February 23, 2023

All crows are black, Taipei edition

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I'm back in Taiwan for a few days and decided to take the opportunity to catch up with old friends. I haven't seen Her Highness in a few years because, well, pandemic. I was looking forward to catching up with her and our mutual colleague when I got the news that our friend's entire family tested positive for Covid. I guess we'll have to catch up with her next time...

I refused to dictate a venue for our lunch, and eventually my friend settled on Mipon (米香) - one of the few restaurants with a Michelin star serving Taiwanese cuisine. It's frankly never been on my radar and I hadn't really heard of it, and it's housed in the Grand Mayfull Hotel Taipei (台北美福大飯店). None of us had been here before but I managed to do a little bit of research. I chose to avoid a couple of items that lots of people seem to have written about as the signature dishes of the restaurant, but which didn't really seem very interesting to me.

I was, honestly, a little disappointed by the service... but not surprised. Neither the kitchen nor the service staff cared about the serving order of the dishes. I guess it's true that Michelin stars are not about the service...

Stir-fried pork tail with three-cup sauce (三杯豬尾) - I don't often see pig's tail on the menu, so I was immediately triggered. Anything done with three cups (三杯) - which is a cup each of soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine - is bound to taste pretty strong. We almost always have Thai basil and ginger in the mix, too.

I really did love the little sections of tail. Loved the gelatinous pig skin.

MIPON combination platter (米香美三拼) - I'm curious. Did no one bother to teach the restaurant staff here that in Chinese cuisine, the platter is a starter and is always meant to be served first, before any other dish?!

Jelly fish (蟄頭) - the head of the jellyfish was definitely crunchy, and the minced raw garlic delivered a little kick.

Chopped cold boiled chicken (閹雞) - this was... definitely below par in terms of chicken from Taiwan. The meat was a little tougher than expected. So glad we chose to order the platter instead of a whole plate of chicken.

Neritic squid (軟絲) - the bigfin reef squid was pretty decent.

The next 4 dishes arrived within 3 minutes of each other, which is my biggest pet peeve about Chinese restaurants. How do they expect the three of us to eat all of these - plus the first dish - before all the food gets cold?!

Crispy shrimps pancake (金錢炸蝦餅) - these were just OK and not that special. There were quite a few chunks of water chestnuts inside, which I felt should not have been so big in size.

Pan-fried oyster omelet (沙茶蚵仔煎) - I should have realized that this was gonna be pretty big in size. Of course they weren't gonna serve us those single-servings of oyster omelet that one finds at street food stalls.

I must say there were plenty of oysters of decent size, but the shacha (沙茶) flavors were fairly subtle and one had to really focus to distinguish it.

Braised loofah with scallops (干貝燴絲瓜) - this was really, really bland... and I wasn't the only one who felt this way.

Rice vermicelli soup with taro (芋頭米粉湯) - this was pretty nice, with white pepper in the soup and chunks of taro giving this a slightly grainy texture. Unfortunately the portion was just too big for us.

I was happy to have caught up with Her Highness after a few years, and we definitely need to do this again soon. I did think the food was a little on the ordinary side, and once again am left scratching my head.

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