July 15, 2022

1940s tea party

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One of the sad things about the pandemic over the last two-and-a-half years, stemming from the fact that I haven't seen the Parental Units during that time, is that we haven't celebrated the important dates together. I usually travel back to Taipei to celebrate their wedding anniversary as well as our birthdays together, and none of that happened. So now that I'm spending 3 weeks in town, I decided to pick a night to make up for lost time.

Our family has a relatively long history with Paris 1930 at the Landis Taipei. It all started with that fateful dinner to celebrate dad's 60th, where we eventually popped open a very nice bottle of wine from the restaurant's wine list. Since then we have spent many special occasions there, and Jack has been at the restaurant and the hotel throughout this time.

Lots of things have changed since then, and the restaurant has gone through a number of chefs. The current chef is Takayama Hideki (高山英紀), and the restaurant has been rebranded as Paris 1930 de Hideki Takayama. His claim to fame is having taken first place twice at Bocuse d'Or Asia-Pacific - in 2014 and 2018 - and achieving fifth place at the 2015 Bocuse d'Or main competition. That's somebody whose cuisine I need to check out...

There were a few tasting menus on offer, but after weighing the options I chose La Saveur, which was kinda in the middle of the range.

There were 4 different amuses bouches:

The shot glass contained 3 different layers of granité: cucumber and basil, crushed ice, and watermelon. The top layer was pretty salty and really needed the ice in the middle, along with the watermelon, to balance it all out.

Octopus wrapped in spinach and spring roll pastry - with Dongding Oolong tea (凍頂烏龍茶). Nice and crispy on the outside.

Chayote with shrimp and tomato - the tomato was 黑柿蕃茄, with sweet shrimp (甘海老), mustard, and Longjing tea (龍井茶). This was OK.

A5 wagyu with coriander - the wagyu is from Hokkaido.

The restaurant also provided us with a little speaker, which was meant to play music to accompany our amuses bouches for added sensory experience. Unfortunately, the music playing from the main speakers of the restaurant was at a higher volume, which meant the different music from the two sources ended up clashing with each other. This was a total FAIL, and made me wonder what the chef was thinking...

It hadn't hit us yet, but we would soon realize that Takayama-san really likes using tea as an ingredient in his cuisine. This presented huge problems for Sankala, who cannot have any caffeine intake after morning is over. She ended up skipping two of these bites.

Seasonal vegetables with sushi rice - so this was the dish that Takayama-san presented at Bocuse d'Or World in 2015, but apparently he varies the ingredients according to season and locale. Served with some mayo on the side.

The millefeuille came with Hokkaido king crab (鱈場蟹) meat and Okinawan bitter melon (ゴーヤ), cabbage, spinach, ginger, onions, and "sushi rice" from Taitung County (台東縣) - whatever that means. The bitterness of the bitter melon definitely came through, and eringi mushrooms were a little slippery.

At this point we were once again offered a sensory experience, in the form of jasmine scent which would be diffused from an apparatus behind the banquette the ladies were sitting on. We had a remote to control the timing and hence the amount we desired. Well... I desired zero jasmine scent tonight. I did not need anything to interfere with the nose of the wines I had brought for the occasion.

Brioche - served with Beurre d'Isigny Doux.

Penghu sea urchin, fennel, finger lime - Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) from Penghu. The foam is meant to evoke the feeling of watching the splashes generated by the rotors of a boat at sea. Beneath the chilled soup made of fennel was a layer of jelly made with Wenshan Baozhong tea (文山包種茶), which didn't taste very strong.

The dish was offered with yet another sensory experience - the scent of the ocean. I felt like I was at this dinner...

OK, so this is where we realized we are just gonna get tea in every dish... so we asked the kitchen to try to leave out all elements featuring tea from Sankala's servings. I guess I didn't do enough homework on the chef, and did not realize that the concept of the cuisine would feature Taiwanese tea pretty prominently.

The restaurant was offering Australian winter truffle, and while I didn't think the quality would be the same that I would find in Hong Kong, I was acutely aware that the Parental Units don't get a lot of opportunity to taste them... and certainly wouldn't splurge on their own. So I didn't hesitate to add two dishes to share.

