August 14, 2015

A sort of homecoming: tasty little plum

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It's been about 6 months since I've been banished from Taipei, and it was finally time to go home and visit the Parental Units.  This time, though, I wasn't flying home solo... as Hello Kitty had decided to come along and see a little more of Taipei.

Thanks to flight delays (which has become increasingly frequent in my life thanks to the weather) we were running a little late for the early seating at MUME.  This is a little place that has been getting a lot of attention over the last few months, as they have breathed a little bit of life into the local dining scene.  Definitely worth checking out for a number of reasons...

I was under the impression that this place was offering set menus, and was surprised to find ourselves with à la carte menus instead.  This suits us better, as we can pick and choose the dishes we want.

Kanpachi crudo, calamansi vinaigrette, cucumber, Chinese celery - pretty good, and the acidic citrus sauce lightly cured the slices of raw amberjack.  Our waitress introduced the citrus as 金桔 in Mandarin, which I initially took to be kumquat... but it turned out to be calamansi.  I liked the crunchy texture of the cucumber, as well as the clean and cool taste.  I also liked the chopped bits of Chinese celery for added flavor, as well as the piment d'espelette powder.  All in all, a very good dish to whet one's appetite with...

Squid, prawn head broth, smoked engawa, taro - we quickly realized that the portions here are pretty small, so we weren't in any danger of stuffing ourselves with the dishes that we'd ordered.  This is the thinly-sliced squid "noodles" that I am familiar with by now, having seen similar dishes at Amber and Noma's pop-up in Tokyo.  These were barely blanched, and served with flounder wings which had nice, smoky flavors (perhaps lightly torched?), garnished with crispy taro chips and bean sprouts.  Served with a prawn head broth accented with some chili oil.  There's a picture floating around somewhere with me holding the bowl up to my face so I could drink this stuff...

Crispy amadai, roasted pepper, toasted almond, tomato raisin - of course, we're no stranger to the tilefish with crispy skin and scales, either... but that doesn't diminish the enjoyment factor.  Nicely done.  With bell pepper sauce, and garnished with roasted pepper, toasted almond, raisin made from cherry tomatoes, and some crispy bacon bits.

Chicken, cauliflower, lily bulb stem, Pedro Ximenez jus - we had seen a picture of this dish taken by my friend Chef David Lai, who had visited the restaurant just a few days earlier. This was definitely the upside surprise of the evening.  The breast was so tender and moist that it almost melted in the mouth... although I would have taken marks off for not having the crispy skin on.  The crispy skin, of course, ended up on the outside of the roulade that was made with dark meat.  Needless to say this was also very tender, and much tastier than the white meat.  For someone who normally doesn't eat chicken (because battery farm chickens are so bland), Hello Kitty was very impressed.  So was I.

Beef shortrib, slow roasted carrots, burnt onion puree, pickle pearl onion - of course there will be beef tonight, but while the short rib was very tender and tasty, it paled in comparison to the chicken.  What was exceptional, however, was that burnt onion purée.  We could spread that on toast and eat it everyday.

Scallop, lemon verbena and dill, watermelon radish, betel nut flower - we decided to add a starter before the chicken arrived.  The scalloped was lightly seared and mi-cuit, with slices of radish wedged in between thunks.  I didn't care for the pickled watermelon nor the tapioca pearls, but dill and verbena sauce definitely had shadows of Noma.  Very, very nice.

Peaches and basil, pistachio crumble, crème fraiche ice cream, osmanthus - the peaches are from Mount Lala (拉拉山) and seem to have been soaked in syrup.  The crème fraiche ice cream was light and airy, but I didn't care for the frozen chunk of osmanthus cream - the texture just wasn't appealing.

This was a pretty good meal, and the only thing I have to complain about was the fact that one of the staff who brought us some of the dishes didn't bother explaining them to us.  Minor service issue, but the other waitstaff provided us with good service and switched her descriptions from Mandarin to English when she noticed that the two of us were conversing in English.

After I paid the bill, I asked to speak with Richie Lin - one of the founding chefs who happens to be the brother of a friend from Hong Kong.  We talked a little about how they are filling a gap in the dining options in Taipei, and offered my compliments.  This is definitely somewhere I can come back to time and again for a casual yet delicious meal, and if it weren't for the type of music in the house, I'd probably bring my parents here, too...

P.S.  We deliberate left some space in our stomachs so that we could walk over to the night market in the Tonghua/Linjiang Street area... although we didn't end up picking up much street food.  Instead, I ended up back at my favorite Eastern Ice Store (東區粉圓) for a bowl of shaved ice...  Slurp!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Will add this to your Taipei dining list!


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