October 14, 2012

Fine dining with old men

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It was dad's birthday yesterday, so I arranged to be in town this weekend and took him to lunch today.  I also managed to invite Last Minute Uncle who, not surprisingly, grabbed his two sons at the very last minute to come join us…

It looks like we will make coming to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon a tradition on dad's birthday, although I didn't bring any wine today as we were doing lunch.  I was greeted at the door by a familiar face - my old friend Benoit.  As I was a little early, we chatted a little while some TV channel was in the kitchen filming Chef Angelo.

It's clear that - no surprise to me - business isn't great here in Taipei.  The number of covers from last night - a Saturday - was ridiculously low.  We also discussed the phenomenon of people coming in not because they truly appreciate the food, but because they simply wanted to check off a list and tell people (via Facebook or Instagram or whatever) that they've been here.  There seemed to be no escape from the Asian (and perhaps global) phenomenon where couples spend 15 minutes posing for pictures with each dish.  Benoit also lamented that there simply doesn't seem to be enough customers in Taipei who love food enough to be willing to spend some money on it.  Instead the locals seem to prefer to drop big bucks on expensive handbags or watches - something which they can show off to others.

As we realized that our conversation had turned into a mini bitching session, we shook our heads and both joked that we are two old men who are not able to keep up with the times.  The behavior we have been complaining about is now the mainstream, and the two of us are hopelessly out of date.  Of course, I was soon joined by more old men at my table…

We were pretty hungry, so we started munching on selections from the bread baskets… and cleaned them out.

Amuse bouche - carrot purée with cumin, diced shallots, mango and croûtons.  Not bad.

Le shiitake: grillé et farci au pied de cochon, garni d'un œuf mollet et jambon cru - these days I just can't resist having a soft-boiled egg… the way it would wobble when I shake the plate… Naturally this is local and organic.  Honestly, though, the dish was more about the egg than the shiitake mushroom to me.  The finely diced bits of pig's feet had crunchy cartilage, and of course I loved this part, too…

Le suckling pig - OK, I'm kidding here… this is a daily roast item, so it's not really called "le suckling pig"…  Four succulent little pieces that came with lots of fatty goodness.  Served with foam made from chicken stock, although I thought I tasted olives… and sprinkled with powdered piment d'espelette.  Thin strips of yummy crackling were strategically placed, although I would have preferred a lot more of that crackling!

L'ananas: au naturel sur sa crème légère relevée au rhum, couronnè d'une tuile croquante - oh wow!  This was mmm mmm good!  Pineapple, rum cream, lime sorbet… what's not to like?!

Canelé - surprised to be getting this instead of macarons.

Not bad at all, actually… Very moist inside while the outer shell was nice and crunchy.

A pretty satisfying meal, but then again why should I be surprised?  I do hope, though, that more of my fellow countrymen would learn to appreciate cuisine like this.  I wouldn't want to see Uncle Joël and his partner make the unfortunate decision of exiting this market...


Brett Domue said...

That would, truly, be a crying shame! Especially to lose the pairing of Benoit and Angelo, who are one of the best Chef + Sommelier pairings I have ever encountered.

Zumi said...

This is great and How I wish taste this delicious food in a fine dining restaurants. I really enjoyed your blog and I felt a little bit hungry after reading your post. :) Thank you for sharing this with us.


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