May 14, 2018

Taïrroir (態芮), Where You Find Seamless Marriage Between Taiwan and the Western World

Taiwanese pineapple cake, one of the popular pastries from Taiwan, it was also the dessert that first caught my attention about Taïrroir. 

Don't get me wrong, Taïrroir is no pastry shop. In fact, it just got its first Michelin star this year. I came across a video about Taïrroir's own interpretation of Taiwanese pineapple cake long before the star fame. Watching the pastry that I grew up with transformed into something resemblance of a petite art piece inside a French patisserie. So many layers of delicate work went behind the supposed simple pastry. Such detailed attention on a small piece of dessert, their savory dishes can be something worth looking into also, I thought. 

But soon my craving was overwhelmed by chores and other temptations. What can I say, my desire went from one place to another and somehow forgot to settle on Taïrroir. Until the Michelin news took over every headline in Taipei back in March, then my memory about that pineapple cake surfaced. It's time to make a reservation, no more delays.

It was a weekday lunch. Reservation didn't come easily after the Michelin fame. My table was booked bout 20 days beforehand. Consider it as good news, since this type of fine dining restaurant rarely gets full booking during weekdays, especially for lunch, so in a way Michelin did help in sustaining the business.

Located on the 6th floor inside a business building. There are many other fine dining restaurants close by, crowned with stars too. Not vastly spacious or grand, but cozy and comforting in a way, perhaps that ample natural lighting has something to do with it.

Our table -

Lunch menu comes in two different price sets, around $55 USD for the Yang Chun set and about $87 USD for the Pon Pai set. Additional egg dish can be added for around $13 USD. Wine pairings available. We picked the smaller portion Yang Chun set and added the egg dish.

In fact, before the Michelin wave, there were so many bistro-like restaurants sprouting in Taiwan that emphasize on the mixture between east and west. More specifically, between Taiwan and the western world. The market grew competitive and it was hard to stand out and be noticed. Few Taiwanese ingredients infused in the dish, or a touch of Asian seasonings blended in the sauce. For a moment, these places all seemed the same to me. 

So thanks to that video about Taïrroir's pineapple cake, I saw something different, a true marriage between east and west. Not just on the surface, but deep down intertwined together. It can be good. It has to be good.

But one thing Taiwan's not yet quite caught up to is the use of local filtered water. I can say at this moment nearly all fine dining places here only serve imported water. Hope that'll change one day, when restaurants start offering filtered water as an option.

Bread from local bakery Wu Pao-chun, one plain and the other kind with dried fruits -

Wu Pao-chun is one of the most important people who raised public awareness about bread quality in Taiwan. Back in 2010, he entered the Bakery Masters competition that was held in Paris and won the title of Master Baker. Since then, the local bakery scene became more vibrant and lively. 

Served with butter and salt flakes.

"Taitung pacific ocean bonito nigiri Qu-Shi, broccoli, salted egg" -

Looked like Japanese nigiri, but flavor-wise closer to Asian version of fish carpaccio. A hit of torched aroma was the first impression, soon followed by sourish and savory notes, especially a slight kick from gingery soy sauce. A fine example of east and west grown onto one another. Not one element out-shining another, but sung in harmony.

"Cabbage potage, sakura shrimp, pan-fried bun" - 

Don't mistake that green powder on top as seaweed or some type of vegetable. I was surprised that those were actually sakura shrimp powder, supposedly pinkish red sakura shrimps. 

The waitress explained that there were sourish element below so the sakura shrimp powder on top changed from red to green due to chemical reaction.

Mixed the upper red cabbage together with lower white cabbage and drank as a whole. Just like potage, thick but frothy, felt like every sip was coated with creamy fat, and then from there a slight sourness aroma came through. 
As for pan-fried bun, just a normal pan-fried bun.

