Friday, February 19, 2010

East Meets West... When Fusion Works

A few weeks ago, I posted lamenting some of the failed attempts that the Taiwanese have made at American food, and perhaps I was a little harsh. There are many times that fusion cuisine does what it was intended to do and joins the best parts of two culinary traditions into one mega-experience of gastronomic bliss. Last night was one such experience. Since Chinese New Year fell on February 14 this year, Chris and I opted not to brave the crowds at one of the few restaurants that were actually open. Instead, we celebrated our Valentine’s Day last night and we were oh-so-glad that we waited.

Knowing that I love all things French, and especially French food, Chris found a French restaurant that had been recommended to us by a friend. But, this wasn’t just your regular run-of-the-mill French food. The genius behind this establishment was that they fused French cuisine with the Japanese teppanyaki tradition of cooking on your table. I thought at first that this might be a little gimmicky and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Admittedly, French food can lean toward the heavier side since, as we all know, everything tastes better with more butter. But here is where the genius comes in. When these French favorites were prepared fresh, on your table, with very little fuss with sauces and spices, they took on a new lightness that was, well, life-changing.

It all started with the escargot. The thing with escargot is that when it isn’t prepared well, it is nothing but a chewy chunk of rubber soaked in grease. But, when it is prepared well, it becomes a soft pillow serving as the vehicle of garlic and butter sending the one blessed enough to enjoy it into a state of ecstasy. Last night’s experience was one of the latter. They brought special dishes to our table and we watched as our chef stirred and poured and whipped up one of the freshest and best servings of escargot I have ever had. My only grievance was that I didn’t have any bread to mop up the leftover sauce. So, I did the best I could with my utensils and was able to have enough self-control not to lick the plate before the wait staff came and took away the nearly spotless dish.

The next course was fresh fish perfectly steamed on a bed of French onions. This was followed by prawns and scallops that were seared before our eyes and served with a delicate soy wasabi sauce that we were almost afraid to try for fear of adulterating the tender sweetness of the seafood. Even the salad was exquisite with a sweet yet tangy dressing that escorted the vegetables across your palate. All of this was delectable. But it was the final course that sealed the fate of this meal to be one of the best I have ever eaten.

Chris and I both ordered our steak to be cooked medium and watched as our chef expertly carved the meat and let it cook on the table. I ordered the New York strip and Chris ordered the steak that was only described as “Japanese”. Once the meat was cooked satisfactorily, our chef graciously put half of each variety of beef on each of our plates. Now, the New York strip was wonderful and if we had enjoyed only that, we would have deemed the meal wonderful and not thought anything about it. But the Japanese meat, oh the Japanese meat, was transcendent. Perfectly cooked with a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness that made you have to stop and catch your breath. We lightly dipped the New York strip in the soy wasabi sauce but wouldn’t allow anything to come near the Japanese beef except our taste buds. In a blissful daze, our plates were cleared and we were instructed that dessert and coffee awaited us in the piano bar.

At this point, we knew that nothing was going to be able to top the aforementioned pièce de résistance but dessert sure did come close. Once seated in the piano bar, we were served a molten chocolate cake with ice cream and fresh fruit. The light and fluffy chocolate cake perfectly complemented the oozing chocolate decadence within. Sealed with a rich cup of coffee, it was indeed a very happy Valentine’s Day.


Michael said...

You've got to share the name of this restaurant. You're killing me here.


Chris and Ashley said...

Haha, sorry to leave you in anticipation! It was called Ben Teppanyaki. It's just off of XinYi past the 101. Let me know if you want the address :0)