July 7, 2022

Yilan hop 2022 day 2: dejeuner à côte

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Just as I was planning my trip back to Taiwan and thinking of excursions out of Taipei with the Parental Units, I saw the announcement from Fudy about his new restaurant. He apparently decided to team up with André Chiang in his latest venture, located in a white, 3-story mansion nicknamed “the little white house (小白宮)" built in the 1980s which onced belonged to the Lu Clan in Toucheng (頭城). The look and feel of the building - fresh after some renovation - made it look like a holiday home on the Côte d'Azur.

Côte à Côte took over the space previously occupied by another restaurant and began accepting diners beginning in June. I figured that since mom is familiar with both Fudy and André's cooking, it might be an interesting excursion for her. So I got online and booked us a table for the middle of the week, hoping to avoid the weekend crowds. I did tell Afu that I had booked for a meal, and he relayed the message to Fudy.

We checked out of our hotel this morning and came by taxi. A short stroll from Toucheng Station (頭城站) got us to the start of Heping Street (和平街), otherwise known as Toucheng Old Street (頭城老街). A few steps in and I was in front of the pond that once was the inner part of Toucheng Harbour, and this was where our destination stood - next to the historic Lu House (盧纘祥故宅).

H walked by just after we were seated and recognized me. She was surprised to see me (although I was more surprised that she remembered me...), and immediately offered to seat us at the table by the entrance which gave us a nice view of the front lawn.  Mom and I were then taken on a tour of the building, including the private dining room on the third floor where I found a very surprised Fudy in the middle of wolfing down a Subway sandwich... He had just come from his vegetable farm.

Once we sat back down, I went through the menu with mom so she could pick out the dishes that most interested her. I wasn't too surprised about her choices. On the advice of the staff, we chose to share all the dishes.

Seafood platter: raw oyster, prawns, langoustines - I wasn't the least bit surprised when Sankala ordered this up. The oysters from Matsu (馬祖) were very fat and actually very creamy. The gambas were from Guishan Island (龜山島) which is visible from the restaurant, although the first one Sankala tried tasted a little off. The langoustines were, apparently, also from Guishan Island.

Amberjack fish carpaccio with tiger's milk, roasted corn and parsley oil - mom had never tried ceviche with leche de tigre before, and this turned out to be her favorite dish. I admit that the flavors were sweeter than I had expected, but the corn was so sweet and delicious! Nice to see some sea grapes on top.

Fried hairtail fish with Worcester soy aioli - my least favorite dish today. I did not expect the hairtail (白帶魚) to be cut into such thin strips and coated with so much batter. I could barely taste the fish... although the aioli was pretty nice.

Neritic squid with mint lemon salsa - this came with compliments of Fudy. I thought the squid was pretty fresh with nice texture. I also enjoyed the acidity and the freshness of the salsa.

Roasted rosy seabass with chimichurri - I only had a little bit of the collar and thought this was fine. I thought it would be interesting for mom to try something with chimichurri, but she thought the fish was a little on the dry and tough side.

Confit duck with orange red wine sauce - I was expecting to have duck breast since we were in Yilan, home of the famous Cherry Valley duck, but they only had duck leg today. And no, this was not what I had in mind when I ordered duck confit. I was rather hoping for some crispy skin which would leave a wonderful fragrance in my mouth. Sadly not to be. This was OK, but the meat could have been a tad more tender. The orange on the side, though, turned out to be very useful at the end of the meal.

Spaghetti alla nerano - did not expect this to be swimming in sauce, and the amount of diced garlic here exceeded my expectations.

Roasted amberjack head, black olive cream sauce - this, as it turned out, was right up dad's alley. He was pretty happy picking this clean.

And there was a good amount of stuff to pick clean.

In retrospect I should have tried their profiteroles, but we were already pretty full by now.

I did order up a simple bottle of white wine to go with our seafood dishes:

2019 Monsieur de Bordeaux Sauvigon - flinty with some acidity.

I spent a little time catching up with Fudy. This turned out to be a nice and relaxing lunch on a beautiful day, and I was glad I had the trip. We still had a few hours to kill until our train back to Taipei was due to depart, so we slowly made our way up north on foot to our next destination.

Along the way we decided to stop for a cup of coffee, and I chose to check out the Toucheng branch of Starbucks, housed in a freestanding structure on the side of the road. Yes, in a small town, there's only space for one Starbucks...

I underestimated the distance to the Lanyang Museum (蘭陽博物館) and we ended up being soaked in sweat by the time we arrived on foot. The striking structure housed exhibits which showcased the topography and the ecosystem of the Lanyang Plains as well as the surrounding seas, and also introduced the history of the area's development throughout the centuries.

We made it back to the station by taxi, and we boarded the Tze-Chiang Express (自強號) back to Taipei. I wanted to try out the new business class (騰雲座艙) on the EMU 3000 trains. The seats were pretty comfy, and dad and I even got lucky when we were each offered a spare Taiwan Railway Bento (台鐵便當) - which was an upgraded version compared to the standard one we tried yesterday. This seemed a fitting way to end our little 2-day excursion, the same way it began yesterday morning.

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