Monday, 4 February 2013

End of Year Travels 2012/2013: S.T.A.Y Simple Table Alléno Yannick in Taipei

Hi there! Yes, I am still alive. It has been almost 2 months since I have said hello so a tumble weed floating across the screen would have been more fitting. During that period, more food and scenic pictures have been taking up valuable memory space on my phone or cybershot. However this mass accumulation of pictures and not updating the blog as I go has a downside. I cannot remember the exact ingredients which made up the dish nor how they fared at the time of service. Oh well, if the dish was memorable, it would have made a lasting impression right? :)

Here we go, let's see if old age and memory loss has kicked in yet.

My first day in Taipei raised by bar by dining at a one Michelin star restaurant inside the Taipei 101 building. I don't know about the background but another blogger commented that it was the second Michelin star restaurant to open in Taipei after L'atelier by Joel Robouchon. This restaurant was recommended by a local friend who said that it was one of the best valued Michelin star joints around. We don't have any Michelin star restaurants in Australia. Instead, they measure using our national paper The Age (1, 2 or 3 highly acclaimed chef hats) or the food magazine Gourmet Traveller's way of scoring using their food critics.

Let's see how the standard and quality of Michelin star restaurant compares?

The restaurant had emailed me a copy of the Christmas Eve seafood menu beforehand. Hooray! The only other restaurant who sent their customers a reminder of their dishes was Vue de Monde.

We were the first ones in the restaurant. I thought there would be some window views from Taipei 101 but sadly no. They had a private dining area to one side of the room. The tables were a bit too close for my liking. You can eavesdrop on other people's conversations if you wanted to.

Below is a shot of the dessert cabinet - the friendly waitress noticed my small camera and asked if I wanted a photo of it. How could I say no? But then I didn't want them to witness any possible drooling so I didn't take close up shots of each dessert. I could have easily stood there for 10 minutes like a kid staring into a candy shop. There was only one set menu offered for Christmas Eve so everyone would have the same dessert.

The selection of canapes: the popcorn one was a different combination which I have never tried before. 

For the entrees:

Smoked salmon tart with Kristal caviar with sour cream (煙燻鮭魚塔襯經典魚子醬) and Gillardeau Oyster (頂級吉拉圖生蠔) grantinated with champagne sabayon (佐焗烤香檳沫). The oysters hidden inside were fresh (not too large) but overall they were a bit overpowered by the cheese and champagne sauce. I felt it was a bit too heavy for an entree compared to the smoked salmon which was delicious.

Next was the soup of the day: Borsch consommé (法式甜菜牛肉澄清高湯). Foie gras ravioli, horseradish, croutons (佐鵝肝手工麵餃,辣根醬及麵包丁). The foie gras ravioli was a sharp contrast to the acidity of the (beetroot?) soup base. Wished they gave more ravioli!

The two mains were: (1) Lobster thermidor (巴黎風味焗烤龍蝦) with artichoke, baby spinach, pommery mustard (佐朝鮮薊,嫩菠菜及法式芥末籽醬)

Lobster is a delicate type of meat and I felt the flavours masked the meat. However I don't usually eat a lot of lobster and enjoyed the texture of this dish.

(2) Beef a la royale ” (經典皇家慢燉牛肉) - not your usual pan fried steak. I did ask the waiter at the time how this was prepared because the unusual texture was quite soft. I believed it was rolled, either pan-fried or blanched and then slow cooked for at least 10 hours. Our stomachs were so stuffed by the time the beef arrived.

Finally, the petite fours and dessert: layered dark chocolate mousse gateaux with gold leaves and cinnamon quenelle ice-cream.  You can't go wrong with this tried and tested combination.

Service: during most of the dining period, the ratio of waiters to diners were slightly higher. I heard from a friend that in order to achieve a Michelin star, the restaurant had to employ a certain number of wait staff on floor. Towards the end of the night, the venue wasn't full (maybe at just over half capacity) but the service was still attentive, warm and friendly. Our water was always topped up before we noticed. They loved to explain the concept behind the dishes which was insightful and informative.

The ambiance was formal yet had its own character. Some 2 or 3 chef hat restaurants in Melbourne can definitely match them in food quality and service without the higher price tag. However the cooking techniques and flavour combinations are different thus it was a new experience all together.

The Christmas Eve menu came to $6380 NT including service tax ($220 AUD per person) and without matching wines. This is on par with Vue de Monde and the other 3 chef hatters. On a non-public holiday, you can dine at STAY for under $100 AUD per person and sample what their menu has to offer.

Address: Taipei 101, 4th floor, Taipei, Taiwan

Some shots of Taipei 101:

 Home sweet home!

Amazing artwork around the building floors:

 Inside Taipei 101:

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