Dinner @ Tairroir 態芮 (Taipei, Taiwan)

September 26, 2018 in Asian

The main intention of my August 2018 to Taiwan was to pray. Within 2.5 days, we covered 17 temples in Taipei and Taichung. But as a foodie, it’s really hard for me to travel without striking a restaurant off my to-try list. Thus, I went to JL Studio and Sushi 27 in Taichung and Kaohsiung respectively. And upon my friend’s recommendation, I decided to try Taïrroir for Taipei.

After working at Guy Savoy and JAAN in Singapore, head chef Kai Ho returned home to open Taïrroir in Taipei, which restaurant’s name plays off Taiwan and terroir.

Reservation was made through email with 1.5 weeks advanced notice. And the day before my dinner, the restaurant sent me another email to re-confirm my reservation

And it was only when I was making my way to Taïrroir that I realised the restaurant is located in the same area as RAW and Nihonryori RyuGin. To be exact, it was in the next building.

Located at the sixth floor, the lift opened directly into the restaurant. And the first thing that caught my eye was the many fluttering copper tiles hanging from the ceiling. 1876 to be exact. Wow. The interior was really chic and modern. There was only 1 menu. And with that, I started my “qiu lu cai” menu (NT$3650) dinner with:-

1) Amuse bouche (above)


2) 碳水豆合物 (above) – Edamame potage, Taiwan beer tofu mousse, “cornmeal” ball.

  

3) Bread, Complimentary (above)

4) 里山里海 (above) – “Bouillabaisse”-guisgan island carabinero, Hokkaido uni, rouille, Chinese yam.

5) 你的冬天, 我的夏天 (above) – Salt-baked summer bamboo shoot, manjimup winter truffle, silver herring tempura.


6) 休息站的回憶, (+ NT$380, supplement) (above) – Pu’er tea silkie egg, “congee”, sweet potato fondant, buckwheat tuile.


7) 寶鮑不說 (above) – Chicken wing stuffed with braised abalone, “li-vert”.

8) 魚啵盪漾 (above) – Le poisson du jour, chick pea, pickled cabbage bouillon.



  

9) 鴿薏精湛 (above) – Pingtung pigeon in 2 ways, pearl barley, aged mandarin peel.

10) Taiwanese noodle, Complimentary (above)


11) 金枝玉葉 (above) – Calamansi sorbet, jin xuan-ai yu jelly, lemon, ilha formosa white wine, “crystal”.

12) 態芮鳳梨酥 (above) – Taïrroir’s pineapple “cake” – Pineapple, baba, camellia oil ice cream, rum and raisin cream. There were 2 options for the desserts. And since Taiwan is synonymous with pineapple tart, I naturally chose the pineapple cake over the other (irwan mango, orange, guava, passion fruit, red dragon fruit).


13) 茶車金金, 茶點甜甜 (above) – Taïrroir mignardises. My eyes lit up when the petite fours push-tray headed my way. Although my heart dropped when the staff said we could choose only 3. 3 per person… Sob!

14) Tea or coffee – I went with tea and was told it was made with red leaves.

I enjoyed my meal at Tairroir very much. In addition to the delectable dishes, service was very professional. As my stomach wasn’t in the best condition that night, I requested for warm water. But halfway through the dinner, I requested for hot water. And at the end of my dinner, when I opted for tea to go with my petit fours, the staff said the tea is best appreciated at 60 degree and asked if that was fine with me. I was surprised when she went on to explain it’s because she noticed I enjoy my water hot. Thumbs up for the attentiveness.

It’s also an interesting read to know that head chef Kai wrote the menu in English before thinking of the Chinese translation. He didn’t do it the other way round because the composition of each dish was French-based.

I definitely recommend Taïrroir, which was also awarded 1 star by Michelin Guide Taipei 2018.

TAIRROIR 態芮
No. 299, Lequn 3rd Road, 6F, Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan
+886 2 8501 5500, Website, Facebook
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sun : 12:00 – 14:30
Ambience: 8
Mon – Sun : 18:30 – 22:30
Value: 8
Service: 8

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 @ Nihonryori 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 Nihonryori 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.

NIHONRYORI RYUGIN 祥雲龍吟
No. 301, Le Qun 3rd Road, 5F, Zhongshan District, 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.