Taipei

Where:
Le Bistro de l’Olivier
No. 122, Sec 2 An-He Road
Taipei Taiwan

台北市安和路二段122號
(遠企停車場旁-周一休)

Phone:
(+886) 2-8732-3726

Price:
NTD3200 for two people, no booze.  That’s around HKD810 / USD100.  Yeah, I converted the NTD to USD / HKD for your reading pleasure but it don’t matter what currency it’s in – THIS MEAL WAS TOO FUCKING MUCH.

The deal:
At some point during my Taipei trip I was feeling like my blood was slowly becoming fryer oil as a result of fuck yeah night market adventures and the hotel choices appeared to be too familiar, uninspiring and overpriced for what they were.  Sir Crunchalot was tasked with finding somewhere to eat and in a rare lapse of judgment, I decided not to be a total raging control freak for only about the second time in my entire life and foregoed doing my own due diligence, accepting his alleged claims that he’d found a well reviewed French bistro run by a Taiwanese celebrity chef, Maggie Liu, which was walking distance from our hotel.  

In an ominous sign, there was barely anyone in there – but I ignored this initial warning sign and put it down to the restaurant being in a city which has a normal density of people versus the all encompassing fuck no crush of Hong Kong.  The bistro has well and truly tried to bring that French bistro feeling by cramming a fuck tonne of black and white photos of Parisian street scenes onto its walls. If there had been any length of fence in the restaurant I would have been compelled to attach 27 cheesey fucking padlocks to it, in order to demonstrate my undying and eternal commitment to my one true love.  I glanced through the menu and holy fucking shit, prices were off the goddamn chart with little sticking out as sounding amazing.  Taiwan is well known for its fuck yeah value – I often say that Taiwan’s prices are the same as HK, it’s just that Taiwan prices are in New Taiwan Dollars vs Honkie Bucks which mean everything is about 25% the price of HK.  However this NTD pricing mechanism is definitely NOT TRUE at Le Bistro de l’Olivier which was offering a lack lustre menu with some really pricey shit.  I settle on the duck breast which clocks in at a NTD880 (+10% service charge = HKD243 / USD31) which just so you know, is more expensive than what the Mandarin Oriental Taipei’s Bencotto charges for a duck breast (NTD850 + 10% service charge).  Predictably, my homie Sir Crunchalot who has the complete inability to do any sort of currency conversions to assess affordability, orders the astronomically priced steak and fries at the ball tearing price of NTD1780 (+10% service charge = HKD490 / USD63).

The head waiter was totally on his shit and he oversaw a fleet of two to three waiters who worked through the confusion of removing the cutlery we didn’t need, replacing it again, switching them around, before finally removing the unnecessary cutlery. A basket of bread arrives which is entirely forgettable and in a tell tale fuck no sign, served with rock hard, cold butter which is in those little plastic containers with the foil wrappers. Sir Crunchalot tries to valiantly maintain the enthusiasm that shit’s gonna be ok but my hope starts to slip away as rapidly as an expat’s dignity at their first adventure to the Rugby 7s South Stand.

My duck breast arrives promptly and halfway through eating it, the attentive head waiter comes to ask how everything is.  I pride myself on the fact that I always try to give honest feedback if I’m asked rather than saying shit’s good then bitching about it on the Internet. But considering the multiple food related crimes that were in front of me, I didn’t know where to fucking start without sounding like a massive douchefuck. That’s right, Sgt Noms, King of the Feedback, couldn’t muster the energy to rattle off a five minute soliloquy on how everything on my plate was so totally and completely fucked up.  Feedback would have gone something like this:

“My duck has been cooked to within an inch of its life, leaving its flesh, grey, dry and tasteless.  However, despite cooking the fuck out of this piece of duck, your chef has still somehow managed to fail properly rendering the fat off the meat, leaving it congealed beneath a flaccid and uninspiring layer of duck skin.  The sauce you have served this with is so fucking sweet that I am having an all over body reaction where my teeth are set on edge while my pancreas is straining against my abdomen, threatening to evacuate my body in protest to this criminally sweet hot mess.  Finally, the roasted vegetables are a mushy-ass clusterfuck, complete with a lingering manky aftertaste which I can’t identify except that fuck me, that shit ain’t right. A massive congratulations, your kitchen has managed to fuck up absolutely every component to this dish while setting the price point far too high (ie. More than $0).”

