Apr 28, 2019

Addicting Finger Food - Peas and Crispy Pancetta Crostini

Crostini or bruschetta? Even though my gut feeling told me this is a crostini appetizer, but still want to dig a little deeper.



Bruschetta comes from the Italian word bruscare, meaning "to roast over coals." So basically the bread is grilled, perhaps over file, and usually rubbed with garlic plus a little drizzle of olive oil. One source also mentioned that bruschetta is usually made with whole or wide slices of rustic bread.


In the case of crostini, it's usually made with baguette slices, or some other type of smaller bread slices. It usually comes with a topping, and the bread gets heated up in the oven.


So I guess my gut feeling was right?


Peas and crispy pancetta crostini -





Ingredients?


  • 1 medium baguette
  • 110 grams pancetta slices
  • 3/4 cup peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Some extra virgin olive oil
  • Some olive oil


How?


Blanch peas and pat dry with paper towel.


Line the baking sheet with parchment paper, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit/218 degrees Celsius. 




Spread pancetta slices on the baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or till pancetta turns crisp and slightly darkened. Remove from heat and set aside till cool enough to handle by hand. 




Slice the baguette and lay on top of another prepared baking sheet. Drizzle some olive oil over and bake in high heat till warmed up. The baguette slices should be slightly crunchy to the bite but not hard as rock, that usually happens when heated up too long in the oven.




Use a food processor, add in 1 peeled garlic clove, 1/8 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice. Blend till smooth, but some tiny chunks are fine too.




Spread some pea purée to the toasted baguette slices then top with some crispy pancetta pieces
.



It makes a great party finger food. There's this tiny kick from the pea purée, just one clove of garlic gives such power and bring the whole taste up a notch. Don't even mention that savory note from pancetta slices, the flavor is further condensed thanks to the oven heat. I was going to save some for my family, but oops...It was way too addicting...  


Apr 23, 2019

Asian Cold Appetizer - Mentaiko Cucumber

I'm been storing some mentaiko (pollock roe) in the freezer lately, just another versatile ingredient when sudden needs arise. And it doesn't take long to defrost too.

Mentaiko Cucumber -




Ingredients?



  • 2 medium small cucumbers
  • 1 small sac/about 2 tablespoons mentaiko
  • 1/4 teaspoon white sesame oil
  • Some salt
  • Some toasted white sesame seeds


How?


Give the cucumbers a few rough chops then smash with the side of a Chinese cleaver, just to make some cracks so the seasonings can better sink in.




Use about 2 small spoonful of salt to mix with these cucumbers and wait for about 10 minutes. The salt will draw out the liquid from the cucumber, rinse away these salt and pat dry with kitchen towel.

Mix the cucumber chunks with mentaiko, white sesame oil, then sprinkle with some toasted white sesame seeds.




It's even better to chill in the fridge first before serving. Makes a great Asian cold appetizer, and easy to do.


Apr 16, 2019

Impromptu by Paul Lee - Newly Crowned Michelin Star Restaurant in Regent Taipei

Time flies. It seems like just yesterday when Taipei got its first Michelin ratings. Now, a year has passed, all the precious star-studded restaurants got to keep the shining marks, two of them even bumped up from one star to two star rating. In addition, five new restaurants joined the hall of fame, among these five, here's Impromptu by Paul Lee.



Located inside Regent Hotel, Chef Paul Lee ventured from the states back to his hometown Taiwan, and opened up this casual fine dining place with his modern twist. 




Opens for dinner only at this moment, set menu priced around $2,000, about $75 US per person, can't be more reasonable considered the food, service, and ambience received here.





Wine pairing available, sommelier is also on site at your service.




We brought our own wine that night, but also tried quite a few house pairing varieties, a wee bit too much alcohol, but ended up with tipsy happiness.




*Don't drink and drive. Good thing that the restaurant is in Taipei city. Just raise your hand on the street or at the hotel entrance, taxi will show up in no time.

"Jerry's missing love" -





Thin crisp is made by tofu, paired with refreshing cucumber slices. Together with the later first course, all paired well with our sparking wine.




"Abalone, tomato, fennel, five-taste bloody mary" -




"Five-taste" sauce is a common strong flavored sauce used to serve with abalone in local, more so old-school Taiwanese restaurant. Basic ingredients for the sauce usually include scallion, garlic, ginger, chilies, ketchup, soy sauce paste, vinegar, sugar, etc. You can kind of imagine how it would taste like.




Chef's interpretation here is leaning towards a more refined version, still got a punch, but not too pungent that overtaking abalone's mild flavors. This dish was also topped with tomato gelée, that slight touch of sourness with clean-cut gelée texture, not an old-fashioned mushy way of serving abalone anymore. Instead, it was sharp and fresh-tasting.




