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, 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.

Dinner @ MUME (Taipei, Taiwan)

January 24, 2018 in European

In my September 2017 trip to Taiwan, I managed to make reservation for RAW, Le Mout and MUME. However, I had to cancel our reservation at MUME due to unforeseen circumstance. Sob. So when I was planning for my January 2018 trip, I knew it was time to make (it) up to myself. Keke

Currently ranked 43 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 by S. Pellegrino, reservation was made on MUME’s website. It’s a straightforward process. After choosing the party size and date, one would be informed of the offered menu (which is normally a-la carte) before going on to select the seating slots of either 6pm or 8.30pm. For the former, one would need to return the table at 8pm. And to secure the reservation, one would need to input one’s credit card details.

I made reservation for a weekday dinner 3 weeks in advanced, and decided to go with the earlier slot of 6pm.

Unlike the reservation process which was a breeze, identifying the restaurant’s shopfront was a little difficult. The name of the restaurant was craved faintly on the marble. So one can’t see the engravement from far. But thankfully I googled up the place prior to our dinner, so my Mom and I didn’t end up walking past the unit instead since I knew how the shopfront looked. And to enter, press the (black) button on one’s right.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3), my Mom and I ordered:-


  

1) Seasonal tartlets (2 pcs), NT$220 (above)

2) Country sourdough, NT$180 (above) – Smoked beef fat butter was stated on the menu. However, as we don’t take beef, we were given cultured butter and sea salt instead. And my Mom and I seriously loved the bread. Well-browned crispy and crackling crust with the inside being soft with attractive big air pockets. We finished the loaf easily.


  

3) Liver brulee, NT$350 (above) – Chicken liver parfait, seasonal herbs. This was really good. The chicken liver parfait was creamy, thick and smooth. I enjoyed this with the sourdough. Keke. We were told Shaoxing wine was also used for the brulee layer. A must order.

4) MUME salad, NT$480 (above) – 20+ types seasonal vegetables, fermented black beans. We were told the vegetables were all locally grown. Now… When a restaurant pegged their (restaurant) name to a dish, I would interpret it as the restaurant’s signature dish. However, I felt this was just passable. Wasn’t impressed.


5) Burnt cabbage, NT$580 (above) – Smoked salmon roe, pine nuts, oyster emulsion. Cooked with direct heat for 1 hour, the staff told us not to eat the outermost charred layer. And the texture of this ‘burnt cabbage’ was intriguing. It’s like a cross between pickled and fermented.

6) Crispy amadai, NT$1080 (above) – Aromatic broth, engawa, parsley and lemon thyme.



7) Pork neck, NT$980 (above) – Clam sauce, baby cabbage, dill. Didn’t really like this.


8) Custard apple, NT$330 (above) – Caramelized puff pastry, creme fraiche ice cream. My mom and I really enjoyed this bold combination of (cold) passionfruit ice cream and warm apple.

9) Frost lemon pie, NT$330 (above) – Gordon’s gin, suze, lemon.

It was a pleasant dining experience at MUME. The set-up of the restaurant was suitable for friends to catch-up over food (small and big groups alike) and for couples to go on romantic dates. Food was generally good, though I must really mention the service.

Service was top notch! Our cups of water was never once left empty by the friendly staff. Although we didn’t finish 1 or 2 of the dishes (because our stomachs were bursting nearing to the end of our meal), the staff could pick up from our body language that we were done with our dishes and cleared our dishes without us requesting them to. So it was nice because my Mom and I didn’t have to wait very long for our next dish noting that they served the dishes in sequence. Ie, appetisers followed by mains, etc.

If one is thinking of checking out MUME, I would definitely say “Please do!”

MUME
No. 28, Siwei Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan
+886 2 2700 0901, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sun : 18:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 7
Service: 8

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