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.

Elegant pastry creations available at Sweet Tea http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Elegant pastry creations available at Sweet Tea

Many pastries at Sweet Tea come in fancy jewel-like boxes http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Many pastries at Sweet Tea come in fancy jewel-like boxes

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.

Sweet Tea at Taipei 101 http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Sweet Tea at Taipei 101

Sweet Tea at Taipei 101 http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Sweet Tea at Taipei 101

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.

Samples set up for media presentation at Sweet Tea http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Samples set up for media presentation at Sweet Tea

Here’s a look at some of what we sampled:

Vanilla Mille-Feuille

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.

Mini Vanilla Mille-Feuille from Sweet Tea by Yannick Alleno http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Mini Vanilla Mille-Feuille

Full size Vanilla Mille- Feuille at Sweet Tea by Yannick Alleno http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Full size Vanilla Mille- Feuille

St. Honore

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.

Mini St. Honore pastry at Sweet Tea by Yannick Alleno http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Mini St. Honore pastry

Full size St. Honore pastry at Sweet tea by Yannick Alleno http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Full size St. Honore pastry

Chocolate Croissant

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.

Yannick's signature chocolate croissant http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Yannick’s signature chocolate croissant

Yannick's Signature Chocolate Croissant http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Another shot of the chocolate croissant

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.

Madelines at Sweet Tea by Yannick Alleno http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Madeleines

Sweet Tea Macarons http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Sweet Tea Macarons

Sweet Tea Macarons http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Sweet Tea Macarons

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.

Chef Yannick Alleno demonstrating his Sweet'dwich http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Chef Yannick Alleno demonstrating his Sweet’dwich

Chef Alleno and Loic, the Pastry Chef at S.T.A.Y. and Sweet Tea http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Chef Alleno and Loic, the Pastry Chef at S.T.A.Y. and Sweet Tea

What the Sweet Tea by Yannick Alleno sweet'dwich looks like completed - yum! http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

What the sweet’dwich looks like completed – yum!

 

Salty Sandwiches

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.

Salty Afternoon Tea sandwiches http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Salty Afternoon Tea sandwiches

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.

L-R: Executive Chef Angelo Agliano from L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Chef Yannick Alleno http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

L-R: Executive Chef Angelo Agliano from L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Chef Yannick Alleno

Chef Yannick Alleno http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Chef Yannick Alleno

Erin de Santiago of Our Tasty Travels with Benoit, the awesome Sommelier from L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Me with Benoit, my dear friend & awesome Sommelier from L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Chef Angelo and Sommelier Benoit from l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Erin De Santiago from Our Tasty Travels, and Chef Yannick Alleno http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/sweet-tea-yannick-alleno-taipei-101/ #ourtastytravels #taipei

Chef Angelo, Sommelier Benoit, me, and Chef Yannick

While I attended this event as a member of the press and my afternoon was comped, all opinions and views expressed are my own.


New Ice Monster Shaved Ice Opens in Taipei, Taiwan

A couple of weeks ago, we heard the bad news that Yongkang 15, the mango shaved ice establishment that replaced the venerable Ice Monster on Yongkang Street in 2010, had closed it’s doors.  This was quite a shock, especially considering that Taiwan was in the middle of mango season, the best time to visit for a mango shaved ice.

It turns out, the news isn’t quite as bad as it appeared!

While heading out to On Tap for some fish and chips the other night with some coworkers, I was surprised to see a huge line of people waiting for something on Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, just before the intersection with Yanji Street.  This was still a few blocks ahead of the dance clubs on Zhongxiao, and the crowd was a much more diverse mix than you’d expect for a club, so I knew it couldn’t be for that.  But what was it?

I apologize in advance for some of the photos – I was not expecting this find and only had my phone with me!

Line for Ice Monster

Lining up to get into Ice Monster

As the taxi drew closer, I saw the sign that made my day…Ice Monster is Back!

Ice Monster - a new one or reopened back in Taipei, Taiwan?

Mango Delivery at Ice Monster

Only open again since May 29, we decided to brave the line to try out the new Ice Monster after our dinner.  What better dessert could you imagine than some iconic Bao Bing and Xue Hua Bing?

Display of Ice Monster merchandise outside the shop

Display of Ice Monster merchandise outside the shop

Back after dinner to try Ice Monster in Taipei

Entry and order counter

Pineapple and Red Bean ice pops they serve up while waiting in line

Ice Monster Napkin Dispenser

Decorative glass door at Ice Monster

Counter area when you order

The line went pretty quick, we were around 30 people back and our wait was only around 20 minutes.  There were staff at the front of the line handing out the menu and taking orders in advance of your entering the shop, so that helps the line run smoother.  They also don’t let people into the shop when there are no seats available, unless you tell them you just want to order for take away, then they may let you cut into the shop while those wishing to dine in wait longer in the line.  There are around 50 total seats in the shop, so turnover is fairly quick, and being indoors, it’s much more comfortable than the old exterior seating of 15 Yongkang Street.

Fresh Fruit for the desserts

Ice Cream / Sorbet options

Interesting display tank behind the prep area

Back seating area at Ice Monster in Taipei

Main seating area at Ice Monster in Taipei

Private Seating Room at the back of Ice Monster

Private Seating Room

The Ice Monster menu has four main sections; Avalanche for the Bao Bing shaved ice, Sensation for the Xue Hua Bing snow ice, Mocktail for mixed juice drinks, and Freeze for the frozen drinks.  Many of the menu items seem to be more similar to those that were on offer at Yongkang 15, not quite back to the offerings of the original Ice Monster.

Ice Monster's Menu

Avalanche Section

Sensation menu offerings

Freeze menu options

Mocktail menu options

We ordered two Mango Avalanches for the three of us, we actually wanted one to be a Fresh Mango Sensation, but I misordered! The avalanche was a delicious mix of shaved ice with sweet condensed milk and brown sugar syrup, a mango jelly and a scoop of mango ice cream, with a heaping serving of fresh mango mixed in for good measure.

Mango Avalanche at Ice Monster in Taipei

Mango Avalanche

Mango Avalanche

I do not know why, but the staff could apparently see our enjoyment of the avalanche, and perhaps thinking this was our first / only time stopping in, they decided to sample out some other wares on us!  We were each also given a scoop of their lemon ice, a scoop of melon sorbet to share, and they even gave us a small Fresh Mango Sensation to share as well!

Scoop of Lemon Ice

Fresh Mango Sensation

The Mango Avalanche and Mango Sensation were both outstanding, but I have to say, I think the lemon ice was one of the best I’ve ever had!  This tasted exactly like the Italian ice I used to get as a kid, and I thought the only thing that could have possibly made this one any better would have been the little white paper squeeze cup I remember from my youth.  I’ll definitely order one of the lemon based items on my next visit to Ice Monster, most likely the Lemon Jasmine Tea Sensation which caught my eye.

Mango Avalanche, Mango Sensation, Lemon Ice, Melon Ice.

Ice Monster
1F., No. 297, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da’an District
+886 2 8771 3263
http://www.ice-monster.com
Hours: Monday – Sunday / 10:30 – 23:30

Meeting Joël Robuchon at Gala Dinner at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Taipei, Taiwan

Some people are starstruck by actors, actresses, singers, etc. Me, I get all tongue tied around chefs who I have a deep admiration for.  As you can imagine, the mere thought of getting to meet someone as renowned and talented as Chef Joël Robuchon practically sent me into a panic.

Would I say something stupid? Would I even be able to say anything at all? Am I dressed ok? What happened to the five words of French I knew at some point in my life? Will I open my mouth to speak and have food in my teeth?

For days leading up to what could be billed as the greatest dining event each year in Taipei now, I was quite nervous.  After missing last year’s gala dinner because we were out of town, I was an excited ball of nerves in the days leading up to this.  One of our local foodie friends, Stephanie (@smallching), who we met on Twitter just over a year ago, also joined us for this special event.

We were quite lucky to secure a spot for three at the prized counter for this event on December 3, ensuring we had prime viewing opportunities. Thank you Vincent, the manager at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, who facilitated our reservation just through a status message exchange on Facebook!

Joël Robuchon Gala Dinner Place Settings

Christmas decorations in the counter

Not having any idea what the menu included for the evening, I was excited to unroll it and noticed right away it was personally signed by Chef Robuchon already!

Gala dinner menu, signed by Robuchon on the left and asked Chef Angelo to sign on the right

Before I even had much of a chance to peruse the menu, something caught my eye — Chef Angelo Agliano was headed our direction holding several rather large white truffles.

