June 22, 2012

The dessert ribbon

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Having done a whole series of birthday dinners last year, I figured things should be kept low-key this year. After all, most of my foodie/wino network remains in Hong Kong, and flying back to Hong Kong to celebrate your own birthday seems a little full of oneself…

I didn’t really start to think about what to do for tonight until a few days ago, as honestly I just wasn’t in the mood to do something “really special.” The one tradition I do keep to is popping open a bottle of wine from my birth vintage. This year, through a complete lack of planning, the only bottle I have with me in Taipei was a bottle of vintage Port. While I have attended a dinner where Port was the focus of the evening, my mind still tells me that this is a wine for after dinner, perhaps with dessert…

…which naturally led me to STAY. When I came here with my friend some 2 months ago, I was so impressed with the desserts from Chef Loïc that I talked about returning for a meal where I would only have dessert. It seems kind of crazy to do something like this, but then again, it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve done something from left field when it comes to food. I ended up being joined by a couple of friends, although I wasn’t going to force anyone not to have savory dishes before the dessert fest…

I arrived and immediately noticed that Loïc wasn’t manning the dessert station. Apparently he’s taken the day off. Damn! So we weren’t gonna be able to enjoy having him show us his interesting creations tonight. The local guy seemed a lot more robotic… no flair.

Having put my foot down about focusing on dessert tonight – at least for me – I tried to persuade the others from over-ordering other dishes. In the end the three of us took 3 starters and shared a large main dish along with 2 accompanying side dishes. I still thought this was too much, but was unable to cut down the quantity further. I would be proven right as the evening progresses.

A trio of amuse bouches arrived in little spoons. The carrot and orange bavarois was OK. The cod mousse was pretty average, with a texture that was rougher than expected and somewhat “fishy” flavors. The little wedge of foie gras pâté with peach gelée was nice.

Scallop tart, beetroot, olive oil, chive and rocket – this was not bad. There was thin, crispy layer of dough at the bottom so it’s kinda like pizza. A thin layer of scallop carpaccio, with brunoise of beetroot sprinkled all over. Very simple and straightforward, and very refreshing.

Terrine of duck foie gras marinated in “Chambertin”, pickled shimejis, toasted brioche – the bloc of foie looked very pretty with its marbling. While I could taste the extra flavors coming from the wine, was it really marinated with grand cru Chambertin?

Biting into a thick slice of brioche with 2 layers of pâté on top was a pretty enjoyable experience, I thought…

The pickled shimeji (しめじ) mushrooms on the side provided acidity to cut the fat from the foie gras, and my companions felt the combination of the shrooms and foie didn’t work well - although I didn’t try this myself.

Fregola sarda pasta, Parmesan, fennel and sea urchin – I recommended the fregola since it was the most enjoyable dish from my last meal here, and it would repeat its stellar performance tonight despite a different mix of ingredients. The chewy texture of the pasta – with a very nice bite – and the smooth, creamy and slightly viscous and sticky sauce made it both fun and delicious to eat. The flavors just came together naturally and effortlessly, which I can only describe with the Chinese expression 天衣無縫. This is a dish I would be happy to have again and again.  I was, however, a little surprised at the abundance of foam which covered the entire thing when the dish arrived…

I also recommended the chicken spit roast, as it was very enjoyable the last time around. For some reason, the chicken seemed significantly bigger tonight, and we struggled to take down barely half of it. Well, we could have had more, but then there’d be no room for the main event…

It was very well done, just like last time. The meat was reasonably moist, even for the breast portion I was having. The meat was a little tough, but that’s just the nature of having free-range local chicken – and not an issue with the kitchen. In fact the meat was ever so slightly pink, in a nod to the French preference for poultry.

Spinach and mushrooms – this was OK… nothing really special.

Mashed potato – clearly made with a lot less cream and butter than what Uncle Joël would, and you can begin to feel the slightly grainy texture on the tongue. This is a lighter, more “refreshing” mash that immediately reminded me of what I’d been served at Mozaic in Bali.

It was time to order dessert, and we decided that we would only be able to handle the 1 meter-long “ribbon”. My original plan was to come and gobble up a 1 meter-long ribbon all by myself, but… that was never gonna happen tonight with all the food that we'd ordered.  We made our way to the dessert station just in time to stop our friend from filling up the ribbon with his choices.  We wanted to pick our own selection of 8, and probably spent a little too much time picking among the three of us and exasperating the guy in the process.

100% Tahitian vanilla mille-feuille, caramelized vanilla puff pastry, vanilla ice cream - it's pretty nice, but like last time I just wasn't blown away by it.  Maybe I need to do a side-by-side comparison between Tahitian, Madagascar and other vanilla (Balinese?) to be able to tell the difference.

Blueberry short crust tart - not impressed.  The crust is too thick, dry and hard.  Underneath the blueberries is a layer of blueberry cream, followed by a layer of pistachio at the bottom.  No good.

Strawberry and yogurt sorbet - not bad.

Black chocolate cheesecake, bitter orange marmalade, rocket lettuce, feuilletine praliné - kinda interesting, although it didn't taste like cheesecake to me.  Orange and chocolate is a pretty classic combination.

Raspberry short crust tart - just as bad as the blueberry tart, which is no surprise.

Yuzu Colonel, crunchy meringue, Vodka sauce, lemon confit, Yuzu sorbet - I liked it the last time.  The ladies, objected to the sweet meringue while enjoying the acidic top half.

Banana-caramel mille-feuille, caramelized puff pastry, banana confit, caramel sauce - more interesting to me than the vanilla version…

Minestrone of exotic fruits and Lychee, four fruit iced tea, sablé Breton - very nice and refreshing.  Lychees were stuffed with pineapple, kiwi, green apples…  Probably our favorite of the evening.  The sprinkle of pink stuff included a hint of rose.

Mignardises: lemon tart and tiramisu puffs.

1970 Warre's Vintage - I opened the bottle 3 hours before dinner but did not decant.  The wine was finally decanted just before we got our desserts, and it was still pretty sharp and alcoholic at first.  It improved in glass as the alcohol faded a little, although it was still very much on the palate.  A little nutty, pretty concentrated and grapey.

Well… I think we were a little disappointed in our desserts.  Need to cheek back with Loïc next time, and see if he can pull more rabbits out of the hat.  Nevertheless, this was a very enjoyable evening, and I was happy to have shared with my friends.

2 comments:

Michelle Chin said...

the foie gras caught my eye, as usual. hehe. the portions are pretty generous!

someone to write an essay for me said...

My purpose of life is to eat, travel and have fun. The blog gives the opportunity to see some creative tips and ideas to enjoy these things.

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