Scrambled eggs with Australian winter truffle - the truffle certainly looked a little dry when the waitstaff was trying to shave slices on top of the eggs. Fragrance-wise this was OK, although mom didn't understand why we would be shaving it over scrambled eggs.

Penghu squid, vegetable fern, kumquat - there was a tiny bit of squid ink here... just enough to look like calligraphy brushstrokes without actually adding much flavor. Fiddlehead fern (過貓) and passion fruit rolled up inside the squid, and we've got kumquat (金桔) sabayon on the side.

Yilan ayu fish, seaweed, Genovese sauce - filet of sweetfish from Yilan County (宜蘭縣), stuffed with scallop mousse and laver from Penghu Islands. Topped with deep-fried senbei (せんべい) of fish bones and also cucumber slices as well as cucumber flower and sugarsnap peas. The scallop mousse was still kinda wet and more like a paste, instead of what I was expecting. A little smoky here. Pretty nice overall.

The dish is meant to evoke images of fish swimming in a stream. I can definitely see that.

The baguette was made with black tea, and Oriental Beauty (東方美人) if memory serves. Much too soft, though...

Tilefish, Matsu mussel, water bamboo - the tilefish from Yilan was done by pouring hot oil on the scales to make them crispy and fragrant. With mussels from Matsu (馬祖) Islands delivering intense flavors and plenty of salt, and stir-fried water bamboo and green peas. Deep-fried Honyun black tea (紅韻紅茶) leaves not surprisingly packed quite a punch.

Boston French blue lobster - the menu called for Boston/Maine lobster, but apparently the had run out and asked whether I would be willing to substitute homard bleu... for a premium, of course. No problems with that! With fennel cooked with garlic below. Gnocchi on the side were made with Golden Yunnan (金絲滇紅) tea and red sweet potatoes (紅心地瓜), which were a little on the dry side. Also a couple of Brussels sprouts.

Mi-cuit. Very tasty. Very satisfying biting into that big chunk of lobster and feeling the crunch.

Risotto with Australian winter truffle - mom thought the truffles paired much better with the risotto, which was pretty al dente and she found it much more interesting.

Grape, terrine, sorbet - Taiwanese Kyoho (巨峰) grapes were encased in a jelly made with Oolong tea from Li Shan (梨山), served with grape juice frozen with liquid nitrogen. Love grapes and how refreshing this was.

Mount Lala peach, coconut, candy craft - the bavarois was made with peach and coconut, with a base of chiffon cake made with Honyun black tea (紅韻紅茶). The peach foam on top was sprinkled with hazelnuts and strawberry powder.

Mille feuille - the signature dessert featuring matcha from Yame (八女) in Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県), Takayama-san's hometown.

The millefeuille was certainly very fine, with many delicate layers. I definitely tasted the butter...

Petits fours:

Irwin mango madeleine

Pineapple and caramel tart - with vanilla sauce and Myer's Rum.

Chocolate bon bon - with 75% dark chocolate and Oolong tea ganache.

The restaurant has a trolley just to showcase their selection of bottled water, with a large selection of both still and sparkling water imported from all over the world. While I applaud them for offering a range of choices to their customers - and admittedly I am not as discerning when it comes to my water as I am with regard to my wines - it is rather going against the current trend of offering filtered water such as Nordaq.

As is traditional, I brought along wines from the Parental Units' birth vintage... this time both of them!

1940 Haut-Brion - served immediately after decanting. Acidity was here but we still had some body and tannins here. Woodsy and 'old' nose as mom would describe, with mint and a bit of smoke. More cigar smoke showed after 20 minutes. Drinking reasonably well for such an old wine.

1943 Latour, Christie's ex-château auction May 27, 2011 - I thought this might have been un petit bouchonée... Still fragrant with cedar notes, but I think the cork taint faded a little with time. Very clear, dark ruby color... just looking beautiful. About two hours later this was still OK, but not better. A little downhill now, showing some amber at the rim. Just a tad disappointed.

I gotta admit that I was very happy with dinner. I didn't think we needed to have tea in every.single.dish. but... aside from that, I thought the dishes were pretty nicely done. The wines both drank reasonably well, and mom was pretty happy to have had a night out like this with us after such a long absence. I hope we could do this again very soon!

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