March 30, 2012

Smoky kaiseki

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I met up with a friend from Hong Kong tonight.  He was here on business, and we caught up over dinner and some wine.  I wanted to continue exploring Japanese restaurants in town, so I suggested that we try out Toutouan (燈燈庵).  The main restaurant in Japan was never on my radar, but I learned about the opening of the Taipei branch from a fellow food blog, and it's always good to find a decent kaiseki (会席料理) restaurant.

We decided to take the Toutouan set (燈燈庵 会席).  We're still being served the March menu, but the final course was substituted for the item that will be in the April menu.

March 28, 2012

Tagging along for some fish

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Last Minute Uncle strikes again.  The parental units were hanging out with him this afternoon, and they decided to go grab some dinner.  I received the call in the early evening asking me to tag along, which I was only too happy to do.  However, I asked them to choose the venue since it was very last minute.  After checking with a couple of places, they settled on Gyodoike (魚道生).

Raw oyster (牡蠣) - from Hokkaido.  Always good here.

March 25, 2012

Fusion cha chaan teng in Taipei

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Our family went tomb sweeping today ahead of the upcoming holiday, and the few of us present in Taipei had a casual gathering over lunch afterwards.  I wanted to try out Happy Hong Kong (港欣新潮茶餐廳), and the others kindly agreed to indulge me.

To be honest, I didn't have high expectations.  I found out about this place through a TV program, and found out that they serve "creative" cha chaan teng (茶餐廳) food.  While some of the fusion dishes looked interesting, I didn't like the fact that the owner - the son of an old-time celebrity - spent time showing us how much money he spent on decorations… and how the seeming small elements cost a ton of money because they were special and imported.  For a casual meal that I would have in this place, food is much more important than the decor.

March 19, 2012

(Sugar and spice, and) Everything nice

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An old friend's in town on business.  I haven't seen him in a while, so I was really happy to have a chance to meet up with him.  He suggested that we go to Tutto Bello, one of his favorite places in Taipei.  I can't remember how long ago my last visit was, but that visit many moons ago - under a very different chef now famous around town - did not produce a return visit for me… until now.

I arrived to find that, to my surprise, the dinner party had doubled in size.  My friend had rounded up a few of his good friends who share his passion for wine, and there was already a spread of bottles on the serving table…  This is a group of regulars at the restaurant, so the menu has been arranged by the kitchen.

March 15, 2012

8 pieces for lunch

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The Specialist is town again and wanted some more Japanese, so I looked around for a new place to try.  I had long heard someone rave about Honda (本多日本料理), so I thought I'd give it a shot.  It also helps that the place is within walking distance from my office...

I decided to try out some sushi on the first visit, so I took the Take Sushi Set Lunch (握壽司午餐“竹”).

March 14, 2012

The Colgin perspective

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It's been three days since I first met Ann Colgin and Joe Wender, and I was seeing them for the third time this week - this time in Taipei.  The Specialist had kindly invited me to join her tonight at Justin's Signatures, where Sotheby's was hosting dinner for a select group of clients.  The auction house is working with Ann and Joe to showcase the wines from Colgin Cellars, as a parcel of library wines feature prominently in the upcoming Hong Kong auction.  While my wine collection seems miniscule compared to those of my fellow diners, I am a big Colgin fan as well as a loyal client… and I was so looking forward to tasting all the wines tonight!

March 13, 2012

My golden fix

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A couple of friends knew I was back in town and wanted to do lunch at one of my favorite places, so we booked a table at Gold, knowing that I'm having a hard time finding decent pasta in Taipei.  It would, of course, be silly for me to refuse, given how much I love the place and the big man…

March 12, 2012

A star in the city

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I had a pretty busy day, running around to catch up with a few people while I'm in town.  After failing to participate in a vertical tasting of Pontet-Canet, I caught up with Mr. and Mrs. Tigger over dinner at Yuè (粵), the newly-minted 1-macaron restaurant in the City Garden Hotel (城市花園酒店).  This is Tigger's new discovery, as he tries to wean himself from the Mandarin Oriental.