Chef Angelo with beautiful white truffles

Before we started on the menu, Chef Joël Robuchon and Chef Philippe Braun arrived.  We felt quite honored that Benoit brought them over right after their arrival to talk with us.  Strangely, all my nerves melted away as Chef Robuchon and Chef Braun were two of the nicest people I’ve met. I’m not sure why, but I expected him to be very formal and reserved, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Right from the start, everyone was joking and the atmosphere was very light-hearted.

POUR COMMENCER

l’emulsion mousseuse de courgette sur une royale de dashi tremblotante aux champignons
The emulsion foamy zucchini with mushroom flavor

Pairing: Bruno Paillard Champagne

Benoit with the Bruno Paillard Champagne

Pour Commencer

Close up of the foamy zucchini with uni and mushroom

The zucchini emulsion had a piece of uni (sea urchin) inside — while the combination of flavors on paper may sound a little odd or less than appetizing, they worked well together.

Busted! Trying to take a candid shot of Benoit and Mr. Robuchon in the kitchen

LE FOIE GRAS D’OIE
une symphonie soyeuse sous une fine gelee a la feuille d’or
Foie gras mousse in a white truffle flavor with gold leaf

Pairing: Z007 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Zind

Without a doubt, this was my favorite course. On top of the foie gras was a jelly layer made with chicken juice jelly.  The white truffles were so sublime with the foie gras mousse and everything literally just melted in my mouth. This I could’ve probably eaten ten courses of!

Le Foie Gras D'Oie

Close up of the foie gras mousse

On the side of the plate was a small piece of focaccia bread with praline — almond pieces caramelized with red sugar.  Benoit said this was a traditional French way of serving the dish.

Foie gras mousse with transparent jelly on top

Nice details on the plating

The Zind wine is a blend of two-thirds Chardonnay and one-third Auxerrois.  The bright yellow wine had slight aromas of lemon with a hint of sweetness on the palate. A wonderful blend from the Alsace, but cannot be called such because of the addition of Chardonnay, a non-authorized varietal.  The vintage is 2007, which is also forbidden given the rules, which is where the unique touch of the “Z007″ comes in.  See, I did not make a typo in the pairing!

Z007 Zind Domaine Zind-Humbrecht wine

 

LA NOIX DE SAINT-JACQUES
a la plancha, condiments au kumquat et au caviar
Sea scallop a la plancha with a sauce of kumquat and caviar

Pairing: M. Chapoutier Domaine des Granges de Mirabel 2007

This was quite an interesting course with scallops “a la plancha” (grilled on a stainless steel griddle with olive oil) on top of kumquat sauce and caviar. The red drops are spicy red pepper. With a sauce that has acidity, Benoit paired a wine that was fruit forward, but still respected the delicacy and richness of the scallops. His choice was a M. Chapoutier Domaine des Granges de Mirabel 2007.

Sea scallop with a sauce of kumquat and caviar

M. Chapoutier Domaine des Granges de Mirabel 2007

LE BLACK COD
avec une mousseline de daikon au yuzu
Black cod filet marinated with sake, mirin, and miso in a yuzu flavored turnip hot soup

Pairing: Bourgogne Hautes -Cotes de Nuits Clos Saint-Philibert Monopole

One of my favorite dishes from Nobu is the legendary miso cod so I was quite interested to try a similar version.  There was a small piece of daikon radish in the soup and I was instantly greeted with the sweet aroma from the caramelization on the black cod. I liked the contrast of the tart broth and the bit of spiciness from the pepper sauce against the caramelization and natural sweetness of the black cod.

If you haven’t heard of yuzu, it is prevalent in Japanese cuisine, and is being used more often in western cuisine as well. It typically has a tart flavor, resembling a combination of a grapefruit and mandarin orange.  The fruit itself is not commonly consumed, but it is often used for a zest or the juice in a sauce.

Black Cod

Black Cod - Close up of the Daikon

Close up of the black cod

Chardonnay from Burgundy

The wine Benoit chose was an interesting pairing — Cotes du Nuits is a region in France primarily renowned for its reds, but he had a white wine from Burgundy. He shared that the winemaker was taught by Henri Jayer, one of the most important vintners to the Burgundian region. He brought many innovations to the Burgundy style of winemaking, but passed away in 2006.  His Pinot Noir wines are highly sought after and often fetch thousands of dollars for one bottle.

One of Jayer’s most famous statements, which has been adopted by vineyard owners and winemakers around the world, was, “A great wine is crafted in the vineyard; not the cellar.”

During the break between courses, Chef Braun and Chef Robuchon came around so people could take photos with them.  Vincent was using a digital camera to take photos of each group of guests, but we also had the staff take a couple photos with my camera. Unfortunately, one shot came out pretty bad, but I was able to crop and salvage Chef Braun and me from it.

Picture of the signed photo they gave us during the dinner

Chef Philippe Braun and I

Brett, Chef Robuchon, myself, Chef Braun, and Stephanie

Although we're all looking different directions, still think this is a great shot!

LE COCHON
cuit en cote au plat avec un gel de mais au curcuma
Roasted pork chop and corn jelly with fresh white truffle and homemade tagliolini

Three Pairings:
Chateau Duhart-Milion Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) 1998
Gevrey-Chambertin 2005
Casa De La Ermita Jumilla Crianza 2004

The pork chop was roasted with butter, slow cooked for a long time, and then finished on a Teppanyaki grill. The pork was incredibly tender and buttery rich. The homemade tagliolini is easily some of the best pasta I’ve ever had — with Chef Angelo’s Italian roots, this is where he really shines. And more white truffle – enuf said!

Homemade Tagliolini with white truffles

Benoit knows we love red wine so he did three pairings for this and the following course and the three of us shared.

All three of these wines were divine and so different, yet each paired so well with the rich pork dish.  I am still learning loads about Old World wines through our favorite sommeliers in town, and Benoit has done a marvelous job in introducing me to practically all new wines each visit. Pairing three totally different wines — a Burgundian Pinot Noir, Spanish Rioja, and a Bordeaux — with the same dish proved how hard and fast rules in wine pairing may not always apply. We sat with three vastly different wines ranging from the light Pinot to the bold Cabernet, yet all three were spot on.

My favorite was the 98 Bordeaux blend, Brett was partial to the Spanish Rioja, and Stephanie was enjoying the 05 Pinot Noir.

Three red wines paired with the last two courses

LA TRUFFE BLANCHE
d’Alba sur un risotto <<mantecato>> au vieux parmesan
White truffle risotto “mantecato” style with parmesan cheese and olive oil DOP

Pairing: Chateau Puech-Haut Saint-Drezery 2007 Coteaux Du Languedoc

More Alba white truffles! The truffle risotto “creamed” with Parmesan cheese and olive oil containing the DOP designation. DOP stands for “Denominazione di Origine Protetta” or Protected Destination of Origin.  Olive oils containing DOP have met rigorous standards to earn the right to include that designation.  DOP certification ensures that every aspect of making the olive oil occurred in the certified area and followed traditional production processes.

White Alba truffle risotto with Parmesan cheese

Another shot of the white truffle risotto

Benoit poured a glass of white to pair with this to see which we preferred. He chose a Chateau Puech Haut Saint Drezery 2007 Coteaux Du Languedoc.

Chateau Puech Haut

Before starting on the dessert courses, Angelo brought around another white truffle for us to photo. Sadly, I wasn’t able to abscond with it.

Beautiful White Alba Truffle

Another shot of the white truffle

LE POMELO
doux de <<Tai-nan>> en kirsch-fizz menthole
Tainan produced pomelo with beer flower jelly, kirsch mousse and mint flavored jus

We had been watching Chef Narita, the Executive Pastry Chef, working on prepping the first dessert course earlier in the evening so we were quite curious to see what creations he came up with for this special event.

Prep work for the Pomelo dessert course

This was a pomelo from the city of Tainan, which is in the southern part of Taiwan, and made an interesting dessert.  It was light, fresh, and definitely cleansed the palate.

Le Pomelo

Brett, Chef Angelo, and me

LE MARRON
onctueux <<Belle Helene>>
Pear souffle with chestnut pudding and pear sorbet, dressing with vanilla-chocolate sauce

Pairings:

1950 Banyuls

Muscat Beaumes de Venise Domaine des Bernardins

2003 Clos du Bourg Vouvray

We had been told earlier in the evening to expect something fun with the dessert course and Chef Narita told us he would be plating ours at the counter.  We’ve become rather spoiled by him as he’s prepared some impressive desserts on the fly and incorporates special touches that continue to blow me away each and every visit.

