December 22, 2023

Gumabi with no gubami

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We're back in Taiwan for the holidays, and took this chance to meet up with a few friends. I can't believe I haven't seen Ms. Tiffany in a decade... but so glad to have caught up with her today. Unfortunately, our lunch was completely underwhelming and a real disappointment.

Gubami Social is a casual establishment run by Lanshu Chen (陳嵐舒), whose former restaurant Le Moût arguably served the best French cuisine in Taiwan for a while. Naturally, any place that bears her signature these days have the benefit of halo effect. I wasn't exactly dying to try out the place, but since we were denied entry a few months ago when we tried to casually walk in, Foursheets decided that she would like to give it a try. So here we are.

The name Gubami is a transliteration of the Hokkien pronunciation of 牛肉麵 - beef noodle soup - and was the initial focus of Lanshu's first venture after closing down Le Moût. Ms. Tiffany decided that, as it was her first visit, she would like to have the signature beef noodle soup that the restaurant is named after.

Well... The restaurant was about 60% full for a weekday lunch, and we were told that two of the dishes we wanted to order - including the "signature" beef noodle - had already been sold out. WTF?!

Scallion pita: fried scallion pita with sauce trio (手作蔥餅配三種Social招牌蘸醬: 口袋香蔥餅) - OK, so these weren't your standard Chinese scallion pancakes (蔥油餅) but pita made in a similar way... which explains why it didn't taste as good to me as the original stuff...

Red oil humus (紅油鷹嘴豆泥)

Spicy yogurt + crip garlic (蒜酥辣優格)

Spiced ragout (香料肉醬) - the ragoût tasted strongly of anise seeds.

Pan-fried dumpling: tortellini of duck confit / kimchi salad / salsa verde / balsamic caramel (油封鴨腿煎餃:手工餃子 / 油封鴨腿 / 泡菜 / 地中海香草油 / 巴沙米可焦糖) - I was really looking forward to this as I really love duck confit, and wanted to see how it would taste wrapped in tortellini.

Sadly this failed miserably in execution. Putting them on a hot pan ended up making the bottoms stick to the pan - becoming literal "pot stickers (鍋貼)"... and as we tried to take them out, the bottoms of the tortellini remained in the pot. Flavor-wise I was somewhat surprised at the prominence of white pepper in the duck filling.

I didn't realize there was actually kimchi until the ladies told me... which meant there was too little of it for me to notice.

Social oyster tortilla cake: local oyster / organic egg / potato / piquillo / Parmesan cheese / Parmigiano reggiano / sauce "nostalgic" (巴斯克蚵仔煎餅: 鮮蚵 / 放牧蛋 / 小黃洋芋 / 帕瑪森乳酪 / 烤紅椒) - so... this was about converting a Taiwanese oyster pancake (蚵仔煎) into a Spanish tortilla... with a garnish of arugula on top in lieu of the usual Taiwanese A-choy (A菜) that's usually cooked into the pancake. They also decided to give us a sauce made of piquillo instead of the standard sweet and spicy sauce.

Texture-wise, I suppose it's a little more Spanish in terms of the texture of the egg, and of course we've also got thin slices of potato inside. And we've got plenty of local fresh oysters...

...and we got plenty of that starchy goo just like the Taiwanese version.

Rice vermicelli "bouillabaisse" of golden pomfret: golden pomfret from Pingtung / rice vermicelli / saffron / aioli / fried egg floss and mushroom (馬賽金鯧米粉: 屏東金鯧魚 / 純米米粉 / 番紅花 / 大蒜蛋黃醬 / 放牧蛋蛋酥) - I know we shouldn't expect the traditional Taiwanese vermicelli with pomfret (鯧魚米粉), but having the pomfret battered and fried then plated separately was not on our bingo card today.

We've got aioli on the side, which I suppose came with a sprinkle of saffron? We were dipping the fried fish fillets into this...

And how is it meant to be bouillabaisse? To our untrained palates, the flavors were really classic Taiwanese, with TONS of white pepper. Foursheets cooked a pretty mean bouillabaisse at home, and both of us kinda fell off our chairs when we realized what this was meant to be.

Having said that, this was undoubtedly the tastiest dish today. And it was the dish we ordered after learning that other dishes we wanted were unavailable.

So... one of the hot starters was served after a noodle dish had already arrived. Le Sigh.

BBQ squid with do ban sauce: neritic Yilan squid / grilled veggie / Mornay sauce / fermented spicy bean paste/ baby basil (地中海小卷與烙烤配菜: 宜蘭小卷 / 甜椒 / 櫛瓜 / 季節時蔬 / 手工豆瓣醬 / Gruyere乳酪 / 羅勒) - we did love the grilled squid.

What we didn't understand was how this plate of grilled veg was meant to go with the squid. Or what the fermented bean curd paste was doing here. Was there supposed to be Gruyère?

Lobster soup rice: Boston lobster / local oyster / mussel / clam / Gruyère cheese / organic egg / freshly cooked Shueh Fu rice from Yilan (法式龍蝦海鮮雜炊: 波士頓龍蝦 / 鮮蚵 / 蛤蜊 / 淡菜 / 法式海鮮高湯 / 放牧土雞蛋 / Gruyere乳酪 / 雪福米) - we were a little confused here again. This would have been a decent seafood soupy rice on its own, but then our server came to shave some Gruyère while telling us that the cheese "enhances the fragrance of the dish". HUH? It did nothing of the sort! Honestly, the small amount of cheese added nothing to the dish, except maybe a little gooeyness. I would say that the dish was better without the cheese, as the flavors of the seafood broth was actually OK.

Baozhong mojito - I didn't want to drink alcohol at lunch, so this was a good choice. Enjoyed the Wenshan Paochong Tea (文山包種茶) base and the osmanthus accents on top. BTW, on the menu, why is the name of the tea spelled with a 'B' in the name of the drink but with a 'P' in the description?

To say that our lunch was underwhelming would be an understatement. I don't think anything tasted bad, but we just had issues with what the dishes were trying to achieve. I love it when chefs try to incorporate elements from different cuisines into one dish to give diners a new and unique experience, but with so many dishes we had today this just didn't work. The combinations seemed forced, and the result ended up being 1 + 1 < 1... We would have preferred the original version.

Maybe we should have just left things alone when we couldn't find seats a few months ago...

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