June 23, 2017

Birthday in Taipei day 3: Brugge in Taipei

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This weekend was about spending time with family, so I really didn't plan ahead for any high-end dining.  I was therefore surprised to see from Gert de Mangeleer's Instagram posts that he was doing a pop-up at MUME.  I left a comment on his post, saying that I would be in Taipei this week - not expecting them to have any openings for their 3-day event.  But since I kinda know both Gert and Richie Lin, they managed to squeeze in a late seating for me tonight.

I'm a big fan of Gert's cuisine, and I was especially happy that I was able to introduce mom to it tonight.  While Taipei does get its share of guest chefs from overseas, I felt that this would be one chance to let mom see what a world-class chef from a Michelin 3-star could deliver.

Shortly after we were seated, I reaffirmed my belief that MUME isn't a place to take elderly guests.  The place is very lively and noisy - between the music, the conversations from neighboring tables, and the lack of any insulation that could absorb the sound waves.  We were having a tough time talking across the table without raising the decibel level, but c'est la vie...

The menu started with some of Gert's classic dishes from Hertog Jan, and quickly evolves to new forms using local ingredients.  Richie has spent some time showing Gert the bountiful produce of Taiwan, and apparently the menu was only finalized last night.  We weren't given a written menu until the meal was finished, so each course was introduced by the waitstaff.

Cannelloni / Flemish beef / anchovy - I recognized this instantly, as I've had something like this from Gert twice before.  Inside the crispy tube was a combination of cured Flemish beef and anchovies, and the anchovies definitely packed enough salt and almost overpowered the beef.  As usual, the exterior had been sprinkled with dried tomato powder - delivering a nice bit of acidity along with some umami.  I was inclined to assume that this was the same type of tomato powder that Gert usually uses, which comprises of 107 different types of tomatoes.  But maybe that message didn't get passed down from Gert to the people at MUME...

June 22, 2017

Birthday in Taipei day 2: cutting the (cheese)cake

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Rolf Meng and I go back quite a few years.  For a number of years starting in the year 2000, our family celebrated our birthdays and anniversaries at Paris 1930 (巴黎廳) in The Landis Taipei (亞都麗緻) whenever we could.  Along the way, Rolf came to be the sommelier and manager of the restaurant and took very good care of us.  He worked well with the chefs to come up with menus that matched the wines I brought.

I was shocked, therefore, when I found out a few years ago that he left The Landis Taipei.  He clearly loved his job, and it must have taken a lot for him to quit.  I did send him a text message at the time, but lost track of him subsequently.  So I was really happy when I found him again by accident, tagged in some photos on Facebook.  He - like me - had put on some weight since we last saw each other, but it was unmistakably him.

After reaching out to him and confirming that he was now the chef and proprietor of Brasserie Bonne Récolte (豐舍), there was no question that this was the place I wanted to go for my birthday dinner.  The Parental Units were surprised - and happy - that I had managed to track Rolf down.

Birthday in Taipei day 2: No egg no life

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In spite of her moniker, Hello Kitty's favorite Sanrio character is, in fact, NOT Hello Kitty (ハロー・キティ) but Gudetama (ぐでたま).  I have, for better or for worse, been infected with her affinity to the lazy egg with an orange ass.  When I found out there was a Gudetama Chef (蛋黃哥五星主廚餐廳) in Taipei, we put it on our list of places to visit.  We couldn't get ourselves a table back in March, but thankfully the restaurant was no longer crazily busy these days, and I managed to book myself a table online a couple of days ago.

We arrived a few minutes after our appointed time of 11:20 a.m. to find the restaurant about half full. Being a theme restaurant, it's no surprise that Gudetama is EVERYWHERE.  It's a case of 小巫見大巫 comparing Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine (Hello Kitty中菜軒) to this place...

June 21, 2017

Birthday in Taipei day 1: gathering the clan, again

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I'm back in Taipei for a few days to spend my birthday with the Parental Units.  As luck would have it, I've got uncles and cousins in town from the States again.  So once again a gathering of the clan was arranged.  Once again we booked a table of 16.  This time, though, we went back to Shanghai Kitchen (上海鄉村) for some reliable Shanghainese food.

Diplomatic Uncle wasn't be happy with the set menus proposed by the restaurant - and I probably wouldn't have, either - so he went through the restaurant's menu to order à la carte.

Smoked fish (無錫脆鱔) - LOL... "smoked fish"?!  Well, these deep-fried freshwater eel were crunchy as expected, with piercing acidity in the midst of sweetness.  Delicious.

June 17, 2017

Hitting the beetroot jackpot

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A while ago, Hello Kitty asked me where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner.  She was clearly hoping that I wouldn't insist on having her treat me to dinner at Spaghetti House (as I did last year) or Pizza Hut, since both suggestions she offered were fine dining establishments.

One of them happened to be Caprice at the Four Seasons Hong Kong - an establishment both of us have banned ever since a particularly disastrous dinner.  But a lot has changed this year: Chef Guillaume Galliot - formerly of the Tasting Room at the Crown Towers in Macau - is now running the kitchen.  I'm a big fan of Guillaume's, and have been looking forward to trying his dishes after he settled in.  Long-time sommelier Sebastien Allano has moved on to Épure, and Four Seasons George V has transferred in one of theirs.  Given my personal relationship with Guillaume, I decided that I would use this "birthday dinner" to end our self-imposed exile from a restaurant that was once my favorite in Hong Kong.

Hello Kitty booked us a table under her name, although a few days ago I decided to tell Guillaume about our visit tonight.  He had offered to host me for a preview of his new dishes a few weeks ago, but I didn't think the kitchen would be fully ready only a couple of weeks after his arrival.  It's now been more than 6 weeks since he officially started, and I was hoping that the kitchen brigade would have gotten used to him by now.

We were seated at a table by the window, with great views of the harbor - as Hello Kitty requested.  Unfortunately this came with the downside of having very poor lighting, which made photography a challenge.  Oh well.

We were offered some Champagne to start, compliments of the chef.

Vouette et Sorbée Cuvée Blanc d'Argile, en magnum - a blanc de blancs extra brut.  Good acidity here, but also some sweetness.  Surprisingly showing some tropical fruits on the nose.

Guillaume came over to greet us, and of course we offered him carte blanche to send us whatever he felt we should have tonight.  Not being a seasoned front-of-house staff, naturally he assumed we would eat everything and neglected to ask us about our dietary restrictions.  After he walked back to the kitchen, Hello Kitty and I wondered whether we would get any beetroot tonight... but I decided that since Guillaume didn't ask us, we wouldn't volunteer any information... and just go with the flow.

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