei kai lan. It was amazing to see how our street food was upgraded simply by improving its plating where the flat rice noodles were intricately weaved together. And JL Studio’s was like the healthier version because of the equal ratio between noodle and vegetables. Since you know… Our hor fan isn’t normally served with so much vegetables. Keke. But I like. Especially with their thicker seafood sauce.


  

9) Chicken (above) – Pandan, ginger, chili. When this was served, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Den’s DFC which was inspired by KFC. So yes, this was JL Studio’s Hainanese chicken rice inspired by McDonald’s apple pie. However, when I bit into it, I couldn’t quite taste the pandan-flavoured rice because of the buttery-good pastry puff. Unless I put the chili. And I recommend drinking the soup first because drinking it in-between was like a clash of Chinese-styled soup and Western-styled pie.


  

10) Yilan duckling (above) – Red curry leg, fragrant rice, crispy duckling, hae bee salad, green sambal. 30 days old duckling served in 3 ways. Beside the thigh cooked in Thai curry and duck ‘sausage’ which was made with the duck’s head skin, I really enjoyed the breast (and bones) which was fried to crisp.

11) Summer mango, salted egg (above) – And I was told 2 types of mango was used for the palate cleanser. I didn’t catch the mango name (cause the staff explained in Chinese and I ain’t too good with my Chinese. Oops.) but she said 1 was famous for its fragrance while the other was famous for its sweetness.


12) Milo dinosaur (above) – Beneath what-looked-like-a-crisp-cracker-but-was-a-soft-biscuit dusted with milo powder were foam, mousse, ice cream, cookie and… Jumping candy. Jumping candy was a surprise since I haven’t had it (in my desserts) recently. Haha.

  
  

13) Kueh kapit, kueh ambon, peanut & banana, bandung (above) – After I finished my petit fours, the staff asked me guess what’s used in the filling for the kueh kapit. And honestly… I tasted really familiar. I wanted to guess durian but I said jackfruit cause durian is actually a very bold choice of ingredient to use since not many know how to appreciate it. And surprisingly, it was durian! With some longan too. The staff explained they would only announce it’s durian after customers finish it in order to remove their stigma. A bold move on their end, she admitted.

14) Coffee/tea – And I went with tea.

It was also through conversing with the staff that I learnt JL Studio only opened a year ago. No wonder I didn’t read about it when I was doing my (food) research for my September ‘17 Taiwan trip since it takes time for word to get out. =p

I enjoyed my meal at JL Studio very, very much. I haven’t tried many mod-Sin restaurants, but I dare say JL Studio is my favourite of all. Every dish was a surprise. One could see how much planning went into every dish. Through his dishes, I even got to understand our (Singaporean) cuisine better. And one could also say it’s an experience in itself to be eating our Singaporean cuisine outside of Singapore and to be on the end of interpreting what non-Singaporeans would imagine our dishes are based on owner-chef Jimmy’s presentation. A must try.

And to learn more about owner-chef Jimmy, one may also read the Chinese article written by selftaughtgochefgourmet. I got to learnt that prior to opening JL Studio in 2017, owner-chef Jimmy was at Le Mout for 7 years where he worked his way up to be the head chef. During which, he did short (3 months) stints at The French Laundry, Per Se, Noma and Geranium with the support of Le Mout’s owner-chef Lanshu Chen. Much respect to her too cause to have a supportive boss is also one’s good fortune. And it’s not often we meet such bosses.

JL STUDIO
No. 689, Yifeng Road Section 4, 2F, Nantun District, Taichung, Taiwan
+886 4 2380 3570, Facebook
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Mon

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, Nihonryori 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 restaurant manager Chester Su, 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
No. 59, Cunzhong Street, West District, 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