True to his word, Chef Narita brought out our souffles and plated them individually at the counter for each of us.  Brett managed to capture the whole thing on video as well.

This main dessert course as you hear in the video is a pear souffle with chestnut pudding and pear sorbet, along with a vanilla-chocolate sauce.  Thank you again Chef Narita for the special personal plating!

Chestnut Pudding, Pear Sorbet with Vanilla-Chocolate Sauce

Executive Pastry Chef Narita bringing out our souffles

Presentation of plating the souffles

Chef Narita plating

Pear Souffle with Chestnut Pudding and Pear Sorbet, Vanilla-Chocolate Sauce

Special Robuchon touches on souffle plating

Benoit paired three different dessert wines for us to try — a 1950 Banyuls (always fun to try anything that is a vintage older than your birthyear!), a Vouvray and a Muscat.

1950 Banyuls wine

Clos du Bourg Vouvray dessert wine

Muscat Beaumes de Venise Domaine des Bernardins

LE CAFE EXPRESS OU LE THE
escorte de macarons
Coffee or Tea

Finished off the night with a cappuccino and a French macaron.

My cappuccino with a heart

Macarons

The evening had come to a close and it was time for us to head out — the last ones in the restaurant as usual. Getting to see Chef Robuchon and Chef Braun with Chef Angelo and Benoit was a dream come true. I’ve mentioned in other posts that the synergy with Benoit and Angelo in the kitchen is remarkable and it was an honor to have Chef Robuchon and Chef Braun present to chat with.

During the course of the meal, Robuchon had told me to let him know when I was in Vegas next time as he would make a reservation for me at his restaurant there, which I have been wanting to try.  In addition, Chef Braun made a reservation for us at the new Champes Elysees location in Paris for the following week as we were flying out the following day for Europe.  Full review to follow on that one — what a memorable night!

When leaving the restaurant, we always end up taking a few photos with Angelo and Benoit — which I have quite a collection of now. Certainly can’t complain having too many photos with such incredibly handsome and talented men! Ooo la la!

Benoit, me, and Angelo - love this picture!

On a side note, the next day at the airport I was rushing from the lounge to the plane and I spotted Chef Philippe Braun in an electronics store.  I knew he was flying to New York that day, but had no idea he’d be in the airport the same time we were.  Turns out, he was taking the long way there, and he was on our flight to Amsterdam! We had not upgraded on the flight as they told us Business Class was full so we were stuck literally in the back of the plane (something like row 60), so imagine my surprise when Chef Braun appeared at our seats to say goodbye and confirm our reservation for the following weekend in Paris as guests of Chef Robuchon himself.  Just further confirmation of how down to earth, approachable, and real he and Mr. Robuchon were.

Gala Dinner price $10,000 NT per person, not including wine

Thank you again to Angelo, Benoit, Chef Robuchon, Chef Braun, Chef Narita, Vincent, Grendy, and the rest of the L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon staff that take such good care of us each and every visit.

Australian Wines: Forest Hill Vineyard Dinner at Buen Ayre in Taipei, Taiwan

After just finishing a nearly three month travel stint, I am finally back in Taipei and ready to start catching up on all the overdue posts I have.  But first, we got invited to a wine dinner event the day after arriving back home.  Put on by Adelaide Fine Wines in Taipei, the event featured Forest Hill Vineyard, the oldest cool climate winery in Western Australia.

The James Halliday 5* winery produces all the usual suspects you’d expect to find from a cool climate vineyard, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz, and of course, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Seeing as how the winery and the restaurant were both new to us, we decided to check things out.

All in the name of culinary research, right?

Turns out Buen Ayre is a very quaint Argentine restaurant that’s relatively new onto the Taipei food scene.  Open for only six months so far, chef Fernando and his wife, Yko, have done wonders with the place already.  As we learned after dinner, there is no menu available — it changes daily based on ingredients that the chef gets.

In attendance were Paul Byron, the General Sales Manager from Forest Hill, and a special surprise was Australia’s Ambassador to Taiwan and his wife.  The wines are designated by “block” or “estate” with the block wines commanding higher prices.  For those unfamiliar with wine designations, the block wines are picked from the specific noted blocks on the vineyard property whereas the estate wines can come from different blocks within the same vineyard.

Paul talking about Forest Hill Vineyard (the Australian Ambassador's face is visible at the end of the table).

The block wines represent the very best parcels in the vineyard and are hand-picked, carefully selected fruit that will result in wines that can be cellared up to 20 years.  In pretty much every case, the wines we tried were a vintage older than what current releases are — which means we are likely to purchase everything since you can’t get it at the winery anymore!

Forest Hill Vineyard Wines

First Course: Seafood Consomme
Wine Pairing: Forest Hill Block 1 Riesling 2008 (James Halliday 96)

The consomme was served with a prawn, mussel, and piece of squid.  The broth was poured table side – a definite plus. It was a very mild, almost buttery flavor that complimented the richness of the seafood, without overpowering the wine.

The seafood consomme...minus the consomme

Broth for consomme is poured table side

Beautiful seafood consomme

The 96 point Riesling was a dream.  It is said to exemplify the best of what the Mount Barker region is capable of.  And one great note for those who like to cellar –it is a white you can age..for up to 8-10 years.  One of the pairings Paul suggested was oysters.  The richness of the oysters combined with the wine make for a nice meld.  I could definitely see that based on the way the flavors dance on my tongue with the fleshy mussel.  Definite floral and citrus aromas with strong floral on the palate with a lingering mineral finish.

Coming from learning about Riesling from Old World offerings in Germany and France, I’m pleasantly surprised to find I like more and more New World offerings like this one.

Second Course: Scallop with Lobster Sauce
Wine Pairing: Forest Hill Block 8 Chardonnay 2007 (James Halliday 95)

A perfectly cooked scallop surrounded by a rich lobster sauce with a little surprise on the side — caviar on a piece of sliced grape.  The scallop was perfectly cooked — one of my biggest complaints (and regular issues I encounter at dinner events).  I was expecting the lobster sauce to be overpowering based on some other Taipei experiences, but it wasn’t in the least.

Scallop with Lobster Sauce

Another view of the Scallop with Lobster Sauce

Paired with the Block 8 Chardonnay, the wine softened the richness of the lobster sauce even more.  The combination of the silkiness of the sauce with the silky texture of the Chardonnay was a nice surprise.  I found the wine to be a bit oaky (in a good way) and a bit similar to some California offerings — don’t worry, it’s not an oak bomb!

Nutty and fruit tones on the nose with spicy vanilla on the palate with a lingering nutty finish.  Pretty impressive Chardonnay that can easily stand up to some of the more renowned wines from California.

Third Course: Foie Gras with Red Wine Pear
Wine Pairings: Forest Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (James Halliday 97) and Forest Hill Estate Shiraz 2005 (James Halliday 94)

Hello heaven on a plate!

This was definitely my sweet spot of the evening (technically, anything with foie gras probably would be, but add an alcohol-soaked fruit and I’m completely in love).

The red wine pair had a beautiful piece of foie gras inside and on the side of the plate was a surprising treat — wine soaked cherries that packed some serious punch.  We thought they were soaked in something stronger than wine based on the taste, but apparently not.  We did learn they were imported from France.

Foie Gras with Red Wine Pear

Isn't it amazing looking?

After two strong white wine offerings, we were excited to sample the reds.  I will be the first to admit as I have in the past, I am very partial to California Cabernet Sauvignons to the point of being called a Napa wine snob.  I grew up with some of the greats and I’ve just been very loyal over the years, finding that many other regions’ Cabs fall short.  I like dirt, I like pepper, and I love fruit…I want to chew my wine, not have it immediately die on the tongue.

Especially at the price points (about $60 US for the Cab and $45 US for the Shiraz) these were good wines.  I think some additional time in the decanter and perhaps another couple years in the cellar these could be even better.  It was a little easy to figure out the Cab would likely be nice based on its 97 point rating, and it did not disappoint. The Bordeaux style Cab featured dark berries and a hint of tobacco with some dusty tannins on the finish.  Everything I love in a good Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Estate Shiraz is a Rhone style wine that had some great pepper notes, chewy tannins, and some toasted vanilla and Burgundian oak flavors as well.  One of my favorites — will probably be even better in 2-5 years.

