French techniques, Taiwanese ingredients, Japanese influence. A chef’s degustation menu with tempo of kaiseki. Leputing is a Michelin Plates restaurant in Taipei that should do better than the current accolades with the innovation and pickiness in ingredients.
匕鬯東方 Eastern Calm degustation menu
East wind brings rain and dew and ushers in the season of spring. Splendid rays of sun shine brightly on the days of spring, with all creatures on each awakened by the glory. According to the Five Elements o Chinese philosophy, the element of wood represents spring, and east is its designated direction. It signifies the cycle of rebirth and renewal.
The resulting table fare is a superb interpretation that brings together nature, food and art, showcasing the window of our ancestors, whom had long realised the importance of harmonious coexistence with nature thousands of years ago.
The sourdough bun is made from organic yeast that has been carefully kept and maintained by the chef and the handmade butter features dried fruits in the mix.
1/ [Five Elements 五行] Surf and Wood 鰭鮪木灸
East is the designated direction of the element “wood” and is associated with the season of Spring when withered trees begin to take on a new life and thrive.
Tuna tartare, cape gooseberry, wonton wrappers.
The first appetiser uses raw tuna that has been smoked using longan wood and smothered with a tangy cape gooseberry 燈籠果 jam. The filling is encased in a crispy wonton wrapper.
Alternative if you don’t eat raw fish, avocado and cream cheese with avocado mousse, cream cheese foam and crumple.
2/ [Floral Blossoms 花卉］Sakura and avocado 春櫻酪青
Inspired by spring’s vivid flowers, this dish is adorned with the graceful colours of cherry blossoms with a touch of vibrant green and is paired with tangy and sweet pickles.
Beetroot, cured hamachi, pickled pink daikon, avocado cream, sea grape, sakura leaf.
The second appetiser is refreshing and exquisite with the tastes of spring in full bloom. The hamachi is only so lightly cured with lime and salt, almost like ceviche. The texture comes from the sea grape and ikura. Additional tang comes from pickled daikon dyed pink. The whole dish is colour-coordinated to reflect the colours of cherry blossoms.
Again, if you are not into raw fish, you get a mesclun salad with cauliflower, aburi salmon, citrus sesame olive oil dressing.
3/ [Roaring thunder 震卦］Tofu and the sea 鮮腐匕鬯
Once the spring thunder bursts, all beings on earth are awakened. Roaring thunder may evoke fear, but the wise reflects and sets life in order.
匕鬯（bi3chang4）is made up of two words that meant “wine vessel” and “sacrificial wine”. In 易經·51卦-震卦, there’s the reference “震驚百里，不喪匕鬯” referring to a gentleman who is not easily influenced by the surrounding. Even when the thunder roars in the distance, not a drop of the wine is spilled.
Tofu, charcoal grilled squid, bottarga, sakura shrimp, edamame, umami broth.
The original menu featured samphire. They were out of samphire (sea asparagus) but it hasn’t affect the balance and flavour of this excellent course. The squid imparts the umami and texture to the silky, smooth tofu smothered with a light dashi.
Smash it all together and eat it like a chawanmushi, the edamame, sakura shrimp and squid contrast with the tofu in texture, yet combine perfectly.
4/ [Solar terms 氣節] Aromatic tea and grain rain 茶香穀雨
After seeds are planted, rain is anticipated, with prayers sent to heaven to wish for nourishment for all beings on earth.
Oolong tea infused chicken broth, saltwater fish, sprouted lentils, blaze mushrooms, lovage shoot.
The main ingredients include a poached piece of sea bass and Brazilian mushrooms. Agaricus (Brazilian) mushroom is used for prevention of cancer, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), hepatitis B, digestive problems such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and to reduce side effects due to cancer chemotherapy. Other uses include prevention of heart disease, weakened bones (osteoporosis), and stomach ulcers.
The special one is the sprouted lentils. Cooked lentils are a nutritional powerhouse but raw sprouts are even healthier. Every lentil is a seed, a plant just waiting to sprout. Once that growth begins all the nutrients the plant needs to flourish are concentrated in the tiny sprouts.
Like all fancy French restaurants, the broth is added at the table. As the steaming hot chicken broth is poured into the bowl, wafts of aromatic Oolong tea and angelica roots 當歸 smell permeate in the air. The lovage shoots provide the freshness of celery and parsley in this aromatic herb.
5/ [New spring 年春] Parcels of goodness 除歲餃好
Lunar new year customs warn against the use of sharp objects during spring festivities, and dumplings should eaten on the first day of spring for good luck, as it is a symbol of auspiciousness and peacefulness and embodies all the hopes and anticipation for the upcoming year.
Chef’s special cheese ravioli, shrimp, watercress foam, seaweed. This dish is a beautiful palate that is associated with the season of spring.
It’s a tradition for Chinese to eat dumplings during the Chinese New Year. Dumplings represent abundance and goodness for keeps. The filling is usually pork or shrimp. And the classic condiment with dumplings is mature vinegar.
Here, the chef took the Italian ravioli and filled it with organic shrimp from Taiwan and chef made ricotta. The ravioli is cooked in a fish stock for umami. The tang comes from the picked seaweed. So you get all the elements of the Chinese dumplings embodied in an Italian comfort food. One is amazed by the similarities between cultures when it comes to comfort food!
