May 17, 2010

Le meilleur restaurant français à Taipei

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It's the parental units' anniversary again, and this year I finally have somewhere else to take them other than Paris 1930.  Since their 40th anniversary last year, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon has opened up inside Bellavita in Taipei.  I first heard about this over a year ago, and I can't even begin to describe my excitement level.

As expected the place was practically empty on a Monday night.  We took our seats at our requested table instead of at the bar.  The basket of bread was pretty decent, although noticeably inferior to what we'd find in the Hong Kong counterpart.

L'amuse bouche - duck foie gras mousse with parmesan foam on top.  Very yummy.  Instant hit with mom.

Le caviar oscietre: et l'oursin dans une delicate gelée recouverte d'une onctueuse crème de chou-fleur - nice and refreshing, full of flavors of the ocean thanks to the caviar, but with the acidity of the jelly and the sweet creamy tastes of the sea urchin as well as the cauliflower.  Apparently the little green dots on top are made with chlorophyll...

Le thon: en tartare, poivron rouge confit à la bergamote et au jambon séché - pretty decent tuna tartare, and I liked the layers of red capsicum.  The very thin strips of Parma ham on the sides was more for visual effect, and the quail egg on top was kinda cute.

L'asperge blanche: couvert des fines tranches de jambon Saint-Daniele, sauce au beurre - what a dish!  The poached white asparagus was very tender, and the combination with ham and creamy butter sauce was just awesome.  The tiny bits of chives and the chervil garnish were nice.

La daurade: <à la plancha>, en barigoule et ses artichauts épineux - I could smell the fish immediately as the plate was laid out in front of me, and the oily, "fishy" smell was goooood...  Excellent was just crispy enough but the flesh was soooo succulent and juicy it made no effort to resist the knife.  The sauce was yummy, as well the fine brunoise of veggies.

La caille: farcie de foie gras et caramélisée avec une pomme purée - a Robuchon classic I was happy to have again.  In fact I had it the first time I dined at L'Atelier in Hong Kong.  Lots of gamey flavors in the quail, and the famed mash potatoes needed no further introduction.  I insisted that mom finish her portion, since I knew she liked it so much.  The hell with worrying about the calories...not tonight!

Le fromage: de France sélectionné par nos soins - a slice each of Brie and Fourme d'Ambert.  The ammonia flavors from the Brie's rind was a little stronger than usual.  The accompanying toast ws very, very delicious.

L'exotique: goyave à la vanille de Tahiti, légèreté aux fruits des îles - a delicious combination of pink guava, panna cotta, passion fruit sauce as well as pistachio powder.  Gone in no time.

Le sucre: sphère à la violette et litchi avec une glace au lait - an interesting violet-flavored shell with cream inside, along with wild berries (unfortunately frozen) and lychee (not sure if they were fresh as the season just started).  The jellies and sauces on the sides were interesting, but the milk ice cream was a little bland...

This wouldn't have been an anniversary dinner without the wine...  After last year's performance, I brought another bottle of Burgundy.  Unfortunately, this bottle had to get banged around in my checked in luggage and only had a little less than 3 days to rest.  The fine sediment of this old bottle were still floating around instead of being completely settled at the bottom...

My last bottle of 1969 Leroy Echezeaux drank better than I expected.  I had it dunked in some cold water when I arrived to cool it down, and we decided not to decant the bottle (or pass the wine through paper coffee filters, as I have done in the past).  The sweet grass in the nose was upfront and center, and it was there all evening.  There was also a little bit of wet dirt, damp cellar, mushrooms... the question of whether the wine was lightly corked cross my mind.  Otherwise the nose was very sweet, and plummy notes emerged about 2 hours later.  Not quite the perserved plum drink (酸梅湯) that mom loves, but not bad.  Most importantly, the palate was still there and didn't turn acidic all night. 

The parents seemed to have been happy with their meal, which was a relief as mom hated her visit to L'Atelier in Hong Kong 3 years ago - my fault for ordering the wrong stuff for her...  I thought the food was excellent, and certainly worthy of many return visits. 

P.S.  I am reminded of a conversation with a friend where he described - and I nodded in agreement - L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon as the haute cuisine version of McDonald's.  I'm sure many people would cringe and start throwing darts at the target I just painted on my forehead, but let's just think about it...  There are now restaurants bearing the Robuchon name in 10 cities around the world, and that definitely qualifies it as a "chain".  Quality control is also impeccable, and one is able to have the same dish executed to the same standards at any of the outlets.  My mashed potatoes tastes pretty much the same whether I'm sitting in Taipei or Hong Kong.  Isn't that exactly what McDonald's excels at?


笑狼 said...

This is very helpful. Now I will have to give it a try. Can I ask them to bring out the desert in 2 hours?

Peech said...

If you don't want to eat too much, you can either create your own tasting menu (from the list of dishes with tasting portions) or choose two other menus with fewer courses...


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