Fourth Course: Roast of Veal
Wine Pairing: Forest Hill Block 5 Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (James Halliday 93)

I was figuring this would be my least favorite course given my less than enthusiastic love of veal, but I was wrong.  I admit I picked it up and pulled a less than ladylike maneuver of nibbling right off the bone.  The meat was so tender and flavorful on its own, but the addition of truffle salt on the side makes anything better.

Roast of Veal

Delicate flavor on the veal course

Here was our first introduction to the big “Block” reds.  While it was an impressive wine, it really needs some cellar time and decanting.  I think in 5-7 years, this will be a great wine, but for now, it’s a good wine.  At around $100 US a bottle, it didn’t stand up to the $100 Napa Cabs…yet.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful wine, but the tannins need to soften a little more.  I did love the earthy and tobacco notes so I think once the tannins soften a little, it will be a really well-balanced wine.

Palate Cleanser

Love palate cleansers! We were served a pear sorbet/granita.

Pear sorbet for the palate cleanser

Fifth Course: U.S. Prime Wet Aged Short Ribs
Wine Pairing: Forest Hill Block 9 Shiraz 2007 (James Halliday 96)

This course was definitely going to be a test of the chef’s talents given beef is the center of Argentine cuisine.  I was a bit worried after hearing so many horror stories from my friend, Zac, the “Wine Guy” from The Langham Place, Mongkok Hotel in Hong Kong.  He recently returned from a trip to Argentina’s wine country and it seemed that many of the steaks he tried were not up to par.  I was worried that perhaps this was a trend of restaurants now, but thankfully, my fears were put to rest as soon as the plate appeared.

U.S. Prime Wet Aged Short Ribs

Beautiful plating on the short ribs

The beef was wet-aged to retain its moisture and it did just that.  It was one of the juiciest and most delicate pieces of meat I’ve had.  The consistency and silkiness were on par with some of my Wagyu experiences.  Brett found the beef to be a little bland on its own, but with the addition of truffle salt on the side, it was fine.  While I used some truffle salt, I found the meat to be perfect without any additional seasoning.

The peppery notes of the Block Shiraz more than made up for any spice that the meat might’ve been missing. I loved this wine — lots of rich berries, notable spice, but with a delicate tannin profile already.  This one can easily be aged another 8-10 years and will probably become more developed and balanced after a few more years in the bottle.

Dessert and Hot Drink Course

To finish off, we had a plate with three small desserts.  While two were made by hand on site, the French Macaron was imported from France.

Plate of desserts

French Macaron

Hot drinks offered were from Argentina — I tried the yerba mate while Brett tried the coffee.  Yerba mate is like a tea, made from leaves from the mate plant, which is like a shrub from the holly family.  It’s native to the subtropical part of South America, especially Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, southern Brazil, and Uruguay.

Yerba Mate

Coffee

Overall, a successful evening and quite a charming venue Adelaide chose to hold this event in.  I’m excited to go back and try Fernando’s regular set menu.  We were told reservations are necessary – 1-2 days, but I’d err on the side of caution with Taipei restaurants and recommend 5 days.  I’m not sure how many people it seats normally, but our small group of 20 or so filled the place up.

For wine lovers in Taiwan, Adelaide Fine Wines in Taipei carries Forest Hill’s full product line right now.  To purchase online, shipping is limited to Australia.  Please contact them to find out distribution in your area (if available).

We are often asked how much wine we typically buy at these type of events — usually at least a case and this one was no exception.  We bought two bottles of each of the wines we sampled — all of which were delivered to our door today!  Thanks Adelaide who provides free delivery within Taipei if you order a case or more!

If you are interested in visiting the winery during your Australia travels, they are open daily from 10am – 4pm.  For more information, be sure to visit their website, Forest Hill Vineyard.

Taiwanese Cuisine – Local Take-out from Gueishan – North Rice

While it may seem that we are often eating gourmet meals, sometimes, we just want something simple from one of the many local establishments that cover the Taipei area.  It’s even better when I can manage to pick dinner up on the way from work, saving us both the trouble of cooking or running out after I get home.

Back in July, some colleagues invited me to join them for lunch at one of the local eateries I had driven past almost every day for the previous two years but had never gave a second look to.  The name of the restaurant is Bei Fun, or North Rice.  Turns out, this is one of their favorites, and after that lunch, I understood why!  Showing a little foresight, I even grabbed a copy of the order sheets and marked down my favorite dishes from that lunch so I’d know what to order if I ever returned.

A few days later, Erin and I were discussing what to do for dinner, and I suggested I bring home some takeout from this restaurant.  Turns out, almost every dish turned out awesome even as take-out, despite needing to undergo the 45 minute drive home after preparation.  One dish, the spicy wontons, didn’t travel too well so it fell off the take-out rotation.

As Erin is still back in the US and I’m out of thawed options in the fridge, I decided to pick up some dishes for tonight (and leftovers for at least tomorrow as well!)

The Total Meal

The Total Meal

Here’s a brief overview of the offerings I brought home (total bill, NT$340, a little more than US $11.  Not bad for two nights’ dinners!)

Grand Opening of Chef Justin Quek’s New Just In Bistro & Wine Bar in Taipei’s XinYi District

Seemingly sneaking in under the radar, noted Singaporean chef Justin Quek opened a new restaurant on Monday in Taipei’s high-end XinYi District.  The new Just In Bistro & Wine Bar fills a niche for those looking for a casual, yet quality dining experience at a reasonable price.

New Just In Bistro & Wine Bar in Taipei's XinYi District

Quek operates two other restaurants in Taipei — another Just In Bistro and Justin’s Signature.  The new Just In Bistro & Wine Bar will be one step up from the original one, but still not as formal as Justin’s Signature.  Quek describes his new venture as “Bistronomic” a combination of high-end gastronomic offerings, but at bistro prices in a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.  The cuisine is Franco-Asian, playing on his extensive experience with both French and Asian cuisine.

Justin In Bistro & Wine Bar

Congrats flowers filled the lobby and entrance

We stumbled upon the grand opening notice on Sunday and somehow managed to get seats for Monday night’s grand opening festivities.  Just In Bistro features bar seating at the front of the restaurant and a small dining room at the rear.  There is a private room that will be available for booking soon and even a show kitchen.  The dining room is small, with only 8 or so tables.

Show Kitchen

Excellent wine selection available at Just In Bistro & Wine Bar

Within minutes of being seated, Chef Justin Quek came over to talk to us.  He talked about his vision and about his food sources.  He is working with local farmers to provide the freshest of ingredients and all seafood is locally caught.  There is an entire oyster menu that includes delicate offerings imported from France.  One page of the menu includes some classic and signature Singaporean dishes.  In trying to keep a local tie in wherever possible, Quek also shared that the artwork on the various pages of the menu was designed by a local Taiwanese artist.

Menu featuring local Taiwanese artist drawings

After discussing the dishes for a few minutes with Chef Quek, he offered to put together a special menu and individual wine pairings for the evening.  This is always our preferred way to go rather than ordering straight off the menu as you get a real feel for the chef’s talents and specialties.

Baked “Le Creuset” Egg Cocotte, Fricassee of Mushrooms, Homemade Duck Foie Gras Torchon and Truffle Scented Mushroom Jus(NT $270)

Wine: Vueve Clicquot, Yellow Label, Brut Champagne

Infused with a wide variety of flavors, this definitely set the bar high.  The egg was cooked perfectly with a runny yolk — the perfect compliment with foie gras.  The foie gras is homemade and in this dish it is a torchon, which means it is wrapped in a towel (torchon) and poached.  Many of Chef Quek’s dishes have a strong French influence as he worked in France for a number of years.

Baked "Le Creuset" egg cocotte, fricassee of mushrooms, homemade duck foie gras torchon and truffle scented mushroom jus

Breaded “Wu Gu” Bamboo Shoot, Mayo & Truffle Salt(NT $280)

Wine: Vueve Clicuot, Yellow Label, Brut Champagne

Our next course was a special dish that won’t always be available on the menu — bamboo shoots.  Much like the European white asparagus season, Taiwan is known for its white bamboo shoots that are cooked in a variety of different ways.

The type of Taiwan bamboo is “Wu Gu”, regarded as the best available on the island and comes from the Wugu region near Taipei City.  The season just started this week and each day, harvested bamboo shoots are being auctioned off and sold on roadside stands.

