February 14, 2016

High-end vegetarian with grandma

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Grandma's funeral was today.  After a pretty emotional day - during which we cremated her and brought her ashes to her final resting place - we took a breather at grandma's Last Minute Uncle's place.  We knew we were having dinner together again, and we knew we would be having vegetarian food for the second night in a row, but we also knew that we weren't gonna go back to the neighborhood restaurant we hit last night.  We can't handle vegetarian buffet two nights in a row.

Last Minute Uncle remembers that he was taken to a high-end vegetarian restaurant once upon a time, so that was where we ended up.   Yu Shan Ge (鈺善閣) apparently is a place where high-ranking Buddhist monks are entertained by their followers, and their set menus start from around TWD 1,100 and go all the way up to around TWD 4,900 - which is about USD 150!  I wondered what the restaurant would serve for that price...

We sat down at the large oval table, and the thirteen of us ended up leaving the seat empty at one end of the table.  We told ourselves that the seat was reserved for grandma, and invited her to come dine with us.

Since there were so many of us coming for the first time, Last Minute Uncle decided that taking the TWD 1,400 menu (鈺品套餐) would be sufficient for a first look.

To start with we were given bowls to wash our hands - which may be a ritual cleansing before the meal.

The tea we were served throughout the meal tonight was made with sweet potato, ginseng, and Chinese licorice (地瓜人參甘草茶).  Actually I think it was sweet potato leaves and not the sweet potato itself, since this was actually a little bitter.

雪鮮懷石 - a selection of vegetables as well as blocks of konjac (蒟蒻).  Two chunks of konjac were made to look like blocs of raw salmon, while what looked like a bloc of black sesame tofu (胡麻豆腐) also contained chunks of konjac inside.  There was a little bit of marinated kumquat, cherry tomato, black wood ear fungus, broccoli, eggplant, pumpkin, and a chunk of kailan (芥藍) stem with some miso on top.

懷味鮮菌 - made to resemble shark's fin soup but without the shark's fin, this was full of fungus like bearded hedgehog mushroom (猴頭菇) and enoki mushroom (榎茸), together with pickled mustard (榨菜), water chestnut, and Napa cabbage.  There was a good amount of red vinegar and white pepper inside, which kinda reminded of me Taiwanese cuttlefish bisque (魷魚羹) or minced pork bisque (肉羹).

茄紅佳珍 - the ball was made with glutinous rice and peanuts, and deep-fried to create a crispy shell.  The flavors were a little like the tofu dessert (豆花).  The bowl contained a variety of vegetables like Napa cabbage.  Unfortunately the veg was only lukewarm, so it tasted particularly greasy.

焗烤雙珍 - underneath the blanket of baked cheese were chunks of konjac and water bamboo (茭白筍).  I found the water bamboo a little bland, and mom commented that they're actually not in season.  And baking konjac just makes it tough... About the only good thing from the dish was the cheese...

雙鮮菌味 - that huge hunk on the plate was actually one whole bearded hedgehog mushroom, covered in Provençal spices and lemon juice.  This thing was actually pretty filling, and the fibrous nature of this mushroom actually made the texture resemble a huge chunk of chicken breast or pork.

The pickled cabbage on the side was pretty spicy, not quite like kimchi...  Garnished with loofah leaf.

天醋香草 - a shot of plum juice drink.

食潤燉湯 - the soup came with jujube, lotus seeds, cashews, ginseng, wild ginger flower, Job's tears (薏仁), and my bowl was missing the lotus root.

生蔬麴米 - the base of the dish are rice flour noodles known as 米苔目 from Penghu Islands, topped with pumpkin mash, string beans, wolfberries (枸杞), celery, and Napa cabbage.  Pretty nice.

水果甜點 - we had a little bit of fruit to finish...

...and some purple glutinous rice and red bean soup, with chunks of yamaimo (山芋).

Well, this was certainly a pretty creative menu, even if not all the dishes worked for me.  It did, however, pique my curiosity about what they can do at slightly higher price points.  Maybe I'll get another chance to revisit...

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