My eyes flash mean, dark and outraged at Sir Crunchalot, shooting death daggers at him which cannot be interpreted as anything other than “You are going to hear about this until the end of time about your abysmal choice of restaurant”.  He tries to placate me with a piece of his outrageously USD60++ expensive steak. But Le Bistro de l’Olivier’s steak dish provide no uptick in quality, considering they’ve managed to fuck up their fries which are too thick, underseasoned, barely crispy and unremarkable in every aspect of their existence.  Which is pretty major, cause how the fuck do you make deep fried potatoes so unexciting?  I chew forlornly on a thin piece of gristly steak with some sort of weird chestnut mustard and reflect that this is must be how a cow feels before she sends her fibrous meal through four stomachs just to get shit digested.  I narrow my eyes to tiny slits, glaring tempestously at Sir Crunchalot and spit out “What the fuck is Maggie Liu a celebrity for?  Is she an actress?  Because there’s no fucking way that she became famous for this sorry ass bullshit food”.  I snap my cutlery to the finished position, wholly unsatisfied with life before remarking:

timcurryeatdie

For all the razzing I give Sir Crunchalot, I didn’t come to this with clean hands because there were some key warning signs or actions I could have taken to have prevented the culinary atrocities we endured at Le Bistro de l’Olivier.  I should have fucking checked the menu outside the restaurant before we went in to see the ludicrous prices.  I should have seen the tacky walls crammed with Parisian street signs and stormed right the fuck out in the name of good taste. Most importantly, I really should have googled Maggie Liu to see that she was definitely too slim to be a decent chef (or paid attention to her cardboard cutout placed outside her “restaurant”) and realised that her claim to fame seems to have been hosting twee as fuck shows on the Discovery-TLC Channel with vom-inducing names like “Maggie’s Magic Menu” or “Maggie Meets The Chefs”.

The only way I can make sense of my experience at Le Bistro de l’Olivier is that perhaps it was fate that led me here to bear the heavy cross of an abominable meal so this FYN review could end up in the Google search results to provide a warning to all about the abhorrent overpriced French bistro horrors that are available in Taipei, despite the 4.5 star bullshit claims of Tripadvisor.  Most importantly, this meal has reinforced a solid life lesson for me that there is ZERO payoff in relinquishing my iron grip on dining decisions and acquiescing to some totally bullshit concept like allowing people to make inevitably poor food related choices on my behalf.  NEVER AGAIN MY HOMIES – NEVER FORGIVE, NEVER FORGET:

aggressivelyhelpful

Verdict:
Dredging up the memories of this meal makes me want to repeatedly shout FUCK NO until my vocal cords rupture and burst in a raw, bloody mess.  Such is my desire to warn the public that there is nothing but overpriced disappointment and abysmal execution should one decide to dine at Le Bistro de l’Ballbag.  DON’T DO IT HOMIES, LIFE’S TOO FUCKING SHORT.

Where:
Mume (lolz, Taiwan’s websites are as bullshit as HK.  Try their FB page out instead)
四維路28號 (No. 28, Siwei Road)
大安區 (Da’an District)
Taipei, Taiwan

Phone:
+886-22700-0901

Price:
NTD5200 (USD165 / HKD1300) for food and cocktails two people.

Where:
Sussing out where to eat when I visit Taipei is never straight forward because as someone who can’t read Chinese, you’re left to rely on Tripadvisor, Yelp, shitty adjective heavy food blogs and sycophantic press pieces which never give you a clear steer on whether shit’s actually good or not. Yeah, I’ve got trust issues because I’ve had so many substandard recommendations from people that I don’t believe most people can work through the distraction of a cool interior (see also: Mott 32) or what they think everyone should like, rather than being able to accurately judge whether the actual food was any fucking good.  For example, I tried asking my hotel concierge for a recommendation for local Taiwanese food and all they could fucking provide me with was a map which listed Carnegies and a red hot tip to go to the shopping mall next door to have some French or Italian.  UM EXCUSE ME CONCIERGE HOMIE, AREN’T YOU MEANT TO BE PROVIDING ME WITH HELPFUL LOCAL KNOWLEDGE?
ronswansonreaction

Separate to misguided concierge conversations, we made a booking for a relatively new restaurant called Mume.  Mume is run and owned by three young chefs – Richie Lin (from HK), Long Xiong (from the US) and Kai Ward (from Australia).  Emphasis on young cause I read somewhere that Kai Ward is only 24.  TWENTY FOUR.  I could barely find my ass with both hands when I was 24, let alone establish my own restaurant in another country.  The Mume boys boast some big name experience, with their resumes listing Noma, Per Se and Quay (not that I think Quay is as good as everyone says it is, fuck that snow egg bullshit) and now they’re pushing their own Modern European restaurant in Taipei.  I read a blog that described Mume as having “Scandi-inspired fare” which caused me to have a mini-melt down. Srs guise, Scandi?! Some people just want to watch the world burn.

