Sweet Tea by Yannick Alleno at Taipei 101
Last November, Taipei 101 became home to a new restaurant by renowned five Michelin-starred Chef Yannick Alleno. His new venture in Taipei, S.T.A.Y. (Simple Table Yannick Alleno), is the third namesake location following the opening of Beijing and Beirut in 2011.
In conjunction with S.T.A.Y., Chef Alleno designed a more casual outlet to showcase traditional Parisian style tea time, along with signature French pastries. In January 2012, Sweet Tea soft-opened on the 4th floor of Taipei 101, just steps away from S.T.A.Y.
Back in March, Chef Alleno visited Taipei to coordinate a gala dinner and celebrate the official grand opening of Sweet Tea with a presentation for local media. I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Alleno at the gala dinner the night before so I was looking forward to the press event and learning more about his latest creation.
Chef Alleno has a background as a pastry chef so the creations at Sweet Tea were quite intricate and extremely elegant. The concept of Sweet Tea is very feminine on purpose and definitely caters to Taipei’s more upscale female population.
The open-air tearoom sits in the middle of the most scenic area of Taipei 101’s mall, flanked by luxury stores and one “leg” of Taipei 101 itself. The theming and attention to detail certainly blend with its location, in the more ritzy XinYi area of Taipei.
Yannick’s vision for Sweet Tea was to have pastries treated as luxury items and, therefore, presented as artful creations. They are showcased as “luxury jewels” in elegant crystal boxes, all of which seemed to be a big hit with the female members of the local press.
The colors at Sweet Tea also lean to the feminine side, as bright pops of blue, yellow, pink, and green, are found on everything from glasses to the boxes and bags. The feminine design is not nauseating to the point where a man would be uncomfortable enjoying tea and a decadent French pastry as well.
One of the benefits of attending a press event is the ability to try the food you are writing about, and, of course, there was an abundant supply of pastries for us to enjoy. They had created tiny versions of several signature pastries, which was perfect.
While we only sampled a small portion of what is available at Sweet Tea, I am confident when I say that probably anything you order is going to be amazing. All pastries are made fresh daily and include classics like croissants, macarons, and Madeleines.
Here’s a look at some of what we sampled:
This classic French pastry is very popular, but it’s not one that I’ve typically been drawn to. Most times, I find it too sweet and rich for my taste.
Gasp! I know….how could I not like it right? Well, I’m the girl who scrapes off ¾ of the buttercream frosting on cakes if that tells you anything.
I was surprised to see Yannick’s take on the traditional classic pastry – rather than the expected square, his is round. The cake layer is quite crisp with sweet caramelization on the top. The filling is one I would never scrape off of anything – a rich Tahitian vanilla – one of my absolute favorite flavors.
This is named for the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, Saint Honore. Typically, this pastry has puffed pastry, small cream puffs, caramelized sugar, and finished with whipped cream that utilizes a special St. Honore piping tip.
Yannick had come by to talk to me early in the event and told me I needed to definitely try the chocolate croissant as it’s one of his personal favorites and a signature item at Sweet Tea. He calls it “Choc Alleno” and it is pretty much a chocolategasm. The croissant itself is flaky and rich, while the chocolate is decadent without being overpowering. Not surprisingly, Yannick insists on using only the best French chocolate for this pastry.
Macarons and Madeleines
Two other French classics were on hand for us to sample. I’ve become a bit of a macaron addict the past several years as new chocolatiers and pastry shops open in Taipei – many of them renowned artisans from Paris and Japan. Macarons are either hit or miss – they either seem to be perfect or a disaster, never really in between. I’ve probably sampled macarons from 10 or more shops over the past six to eight months and these were definitely among my top two. The meringue on the macaron was so delicate and light, while the filling was not overpowering or sickeningly sweet ganache.
The Madeleines were divine and next to Robuchon’s, the best I’ve had.
Chef Demo – Sweet’dwich
During the event, Chef Alleno drew the biggest crowd when he demonstrated how to make one of his best signature items, the Sweet’dwich. Every photographer ran up to capture this while one of the local journalists served as his assistant. The Sweet’dwich is inspired by traditional salty sandwiches, but contains some beautiful sweet elements. He uses brioche bread instead of a crispy puff and you can choose from three flavors: strawberry, praline chocolate, and Tropezien. Each one is quite different and Yannick uses a variety of flavors and textures to really create a unique culinary experience.
The strawberry is the most popular, which is a mix of pistachio flavor custard and fresh strawberries, topped with pistachio crackles and sugar powders.
While the main focus is on pastries, there are also a number of tea style salty sandwiches available. Both at lunch and in the afternoon, there is a small menu of salads and sandwiches. We sampled several of the sandwiches, which were also nicely executed with soft bread and good flavor.
About Chef Yannick Alleno
For those unfamiliar with Chef Alleno, he earned three Michelin stars for his work at Hotel Le Meurice in Paris in 2007. He was elected “Best Chef of the Year” in 2008 byThe Chef Magazine. In the same year, he developed his own company, “Group Yannick Alleno”, which has since been responsible for his ventures outside of Paris. In addition, his mission is to help hoteliers and food professionals by offering his skills. He became involved in Le 1947 at “Cheval Blanc” in Courchevel, and after one season, it earned two Michelin stars. Alleno also took over the F&B operations of “The Royal Mansour” in Marrakech with two “Grande Table” (French and Moroccan), andthe “One & Only The Palm” in Dubai. In addition to his two S.T.A.Y. outlets in Beijing and Beirut, he also opened a Sweet Tea in Beirut as well.
While I attended this event as a member of the press and my afternoon was comped, all opinions and views expressed are my own.