July 26, 2012

Beauty and the Beast

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It's been a few years since the last time the Ox and I were both in Taipei at the same time, and we had a rare opportunity to catch up outside of Hong Kong.  The task of picking a venue fell on my shoulders, and I decided to finally check out la FESTA.

There was a good amount of hype surrounding last year's opening of la FESTA, much in the same vein as STAY.  Both restaurants are joint-ventures between chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants and local partners, which in this case is Igor Macchia of La Credenza outside Turin.  I've had a tough time finding a decent Italian place in Taipei, so I figured it was high time I came and tried my luck.

Neither of us wanted a lot of food, so we both took the simplest of the three set menus.  I was initially tempted to order à la carte, but figured I should try out a few more dishes through the set menu.

Stuzzichino - the amuse bouche was a little piece of jamón ibérico with arugula and olive oil.

Uovo morbido: soft cooked egg, black truffle, porcini mushroom sauce and black truffle - this appears to one of the signature dishes of the chef.  The egg was very liquid and wobbly, and the yolk was bright orange.  The mash, the porcini sauce and the shaved truffle all worked pretty well together.  Nice way to start.

Cappuccino di astice: lobster bisque, milk foam and croissant - not bad at all.  A couple of chunks of lobster, and dipping the mini croissant in the bisque was good.  There was a little dill on top, which added a little something extra.

Ravioli liquidi: ravioli with soft filling and duck meat - I totally forgot the name of the dish, so imagine my surprise when I tried to cut open one of the raviolis and the beef consommé squirted out onto the tablecloth.  Oops…

Honestly, neither of us were impressed by the execution here.  The consommé was tasty, but the ravioli was a little dry and chewy.  The duck, not surprisingly for Taipei, was overcooked and tough.  Not sure why they needed the herbs for the duck…  And finally, neither of us could figure out the rationale behind all the castor sugar.

Sorbetto - grapefruit flavor.  Very nice, with lovely flavors of the rind, leaving behind a wonderful fragrance in the mouth.

Agnello al caffè: marinated coffee lamb, sweet corn sauce and salad - this dish was doomed to failure from the start.  Our waiter brought us the lamb, announced that it was done to "medium" and if we felt it was too raw, they could get the kitchen to cook it further.  Hello?!  Medium was too raw?!  Did they even bother to ask us how we liked our meat?  No, they just assumed that we are like the typical Taiwanese customers who seem to prefer their meat fully cooked…  OK, in reality it wasn't a disaster, but we both preferred our meat to be a little more tender.

I wondered if my tastebuds were failing me tonight, because I only detected very subtle hints of coffee on the exterior, and I had to really focus.   Oh well…

Mousse al cioccolato bianco e te verde: ivoire valrhona chocolate green tea mousse, oat crispy cookies - the white chocolate and green tea mousse was not bad, with milk sorbet on top.  The cookie at the bottom gave the whole thing texture.

I think the overall impression on the food was kinda average.  The execution on the meats was certainly disappointing.  Maybe I should order à la carte next time - I saw suckling pig on the menu… and maybe a pasta.

There's bound to me wine when two MNSC boys get together, and we each brought a bottle.  One of our friends commented that one is a beauty and the other a beast, which I thought was actually very fitting.

2008 Robert Groffier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses - beautiful nose right after popping the cork, with coffee, nutmeg, red fruits, mint, hazelnut, toasty corn, toffee and lovely floral notes.  So young but already a pleasure to drink now.

1995 Gaja Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo - opened for 30 minutes and decanted for an hour prior to serving.  Minty, potpourri, dried herbs, really ripe and sweet fruit, alcohol was high but surprisingly not sharp.  Sous bois and licorice.  Still very powerful and concentrated.  This wine has a long, long way to go.

The Chairman stopped by and joined us for a drink.  After we ran out of wines, we adjourned to the bar next door for some whisky.  I took a single shot of Ardbeg 10 Years and enjoyed the classic peaty, hospital disinfectant nose.  I think that's a pretty good end to a fun evening.

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