If you have the opportunity to visit Just In Bistro soon, be sure to try this before it’s off the specials board and not available again.  The breading on the bamboo is so light and airy, and rather than overpowering the delicate sweetness of the bamboo shoot, it simply enhances it.  The light bit of truffle salt and the drizzle of mayo really elevate this traditional Taiwanese culinary staple.

Breaded Wugu bamboo shoots with mayo and truffle salt

Capellini with sauteed crabmeats “Marco Polo” (Starter NT $480 and Main $680)

Wine: Casa Lapostolle, Chardonnay

This was a dish that we probably would’ve never ordered on our own as we tend to skip over pastas, especially when they involve seafood.  After a few bad experiences in Taiwan, we’ve become quite skeptical ordering pasta out.

I’m thrilled we let Chef Justin surprise us as this was a phenomenal dish.  The capellini was so tender and light and he told us he used the aromatic oils from the crab shell.  Each bite was like a mouthful of succulent, sweet crab.  Justin discussed that the name for this dish comes from the explorer Marco Polo — there was a romantic theory that he brought noodles back from China and introduced them to Italy.  While that myth is considered debunked, there is definitely some truth that Marco Polo bridged a gap between Europeans and Asians.

Capellini with sauteed crabmeats "Marco Polo"

Another shot of the "Marco Polo" with bites of crabmeat

Wok Fried Whole Pepper Maine Lobster Served with Steamed Jasmine Rice (NT $1980)

Wine: Schloss Vollards, Riesling Kabinett

When the wine was poured for this course, we still had no idea what we were being served.  Since it was a Riesling, we certainly expected something on the spicy side and sine Chef Justin had talked about the pepper Main lobster, we were hoping.

Sure enough, we had a whole Maine lobster that was wok fried with a pepper sauce.  It was absolutely one of the best lobster dishes I’ve had.  The lobster was so tender, so sweet, and the pepper sauce was not nearly as spicy as I expected.  It was much lighter than what I’ve typically had with the Singaporean chili crab.

Wok fried black pepper whole lobster

Le Creuset Skillets Souffle (NT $480)

Grand Marnier Navan Vanilla Cognac

I am a souffle fanatic and this exceeded all my wildest souffle dreams.  Made in a skillet, it is a one-of-a-kind souffle that is big enough for 2 or 3 people to share.  The current seasonal offering is apricot with an apricot sauce on top.  The souffle literally melted in our mouths and it more resembled a toasted marshmallow than the egg consistency in many souffles.

Le Creuset skillets souffle

Chef Justin Quek pouring apricot sauce over souffle

If the souffle was not over-the-top by itself, it was paired with a very special liqueur — Navan Vanilla Cognac, which is made by Grand Marnier, and according to Chef Justin, he is the only person who has it right now in Taiwan.  It was served in a wine glass with two small ice cubes and it went down so smoothly — I am definitely going to be on the hunt for this on our next trip outside of Taiwan.

Navan Vanilla Cognac -- I must track this down!

At this point, we obviously assumed we were done but we turned around to find another dessert being brought over to us!

Old Fashioned Crepes Suzette with Vanilla Ice Cream (NT $460)

Another dish that Chef Justin is very proud of is his Old Fashioned Crepes Suzette with homemade vanilla ice cream.  Traditional Crepes Suzette feature a beurre Suzette, a sauce that is made from caramelized sugar and butter, has orange juice, zest, and an orange flavored liqueur, served flambe.  What a treat.

Old Fashioned Crepes Suzette with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Black Tea Chocolate Truffle Mint (NT $145)

It was time for coffee and tea and I was rather smitten with a few of the tea offerings — especially the chocolate truffle mint tea.  This is definitely a tea I wish was served by the pot, not by the cup!

Chocolate Truffle Mint Tea

Justin Quek’s Private Wine Selection

Something I did not mention yet is that Justin Quek has his own private label wine made by an Australian winemaker.  We were curious about it on the menu and he instantly offered to open a bottle and let us try some.  We were on the lobster course and he said it would pair well with it, which came as a bit of a surprise.  However, it did pair quite well and the peppery flavor of the lobster really enhanced the smoky notes in the wine.

JQ - Justin Quek's Private Label Pinot Noir

For those interested in the wine, it is called JQ and is made by Phillip Jones from Bass Phillip in South Gippsland, Australia.  It is a small production and retails at Just In Bistro & Wine Bar for $3,600 NT.  We took the opportunity to purchase a bottle and have him sign it.

There is a magnum private label Riesling for $4,600 NT, but sadly, it has not arrived yet — we were told it’s still on the boat in transport.

Reflections

Overall, we were rather impressed with the new Just In Bistro and couldn’t thank Chef Justin Quek for treating us to one of the most personalized and enjoyable dinners we’ve had.  He even took the time to print out our specialized menu with wine pairings that we could take home, which we had signed as well.  It is not often that a grand opening goes that smoothly and is devoid of major hiccups and issues — quite a testament to the quality staff he has in place.

Our signed wine bottle and menu

Since we had such an enjoyable dinner and Justin was leaving on the 22nd for a wine event in New Zealand, we decided to come back just a day later to try a few more specialty items and have the opportunity to enjoy Quek’s company.  Look for our return visit details in a subsequent post since we tried even more dishes the second time around.

Congrats to Justin Quek and his talented staff on a flawless grand opening and bringing another gem to Taipei’s burgeoning culinary scene.

Congrats on the Grand Opening!

Erin with Chef Justin Quek

Just In Bistro & Wine Bar (XinYi District)
No 30, Songshou Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City 110
Telephone: +886 2 8786 2000
Website: www.justinquek.com
Hours: 11am Bar (light meals) 12:00-14:00 lunch, 14:00-18:00 drinks, 18:00-22:00 dinner, 22:00-00:00 midnight snacks
Credit cards accepted

Located inside the NEO19 停車場 entertainment/dining complex
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Yen Bar at New W Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan

Last month, the new W Hotel opened its doors in Taipei.  The hotel is located in the bustling downtown XinYi district where many of the high-end retail stores and restaurants are located.  XinYi is also the financial district and home to Taipei 101, now the second tallest building in the world.

Yen Bar at the newly opened W Hotel in Taipei

The 31st floor of the W Hotel houses the stylish Yen Restaurant and Bar. Prior to our dinner reservations, we showed up at the bar to check out the signature cocktails and perhaps one of their tapas we had read about in T+L Southeast Asia.

Initially, we were told the restaurant featured coveted views of Taipei 101, but as it turns out, only the bar and several private dining rooms have a view.  The bar was dark and swanky, highlighted by abstract pendants and other modern fixtures.  Behind the bar are large-scale art pieces featuring different angles and shots of a human eye.  One corner features a direct view of Taipei 101, while the other side is a massive floor to ceiling wine cellar.  The wine cellar is quite dramatic and essentially is the wall separating the bar from the open kitchen and entrance to the restaurant.

Yen Bar W Hotel Taipei Taiwan

View from our table at the W Hotel's new Yen Bar

Yen Bar W Hotel Taipei

View of Taipei 101 from our table at Yen Bar

Yen Bar Cantonese W Hotel Taipei Taiwan

Artwork behind the bar at Yen on 31st floor of new W Hotel

Yen has a pretty interesting bar menu of drinks.  Two instantly caught our eye and the server said these were the house specialties.  The oolong fizz is w-infused oolong gin with fresh lemon and sugarcane and is slightly carbonated.  A nice touch with a garnish — a few dried tea leaves.

The other drink is the green tea mojito, which is crushed fresh lime, mint, and sugarcane served with w-infused green tea vodka and is also slightly carbonated.  Like the oolong fizz, there was far too much ice in the glass that made it pretty much impossible to really mix the mint leaves into the drink.

Yen Bar W Hotel Taipei Green Tea Mojit and Oolong Fizz

Green Tea Mojito and Oolong Fizz

Yen also has two other interesting sounding signature drinks — the lychee sling and the plum sour.  The lychee sling has crushed lychees, lychee liqueur, fresh lemon, cherry brandy, and tonic water.  The plum sour is Taiwanese plum wine shaken and served with fresh lemon and sugarcane.  These four drinks are NT $340 each — not cheap as far as drinks go, but given it’s a hotel bar, not bad.

