November 26, 2022

My new favorite in Taipei

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I'm back in Taiwan for a few days to cast my votes for the local elections. Today is election day, and I did my civic duty in the morning. The polls closed at 4 p.m. and vote-counting began pretty much immediately at each polling station. Elections are pretty efficient in Taiwan, and results are reported back quickly and all the news channels have live coverage of how the count is progressing. It's easy to be caught up in this.

Well, I had no interest in sitting in front of the TV for hours watching the numbers tick up, and I knew that was what would happen if the Parental Units and I had dinner at home. So I booked a table for dinner for the three of us tonight, and told the Parental Units I had no interest in watching TV coverage. We were going out for a nice dinner to enjoy ourselves.

I hadn't bothered to book some place way in advance, so we weren't gonna get a table anywhere that's hard to get in. I also wanted to take mom somewhere for a new experience, and I figured I had found that in Molino de Urdániz. The flagship restaurant in Spain has earned themselves two macarons, and while I wasn't sure why they chose to open an outpot in Taipei, this place has also garnered a little macaron for itself. The description of "Spanish contemporary" evoked memories of cutting edge restaurants I visited during my trip back in 2006, and I wondered if they could deliver.

BOY! DID THEY DELIVER!

The menu listed thirteen courses, some of which came with poetic names such as "green meadow", "setting sun", and "bountiful harvest". This was gonna be a fun meal.

Caramelo de pimentón relleno de mousse de txistorra, adaptacion del embutido a nuestr cocina - injected into the tiny tubes made from fondant sugar and smoked paprika powder was a mousse made of txistorra. I could definitely taste the smoky flavors of the sausage along with a hint of spicy kick, while the tubes of sugar were so thin and so easily cracked that one had to be very, very careful with one's fingers.

Pepino encurtido y aliño de hierbas, pepino osmotizado, crema de ostras, hierbas y notas lácteas - described as "Molino's backyard", apparently this is the signature of the restaurant which has remained on the menu since the beginning. It only took one look at this to bring a smile on my face. I knew now that I would love this meal. Just looking at this presentation alone tells me that this was the "innovative Spanish" that I have loved all these years - of the same vein as el Bulli, Azurmendi, and others. I have missed it dearly, but now I found it here in Taipei.

November 25, 2022

Simple dinner at the club

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I'm back in Taiwan hanging out with the Parental Units, and since mom wasn't in the mood to cook tonight, she decided we should have a simple dinner at the Landmark Club (天母國際聯誼會) tonight. The dining outlets had been taken over by the Ambassador Hotel (國賓飯店) years ago, and these days as the hotel itself is being renovated, the hotel kitchen staff has been transferred here. That meant the standard of cooking has been noticeably elevated, albeit at the expense of a higher price point.

The staff came with a selection of cold appetizers, and mom chose the pickled bitter melon (醃苦瓜). This was the surprise of the evening, as the vinegar-based liquid was very refreshing and fruity. The slices of bitter melon were also much more crunchy than expected, and we got two different types - both the green and the white. The cherry tomatoes were pretty nice, too.

November 19, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 8: last stop, Shunde

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It's the last supper for the Parental Units in Hong Kong, and my last chance to show them something they've never had before. Shunde cuisine (順德菜) is a distinct branch of Cantonese cuisine which has produced a number of classic dishes, and these days my go-to place for this would be Stellar House (星月居). It doesn't deliver the best version of every dish, but there are enough fireworks to keep me going back.

We were expecting to be seated out in the dining room tonight, which would be fine, but we ended up sharing one of the large private rooms with another table.

Snake soup with fish maw (花膠燴蛇羹) - it's snake season and I was happy to have the opportunity to give mom a taste of a nice snake soup. It's not my favorite version, but I like it well enough. It's also the second time she's ever had snake soup - with the first being decades ago before I was born.

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 8: truffle pizza

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It's the Parental Units' last full day in Hong Kong, so I needed to make sure they get all the good stuff in before they leave. Since the main reason for the trip was to get some white truffle, I decided to do one last meal where there would be lots of the white diamonds. There is one dish where one can be sure of having tons of white truffle shaved on top, and I just had to come back to CIAK - In the Kitchen for it.

For today's meals, we are joined by My Favorite Cousin as she is now able to dine out after the end of her medical observation period. The Parental Units haven't seen her in a few years, so this was a good opportunity for them to catch up.

Seasonal mixed green salad | Datterino tomatoes, shallot, balsamic vinaigrette - mom figured she should start with a simple salad, and shared it with us.

November 18, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 7: back to the Russian department store

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For the last few days, the Parental Units have pretty much spent their time exclusively with us, without seeing anyone else. That all changed tonight, when a few of my friends graciously agreed to reschedule our dinner from last Friday, and also chose to accommodate the Parental Units for this meal. I thought it would be a good opportunity for mom to try Tin Heung Lau (天香樓), as this place is very old school and the flavors would also be pretty familiar. Meanwhile, I was a little apprehensive about going back to the Russian department store after all these years, especially after getting some feedback a few years ago.

What do I call this place the "Russian department store"? Check out this old post for an explanation...

Having been a regular here since perhaps childhood, Monsieur Jamin knows the staff well and took care of the menu for us. I was only too happy to have someone else take care of the ordering - especially one with connections and not just a nobody like me. We were asked to choose 4 starters from a list of 9, a set of 8 larger dishes, and pick a veg dish from a list of 3. I requested one starter and the veg dish.

Crab alcoholic (醉蟹) - mom gets to have raw drunken crab two days in a row, although tonight these were small Shanghainese hairy crabs (大閘蟹) instead of crucifix crab (花蟹). Not a lot of people wanted this so we ended up taking the leftovers home.

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