Monday, October 24, 2016

Casual Celebration

This year I celebrated birthday in a more casual style at MUME in Taipei. The restaurant has become quite a talk of the town since its opening 2 years ago, with the team of chefs all with impressive resumes from kitchens around the world, serving Nordic style dishes with interesting combination of ingredients and creative cooking style.

The restaurant was small with less than a dozen tables, opened only for dinner with two seatings available every night. I made the booking about a couple of weeks ago for the later seating (8:30pm) on Sunday evening, so there’s no time limitation of having to give up our table for later guests. The d├ęcor of the place was typical of places opening at around the same time – with a bit of dark interior and industrial chic. Near the front was the bar, and tucked away at the back was a compact open kitchen where founder-chef Richie’s team was working.

Only a-la-carte menu is available, with dishes neatly divided into four sections – Snacks, Smaller, Bigger and Sweeter courses. The waiter recommended us to order two from each section to share, but at the end we did slightly more than that. We began with 3 courses of "Snacks" – first to arrive was the sourdough bread served with two dollops of butter, the darker one made with Guinness, and the lighter one smoked beef fat butter. I loved the rich beef butter with the super smoky flavor, working well with the warm bread. Another dish working well with the bread was the Liver Brulee, beautifully plated with the mild and smooth liver pate served in a shallow bowl, topped with a well-caramelized crust and herbs on top. The flavor was well-balanced and impeccable. I thought the baby potatoes – our third “snack” course – served in a linen bag were cute and perfectly roasted, and delicious with the cultured cream and bits of thymes on top. The mushroom crumble didn’t have much taste but added a crunchy texture to the dish.

We moved onto something more substantial in portion with the “Smaller” courses. All of the choices sound attractive but at the end we went for the three which we thought were the most distinctive. First was the Kanpachi Crudo. The Kanpachi, or Amberjack, was cut into chunks and served raw, and underneath was a grassy sorrel "soup" and sliced green mango on top. Overall I thought it was refreshing, but I wondered whether the dish could improve further with some acidity, like maybe slightly cure the fish with vinegar or something. The Summer Salad was an interesting one, said to be consisting of 20+ types seasonal vegetables and edible flowers – some raw, some dehydrated giving the dish a variations in taste and textures, with a generous sprinkle of dehydrated fermented black beans - one more likely be seen in Asian dishes – for a twist.

Wagyu Tartare was said to be the signature dish of the restaurant and one of the permanent fixtures of the changing menu. Once again, the plating was outstanding, with hand-chopped wagyu beef mixed with red onions and pickled daikon molded into a shallow disc, then on top were dots of lemon espuma and dehydrated egg yolk confit plus microherbs.

We went for two main courses and I was impressed with both of our choices. The amadai, the Japanese for tilefish, has a delicate texture and rich flavor, working just well with the rich parsley and lemon thyme oil and the aromatic broth poured in in front of us from a teapot. The Beef Short-Rib dish was the more straight forward one but well-cooked. The well-marbled short-rib was served rare with just the crust torched, served with the reduced jus and a brush of pastrami spice sauce on the side plus local grains, pickled onions and baby napa cabbage which has been given a blow-torch treatment.

I did think about getting all three desserts available on the menu but at the end only went for two. The Cocoa Crisps was probably the better of the two, with an exotic combination of roast white chocolate crisp, caramelized orange, paper-thin chocolate slice and underneath, smoked vanilla icecream and crushed peanuts. Basically the formula combining everything delicious into one dish and one can’t go wrong with that. The Passion Fruit dessert was in a lighter style, with a grilled, round Financier cake in the middle, and surrounding it, jasmine mascarpone cream and honeycomb chunks.

They have a rather reasonable BYO policy so we decided to carry one of the bottles in from home. I thought the Burgundy just came to age despite being relatively young, with good red fruit character with some herbs at the back. Not out-of-this-world great, but certainly pleasant to drink and worked well with our dishes.

Overall the food was fun, and the execution was excellent, and we enjoyed every bit of our evening with such laid-back vibe. I would love to see them offering a tasting menu with more varieties in smaller portion so we could get to try more food in one meal, but I guess they were constrained by the kitchen and team size. Guess that means we would need to return more often to check them out then.

Full collection of photos on my Flickr album:

When? October 16 2016
Where? MUME, 28 Siwei Road, Da'an District, Taipei, Taiwan
Menu Highlights? Wagyu Tartare
Drinks? 2010 Volnay-Santenots Premier Cru, Cuvee Gauvain, Hospice de Beaune (tended by Benjamin Leroux)

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