The bar menu also had three Bloody Mary concoctions that sounded interesting, just not before a fancy dinner — I am a Bloody Mary Sunday Brunch kinda girl.  Interestingly, the menu claims they have the best Bloody Mary drinks in Taipei — may have to test that claim out!  The three varieties available are:

  • Bloody — “a garden in a glass – the best in taipei”
  • Taipei Mary — “made with our own w-made chili infused vodka-a bit on the spicy side and the other best in taipei”
  • Tokyo Mary — “spiced up with our own w-infused ginger vodka-for sure, another best in taipei”

Other drinks on the Yen bar menu include other mixed drinks, many featuring an Asian flair, various liquors, and high-end Whisky — including ones made in India and Taiwan.   There is a list of non-alcoholic beverages (several of which are repeated multiple times on the menu for some reason).

According to the interview Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia did with Jereme Leung (consulting chef on Yen) the bar was supposed to feature some rather unique Chinese tapas.  The interview talked about “caramelized char-siu, with a caramelized crust” served on skewers with roasted pineapples.  Guess what?  No char-siu on the menu and the server had no idea what we were talking about.

Wanting to at least try one menu item, we ordered the barbecue wagyu beef skewers that were supposed to be served with assorted dips for NT $600 (about $20 US).  The two wagyu skewers came on a cool display with hot coals.  No “assorted dips” only a small spoonful of a hoisin/plum type sauce.

Wagyu Skewers Taipei W Hotel Yen Bar

Wagyu skewers available from Yen Bar at W Hotel

The wagyu was cooked perfectly and had a nice mix of rich fatty goodness — I was still pretty sad there was no char-siu on the menu though.  Other menu items include

  • grilled king crab legs with rock salt (NT $680)
  • sauteed taro with sugar (NT $180)
  • seared salted sword fish belly (NT $240)
  • smoked mackerel with pickled vegetable and sun-dried apricot on skewers ( NT $300)
  • plum marinated cherry tomatoes, candied kumquat (NT $220)
  • golden sesame seafood cigars (NT $280)
  • fresh mushroom skewers with two types of cheese (NT $220)
  • crispy chicken boxer wings with dips (NT $320)
  • selection of Taiwan sun-dried and pickled fruits (NT $220)
  • chocolate fondue, seasonal fresh fruits with fruit candy jelly (NT $380)

Tapas are available daily from noon until midnight.  I’d be interested in trying the chocolate fondue, crab legs, taro, and the swordfish belly.

A couple things to note about the Yen Bar.  The lounge is somewhat small and as word gets out that it’s now open, I’d expect it will be pretty busy on weekends.  Service is fairly slow — it took about 15 minutes to get our two drinks.  With only one bartender (at least while we were there) and a large number of fresh ingredients in many of the drinks, I was not all that surprised it took quite a bit of time.  We arrived an hour before dinner and ended up with only five minutes to spare before our reservations.  As with any new hotel opening, things will probably smooth out and improve a month or two down the line.

Wine Cellar Yen Bar W Hotel Taipei

Wine Cellar on one side of Yen Bar

Overall, the Yen Bar is a nice spot to check out the city views — and if you “luck out” like us, you may even get treated to a bird’s eye view of someone in their hotel room bed! Yikes!  The vibe is definitely trendy chic and since it’s the W Hotel’s signature bar, the recommended dress code is smart casual.  Most of the other people there were in suits and dresses with heels.  Unlike many places in Taipei where very casual works, I definitely would’ve felt uncomfortable in jeans and sneakers.

Taipei 101 Yen Bar W Hotel Taipei

View of Taipei 101 from private room tables at Yen

Yen Bar at the W Hotel in Taipei
10 Zhongziao East Road Sec 5
Xinyi District
(886)(2)7703-8888
Open: 11:30am – 12:00am
Website: Starwood Hotels W Hotel in Taipei

Mexican Food in Taipei: Macho Tacos Serves Up Baja Style Tacos and Burritos

Not surprisingly, good Mexican food is one of the hardest things to find in Taipei.  After growing up in Los Angeles and learning to cook authentic Mexican food at an early age, I’ve become quite picky on what I will eat and obviously recommend.  I am thrilled to recommend a new taco joint in town that’s doing it right — Macho Tacos. Their simple menu allows them to focus on maintaining quality ingredients while providing Taipei residents with a taste of what real Mexican tacos should taste like!

Macho Tacos Exterior

Outside of the Macho Tacos in Taipei

Previously, we had two “ok” options in Taipei — El Gallo (had the best passion fruit margaritas) and Yuma, which served Southwest style Mexican food (not really a fan of Tex-Mex & Southwest, but it was a decent place to grab some nachos and a margarita with friends).  In the last few months, both of these restaurants closed their doors, leaving many Taipei expats searching for something new.

In December, we heard about a new taco place in town called Macho Tacos.  We’ve been traveling since January so I was anxious to try them out once we got back to Taipei.  We stopped in this past Sunday, our first weekend back and one of the nicest days we’ve had in Taipei in months!  Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who had this idea as they were packed.  We’d been warned this place was very tiny & seating was next to nothing — heed the warning!  It is definitely more of a take out type place, something that doesn’t work so great when you live 30 minutes away by taxi.

Macho Tacos has a similar style to Baja Fresh back in the US (the Fresh Mex) with its use of fresh ingredients, light flavors, and chunky salsas, typical of Baja style Mexican food.  The menu at Macho Tacos is pretty simple — burritos, tacos, nachos, and quesadillas.  Choose from carne asada (steak), carnitas (pork), pollo asado (chicken), or even something you won’t find at your average Mexican taco stand…tofu.  Something else that caught my eye was the fish tacos on the menu.

Mission Statement

Macho Tacos' Mission Statement

Prices are quite reasonable, like any three regular crisp or soft tacos for NT $160 or the fish tacos (that only come in an order of three) for NT $170.  Although these prices reflect an increase from less than a month ago, they are still quite reasonable for “western” style food here in the city.

While we were waiting with the small mob for our order to come up, I noticed the crowd was entirely made up of English speakers (mostly expats I am assuming), with many of them probably 18-22 years old.  Why is that important?  Well, that translated into ZERO turnover on the only 5 tables they had in the back.  Several of the groups were immediately aware of the incoming customers who were hoping to eat in, and although they were done eating, they found it humorous to keep the tables occupied so no one could sit — not even the very pregnant woman trying to find a table.  Ultimately, we lucked out by snagging the stools out front so we weren’t trying to stand out in the street and eat!  Just a note: Not one of the groups had cleared out from the inside tables even after 45 minutes when we were done and ready to leave.

I went for the three taco special with a crispy chicken, soft carnitas, and soft carne asada and Brett ordered the three fish taco special.  Since this was our main meal for the day, we got an order of carne asada nachos as well.  Soda refills are free (something else rather uncommon in Taiwan).

My tacos were quite tasty, including the carnitas, which I am most picky about.  I hate soggy carnitas that just taste of grease.  I like carnitas that have some spice, a little crisp, and actually taste like pork!  The only negative I can say is they need to put two tortillas on the soft tacos as they break apart too easily.  I managed to snag a bite of Brett’s fish tacos and no doubt, I will be ordering those next time.  I’ve actually been craving them since we left!  The fish was nice and crisp, and reminded me of my favorite batter on fish & chips at an English pub back home.

My chicken, carne asada, and carnitas tacos

Close up of carne asada taco

Carnitas taco

Three fish tacos with jalapenos

Close up of fish taco

Fish taco has crispy batter, cabbage, and sauce

The nachos were a decent size — definitely a portion to share if you are ordering other food.  I was a tad bit sad to see the “squirt bottle” guacamole…it’s more of a green crema versus guacamole.  Given the difficulty in finding avocados here and their high prices (we’ve paid over $3 US pr avocado at the store before), I can’t fault Macho Tacos for going with a cheaper alternative to ensure they always have it on the menu.

Macho Tacos nachos with carne asada

Guacamole from "squirt bottle" on nachos

Besides the burritos and burrito bowls, other menu items I’m interested in trying include the rice and beans.  Rice and beans are two of the hardest things for many Mexican places to get right.  If you find decent rice and beans, it’s a good sign the food might be pretty authentic.  Choose from refried or black beans, and Mexican style or cilantro lime rice.  Macho Tacos also has horchata on the menu — a must for any good taqueria!

I’m not sure if their salsas alternate, but we had a choice of three on Sunday — a pico de gallo type salsa (mild), corn salsa (mild-med), and a third that reminded me of a coleslaw salsa (mild).  For those wanting to crank up the heat, they have bottles of hot sauce.   Or, you can add jalapenos for NT $10 or get an entire side of them for NT $30.  All the salsas were freshly made and had a good mix of flavor and heat.  No green salsa though – bummer!

