June 22, 2023

A flower for birthday

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The last time I spent my birthday with the Parental Units was 4 years ago, before the pandemic turned the world upside down. I finally saw them a few days after my birthday last year, and I was determined to resume the annual ritual this year. I have been slowly working my way around to many of the "newer" restaurants in Taipei which I have never visited, and this time around I figured I would give Orchid a try. Chef Nobu Lee (李信男) has more than a few fans in my circle of friends, so I decided to see what the fuss is about.

This is yet another restaurant with a single tasting menu, although there is a choice of main course and the possibility of an optional course. Restaurants like this was off my radar screen for a while on account of mom, and I am ever so grateful that she is now happy to stuff her face like the rest of us...

Foccacia - lightly charcoal-grilled.

Butter / whipped extra-virgin olive oil

Grapefruit | green asparagus - so... when I booked this dinner, I listed the ingredients I wished to avoid but neglected to include (bluefin) tuna. When I told the staff that I did not wish to have tuna, they removed the yellowfin tuna and gave me little cubes of grapefuit on the green asparagus cream instead... This was OK la...

White asparagus | duck egg yolk | Parmesan cheese - the Dutch white asparagus AAA was blanched in asparagus peel stock, then soaked in cold dashi of Japanese kombu. This was certainly pretty nice and mom enjoyed it. The Parmesan sauce on the side looked like the white of a pan-fried egg, while the 'yolk' was, indeed, made with the yolk of a duck egg. It was a paste so thick that it could be cut with a knife.

Scallop - a variation on the shellfish, it's apparently one of the chef's signature dishes... and pretty easy to understand what that is the case. We had diced cubes of raw scallops - the staff made sure to introduce this as 'sashimi-grade', but isn't that a given?! - sitting in the middle of the ring-shaped mousse made of scallop and egg white. The mousse was pretty delicious as it reminded me of scallops pan-seared in butter. The starchy sauce surrounding the mousse was made with conpoy (瑤柱) and was heavier in terms of flavor. Very enjoyable.

Octopus | edamame - the octopus caught off the coast of southern Taiwan had been blanched quickly (汆燙) before being brushed with a layer of kombu purée. It was then pan-fried on the teppan, and finally sprinkled with powdered sakura shrimp. Served with a cream made of smoked yogurt, wasabi, and edamame (枝豆).

The suckers had become crunchy after pan-frying. I thought the shrimp powder was pretty heavy in terms of flavors, so it was better to apply some of the cream to the octopus as the wasabi really does perk things up a little... and there was just enough there without being overpowering.

Isaki | lotus root | soft shell turtle - the chicken grunt (伊佐木) caught off the shores of Keelung (基隆) was steamed and came with some finger lime caviar and deep-fried quinoa, along with some very, very thin chiffonade of perilla leaves. The sauce was thick and salty and tasted like dashi that had some acidity to it.

The lotus root was sliced very thin at an angle, and seasoned with cloves.

Grain-fed beef tongue | peach | burrata - this came with fresh peaches along with a sriracha sauce that just added a nice little extra something, and we had a peach sauce along with burrata on top, garnished with nasturtium flowers and leaves. The sauce was pretty good as there was acidity to help cut the fat in both the tongue as well as the cheese, but we felt the burrata was wholly unnecessary and didn't make the dish any better - although thankfully it didn't clash, either.

That tongue sure was tender!

Foie gras | papaya | banana - the optional extra and mom and I ordered. They removed the beetroot from the sauce and gave me chicken jus instead, along with a quenelle of pineapple and papaya compote. For some reason the chef decided to put together a banana and green grape thingy and then proceeded to blacken the damn thing. This blackened sauce was grainy and unpleasant - a clear case of 1+1=0...

I thought the Canadian duck foie gras was nicely done as it was crispy on the outside and semi-liquefied inside. Mom, however, prefers it a little more solid. To each his/her own...

Wagyu pithiviers - dad and I shared this, but I was very disappointed that service was not done table-side and they had cut it in the kitchen out of our view. Served with sauce Périgueux.

We have a thick Australian wagyu filet at the bottom, with a thin layer of minced beef cheek, mushroom duxelles, and of course a layer of spinach just inside the pastry. Pretty nicely done. Dad was happy, methinks.

Lamb - I had a taste of Foursheet's lamb, and it was very, very good. In fact, I wondered if mom regretted not ordering this.

Fromage blanc | nashi | mandarin - the mandarin-flavored fromage blanc has been frozen and topped with wafer-thin slices of crunchy pear marinated with chardonnay, which were then garnished with candied mandarin peel and herbs.

Peanut and sticky rice gnocchi - dad was expecting a bowl of hot and soft glutinous rice balls, but what we got instead were filling-less balls with meringue sticks, peanut sauce, peanuts, and sprinkles of frozen "snow" made with ginger syrup and osmanthus.

Paris Brest - with almond custard.

African marigold leaves - there were two herbal teas on offer as our server pushed a cart over to our table, showing us both mint and African marigold (萬壽菊) growing in pots. This was very, very fragrant and a nice alternative to either the usual mint or verbena.

I started with a glass of white before moving on to the birthday wine. It was interesting that dad felt left-out when we assumed that he didn't want to drink anything other than the bottle I brought... so we ordered him a glass of the white wine, too.

2019 Moltès Steinert Gewurztraminer Bio - nice and floral, with lovely lychees on the nose. Definitely on the ripe and sweet side in terms of palate.

1970 Mouton-Rothschild - served without decanting. Nice nose with some sweet grass, some cigar smoke, a hint of earth, which was just as it should be. Also leather and grilled meats on the nose. Acidity was a little higher now.

Gotta say I was pretty happy with dinner. A few of the dishes stood out for me, and all of the main courses were tasty. Other than the blackened sauce for the foie gras there were no fails. Apparently chef Nobu is headed elsewhere, so we'll see if there will be a return visit to this restaurant...

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