Barbecued pork (叉燒) - Tigger of course asked for the lean cuts, while I asked for the fattier cuts (半肥瘦).  What we got was pretty nice... and satisfied both of us.

March 11, 2012

The wedding of the year

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Tonight one of MNSC's own got married, at what surely must be Hong Kong's wedding of the year.  Two of Hong Kong's most prominent families came together with their families and friends to celebrate the wedding of Sonia and Paulo, at the Hong Kong Convention Centre with close to 2,000 guests.

The guest list read like a who's who of Hong Kong, but what was more interesting for me were the guests from the world of wine, thanks to Paulo's relationships and his position as the founder of Altaya Wines.  I'm sure there were a number of them I didn't recognize, but the long list included Frédéric Engerer, Thibault Pontallier, Jean-Guillaume Prats, Bernard de Laage de Meux and Jean-Charles Cazes from Bordeaux; Laurent Ponsot, Etienne de Montille from Burgundy; Ann Colgin from Napa; and critics Jancis Robinson, James Suckling, Jeannie Cho Lee.

Meeting Ann Colgin

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I'm a big fan of Californian wines, and I've been buying direct from some of the wineries for the better part of the last decade.  Colgin Cellars has long been a favorite among the Californian "cult wines", and a few years ago I was ecstatic to receive my first email informing me that, after a 3-year wait, I was finally off the waiting list and officially on the mailing list.

So you can imagine my excitement when one of my friends invited me to join her for an intimate lunch with the lovely Ann Colgin and her beaming husband Joe Wender.  This power couple was in town - like many power figures in the wine world today - for my friend Pineapple's wedding tonight.  But that's the subject for the next post...

We met up at Summer Palace (夏宮) since it was convenient for the guests, and a good chance for them to try a Michelin-starred restaurant in town.  Of course for me the food didn't really matter… I would have eaten at a dai pai dong or a McDonald's with them.  Unfortunately for the guests, our host had left the ordering up to me, so I can only hope that they weren't too disappointed with the food.

March 10, 2012

Revisiting an old friend

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My evening started at my beloved Caprice.  No, I did not have dinner there, because by the time I realized I was free for the evening, it was already Tuesday and impossible to secure a table here.  I was actually meeting up with a couple of friends here for a pre-dinner drink… or two or three.

Lancelot-Royer Cuvée des Chevaliers - mineral, sweet and honey, pear, sweet grass, candy and orange rind nose.  Slightly sweet, round and rich on the palate.  A very lovely and elegant NV blanc de blancs.

1975 Hermann Freiherr von Schorlemer Wiltinger Sandberg Riesling Auslese - very classic, with polyurethane, white pepper and mineral notes.  Not too sweet on the palate, as the aging had mellowed out the sugar attack somewhat.

2001 Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet - wow!  What an amazing wine!  The first whiff was already showing a big, toasty and mineral nose, and this was before the wine actually warmed up a little and really opened up.

March 8, 2012

The best Peking duck in Taipei

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Tonight I finally did it.  I returned to Song Kitchen (宋廚菜館) after almost 8 years.  The place is legendary among Peking duck lovers, which means the restaurant is always packed full of hungry diners.  It is quite possibly the hardest reservation to secure in Taipei.  The reservation "system" is open once a month on the first of each month, where diners can call in to reserve a table for a date in the next calendar month.  So our table tonight was actually reserved on February 1st, just over a month ago...  Now why does this remind me of the reservation system for El Bulli?

Chinese cabbage salad (松柏常青) - on the house.  Nice and refreshing, with crunchy peanuts and a little Chinese parsley for kicks in addition to cabbage hearts.

March 1, 2012

Paddle service

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I was invited to join the Chairman and friends for dinner on short notice, and in fact haven't seen most of the group since our dinner together last September.  Venue was 久食 Robata Yaki, which is apparently pretty new.  I hadn't found a place for robatayaki (炉端焼) in Taipei yet, so this was a good opportunity to scout out such a place.

We had a big group of almost 20 people, and took up the entire counter section around the grill.  As one would expect, all of the freshest ingredients were displayed right in front of us.  I guess someone had taken care of the ordering for us, or perhaps the chef had decided to just send us whatever he felt like… omakase (お任せ).


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