February 23, 2023

Scratching the 7 year itch

Pin It

For a number of years, I have been wanting but unable to visit the crop of fine dining restaurants that have opened up in Taipei. My trips back home tend to be short and focused on spending time with the Parental Units. When it came time for those celebratory meals with them, I was limited to the small selection of restaurants which allowed mom to order à la carte as opposed to taking a full tasting menu she would be unable to finish. For this reason, many restaurants on my "hit list" have been off-limits.

Which is why, almost 7 years after the restaurant first opened, I am finally making my very first visit to Taïrroir. Amazingly, mom had decided during the pandemic that she needed to eat more, so she actually dined here before I did!

We were joined by Little Rabbit, who alerted chef Kai Ho (何順凱) and pastry chef Angela Lai (賴思瑩) to our presence. I would have preferred to remain incognito, but that doesn't seem to be possible with Little Rabbit...

Menu "Qiu Lu Cai" - this is spelled with Hanyu Pinyin (漢語拼音) but the it's actually "手路菜" in Minnan (閩南語). A little challenging for a little taro boy (芋仔) like me to figure this out...

First, a series of 3 amuses bouches to get us started:

Zhuangyuan cake (狀元糕) - with preserved radish (菜脯) and olives inside the soft and powdery sponge cake. Topped with crispy and smoky purple glutinous rice.

Tofu paper roll (千張卷) - with lemon-infused lentil mash inside. Gotta say that the tofu paper was really tough, like chewing on a piece of leather...

Crispy tart with vegetarian eel (素脆鱔撻) - the tart pastry was very thin and crispy. Inside there was some stracciatella - which is apparently translated as 絲綢乳酪 - along with some crunchy diced bean sprouts, topped with crispy strips of shroom covered with sweet glaze. This was pretty nice.

Kabocha pumpkin velouté, Pu'er tea, watercress cuttlefish dumpling (洱熟南祥) - mousse made with Pu'er tea (普洱茶) on top of pumpkin velouté, with a sprinkle of Pu'er powder. This was rich, warm, and comforting. A hint of pepper here in the velouté, and the foam was a little savory.

Crystal dumpling (水晶餃) - this came with diced cubes of cuttlefish as well as watercress.

The bread selection came next, and we found it curious that the baguettes were a little more pale and white in color. The flavors were also lighter.

Kaviari "Kristal" caviar, peanut tofu, orange, home-brewing umeshu (花鱘文柚) - the little cubes of peanut tofu immediately reminded me of Taiwanese beancurd pudding that is usually served with boiled peanuts. Served with seasonal oranges (雞蛋丁) from Yunlin County (雲林縣), I did wonder about the combination together with Kristal caviar, umeshu (梅酒), and ponzu (ポン酢) sauce.

I must admit I didn't really get this dish. Then again, I'm probably just being an asshole who questions the motive everytime a chef serves me caviar. Does it really add something to the dish, or was it purely gratuitous?

Hokkaido kegani crab, smoked aubergine, "hot and sour", tomato, young ginger (潛紅墨化) - the top is a layer of squid ink jelly, and the tomato water is poured into the bowl.

Underneath we have Japanese horsehair crab meat with a little bit of diced green apples and ginger. We know there was a little bit of smoked aubergine purée between the crab and the jelly, but I could have sworn there was crab tomalley (蟹味噌), too.

65°C quail egg, taro "en purée et kueh", Yilan "ya shang", sakura shrimp (迷魂香芋泥鴨) - apparently the chef's signature dish inspired by eight-treasure taro duck (八寶芋泥鴨), which is a dish I'm not familiar with since I usually have eight-treasure duck or taro duck... and never had the combination. Here we clearly see the purée of pink taro from Dajia (大甲) together with a couple of soft-boiled quail eggs and some porcini oil.

On the side we got some sakura shrimp (桜海老) from Donggang (東港) and smoked duck (鴨賞) from Yilan (宜蘭).

We then combined all the ingredients together, and asked to poke the eggs but without mixing everything together. I thought the combination of all the different flavors and textures was OK.