"Sunchoke soup, dukkah, burnt milk, hazelnut" -




Sunchoke is a rare find in Taiwan, so kind of glad seeing Chef incorporate something unfamiliar with heavier seasoning here, which can be easily accepted and welcomed by someone who never had sunchoke before. The warmth from the spices can further assist in opening up people's mind.




And that warmth lasted from inside out, very comforting.




"Bread & butter" -




House made ciabatta, besides butter, why not dip in the sauce from the previous dish.

Main dish, kurobuta from Nantou Taiwan -




Walk show first, not a fully finished dish yet. But for sure it catches every one's attention with that lingering hay smoke permeating the whole dining room.


"Sweetbread yakitori, bergamot, sesame leaf gremolata" -




It'll be nice to have some sake on the side.




Our own champagne, the cork is different from regular champagne cork, so took a few pictures for record purpose -




Sommelier knows very well how to open such bottle with ease.




"Quail, gailan, fermented mustard leaf, chimichurri" -



Mustard leaf served vinaigrette style, such leafy greens come with a distinct bitter-ish note, but not overwhelming. More so add on another depth for the overall flavor profile.




Per Chef's request, please try to enjoy this dish by hand.




So let's hold hands little quail. Let me walk you through your last journey on earth.


Pair with this wine below, both has that unique fermented mustard greens aroma, quite a mariage -




Wet napkin follows, we're still eating at a casual fine dining restaurant after all.


"Truffle pizza, Hunan sausage, fromage blanc" -




Either this one or with additional $380 NT for lobster noodles. However, I was very happy with this original plan. Black truffle is no longer the key character here, but the Hunan style sausage hidden underneath. That dense savory aroma, never thought that black truffle works so well with Chinese sausage. What a fun way to blend east and west ingredients together.




"Red mullet, nest fern, Shaoxing, fermented black bean" -




Just when I was wishing for sake -




This was restaurant's own wine pairing with red mullet course. The sauce used here was infused with sherry wine and Shaoxing. Strong junmai sake can balance off such distinct flavor profile.


"Aged pork loin, black pudding, aubergine, kale" -




Earlier kurobuta now trimmed to a perfectly cooked rectangular piece of meat -




With kale and eggplant on the side. That initial strong hay smoke was now merely a slightly touch sinking in the pork. Tender and juicy, and the portion was just right. If any bigger, that melting fat can be too much to tackle at once.




"Fried steamed bun bahn mi, pâté" -




Inspired by Vietnamese bánh mì, but presented using mini fried mantou instead, also Sriracha was used as one of the seasonings.


"White chocolate bread pudding, nitro foie gras" - 




Sweet and savory kind of dessert. White chocolate bread pudding and foie gras are two thick and heavy elements, somehow mixing these two doesn't contradict at all. In fact, that dense aroma seamlessly intertwined together.




With such rich dish, one perfect bite is good enough.




"Strawberry, Sichuan pepper, lemon marigold" -




Trying too hard with sweet and savory type of dessert can be like playing with fire. One little mistake can destroy the whole thing, not mentioning this dish incorporated hardcore ingredient like Sichuan pepper foam. Fortunately, here at Impromptu by Paul Lee, dessert still carry its own weight and didn't disappoint. It still gives comfort that only dessert can provide, but yet in a way evolved into a much more mature, a kind of adult style sweet ending.


"Oreo bon bon" with "yuenyeung" -




Yuenyeung, coffee with tea, it's a popular drink from Hong Kong. Very sweet with stronger tannin compared to usual tea drinks, which I adore especially when used to end a meal with loaded sugar. 


Supposedly coffee & tea -




But it's alcohol for our table.


And we couldn't finish all the wine by the time desserts were brought to our table, so we nicely asked if the Chef can come up with something to munch on -




Deeply appreciated for the extra effort.




1990 Marc de Bourgogne -




Special drink from the restaurant. The whole team, including the sommelier here truly did a good job bringing out the best sides of their dishes.




More than 30 stars twinkling above the sky of Taipei, one big step forward for the restaurant industry in Taiwan. Hopefully Michelin can venture into some other parts of the country in the next few years. It's time for southern Taiwan to glisten and shine too.  




Impromptu by Paul Lee currently holds one Michelin star status.


Impromptu by Paul Lee

011 886 2 2521 2518
No. 3, Ln. 39, Sed. 2 ZhongShan N. Rd., 
Taipei, Taiwan
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Impromptu.tw/
Hotel website: https://www.regenthotels.com/regent-taipei

Opening hours:
Tuesday - Sunday 5:30 p.m. ~ 10:00 p.m., 
Closed on Monday


Other Taipei Michelin starred restaurants: