June 22, 2017

Birthday in Taipei day 2: cutting the (cheese)cake

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Rolf Meng and I go back quite a few years.  For a number of years starting in the year 2000, our family celebrated our birthdays and anniversaries at Paris 1930 (巴黎廳) in The Landis Taipei (亞都麗緻) whenever we could.  Along the way, Rolf came to be the sommelier and manager of the restaurant and took very good care of us.  He worked well with the chefs to come up with menus that matched the wines I brought.

I was shocked, therefore, when I found out a few years ago that he left The Landis Taipei.  He clearly loved his job, and it must have taken a lot for him to quit.  I did send him a text message at the time, but lost track of him subsequently.  So I was really happy when I found him again by accident, tagged in some photos on Facebook.  He - like me - had put on some weight since we last saw each other, but it was unmistakably him.

After reaching out to him and confirming that he was now the chef and proprietor of Brasserie Bonne Récolte (豐舍), there was no question that this was the place I wanted to go for my birthday dinner.  The Parental Units were surprised - and happy - that I had managed to track Rolf down.

The restaurant is in a new development in an old part of town, fronted on the street by old shophouses that have been refurbished, while doorways lead to a courtyard inside and brand new apartment blocks - with restaurants on the ground level.  I love the location, especially since it's not far from my apartment...

The menu's written in chalk on a giant blackboard, but Rolf had a few special things in store for us... especially given mom's preferences for lighter, more natural seasoning.

African eggplant - this bitter eggplant is commonly known as 車輪茄 for its shape, or "tayaling" in the Amis (阿美族) language.  Served with a red capsicum and red lees (紅麴) sauce.

Bitter gourd and tomato ratatouille with green olives and capers - definitely bitter.  Strangely refreshing when served chilled.

Summer truffle with chilled angel hair - another refreshing dish to whet the appetite on a hot day.  Simply dressed in a mix of Sherry vinegar and vinegar from 恆泰豐行, and served with cherry tomatoes, cucumber from Yilan (宜蘭), and shaved summer truffle.  Pretty light on the seasoning, and not much acidity from the vinegar.

Taiwanese vichyssoise (青蒜米濃湯) - I wanted to see what this was like, but unfortunately this was served hot instead of chilled - which would have been perfect for this weather.  Instead of potato, this was made with rice porridge to make things lighter.  The kick from garlic was very noticeable.  Topped with a couple of thin slices of chorizo and a few drips of capsicum oil.  Pretty decent.

Red snapper - smeared with a mix of belladonna, garlic, and parsley.  Served with baby corn and beetroot leaves.  Pretty tasty.  Mom felt that the salt rub on the grilled fish itself was a little uneven.

Coq au vin - the free-range, wheatgrass-eating chicken was pretty skinny and about 9 months in age.  Mom and I both thought we smelled Chinese medicinal herbs like Chinese angelica (當歸), but Rolf insisted that he didn't use any.  Instead, there was rosemary, thyme, mushrooms, red wine, and Huadiao (花雕) wine.  Pretty interesting dish.  The fresh tofu skin was very, very good.

Loofah - this is a particular type called "milk loofah (牛奶絲瓜)", and as someone who loooooves loofah, I was very happy with this "palate cleanser".

Striploin - with a sauce made from a type of local ginseng plant called 巴蔘菜.  Pretty under-seasoned and not very interesting.

Venison with yeast sauce - with red lees sauce, as well as as a red lees and fermented tofu (豆腐乳) sauce.  Now THIS was much more up my alley.

Pretty decent doneness.

Knowing it's my birthday, Rolf got me a vegetarian cheesecake (素乳酪蛋糕) from Ten Cake (十字軒糕餅舖) - an 80-some year old shop in the area.

While the cake itself was nothing to write home about, Rolf made the experience extra memorable by having me cut the cake not with a regular knife, but with a Germanic zweihänder sword.  Now THAT was definitely a first for me!

I brought along a bottle of wine from my birth vintage, but knowing Rolf, I figured I needed to look at the restaurant's wine list.  And sure enough, I found two entries that I didn't expect to see in Taipei... so I ordered up a bottle.

I think our waitress was a little shy... or inexperienced in pouring txakoli.  I encouraged her to lift the bottle higher as she poured.

2015 Txomin Etxaniz Getariako Txakolina Txakoli - high acidity with a flinty, almost mineral nose.

1970 La Lagune, ex-château - 1 hour in bottle, not decanted.  Very smooth, some fruit, a little earthiness, smoked meats.

This was a really fun evening.  We had a good time catching up with Rolf, who came and spent a lot of time with us to explain about his cuisine and philosophy - making sure that none of the sauces or seasoning would leave mom suffering from any nasty surprises afterwards.  I definitely look forward to revisiting soon!

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