July 2, 2022

Taichung hop 2022 day 1: sedap Singapura

Pin It

The real reason for dragging the Parental Units to Taichung is dinner at JL Studio. Jimmy Lim (林恬耀) is, of course, now a familiar name on the food scene in Asia - having climbed the ranks of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants and also bagging himself 2 macarons along the way. I was first introduced to him a few years ago in Macau, but as his playground is not in my hometown, it was never convenient for me to go check it out. Well... I'm in Taiwan for a whole 3 weeks this time around, so I figured I could plan a trip. Since Little Rabbit is a regular customer, I asked her to join our little gathering.

The young side of our table took the alcoholic beverage pairing while the old fogeys took it easy. But first, Jimmy very kindly offered us an extra bottle of Champagne so the Champagne Monster could start the meal with a smile on her face... and the old fogeys got to drink it, too!

2012 Huré Frères Instantanée, dégorgée le novembre 2019 - pretty lean on the palate, since it is, after all, extra brut.

Taste of home: Kueh pie tie - in a variation on the classic, we have botan shrimp (牡丹海老), cuttlefish, and shredded carrot and radish... toppped with a ton of herbs like chervil and flowers like chrysanthemum. The dried shrimp flavors were pretty strong.

Taste of home: Rose kueh - the achappam came in a savory variety with green soy beans and pea shoots - the latter delivering very green flavors along with coriander seeds in the sweet pea cream on the deep-fried dough.

Rasam: water bamboo | cherry tomato | lentil - we've got gelée made with clarified tomato water, frozen burrata, smoked water bamboo, and cubes of yellowfin tuna all topped with tomato foam. Sprinkled with deep-fried dough made with lentils which were crunchy. The tomato brought along both umami and acidity, which was pretty awesome. Somehow, though, I didn't seem to have noticed any water bamboo along the way...

Robert Moncuit Rosé Les Romarines, dégorgée le février 2021 - an interesting rosé made by adding 8% still red wine to 92% chardonnay, hence the color of the final product. A bit flinty on the nose, and nicely balanced on the palate.

Sourdough pain de campagne - this was very nice with a crispy crust. We've got 2 different types of spread to go along...

The candle made of lard has been melting since the start of our meal, and now has been completely liquefied and finished with some aged vinegar.

The butter was made with dried shrimp chili paste, which had similar flavors as sambal belacan. This was really, really good... and Little Rabbit kept on gobbling it down so the staff kept on bringing her additional quenelles...

King crab curry - BUT WAIT! Jimmy decided to bring us a third and extra "dip" for our bread! The little section of Alaskan king crab leg came with more crab meat at the bottom... and was made like Singaporean chili crab - but obviously the flavors here were more complex than the crab one gets at your average seafood joint. Reminds me more of the chili crab at Violet Oon's. Jimmy thought the crispy pain de campagne could substitute for the deep-fried mantou (饅頭) commonly served with the chili crab.

Lo hei: swordfish | yuzu | sesame - Jimmy's take on the lunar new year dish of yusheng (魚生)/ lohei (撈起). We have this pretty sphere made of sugar, which has a bunch of flowers and greens inside along with some crunchy peanuts.

The sphere was dropped onto the plate so that the shell is broken, in a manner reminiscent of Oops! I dropped the lemon tart from Osteria Francescana. We also had slices of swordfish and radish underneath the fish-shaped crispy cracker on the plate. We were then advised to, of course, mix all the ingredients together, and I did, in fact, lo hei.

Shroom kut teh: abalone | shitake | aiyu - bak kut teh (肉骨茶) without the pork spare rib... The soup base is Singaporean style so there's plenty of garlic and white pepper, plus some shiitake (椎茸). On top there's a layer of finely-shredded burdock that's been deep-fried to a crisp.

Underneath the burdock we've got very, very tender and flavorful abalone from Gongliao (貢寮) as substitute for pork, shiitake from Xinshe (新社) nearby, eringi, and aiyu (愛玉) jelly that is meant to mimic the collagen one gets from extended cooking of the ribs... although to be honest, in my fairly extensive experience eating bak kut teh in Singapore, I don't remember once having tasted or felt the existence of any collagen in my soup. I did feel, though, that the ingredients were a little more salty than I would have liked.

2018 Fire Gully Sauvignon Blanc Semillon - much more flinty than expected, with a little muscat on the nose.

Hor fun: sweet shrimp | squid | kailan - it's stir-fried riceflour noodles (炒河粉) but presented as a taco of sorts, layering the kway teow (粿條) together and served up with dots of confit egg yolk. Apparently the wok hei of the dish comes not from the stir-fried noodles themselves but from the pressed layers of stir-fried kailan (芥蘭) leaves.