Abalone-barley risotto stuffed chicken wing, black truffle, cabbage, white peppercorn broth (鮑菌滿薏) - at first glance we only see the shaved black truffle with dehydrated or caramelized Napa cabbage, along with chicken soup seasoned with white pepper.

Buried underneath was a section of chicken wing which had been stuffed with diced abalone, mushroom, barley... etc. This was actually pretty nice, and the truffle worked very well with the chicken.

Our first extra course from the chef was a piece of amadai (甘鯛). It would surprise no one that the fish was succulent and presented a nice contrast with the crispy scales. The sauce was made with fish bones as well as the leftover wine lees from Weightstone wines. The latter ingredient brought back some unpleasant memories from last summer...

The radish on the side was encased with fish mousse, garnished with chervil and sliced radish.

Maine lobster, romesco, carrot, wonton in "dandan style", chestnut (嶼龍共舞) - we all felt the lobster was just a tad overcooked. We have some cooked baby carrots as well as pickled pink guava, along with romesco sauce.

On the side there was a wonton (餛飩) - actually introduced to us as a raviolo - stuffed with lobster. We've got lobster bisque foam on top along with some chili oil. But why was there also chestnut?! Was it meant to be an alternative version of dandan (擔擔) sauce where the chestnut replaces peanut?

The pigeons for tonight come from Pingtung County (屏東縣) and weigh about 450 grams.

Pingtung pigeon, pea shoot malfatti, offal "burger", liver parfait, mole, shacha (浪飪情鴿) - the pigeon breast was very nicely done, just the way I like it. The malfatti was done as pan-seared pancakes. On top of the shiitake on the side were thin slices of bamboo shoots, water bamboo, as well as pigeon offal like gizzard and heart. The two sauces were veggie purée and mole.

Since Kai is a Julien Royer protégé, I was not the least bit surprised when the pigeon leg showed up with the lone claw, a.k.a. the finger... I goaded Little Rabbit into posting pics with all three "fingers", tagging Julien and Kai in the process...

Jokes aside, I love pigeon leg confit, but didn't understand why the kitchen bothered putting lemon in the pigeon liver parfait that was in the cup. If I like the taste of liver, I don't need no stinkin' lemon to adulterate the flavors.

Our second extra dish tonight was this pan-fried bun with minced duck and truffle (鴨肉松露餡餅). Pretty juicy and nicely done.

Ricotta whey sago, Musk melon sorbet, Musk melon sake soda (柔清哈密) - the foam on top was made with melon soda (メロンソーダ) and sake. Definitely still fizzy and tickles the tongue. I like melon so this was up my alley.

Ginger ice cream, dried longan glutinous porridge, homemade brioche (薑心彼新) - the ice cream was wrapped in layers made of brioche and dried longan porridge (桂圓米糕粥), but I must say I cannot recall tasting much longan flavor. My big complaint, of course, was the scarcity of gold foil here... only tiny bits on top of the glutinous rice balls.

Mignardises came, and I only took a few bites. Little Rabbit, of course, took one of everything... or did she take two?

Lemon tart

Banana and coconut tart

Raspberry and roselle macaron - with chocolate in the ganache.

Pâté de fruit - made with jujube tea.


I brought a couple of bottles to help liven up the evening:

2008 Pascal Doquet Le Mont Aimé, dégorgée 3 novembre 2021 - caramelized and mineral on the nose, a little toasty. Got some decent body with some bitterness on the finish. While this wasn't really sweet, it also didn't taste like a brut nature.

2018 Cos d'Estournel Blanc - served about 1 hour and 15 minutes after opening. Lots of polyurethane and acetone here. Maybe this needed some decanting to aerate further.

Chef Kai came over to chat with Little Rabbit, and very kindly shared a glass of very old Johnnie Walker Black Label with us. This was apparently from the 1970s, judging from the gold cap and the white coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth II from the royal warrant. Very nice and smooth. Very grateful.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Was dining here in pre-pandemic times one day before the second Michelin star for Tärroir was announced and not everything was convincing. Similar questions.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map