永康街 Yong Kang Street in Taipei’s 大安區Da’An District is not merely known to many as a single road but rather, a collective network of interweaving small lanes packed with interesting restaurants and cafes to visit. Its famous for many things, most notably as the birthplace of 鼎泰豐Ding Tai Fung, known for the 小籠包 xiao long bao steamed dumplings. DTF’s flagship store still helms the entrance of Yong Kong Street, often seen packed not just the restaurant within but also along the corridors, with tourists from Mainland China brought here by the tour bus loads. But we are not here to eat xiao long bao. I’m sure there’s a better place and better occasion for them. Instead, we are to visit “Pâtisserie La Douceur 品悦糖 – 法式甜品专卖” one of the pâtisseries we’d come across quite frequently over our research for the last trip. Since we would be visiting them again in 2 weeks’ time, I thought I’d better roll out the write up for last year’s visit first!
While 青木定治 Sadaharu Aoki’s signature creation, バンブー Bamboo is surely his most popular work, I couldn’t help but felt a bit shortchanged by its taste, or rather the lack of it. Its alluring visuals was simply not levelled up by similarly astounding flavours. But his バレンシア Valencia is quite a different story. Easily my favorite amongst Aoki creations, Valencia embodies everything which I felt an entremet should be, delicate and yet well-defined textures, contrasting flavours and of course, scoring high in its aesthetics. Having attempted to make it before earns Valencia a special position in my heart. Am I being biased? Well, I chose not to think so! LOL
Joël Robuchon is a name within the culinary scene which does not require much introduction. His line of restaurants, many of which of michelin-starred calibre is often regarded as the epitome of French haute cuisine. It it seems almost befitting to find him anchored in Bellavita, a shopping arcade right in the heart of the Xin Yi District, the prime shopping belt in Taipei. Despite having only 6 floors and obviously dwarfed by the neighbouring Taipei 101, Bellavita stood out prominently amidst the surrounding skyscrapers with its Edwardian architectural style. Dotted with exquisitely designed cafes and fine dining restaurants, its a common sight to find madame moseilles aka “tai tais” all dolled up in haute couture enjoying afternoon tea amidst alikened company. No wonder this place is known as 貴婦百貨 in Taiwanese. And indeed JR has found himself two establishments in Bellavita – Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Donned in only bermudas and polos, we are obviously too shabbily dressed for the main restaurant. So it was to the tea salon to pick up some of their pastry creations.
This is the beginning of a series of reviews meant to be up much much later. Well, they really ought to have been done up long time ago. Life’s such an irony I know. Just earlier, I read an entry on someone’s visit to Pierre Herme in Paris and his take on the French pastry master’s macarons, analogising it to one of life’s many first times, those viriginal encounters which change one’s perspective of things and never to look back at the old ways again. That most certainly struck a chord which resonated deep within as I recall those precise moments, one of which was fairly recent. Not with Pierre Herme though, but at Sadaharu AOKI’s dessert boutique in Taipei last year.
We planned the trip way before the actual date, as we do with most of our overseas excursions, ensuring that our itineraries would allow us to maximise the experience with the minimal amount of time we had. Been to Taiwan for a number of times now, this was my first visit to experience the country’s pastisserie scene. We had a number of places in mind, from smaller and more local dessert shops and cafes, to international names like Joel Robuchon and Jean Paul Hevin’s joints which recently anchored in Taipei. However, top on our list were the two dessert salons by Sadaharu Aoki. As some of you already know, I’m a big fan of his work, with attempts to reconstruct some of his creations. But his pastries and desserts remain elusive and somewhat mysterous, with very little recipes in circulation. Even those which are going around the internet and even publications are somewhat dubious in terms of their genuinity. So this trip to Taipei was the perfect opportunity to experience firsthand how his masterpieces are like. And sampling we most certainly did. This would definitely go down as one of life’s many first times. Konnichiwa Aoki san, Hajimemashite, dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!
Last day in Taiwan, day to do some last minute shopping, especially for foodie goodies…
Beginning of Day 6, our last day in Taipei. We checked out of the hotel and walked to a shop in between the hotel and Ximending for some 伴手礼 aka 手信. bought 世运凤梨酥 which is award winning. On the way from the shop to ximending, we came across 北门, located at the junction of 台北车站 and 西门町.
It was another grey and rainy day in Taipei. Visiting 龍山寺 seems to have become a ritual whenever we are in Taipei. Not so much as to pray, but more to take in the atmosphere. The afternoon itinerary is for Danshui but poor weather seems to forebode futileness. So a change of plans to go to the Jade and Flower Weekend Markets located under the flyover of JianGuo and Ren’ai Roads. Evening is another gastronomic experience at Gyukaku.
Going 龍山寺has almost become ritualistic for our trips to Taipei, and stopping by 小南鄭記 for some Tainan delights, 碗粿 and 虱目鱼焿 has also become much of a routine.
After breakfast at the hotel cafe, we took the HSR from Kaohsiung back to Taipei. Choosing the appropriate timing is very important as certain trains make very few stops along the way from Kaohsiung back to Taipei, namely at Taichung and Banchiao. This shortens the travelling time considerably. Also, since the train does not call upon every stop, there are few passengers boarding and alighting making the journey less disruptive!
Breakfast at kindness hotel in kaohsiung before checking out. The menu is roughly the same for both days but still, the spread is quite decent given the price we paid!
We visited the Butterfly Garden located within Terminal 3 Transit Area and had lunch at Hard Rock Cafe at Terminal 3 before boarding our 4.5 h flight on Jetstar to Taipei!
Lunch at Hard Rock Cafe located within the Transit Area of Changi Airport Terminal 3.