Hidden in the "taco" was a mix of diced shrimp and squid. After mixing it all together, it did kinda taste like the typical stir-fried noodles... especially with the sauce that was drizzled on top.

2020 Oliver Zeter Chenin Blanc aus Versuchsanbau - very, very floral and fragrant, with white flowers and tropical stone fruits.

Satay: slow cooked beef shortrib | fish sauce | gula melaka - lifting up the wafer-thin slices of raw jicama reveals the well-marbled beef shortrib, which came topped with a layer of finely-diced raw shallots, diced lemongrass, deep-fried garlic, kaffir lime, and sea salt. The jus on the side also came with some fish sauce and galangal, I believe.

Unfortunately I didn't like how this dish was seasoned. When the beef first hits the tongue, the sea salt and whatever else delivered a pretty salty blow to the taste buds... After a few seconds of chewing, when the fat in the beef started to get squeezed out and mixed together with the seasoning, it all blended together and eventually worked out. Jimmy came out to check on us after the staff heard a few of us complaining amongst ourselves about the seasoning, but it's really a subjective and personal preference. Some of us just don't want the kitchen to be heavy-handed while others are perfectly fine with it.

Satay: zucchini | pineapple | pistachio - the side dish with zucchini, pineapple, and cabbage was very, very tasty... seasoned with lots of spices like cumin, turmeric, coriander seeds, star anise, and cinnamon.

2016 Les Vignerons Parisiens Les Templiers - nice and ripe. Sweet and pretty fragrant.

Jimmy brought out another extra dish... this time a big pot of king prawn curry. Cooked with pineapple and cherry tomatoes with all the shells and prawn tomalley. He must think we all have bottomless stomachs like Little Rabbit.

This was served on top of some rice cooked with coconut milk and herbs like pandan, chili, and lemongrass. Really, really tasty, but it made me really, really full. We had to pack a good chunk of it to take home.

The palate cleanser was a sorbet made with tamarind, along with longan (龍眼) purée and cocoa powder.

Fang-Tsao Pale Ale (芳草艾爾啤酒) beer from Taiwind Beer (台風酒造) - really fragrant, light and refreshing. Abso-fucking-lutely my kind of beer.

Yaw Kun Kopi Tiam: frozen kaya | butter | burnt toast - a play on the famous Singaporean kopitiam chain of Ya Kwun Kaya Toast (亞坤咖椰吐司). This dessert combined the classic trinity one tends to order for breakfast at this and other Haianese coffee shops - kaya toast with butter, soft-boiled runny eggs, and Haianese coffee. As someone who religiously orders these items for breakfast whenever I'm in the Lion City, this dessert was almost perfect! The kaya was there but got overpowered by a ton of butter, while I could feel the crunchy texture of the toast. I know I said that I was full, but I really wanted another two of these...

N 1.2868° E 103.8545°: coconut | jackfruit | calamansi - the name of the dish represents the exact coordinates of the famed Merlion, and the construction reminds one of the scales on the lower half of the mythical creature. The round discs of ice were made from coconut water and coconut milk, interlaced with flower-shaped meringue. We had diced mango, honeydew melon, and jackfruit below, along with lemon and lime zest. Very refreshing and tropical.

Caldas White Porto - honey and some apricot on the nose. Amber color was much darker than expected.

Sweets: curry leaf - pistachio and curry leaf madeleine. Loved that distinctive fragrance of curry leaf.

Sweets: bandung - the white chocolate sphere came with rose syrup and filled with chunks of attap seeds. I was kinda surprised that mom had never even heard of bandung after all these years of living in Singapore...

The herbal tea is very similar to the one at Ta Vie 旅, with mint, pandan, and lemongrass. Very soothing and comforting.

We were completely stuffed, and even Little Rabbit raised her little white flag... But I was pretty darn happy, as the dishes were full of flavors which are familiar but Jimmy managed to do his own thing and came up with alternate presentations and twists. That's what I've always loved to see in chefs. We managed to introduce some new things to mom that she never tried while living in Singapore, and given the care taken by the kitchen in terms of ingredients and seasoning, the general lack of chemical additives meant mom felt very comfortable and did not suffer any negative effects after the meal. For me, the most important thing is her happiness, and we managed to achieve that tonight.

It was a pretty long night and we managed to make it back to the hotel pretty late. I guess we would not have the chance to grab a night view of one of the city's famous landmarks this time...

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map