Dinner @ Sushi Ryu 鮨 隆 (Taipei, Taiwan)

September 25, 2020 in Japanese

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 Yanglong. 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 Yanglong 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 Yanglong 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 Yanglong 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 Yanglong. 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 Yanglong was because I had (fresh) bad experience where the sushi head chef would just focus on his ‘stretch’ of customers. I was 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 Yanglong. But my worries were unfounded.

Head chef Yanglong 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 Yanglong longer. I, generally, really enjoy watching chefs at work.

In fact, I noticed head chef Yanglong 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 @ 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.