Addicted. All it took was a bite on the Steamed Abalone Siew Mai and I was hooked.
You see, I rarely get the chance to enjoy dim sum because of the limited non-red meat choices, but at YEN, the choices are vast, and very vegetarian and pescatarian friendly.
But where do I start with the praises? That it’s the first Chinese restaurant of the W Hotels across the globe? Or a Michelin-starred chef runs the kitchen? The chic interior design and the top floor view of Taipei it affords the diners?
Let’s call it collaboration. It’s layering the best components to come up with a whole, and W is quite an expert on the matter—it collaborates to make the experience, say, addictive?
Let’s start with the design. Are we still surprised with the aesthetics of this brand? No, but the unique local treatment it injects makes a visit always exciting. At YEN, spoon and forks are the sculptures’ medium; soupspoons, ladles and cookie cutters substitute as oil paints on the wall art, like three-dimensional paintings. A striking dining space can stimulate the palate and heighten food flavors, don’t you think?
Now, the artwork on the plate. The maestro, Executive Chinese Chef Wo Hoi Ming, is from Hong Kong and earned his Michelin-starred culinary experience from Japan. His creations – “nouvelle Cantonese cuisine,” marks a wow factor on Chinese gastronomy with an innovative presentation.
“Taiwan is real a Formosa island. In the past months, I’ve found abundant and authentic ingredients, from succulent seafood to various vegetables in Taiwan. These foods inspired me to create the Cantonese cuisine with a touch from Taiwan which will win over the local foodies’ taste buds,” said the chef.
What does a first-timer do when handed a well-curated menu with a cornucopia of mouth-watering choices on it? Like I always do, I leave it to the “experts” to choose. All I say is no red meat, please, and serve the highlights. That works all the time.
On this instance Gary Lee, the Assistant Marketing Communication Director of W Taipei, who is a vegetarian, lead the YEN culinary journey.
It could have been an interesting strictly vegetarian journey because YEN can put a tweak on the menu upon request, but the host indulged me with some seafood specialty, which Taipei is abundant with.
Love at first bite happens. The Steamed Abalone Siew Mai was heavenly. The whole shrimps were of good size, fresh and mixed with the authentic shrimp paste. The abalone topping made the treats tastier, not to mention more luxurious. (TWD 320/4 pcs).
The Formosa Mushroom Dumplings wrap the freshest vegetable produce in delicate sheets of clear casing carefully created by the kitchen. Fine-tasting vegetables encased in glass pyramids. (TWD 180/3pcs).
Presenting a layering of texture and flavor is the elegantly created and presented trio of Shrimp Rolls. It combines the sweet-sour flavor of pear over the sweet and tender flavors of the scallops and shrimps wrapped in opaque white rice paper. (TWD 280/3 pcs).
The two delectable vegetarian dishes were served next – the Clay Pot Stewed Tofu (requested minus the shrimps) and the Poached Loofa with Wild Mushrooms (minus the chicken broth). Even with a tweak on its recipes both were good.
From the Chef Wo’s recommendations was the Rice noodle with clam and luffa in superior braised lobster stock (TWD580), “a glamorous transformation of local delicacy, the rice noodle.” It was prepared the traditional Cantonese way with the ingredients cooked separately before everything was stewed for hours. The result is a rich tasting dish with a layering of flavors.
The other was one of the Penghu tiger prawns seared in Chardonnay white wine sauce (TWD680). East meets West on the canvas-like black plate brushed with gold and sprinkled with chocolate pellets. The tempura is the subject— harvested fresh, selected based on its size, and deep-fried to crispy perfection that even the skin can be enjoyed, if preferred.
Finally, the dessert—three mushrooms on a plate. I was asked to bite into it before they tell me what it was because “it was a surprise dish”.
Warm custard in its ideal consistency oozed out of the fluffy bun as I bit into one. The chocolate powder brushed on the mushroom wasn’t only for aesthetic purposes, but its bitter hint provided a contrast to the sweetness of the custard. It was an ingenuous way of exciting the sweet tooth. (NTD180/3pcs).
With 28 years of crafting his cooking skills in renowned restaurants across the globe, including Xian Tao at The Ritz-Carlton, Osaka in Japan, which earned the Michelin One Star, Chef Wo is poised to elevate YEN Chinese restaurant to the next luxury level.
YEN Chinese restaurant is at the top floor of W Taipei in 10 Zhongxiao East Road Sec. 5, Xinyi District, Taipei 110, Taiwan. Visit the website: yentaipei.com
Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.