Mume is named after a Taiwanese flower and is gunning for that casual modern restaurant vibe.  Yeah, you know what that means – thick ropes are draped from the ceiling with large filamented industrial light globes which barely light the room, cool Taiwanese waiters swish around sporting shaved head and man bun tonsorial combinations, there’s an emphasis on local seasonal ingredients and predictably, no tablecloths, because you know, nothing says modern and casual than eschewing tablecloths.  A cool as fuck playlist pulses in the background of this modern restaurant interior and because I’m a Grade A stalker, I tracked down Chef Kai’s Spotify Mume Playlist that was playing at Mume so you too can enjoy modern fuck yeah covers and remixes of Sexual Healing, Don’t You Want Me and Feel it in the Air Tonight which would be perfect to drink overpriced cocktails to. Not that this happened at Mume cause our fuck yeah cocktails clocked in at a very respectable NTD300 (HKD75 / USD10).  Love dat Taipei value, always.

Given Mume is gunning for that modern, innovative theme there’s no way these kitchen bad asses can use conventional menu terms like “Entrees”,  “Mains” and “Desserts” and they’ve used contemporary terms like “Smaller”, “Bigger” and “Sweeter” instead.  If there had been a tasting menu option, I definitely would have been down for that but instead, the two of us piled in for four “Smaller” and two “Bigger” dishes and a side of bread.

I always judge a restaurant by its bread because good fuck yeah bread is a reliable indicator of a restaurant that gives a fuck.  Bread isn’t a freebie at Mume and the Country Rye Sourdough costs NTD180 (HKD45 / USD6).  However, Mume’s bread was such a fuck yeah that I wasn’t even bent out of shape that I had to pay for it.  A decent sized round of rye sourdough comes out fresh from the oven, cut into four steaming hot wedges and the only appropriate way to pay respect to this fuck yeah bread is to instantly smear it with butter.  I was less impressed by Mume’s fancy butter options of beer butter and smoked beef fat butter because when bread’s that fucking good, I’d rather have my fucking glorious bread straight up with a high quality, plain salted butter.

Despite the ridiculousness of having to order “Smaller” dishes vs “Entrees”/”Starters”, I quickly got over that initial irritation given that as soon as our first entrees “Smaller” dishes arrived shit looked beautiful as fuck.  Mume is doing that modern food which looks fucking amazing through a combination of sauce smears, colour combinations, clever crockery selection and small vegetable shoots which were inevitably tweezered into place. The Wagyu Tartare (NTD 380 / HKD95 / USD12) is simply described as beef, clam mayo, confit egg yolk and grilled toast and it was fucking delicious, the slightly briny clam mayo cutting through the rich beef and egg yolk combination.  My only complaint was that I was only provided with two tiny pieces of grilled toast which was definitely more aesthetically pleasing but meant that I didn’t have enough bread for my tartare.  The simply titled Squid (NTD380 / HKD80 / USD10) sees raw pieces of squid, smoked pieces of engawa (a thin muscle of the dorsal fin of a Halibut) and taro served in a hot prawn broth, reminiscent of a Singaporean prawn mee soup.  Fuck yeah, the slightly chewy engawa and the squid pieces was really fucking interesting from a texture perspective and probably my favourite “Smaller” dish of the night.  The Concentrated Carrot (NTD280 / HKD70 / USD9) was a solid vegetable dish, a whole baby carrot was dehydrated slightly (I’m guessing, no one told me what made it concentrated) and served with red rice koji (rice grains which have been covered by red mold), ginger cream and lovage oil.  The textures and the flavours were different and the slightly celery-like flavour of the lovage was a different touch to the ginger cream.  However, end of the day my capacity to get that fucking excited about a carrot is still relatively limited and Mume’s carrot can’t compare to the most majestic carrot dish of my life that I had at Sixpenny in Sydney.  The Crispy Amadai (NTD420 / HKD105 / USD14) was also another fuck yeah, visually stunning as the skin of the amadai/tilefish has been fried to make its scales individually stand up and crispy.  Accompanying it was a roasted red pepper puree, toasted almonds and tomato raisins which worked with the sweet, white flesh of the fish.

