June 22, 2019

Villa dining

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Another year, another birthday spent with the Parental Units.  My search for decent restaurants offering both à la carte dining (i.e. not forcing diners to go through a multi-course dégustation) and decent wine service continues.  This time, I remembered a place which used to be on my hit-list all those years ago... which I still haven't been to.  After checking with a couple of friends - including the Prince of Napa - I called and booked us a table.

Villa 32 (三二行館) has been around for a while.  It's always been known as a luxurious hot springs resort, but it also had a reputation as a place to entertain guests with fine wine.  The Prince of Napa vouched for their wine service, so I was eager to give them a try.  The added bonus is that it's reasonably close to the Parental Units.

After walking through the beautiful and tranquil surroundings, we were seated in the restaurant at the basement level with a view of the deck outside.  We were presented with two tasting menus - one of which features seasonal white asparagus.  It didn't look interesting enough to be taken in its entirety, and as the "regular" tasting menu includes a few options from the white asparagus menu, I figured that was the way to go.

Inside the egg shell was actually not egg, but a seafood mousse with trout roe.

We've also got some crab meat with the mousse.

The "pearl" in the oyster shell was, of course, not a real one.  It was a molecular-type thingamajig made by cooking oysters sous vide into a mousse.  Not a fan.  Some people just shouldn't mess around with molecular/modernist cooking.  Served with a seaweed and fennel sauce that had a lot more flavor than the pearl.

I was also disappointed that we were told not to eat the Japanese river crab on the side...

Bisque of white asparagus with red prawn - with tomatoes.  This was just so-so.

I was just expecting a bowl of bisque, but then this showed up... A whole plate of red prawns, along with a spear of French white asparagus, some ferns, and crackers made with sago and tomatoes.

Pan-seared foie gras - mom always loves pan-seared foie gras, and she doesn't get to eat it often.  So when I realized she wasn't going to get it à la carte, I figured I could share an order with her.

This wasn't bad at all.  Mom was pretty happy that this wasn't too brown on the outside, and the interior was still fatty and jiggly.

White asparagus with king crab meat - the white asparagus was blanched in king crab stock, then topped with some steamed crab meat from the body of king crabs.  This was OK.  The crab leg was understandably a lot more tasty.  There was a sauce made with red apples that seemed kinda grainy.

We had a small portion of salad, which came with an almond and yogurt mousse.

Linguine with red prawn sauce - the linguine is made daily in-house, and the texture certainly had a nice bounce.  The sauce was made with lobster and prawns.  The red prawns came from waters off Yilan County (宜蘭縣).  Not bad at all.

Ibérian pork variation - two types of Ibérico pork here: fillet and pluma.  Both came with thin layers of lardo di colonnata.  The fillet was pretty tender, but unfortunately it was somewhat lacking in flavor.  Nice charring, though.  Of course the pluma was much more tasty...

The dessert was a ball of caramel and kumquat, filled with chocolate mousse as well as kumquat jam.  The spheres on the side were made of orange wine jelly.

Finally we had the petits fours.

This might look like a peanut, but it was made of peanut-flavored chocolate with crunchy an crispy middle.

White chocolate mousse with a center made of finely diced citrus zest that was a little bitter.

Plum and passion fruit millefeuille, with layers of marshallow between jelly.

Wouldn't be a birthday dinner without some birthday wine...

1970 La Lagune, ex-château 2013 - served without decanting.  Earthy, lightly stewed fruit, cedar, and a little smoke.  Thinner on the palate than expected but still got body.

It was a pretty nice evening.  After the closing of STAY a few years ago, I had been looking for a replacement restaurant where the food is at a sufficiently good level, where we can order à la carte for mom, with good wine service (and stemware), and not too loud and noisy.  This was the third venue we've tried in the last 4 months, and I'm happy to report that mom was pretty happy overall.  Her only complaint was that the white asparagus spears weren't as gigantic as the ones she enjoyed at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon a few years ago...

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