July 15, 2014

L'Idiot 2.0

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It's been a while since my friends closed down L'Idiot, and I was really excited to find out that they were reviving the place - this time inside their family's flagship hotel.  So I rounded up a couple of old colleagues and mutual friends, and asked the boss to book a table for us.  We wanted to try out the place during its "soft opening" period.

I wanted to catch up with Afu - who, by the way, is still very very very very single - so I dropped by the restaurant in the middle of the afternoon.  Younger brother Fudy was also around, and the two of them took turns showing me the place as well as the kitchen.  There's a room all the way in the back where they are dry-aging their own slabs of beef, and the familiar smell hit me as soon as I opened the door.  A few other places in Taipei are claiming to dry-age their beef, but these guys are doing it for real.

Fudy also showed me his proud acquisition - a Josper oven that is supposedly the only one in Taiwan.  Given his passion and insistence on aging his own beef, it's not surprising that he would want to have one of these in the kitchen.

They also go a step further and imported the oak casks used by Jack Daniel's to age their bourbon.  The chips are supposed to impart a little bourbon flavor to the meat cooked in the oven.

I talked a little more with the two brothers about the ideas behind the new L'Idiot and the lessons learned from the first time around.  Fudy now spends a ton of time playing farmer, and harvests herbs and vegetables to use in their restaurants.  He doesn't try to grow everything he uses, but if there's something that he needs and a supplier isn't readily available, he will be his own supplier.

There was still a couple of hours to go before dinner, so I left to run a few errands before coming back...  Meanwhile, I had worked out tonight's menu with Fudy.

Baba ganoush and tomato bread - very, very tasty.  A great "amuse bouche" to start us off.

Yilan house duck prosciutto, seasonal fruit, pickles - Fudy ages his own duck breasts along with other cured meats, and this was pretty good.  The fig is actually grown locally in Taiwan.

Clams and house chorizo, roasted bell peppers, farm pesto, grilled bread - the Venus clams from Donggang (東港) were pretty good, but I really liked the house-made chorizo.  The bell peppers were also very delish, and the pesto - made from herbs Fudy grows himself - was wonderful.  I wish I had more stomach space to take down more of the bread and pesto.

Ceviche: Yilan shrimp, Hokkaido scallop, citrus salad - oh this was good...  The Stout red shrimps (胭脂蝦) from Yilan (宜蘭) were boat-fresh and very sweet.  The Hokkaido scallops were yummy.  The ceviche was done with a mixture of grape juice, lemon juice, grapefruit juice along with some olive oil.  Finished with some grapefruit and orange wedges, as well as some pickled fennel from Fudy's own farm.

Truffled maple pork chop, apple, grilled scallion, mashed potato - not bad, and I do like the hint of maple flavor here.

Lobster risotto: Maine lobster, sautéed vegetables - pretty tasty, but a little too soft for my taste.  Fudy did tell me that they have to cook the rice a little more for local tastes, and I forgot to tell the kitchen I wanted it al dente.

House-aged bone-in ribeye - cooked in the Josper oven, of course.  This was a damn big piece of meat... and I was really tempted to pick up the bone and gnaw on it.  But I didn't, and probably should have, like the dog that I am...

We asked for medium rare, but nowadays I am used to having my beef more on the raw side, like the amazing chuleta de Rubia Galega.  What we had was still very tasty.  Even though the beef isn't aged for as long as the ones I've had in Hong Kong, you can still taste some of the complex, cheese-like flavors that comes after dry-aging.  Yummy.

Roasted potato and onion, Hollandaise

Fudy sent out a couple of desserts for us, but I'm not really interested in the molten chocolate cake...  So I had the tiramisu that came with coffee ice cream on top.  Very yum.  I wish I had more stomach space...

1999 BOND Matriarch - very sweet, with exotic coconut butter.  Drinking very nicely.

Good food, good wine, and good company.  I'm glad we got a chance to check out the new L'Idiot, and my friends immediately booked another dinner for later this week.  I will need to come back and check out some of the other dishes, and maybe introduce dad to some real dry-aged beef.

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