Day Three (9th Jan 2019) Taipei
“Casual Fine Dining”
This day, Constant Companion RR and I had a lunch with her parents in a restaurant which Constant Companion RR was introduced to, back home.
Both of us were surprised how casual the whole ambiance of the highly recommended restaurant was, which I feel is a great thing as I dislike being in a stiff and rigid environment which requires me to be all prim and proper as I stuff my mouth with food.
Encounter! A Taiwan Celebrity.
We arrived at the establishment a few minutes earlier. While waiting for our table, seated down at the lobby, a man and a woman walked in and I recognised him to be half of the popular Taiwan rock duo, Power Station.
While I am not too familiar with their songs (but I am positive that I have at least heard some of their music before), I have seen pictures of them when I was much younger and that guy has a really recognisable face.
No airs around him whatsoever, he was promptly ushered in with his partner and I did not see him again anywhere during our hour long dining until much later, when we were out of the restaurant.
We were sat down at a big, roundish, wooden table with 4 drawers; one for each of us. Within each drawer, there was a menu of the food we will be having that day, and all the utensils that we will be using.
The service staff waiting on us, eloquently described, in Mandarin Chinese, each dish as they were set down before us, and when needed, instructed us the right way to consume them. Regarding the subject of fine dining, I am no expert, in fact, I know next to nothing, but I would say a lot of effort was taken behind the concept and display of the dishes.
I was impressed by some of the dishes, while some, I just thought was a bit too pretentious for my liking. Overall, the taste of the food was good and that was all that mattered to me.
As much as description of the dishes goes, because of my poor command of the language, many times, I found myself listening but not completely understanding what the service staff told us about the plate in front of us.
Listed below are what we had that afternoon. I will try to describe in my own words, based on my personal feeling and what I understood (and remember).
1) Quail egg sitting on a “nest” made of fried noodle of some sort. Simply grab one off the non-edible display and pop it right into your mouth. Not a bad start.
2) I do not remember exactly what that ball of green is, but it is obviously from some kind of plant and inside, there were multiple layers of the same green, tightly packed like a baseball. The texture was weird because the green had a little sort of rubbery resistance to the bite, and chewing through multiple layers was just strange. The taste was not bad, just a little odd like its texture.
According to the service staff (if I did not misunderstand his words), we can “admire” the deep fried head of the prawn and consume the head butter within.
3) The chef has deconstructed the Taiwanese porridge (aka Teochew Porridge) into 3 main components. The rice part of the porridge was represented by the rice cracker, sitting on the top of that white bowl, while the water part of the porridge was served in the white cup on the right, as a kind of sweet and cold rice beverage. In the textured white bowl, a small serving of pickled vegetables.
I thought the concept was amusing; of all the things they can choose to deconstruct, the chef chose porridge.
4) Warm bread served in a sack, served with soft butter. It was good.
Only issue I had is that I wish they would offer us plates instead of having our bread crumbs dropped directly on the table. The service staff would come up and brushed them off with his giant wooden brush, once too often.
5) These are 6 thinly sliced scallop, served with bits of mushrooms and unknown green sauce. Tasted a lot better than its presentation.
6) I like this one. The green foam was light and delightfully flavoured; probably made from egg whites. Eaten with crunchy bamboo shoots and fried asparagus.
SUDDENLY, A FORMAL PROPOSAL!
Throughout the meal, I had been waiting patiently for the right moment to bring this up to Constant Companion RR‘s father; a formal request for his permission and blessing, for the hand of his only daughter.
Although both Constant Companion RR‘s parents are more than capable conversing in English (in fact, they speak multiple languages), as a proof to my sincerity, I made my speech in Mandarin Chinese. The speech was first formulated in English, emphasizing on making my intention clear and concise, without sounding too blunt, cheesy or insincere. The length of it must be just long enough to make a convincing and reassuring appeal, but short enough to maintain interest and focus.
Once I got the English version down the way I like it, I simply translated it in Mandarin Chinese. Not directly, of course. Many sentences would not make sense with direct translation or would lose the “feel” of the meaning altogether. I took some effort to include appropriate Chinese phrases that I normally incapable of using naturally in my day-to-day Mandarin conversations, in hope of making my speech sounding less crude.
As the speech is only meant for the ears of parents of Constant Companion RR and herself, I will not be sharing it with you, kind reader, and I am sure you will understand.
Please note that Constant Companion RR‘s parents came knowing what we were up to, she pretty much told them exactly the main purpose of lunch that day. However, finding the right time to ask was a lot harder than I thought.