Pico de Gallo

Corn salsa

Third salsa -- a coleslaw/cabbage style salsa

Macho Tacos is located in the Dong Qu area, a part of downtown Taipei known for an endless array of restaurants featuring everything from Sichuan to hamburgers.  The closest MRT stop is Zhongxiao Dunhua on the blue line.  They are open for both lunch and dinner (with a three hour closed period in the mid afternoon).  NOTE: Cash only.

Macho Tacos

Address: 3, Ln 126, Yanji St, Taipei City (台北市延吉街126巷3號)
Telephone: (02) 2731-4489
Menu: English and Chinese
Average meal price: NT $200
Website: Macho Tacos
Facebook: Macho Tacos

Hours: Open: Monday to Saturdays from noon to 3pm and 6:30pm to 10pm, Sundays from noon to 3pm, 6:30pm to 9pm  Note: They are closed on Tuesdays in March (not sure if this will extend into April or not)

Christmas Eve 2010 at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Taipei, Taiwan

After deciding to spend the holidays in Taipei this year, Brett decided we needed to go out for a nice dinner since it was just the two of us.  He has wanted to go back to L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon again since there is a new executive chef and sommelier, and surprisingly, Brett was able to secure a reservation at the counter for Christmas Eve.  In celebration of Christmas, Robuchon was offering a special menu for NT $8,880 (about $304 US), which included one glass of Champagne.

Someone from Robuchon called several days prior to confirm our Christmas Eve reservation and find out if we had any food allergies.  Brett asked to have a copy of the menu emailed, however, it never arrived so we showed up with zero idea of what the menu included for $300 per person.  No worries though — it’s Robuchon, how could any of the courses be bad?  We’ve read some interesting reviews lately that suggested the quality of food was not worth the price and they were from the last days of Suga’s tenure so my curiosity was definitely piqued.

Upon arrival, we were directed towards the end of the counter where we had minimal visibility into the kitchen, but we could still see a little of the inner workings.  At least I had an empty seat next to me for all my camera equipment so I was set!

View of kitchen from our seats

The special Christmas menu was already at the place settings, printed on silver metallic paper, and rolled up with Joel Robuchon signature ribbon.  We opened the menu to discover it was a ten course dinner featuring some delectable sounding dishes.  Prior to arriving, we spent a little time researching the new sommelier, Benoit Monier, and decided to put our trust in his hands and go with his wine pairings for each course.

Special Christmas menu on place setting

One of my favorite touches -- signature wrapped cloth napkins

Wine next to counter seating

Not pairing wines with a degustation menu of this caliber is where many diners go wrong.  I realize the dinner is rather pricey, however, if you are willing to shell out $300 a person for dinner, spend the extra to get the right wine(s)!  Ordering a cheap bottle of wine does a disservice to the chef’s menu and your overall dining experience.  Picking the wrong wine can alter the taste of your food, leaving you less than enthused with the cuisine.  Sommeliers are trained to find the best wine for your taste, budget, and the foods you are ordering.  It is quite a misconception to assume that a sommelier will immediately pick the top priced wines on the wine list.  Many will ask your budget — if they do not and price is a major concern, let the sommelier know what your budget is!

In our case, Benoit suggested we split a glass of wine for each course, which was fine with us.  The glass of champagne included with the special Christmas menu was a Bruno Paillard Brut “Premier Cuvee” served from a magnum.  As Benoit explained, Champagne houses prefer the magnums over 750ML bottles.  It seems that the magnum size allows the wine to age more slowly, allowing for a fresher, more crisp taste.

L’Amuse Bouche

Our first course was “amuse bouche” which is basically a bite-sized hors d’oeuvre.  For this dinner, our amuse bouche was a shot of pureed onion and some type of Taiwan vegetable, topped with onion foam and Espelette chilies.  Espelette is a small village in the Pyrenees region of France noted for its special chilies.  These are harvested by hand and strung on cords.  Benoit said the signature element of this tiny village is the countless strands of chili pods adorning the building walls during harvest time.  I would imagine the contrast of the white buildings and red chili pods would be a sight to behold!

Amuse Bouche

La Saint Jacques

The next course was Hokkaido scallop carpaccio with Oscietre caviar.  Oscietre caviar is also known as Ossetra, which comes from the Caspian Sea and has a stronger taste than Beluga.  With this course we finished off our glasses of Paillard Champagne since champagne pairs beautifully with both scallops and caviar.

Hokkaido Scallop Carpaccio

Le Crabe – Paired with 2007 Louis Cheze Marsanne

The next course was “crab steam egg with saffron mousse”.  For this, Benoit suggested a 2007 Louise Cheze Marsanne.  Marsanne grapes are most commonly found in the Northern Rhone region.  I was a bit worried about this course as it had egg and Brett does not eat eggs, but he was a trooper and seemed to enjoy this course.  The plating was so simple, yet elegant.

Plating on the Crab Steamed Egg with Saffron Mousse

Close up of Crab Steamed Egg

Le Foie Gras – 2006 Wwe Dr. H. Thanisch Riesling

Foie Gras!!!  The Menu description said seared foie gras with caramelized Marsala flavored seasonal vegetables.  Benoit suggested a nice Riesling from the Mosel Valley region — one of our favorite wine regions in Germany.  The Rieslings found in Germany far surpass nearly every one we have tried from New World wine regions.

Although the English translation on the menu noted vegetables, the plate (and French translation) had fruits, which were fine with us and certainly paired nicely with the Riesling.  The soft creaminess of the foie gras with the crisp Riesling was such a nice contrast.

Foie Gras with Marsala Soaked Fruits

Le Risotto – 2004 Domaine Michelot Meursault

The next course was a pumpkin and red shrimp risotto.  Given the new executive chef is Italian, I figured this would be one of the best risottos we’ve sampled and it certainly did not disappoint.  A nice touch was the crunchy pumpkin seeds added to the risotto.

Benoit paired the risotto with a Domaine Michelot Meursault “Les Grands Charrons”.  Meursault is from the Cote de Beaune subregion of Burgundy in France.  We were somewhat surprised every course had been paired with whites so far, but we really enjoyed the wines Benoit paired with them.

Pumpkin Risotto with Red Shrimp

Le Merou – 2005 Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits

This course was a seared groupa (assume grouper) with Bouillabaisse.  According to the French notes on the menu, it was to have more of the Espelette peppers as well.  I was excited to see the plating for this course — sounds weird, but this was one of my favorite dishes from our first visit.  The bowl is so simple, yet elegant and has jagged gold edges.  The juxtaposition of the delicate fish and broth served in this giant edgy bowl was very attractive.

With the grouper, Benoit paired another white from the Hautes-Cotes de Nuits.  This is a sub-region in Burgundy, known mostly for reds and roses (Pinot Noir) and whites with Chardonnay as the main grape.

This was another excellent pairing.  The fish was so delicate with a nice crisp.

Grouper in Boullabaisse

Le Boeuf

This was the course Brett was most looking forward to.  He spotted the Pan seared Australian Kobe beef right off the bat.  Since we had not tried any red wines yet, we were prepared to ask Benoit if he could pair a couple wines with this course, but he beat us to it!  Before we had a chance to say anything, he suggested we try two different reds with the Kobe.  In talking about the wines and the contrasting picks for this course, we ended up going for three different ones as we were curious on his New World choice.

The first wine was a 2006 J.M. Boillot Pommard.  The second wine was a 2003 Chateau Tour Seran Medoc.  The New World wine pick was not what we expected.  It was a 2006 Meritage Table Wine from Hahn Estates, located on California’s Central Coast.  Benoit suggested we try them in the order above and it was quite evident how the wines progressed.  The table wine from California was much stronger and spicy over the other two French wines.  The Pommard was soft and silky, while the Medoc was definitely bolder.  But when compared to the Hahn, the Medoc was still much softer and more well-rounded.

Seared Australian Kobe Beef

Benoit with the wines we had up to that point

Le Yuzu Vert

This was basically the palate cleanser before dessert.  This was quite tart, but nice.  It was Verbena jelly and yuzu granite with cachaca mousse.  The tartness came from the yuzu, which is basically like a small grapefruit.  Cachaca is the distilled alcohol used in Brazil’s famed caipirinha.

Yuzu Granita

Close up of Granita

Le Chocolat Noir

The dessert course was a heavenly chocolate delight.  It was a flowing chocolate coulant with coffee mousse and milk ice cream.  When the plate arrived, there was also an orange flavored sorbet and a dusting of pistachio nuts on the plate.  Unfortunately for Brett, he’s allergic to pistachios.  He is not severely allergic so he was able to eat around them with no issue.