"Pu'er tea silkie egg, congee, sweet potato fondant, buckwheat tuile" -

It's hard to tell by looking at the English menu, but in Chinese, each course was captioned with an interesting name, like a pun or memories about Taiwan. Native Taiwanese or someone who know the culture well can further relate to each course. It's not just a fancy name, but the chef really projected the meaning behind a funny little pun into every dish. So well integrated, by far might be the best presentation between the concept of Taiwanese memory and the actual dish I have even seen.

Take this egg dish for instance. The direct translation of the dish's name is "memories from rest area." Rest area here means the ones you see on the freeway. Here's a little background knowledge. Whole boiled egg is one of the most common savory snacks from such rest area in Taiwan. So the chef took that memory and remade the dish with his own touch.

On buckwheat tuile, you can find bits of fermented soybean tofu, olives, etc. And the sauce poured tableside was rice porridge. Porridge is another comfort food found throughout Taiwan. So ingredients and skill-wise, you got a touch of both worlds here and there. I'd never thought that olives can work so well with Chinese porridge, not mentioning fermented soybean tofu. And then there's contrasting texture, the crunchy tuile and the creamy, condensed egg yolk. The potato cubes on the bottom were seared with chicken broth, creating a thin fine crunchy coating on all sides.

Delicate, fancy, almost an art piece, but yet so familiar and comforting at the same time.

As for entrée, we chose one fish and the other one duck.

"Les poisson du jour, Tainan #4 green asparagus, orange sabayon, sauce bordelaise" -

Fish of the day was black spot snapper. Seared then finished cooking by steaming. It was juicy, but overall the snapper was merely a good dish but not something that'll make a mark in my memory.

"Pingtung duck, hibiscus celery, shishito-hoisin, flat pancake" -

If you ever had Peking duck, this is basically the same dish but in a western form. Usually you would take a flat pancake to wrap the crunchy duck skin. Here, that pancake was already blended with Taïrroir's own version of dipping sauce and brushed on the plate. The duck itself was tender and you can really felt the juice locked in the tissue. Few chews to prove my point. Great texture, especially it's the dryer harder to tackle breast part. 

Really enjoyed the duck main dish. A high dose of sweet and savory seasonings but not clinging at all. This one definitely made a small dent in my memory.

Sorbet to cleanse the palate -

Kumquat, sugar flakes, and tea jelly. The use of citrus to freshen up the palate is not uncommon. But to incorporate tea element into the mixture, it was a total leveled up. That gentle tea scent balanced the sour and sweet ingredients, also provided more depth and filled my mouth with that elegant touch.

We asked the waitress to bring up the tea and latte first -

Little detail on the plate -

"Taro crémeux, parfait, dark brown sugar sago, tart, Bailey's ice cream" -

Never a big fan of taro, but this one I can do.

Overall a very gentle dessert. Nothing too sweet or taking over the spotlight. It only got a slight hint of distinct taro aroma. In addition, other creamy elements further rounded out the taro scent that I didn't care for before. Just the right amount, just the right touch, and I was converted. 

Then sweeter ending came up, buttery cookies with lavender and Jin Xuan tea. Again, never a big fan of lavender, but it seemed like Taïrroir can always pull out the right amount of aroma to flavor the dessert without overpowering other elements. I can totally ask for more of these yummy petite cookies.

What I've experienced at Taïrroir, the one thing that I would tell my friend if they ask me about it, is their seamless marriage between Taiwan and the western world. Sure, there are many other places that do the same thing here, but no one have done it so naturally. These courses were like they were born this way, there's so such thing as "Taiwanese" or "western." The food I had was just the way they should be.

Lunch seemed like a prelude, and there's more to see. I'll be back again for the entire piece. 

Taïrroir (態芮) currently holds one Michelin star status.

Taïrroir (態芮)

6F., No.299, Lequn 3rd Rd., Zhongshan Dist.
Taipei, Taiwan
011 886 2 8501 5500
Official website:

*Reservation by phone only available from 3 p.m. ~ 5 p.m. during opening days

Opening hours:

Monday, Wednesday to Sunday (Tuesday off)
12:00 noon ~ 2:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. ~ 10:30 p.m.

Extended reading:

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