I could not start my speech while chewing my food, nor do I want to disturb them while they were breaking bread. There were service staff approaching our table all the time, either taking a bit of time to talk about what they were serving us or clearing the empty plates. Going straight to the point right at the start seems highly inappropriate; I wanted everybody to be seated down comfortably, all warmed up with light conversations and to at least, have some food in their stomachs. As the meal went on, my nervousness grew.
Somewhere between the green foam dish and the corn dish, I saw the opportunity and I seized it. With the attention of the entire table (all 3 of them), I made my speech and for the most part, I thought I was doing decently. Right until the very last bit, for the life of me, I could not remember the two words I wanted to use in my ending sentence.
“成全” were the two words that I was looking for, which means “fulfill“.
Without a word, Constant Companion RR‘s father smiled with a sparkle in his eyes, stood up and gave me a hug. That was his way of telling me that he has fulfilled (成全) my wish.
7) The chef expertly shaved the surface of a corn with, I reckon, an extremely sharp knife and much focus. Underneath, a cheese sauce with some chewy bits. Sprinkled on the top, were bits of popcorn. Out of all the dishes, this dish had the most intense flavour due to the cheese sauce.
8) Brought to our table on a traditional wooden tofu mold, the service staff then explained the origin of the soy beans they used for the tofu we were about to eat. On the slice of tofu he dished out to us, the service staff poured some soy milk based sauce from a rustic-looking metal kettle.
9) Right before the start of the meal, I was looking forward to this dish because on the very vague menu, it stated that this dish contains eggplant/ aubergine, and I have grown quite fond of eggplant/ aubergine in recent years.
Blanketed by 3 slices of cooked fish, my eggplant, peeled, was lying down in a small puddle of soy-based sauce. After placing my plate before me, the service staff sprinkled on some fried garlic from a small container. The edible purple crisp at the side, was supposed to be the skin of the eggplant which I assumed the service staff meant it figuratively; I do not think the skin of an eggplant look like that after deep frying.
Overall, the dish reminded me of Cantonese-style steamed fish.
10) They named this dish “Dirty Chicken”. Service staff explained that the chef want to make a statement that “ugly” food can be tasty as well. The chicken breast was tender and delicious, served in a sauce blacken with squid ink and a side of greens.
Ironically, I do not find the presentation of this dish “ugly”.
11) Service staff made us guess what is this and told us that the answer would only be revealed after we were done. Not a hard guess at all. It was a part of celery in some green sauce with polka-dots made with red sauce.
You cannot imagine my disappointment when I thought this was the dessert they served. It was such an uninspiring dish and that meant a lot coming from me, someone who is not fussy with his food. However, when I heard that that was just “pre-dessert”, my mood lightened up.
12) The real dessert. It is a Mont Blanc, made of red beans instead of chestnuts, with a small serving of ice cream. A delectable and fitting end to our meal.
Second Encounter! With the same Taiwan celebrity.
After our meal in the restaurant, we bumped into that one half of the Taiwan rock duo, “Power Station” again with his partner, bidding farewell to another couple. On a closer look (without being creepy), I recognised the other man was none other than his partner, the other half of the Taiwan rock duo, “Power Station”!
After exchanging a couple of words (maybe arranging their next gig or jamming session), they parted ways with their respective partners. Pretty cool.
Coffee in a Historical Japanese-style House
Before our meal end, Constant Companion RR and I were introduced, by her parents, to cafe which was set up in an authentic Japanese-style house which historically belonged to a well-known geologist. Constant Companion RR‘s parents effectively called up and made a reservation for us, specifically asked for “the table with the book” much to the amusement of the person on the other side of the line.
After our meal, Constant Companion RR‘s parents kindly dropped us at the cafe where we spent a slow afternoon, sipping coffee and nibbling of sweet, mostly, Japanese snacks. Interestingly, there was some sort of class going on when we were there. There was a group of kimono-wearing ladies, hanging outside the courtyard, having their pictures taken. Very wholesome activity.
The house has been preserved meticulously; there were many relics of the past decorating every corners. In every room, tables and chairs were set up for the guests of the cafe. I believe each visit to the cafe can be vastly different simply by seating somewhere else in the house. Just before leaving, we took a quick look around and thought that having a room with tatami mats is cool.
Third Night in Taipei
We ended our third day in Taipei by visiting another nightmarket.
Of course, we never get tired of the candied peanut, ice cream crepe roll. I will never get bored taking/ sharing these pictures.
After the grueling day we had the day before, our third day in Taipei went at a comfortable pace. It was an especially memorable day for both Constant Companion RR and me.