February 27, 2012

Spanish birthday

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We finally got to mom's birthday, and decided to pick another new place to treat mom to dinner - our third straight day of dining out.  I had told mom about DN Innovacíon some time ago, and thought this would be a perfect opportunity for her to try out some Spanish cuisine in Taipei.  Not surprisingly, we picked up a couple of stragglers just before dinner… Last Minute Uncle and my younger cousin.

Chef Daniel was apparently down with an illness over this long weekend, and the Spanish sous-chef was left in charge.  I guess business was kinda slow, so the kitchen didn't seem to have enough ingredients to provide for some added variety that I was looking for.  Bummer…

Jamón ibérico, aged 36 months - this is 5J from Jabugo, sliced very thinly.  Very nice and delicious, with pan con tomate served on the side.

Calamari with onion confit - the calamari is sourced from nearby Yilan, and was done pretty perfectly.  The onion confit was made by "adding caramel (焦糖)"…  I think the waiter just meant it was made by adding sugar, not caramel.  As I realized on my last visit, the front of house really doesn't know that much about the ingredients that go into the dishes…  Good stuff.

Grandma's monk fish soup - I guess this is the signature soup, since there doesn't seem to be an alternative worth trying.  It's very nice, though, like I remembered it.  Enough monk fish put together with carrots and onions to lend some sweetness.

Paella Valenciana - on my previous visits there were never enough of us to share a proper paella, but tonight there were 5 of us.  The mistake the waiter made, though, was to completely divide the large pan of paella between us - giving each of us surprisingly large portions.  What he should have done was to leave a third to a half of it in the pan so we can pack it home.

In spite of the service issue, it did taste pretty good.  The sous-chef told me that most of the ingredients - the rice, olive oil, chorizo, saffron…etc. had been imported from Spain, in order to achieve the authenticity.  Seafood was sourced locally but that's fine.  I asked for the rice to be "al dente" and it definitely had that bite.  There was plenty of fragrant olive oil and saffron, and the seafood was pretty decent.  Not bad at all, but I was pretty full after a plate of this.

Low temperature roasted Spanish ibérico suckling pig - I asked for a portion of ribs as well as a leg.  Both were delicious, which is not surprising since it's one of Daniel's best dishes.  The skin was a little more chewy than I had expected, but  the flavors were wonderful.  There was almost no lean meat on my piece of the rib…  Honestly, pork fat is just one of the best gifts from heaven.  Normally I'd be ecstatic after this dish, but tonight I was just really stuffed, and the fat got to be a little too much.

By now I really wasn't in the mood for dessert, especially since it's never been the strong suit here.  Nevertheless I tried each of the trio that was presented before me.

Arroz con leche - not bad, but it's never been one of my favorite desserts.

Caramel sponge cake - weakest of the lot.  A little too dry for my taste, despite the nice touch of candied orange rind inside.

Crema catalana - very, very good… Normally I prefer flan, but I was just as happy with this tonight.

I'm running low on inventory from mom's vintage, so I decided to bring something a little more recent tonight.  The 1982 Gruaud Larose was a fragrant and absolutely lovely wine… drinking exactly as I would expect from a bottle of Bordeaux this age.  Nose of smoke, forest, sweet fruits like blackcurrant, black cherries, a little pencil lead.  Double-decanted for over an hour prior to serving, and it took a little more time for the traces of alcohol in the nose to dissipate.  Mom still didn't quite like the "smelly wooden barrel" nose she often finds in old Bordeaux…

I was pretty happy with the food tonight, although it would have been better to have more choice of Spanish dishes…  Methinks I'll need to call ahead and arrange something special with Daniel ahead of my next visit.

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