主食 Main Course
[Seasonal cuisine 旬物] Farm to table slow food 慢食產地餐桌
The main courses feature ingredients sourced locally in Taiwan – Yilan Cherry Valley duck 宜蘭礁溪櫻桃谷鴨, and Taiwanese breed yellow cow 台灣【御牧牛】黃牛.
6a/ Tender duck and carrots 紅薑嫩鴨
Duck breast, baby Chinese cabbage, fermented carrot, kale, mashed potato. The first of three choices of main course features seasonal ingredients. The tender and succulent duck breast has been smoked in hay and the skin pan fried to a Peking duck crisp while keeping the breast just medium.
The kale has been deep fried to give it a cracker texture, and there’s the surprise duck bacon to give the Chinese cabbage the flavours. A very well executed dish.
6b/ Short rib with honshimeiji 紫白松牛
(US) Beef short rib, cauliflower purée, scallion purée, mushroom, deep fried shiso leaf.
Second of three choices. The USDA prime short rib has been sous vide and retained the tenderness and all the juiciness. It is then smoked with longan wood and chargrilled. The shiso provides another dimension to the umami of the grilled honshimeiji.
6c/ Tenderloin with celeriac and mushrooms 芹菇菲力
Select Taiwan beef tenderloin, celeriac purée, mushrooms, turnips.
Taiwan-raised cows under eco-friendly conditions, the beef is provided directly to the kitchen without going through any refrigeration. Taiwanese places a high value to these 溫體牛 warm bodied beef. The beef flavour is more intense, flesh is chewy and the medium rare doneness suits it perfectly.
土鍋飯 Claypot Rice
7/ [Core essence 臟腑］Claypot rice with sweet potato 栗薯炊禾
According to the Five Elements of Chinese philosophy, east is the designated direction for the season of spring. Spring is also associated with the organ liver based on traditional Chinese medicine, and the body should be nurtured during this time to extend the energy of spring within the bodies.
Award-winning Taiwan Chihshang rice cooked in clay pot, chargrilled Kuei Ting free-range chicken, chestnut sweet potato
The piece de resistance, the rice is flavorful from the seaweed soy sauce and each grain is fat and starchy. The hidden gem is the chestnut sweet potato. It has the sweetness of sweet potato but the wonderful texture of roasted chestnut. This is a special varietal of sweet potato only to be found in Pingtung, Taiwan from the Japanese stock 日本紅東 (關東85號). Served in the Japanese traditional with pickled daikon as a zukemono.
8/ [Seasonal taste 味覺] Pineapple stack of harmony 鳳棲羽苔
According to the “Rites of Zhou” 【周禮】, one of the thirteen Confucian classics, food should be in harmony with the seasons, and it states, “… sour, bitter, spicy and salty flavours prevailed in spring, m summer, autumn and winter respectively.”
Charcoal grilled pineapple with cheese, pineapple crisp, pineapple mousse, anise hyssop.
Taiwan is famous for its pineapple. Sweet and juicy, it has been made into many export items. Here in French dessert tradition, the pineapple takes the front, center and back stage in three different forms. The result is a harmonious combination of pineapple if three textures. Heighten with umami from the seaweed and hyssop dust.
9/ [Monthly ordinances 月令] Cold fare with honey 蜜韻寒食
“A city in spring is fulled with blossoms and fluttering petals. The willows of the imperial garden swayed along with the eastern wind on the memorial day of Cold Fare.”
Matcha ice cream, honey, spring roll wrapper
The final dessert was a simple unsweetened matcha ice cream sweetened with honey. This cold dessert is inspired by ancient sages’ wisdom for enjoying cold fare to balance out internal heat. The spring roll wrapper is used in a creative way, and with the matcha ice cream drizzled with natural honey to pay homage to the season of flowers, the dessert leaves a delightful and refreshing aftertaste.
10/ [Handpicked brilliance 昀選] Harmonious taste of honey 昀合蜜香
The brilliance is in the accompanying tea. The award-winning tea is made from tea leaves from budding tea that has been nibbles on by leafhoppers. This action leaves the leaves with the saliva that resulted in fermented tea with a honey aroma. After expert roasting, the tea lingers with the aroma of honey and tea.
The restaurant used to be a Japanese officer dormitory built in 1922 for the Forestry office. It was restored in 2012 and the restaurant opened in 2015. The whole place is perhaps the best restored pre-war Japanese building outside of Japan I have seen.
Most of the rooms have been converted to dining halls, with a couple of private dining for bigger parties. What I love was the view of the Japanese garden from our dining room.
Besides the restaurant, the space is used for art demonstration. It has a resident artist specialising in dyes using natural colourings and plant-based pigments.
The Dining Experience
The food was good but still lacking the sophistication and pace to get that coveted star. The service was not very accommodating, perhaps because it was all omakase and it was difficult to deviate from the normal menu. But their level of English was good enough to explain the whole dinner. Overall a good experience, one of the better French food in Taipei, and definitely worth a visit if you are in town as it was still reasonably priced for the quality.
No.67, Sec. 2, Hangzhou S. Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei City
Tel : +886-2-23951689
Date Visited : Jun 2019
Michelin Taipei Plates 2019