For mains “Bigger” dishes, we ordered the “Chicken” (NTD780 / HKD195 / USD25) and the “Beef Shortrib” (NTD920 / HKD230 / USD30).  The beef short rib was that typical modern beef plating that you can expect – two cubes of pink beef, a smear of burnt onion sauce, two thin slices of mushroom, a singular baby carrot and a couple of vegetable shoots perched on the side.  Mume’s beef game was a fuck yeah and the burnt onion sauce pulled everything together.  It might have been sous vided but I got zero background from the waitstaff so I don’t really fucking know.  However, the fuck yeah of the mains “Bigger” dishes was definitely the chicken – the menu simply provides the description of “cauliflower, lily bulb stem and Pedro Ximénez jus”. The dish presents a piece of chicken breast and a roulade made from the darker meat.  Predictably, the roulade is my fuck yeah favourite because fuck dat breast meat bullshit.  But fairplay, Mume’s chicken in both forms wasn’t dried out or lame at all.  I just fucking loved how it all worked together, the chicken with the sweet wine jus against the cruciferous, slightly bitter vegetable notes from the cauliflower puree and the grilled green lily bulbs. Complex flavour times, yo.

For desserts “Sweeters” (really Mume?!), we ordered the Orange (NTD 300 / HKD75 / USD10) and the “Strawberry Cheesecake” (NTD280 / HKD70 / USD9).   The “Orange” uses ponkan, a Chinese Honey Orange and is served with Murcott Yoghurt and Lemon Verbena Mousse.  The “Strawberry Cheesecake” is a burnt cream cheesecake, almond crumble and a strawberry sorbet.  For both dishes, everything has been snap frozen and then smashed into a thoughtful pile on some really fucking beautiful stone-like plate.  Your Instagram is going to love that shit.  The “Orange” was just ok, unfortunately, the ponkan didn’t have enough of that intense citrus flavour to make this dish really pop against the slightly acidic frozen yoghurt hunks.  However, the “Strawberry Cheesecake” was a major fuck yeah – far more successful than the “Orange” because all the individual components provided more of a contrast against each other.  The sorbet punched you in the face with its strawberry flavour and the frozen shattered cheesecake had more of the sour dairy flavour going for it than the yoghurt in the “Orange”.  Combine that with the pieces of nutty almond crumble and this was fucking incredible.  Perhaps the “Orange” would have been more impressive if I’d never known the “Strawberry Cheesecake” but fuck that, just take it as a hot tip to stick with the superior, more attractive “Strawberry Cheesecake” option.

While Mume’s service was prompt and friendly, I’ve got two tiny criticisms around Mume’s service.  The first is that we were given barely any explanation about our dishes – for a restaurant which prides itself on its local produce and seasonal ingredients, every dish was explained as simply as the menu descriptions.  I couldn’t tell you a single thing about where a single ingredient was from or how shit was prepared.  The other thing I’d have liked more of was just to have the meal spaced out a bit more timewise.  The kitchen was pushing out dishes at the speed of light and I’m hoping it was due to enthusiasm rather than something more fucking sinister like trying to push us out in time for a second seating.  We sat down at 6pm and we had all four of our entrees “Smaller” dishes by 6:20pm and even with asking for a 10 minute break before dessert, we were paid up and out of the restaurant in just over an hour after we sat down.  Not gonna lie, I’m sure the rapid speed at which I shoved food into my face may have contributed to this aggressive turn around as well.

But that’s two small things because Mume is definitely executing on its promise of modern European food in new ways in a cool as fuck modern setting. I think shit might be expensive by Taipei standards but given the good distortion my perception has undergone by Hong Kong prices, it seemed like exceptional fuck yeah value times for the quality of food we received.  Now excuse me cause I’m off to listen to Chef Kai’s playlist again and to pretend I’m back in Taipei and eating dat fuck yeah strawberry cheesecake.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah – once you’re tapped out on fried chicken and dumplings at the night markets, you should definitely get yo ass down to Mume.

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