Le Chocolate Noir

For the dessert course, we opted to each get a glass of dessert wine and wound up sampling two incredible wines that were complete opposites of each other.  The first was a Muscat that Benoit suggested we try with the orange sorbet.  The second was a great surprise — 1979 Pedro Ximenez Gran Reserva.  We absolutely love Pedro Ximenez and actually became engaged over a glass of it! LOL!  Trying a 1979 was quite a treat and definitely a bottle I want to track down more of.

Inside of dessert

Le Cafe Express

Sadly, we had come to the end of dinner and it was time for the coffee and macaron.  The night had flown by!  For one last treat, Benoit brought us something rather unique to try — Guatemalan rum matured in barrels used to produce Bourbons, Sherries, and Pedro Ximenez wines!  The rum was quite strong, but smooth.  I am not a fan of rum straight up, but this was nice.

Coffee and Macaron

Guatemalan Rum

As usual, we were one of the last two parties in the restaurant.  I felt bad since it was Christmas Eve, but was relieved when Benoit pointed out there was another couple finishing up dessert.  Being one of the last has always seemed to work in our favor as we often get the opportunity to chat with the chef and this was no exception.  The new Executive Chef, Angelo Agliano, came out to say hello and we had a few moments to chat and thank him for the ultimate in Christmas Eve dinners.

Both Chef Angelo and Benoit were definitely highlights of our evening.  Sitting at the counter, you have the opportunity to watch staff interactions and how the kitchen progresses, and without a doubt, Benoit was running the show.  From helping bring out plates and staying on top of courses for the next wine pairing, to engaging in banter with a majority of the restaurant patrons, Benoit is a definite asset to Robuchon.  He brings such a down to earth attitude to wine and will be the first to help educate you on the wines versus judge you.

Benoit, Angelo, and unfortunately, we do not have the name of the guy on the right!

We’ve met a number of chefs and restaurateurs over the years, and Chef Angelo is one of the most down to earth.  Working for Robuchon, who is one of the most decorated chefs in the world, you might expect Angelo to be aloof, but he is anything but.  To give you an idea of how personal he is, both Angelo and Benoit walked us out to the elevators to say goodbye.  Gourmet dining is not defined by the food alone.  The staff, sommelier, executive chef, and attention to detail play a big part in whether the entire experience is a success.  Chef Angelo and Benoit bring all the class you would expect from a branch of a renowned Michelin starred restaurant, but with the personal touch and comfortable feel of hanging out with them at your favorite neighborhood cafe.   They are genuinely nice people, not because they are expected to be.

In comparing this visit to our first, we were even more enchanted this time around.  At least for the special Christmas menu, there was definitely more emphasis on French and Italian cooking styles versus the heavy Asian influence under Chef Suga.  Our last menu had a heavy influence of strong Asian flavors that are not always appreciated by western palates.

As I mentioned initially, we’ve read reviews and interesting reports on Robuchon’s success after a year and there was discussion about lowering prices as the reception by the Taiwanese market was not as great as expected.  I question whether it was really the prices or the menu offerings.  The people who frequent Robuchon are not looking for seaweed infusion in every course, but looking to experience fine French cuisine.

We are looking forward to visiting Angelo and Benoit again soon.  We are definitely not waiting another year before coming back — hopefully we will visit again in March after we return from our upcoming travels.

Previous post on our Robuchon visit: L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Taipei: Our First Visit After Opening

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Taipei: Our First Visit After Opening

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Taipei opened in November 2009 and we’ve been fortunate to enjoy dinner twice there over the past year.  We had tried over and over again to confirm the opening date last October/November, but no one had any concrete information.  Turns out, it opened while we were traveling in Belize so it would not have mattered much anyways.  Once we arrived back in Taipei, it took nearly a month before they had any openings so we sucked it up and cursed at all the photos we saw posted online in the meantime. LOL

Counter at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Robuchon Taipei decor

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Taipei, Taiwan

Joel Robuchon signature utensils

We started traveling quite a bit after that dinner so we had not had the opportunity to go back until Brett decided to get reservations for this Christmas Eve since we decided to stay local for the holidays.  Since it’s been a year and there have been some changes including a new sommelier and executive chef, I thought it was important to post pictures and a recap of our first visit (we’re a little behind after having all our electronic equipment destroyed in a boating mishap right before we visited Robuchon the first time!)

Brett's excited to enjoy Joel Robuchon's cuisine

During opening, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon featured set menus and a number of a la carte courses, but we opted to try the largest of the set menus to enjoy the true Robuchon experience.  Here is a look at the courses we enjoyed during our initial visit:

L’Amuse Bouche

The first course was amuse bouche and I believe it was a blood sausage with fruit (perhaps apple) sauce.

L'Amuse Bouche: Blood sausage with Apple Sauce

Le Caviar

The next course was a “Surprise of Caviar”.  This was Brett’s first time trying a whole terrine of caviar so I was quite interested to see how he would like it.  I think the surprise was the fact that Brett actually enjoyed it.  Oh, how he’s transformed from the beer drinking burger eating Expat in the Netherlands! :-)

Le Caviar

Le Caviar "Surprise of Caviar"

L’Oursin

We moved on to a light carrot mousse topped with sea urchin and jellied beef consomme.  What an interesting combination of flavors.  Brett actually liked this less than the caviar.  I am not that surprised since I find sea urchin to be quite an acquired taste and for the first timer, it can be a bit overpowering.

L'Oursin: Carrot Mousse Topped with Sea Urchin and Beef Consomme

Close up of Carrot Mousse

L’Huitre

The next course to arrive was a seaweed-butter poached Bretonne oyster.  Ahhh, another one of Brett’s least favorite things – seaweed! Fortunately, the flavor was not overpowering — fine for us, but probably a bit disappointing for locals.

L'Huitre: Seaweed-butter poached Brentonne Oyster

Le Foie Gras

This was the star of the show in my opinion!  Foie gras ravioli in chicken bouillon with coriander and espelette cream.

Le Foie Gras: Foie Gras Ravioli in Chicken Bouillon with Coriander

Espelette Cream Served with Foie Gras Ravioli

Le Merou

We moved on to the fish course, which was a seared grouper with gingered leeks and citrus brown butter sauce.  Anything with a brown butter sauce is fine by me!  The combination of the gingered leeks and brown butter were a great compliment to the light fish.

Le Merou: Seared Grouper with Gingered Leeks and Citrus Brown Butter Sauce

Another shot of the Grouper

La Caille

More foie gras! Now we were served a free-range quail stuffed with foie gras, served with a truffled potato puree.  Heaven!  This course definitely took over as #1 in my book at that point.

La Caille: Free-Range Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras Served with Truffled Potato Puree

Les Fruits

This was the first of what ended up being three desserts for us, although there were only two on the menu.  This was described as “fruits Macedonia with sauce feneuille and fleur de biere gelee’ — basically a palate cleanser.

Les Fruits

Le Sucre

This dessert was unbelievable.  It was a sugar sphere filled with passion fruit mousse and coconut milk.  It was so light and delicate.  The sphere glistened in the low lights inside Robuchon and was quite a sight to behold.

Le Sucre: Sugar Sphere Dessert

I was rather excited to try the Sugar Sphere dessert

Another pic of the Sugar Sphere with passion fruit mousse and coconut milk

Inside of Sugar Sphere when Cracked

Le Cafe Express

We finished off with divine French Macarons, which certainly rivaled any from Pierre Herme! As we were enjoying our coffee and Macarons, one of the kitchen staff came over to chat.  She said the pastry chef wanted to offer us an additional dessert, which we certainly did not turn down!  Unfortunately, since it has been a year and my notes are somewhere still packed in a box after our last move, I do not have the exact details of what was in this one.  It was a sorbet topped with some type of foam (obviously).  I do remember that the taste was divine!

Macarons

Coffee and First Macaron

3rd Dessert from Pastry Chef

As usual, we were the last ones in the restaurant and chatted with Cesar, the Sommelier, for a bit before finally heading out.  As we were leaving, the staff suggested we take some photos in the “lobby” and next to the big wine cellar.  Since we never take that many photos together, we couldn’t say no!

Sommelier Cesar Roman

Brett and I in the Robuchon "Lobby"

Brett and I by the Robuchon Wine Cellar

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