Sep 27, 2018

Mandarin Oriental Taipei - Ya Ge Simple Lunch Set

I'm not afraid to admit that since Michelin guide launched in Taipei, I've been gradually visiting these restaurants one by one. Not exactly collecting the stars, but trying to figure out what do these places have in common, or what might be standing out that caught inspectors' attention.

So here I was, inside Mandarin Oriental Taipei Ya Ge, a Chinese restaurant that was given one Michelin star honor.

The restaurant is located on the 3rd floor of Mandarin Oriental. Not necessarily spacious, but in a way elegant and tranquil.

Surprisingly, getting a table here wasn't as hard as expected. I only called two days prior trying to book a table for two on Friday, then I got it, a complete painless process.

Our table was close to the end of the restaurant, overseeing all other guests, expect for the ones inside their private dining rooms. And we got this round window facing some green views right above us.

Table setting -

Three different kinds of spicy sauce. The one on the top right corner has a slightly sweet aftertaste from fermented beans -

Keep it simple, we went for one of the basic lunch sets instead of spending too much time on figuring out what to order. But as greedy as we were, two a la carte dishes were added to the selection. Hopefully our tummy can take in all the food.

First a la carte dish - 

"Foie gras, fluffy taro dumpling, crispy."

This dish actually comes in three fried pieces, but our waitress overheard our conversation regarding whether or not we can finish all the food. So she customized our serving. A kind gesture without us asking.

Even though the star ingredient should be the foie gras, but it was actually the taro that shined through, aroma-wise. The foie gras here took a different role, became a smoothing agent that bound all the fillings inside. Held by very thin and crunchy coating, but once taken a bite, thick and paste-like filling took over. It easily became our favorite dish that day. 

Below dish can be hard to tell from the picture, but the main ingredient was actually sea urchin, our second a la carte choice -

"Sea urchin, superior broth, egg, deep-fried."

It can be easily misunderstood by the description on the menu - sea urchin and deep-fried. It was not as simple as "fried sea urchin." In fact, one might not even be able to tell that there's sea urchin inside if not being told beforehand. 

Corn starch was used for the coating, so not just crunchy, but somewhat with a tiny bit of elastic character, just a wee bit. The texture of the filling was very similar to mousse. Just like our previous dish, the supposedly main ingredient foie gras actually served as a back-end support. It's the same scenario here. The sea urchin stepped down, the main flavor was carried out by Chinese superior broth. Savory and aromatic, a fun dish to try.

Time to stop munching on sea urchin sticks. We haven't even started working on lunch set dishes.

About 10 minutes passed, from here, we ventured into lunch set items. Chef's signature dim sum combination -

Left to right clockwise - "abalone, pork, and shrimp shu-mai, steamed; beetroot, scallop dumpling, steamed; crab meat dumpling, black truffle, egg white, steamed."

Good but not wow-ing. However, the least appealing one got more attention from my lunch mate. It was the plain one filled with black truffle. Black truffle, of course, it can easily be the most aromatic of all. On top of that, such ingredient is always a crowd pleaser. 

Let's wrap up the meal with some hot tea......nor not!

Served like tea, but that pale yellow looking liquid was actually chicken broth. 

"Black bone chicken, P.H. 9.0 water, double-boiled."

1:1 water to chicken ratio, double-boiled to extract all the essence. At first it can be light to taste, but try to savor it. To me, that gentle touch when it hit my tongue was the key. Like soft water, softly coated the surface of my tongue, like how a mother cover her baby with blanket. Imagine Chinese stock pumped with air, full yet light at the same time.

After that, perhaps a few pinches of salt to bring up the flavors. This time, put the texture aside, umami now came into the picture.

Choose between the two for entrées, so we got one of each. "Star garoupa fillet, ham, shiitake, steamed" -

If you're not sure how to pick the entrées, trust me, when dining at such high level Chinese restaurant, steamed fish might sound too easy, but it rarely disappoints. Especially restaurant like Ya Ge always get the first pick of seafood, so it's safe to say that the fish always come fresh and fat. Think about all that fat disintegrated into the sauce, what a umami burst. 

The other entrée "prawn, scallop garlic, salty egg yolk, crispy" - 

Earlier steamed garoupa fillet was cooked nostalgic way, familiar and comforting. In comparison, the scallop was more of a wow-factor. Packed with crunchy coating and trendy salted egg yolk seasoning.

Ya Ge signature fried rice -

Approaching our tummy limit. 

"Aged tangerine peel, red beans soup" -

"10 year" aged tangerine peel and red beans fully integrated to a soup form.

Tested the water this time, so far so good. Most of the dishes that day were on the lighter side, but it doesn't mean flavorless. Abandoning heavy seasonings, the idea is to let the ingredients speak for themselves, that's what I get from Ya Ge. Should be worth awhile to plan my next visit trying out some of Ya Ge's "big dishes" next time.  

Ya Ge (雅閣) currently holds one Michelin star status. 

Mandarin Oriental Taipei - Ya Ge
158 Dunhua North Road (3rd floor)
Taipei, Taiwan 
+886 2 2715 6668
Hotel website: Ya Ge

Opening hours: 

Monday to Friday lunch 12:00 noon ~ 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sunday, public holidays lunch 11:30 a.m. ~ 2:30 p.m.
Monday to Sunday dinner 6:00 p.m. ~ 10:00 p.m.

Other Michelin starred restaurants in Taiwan:

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