My trip to Taipei began with a series of government-sponsored dinner banquets designed to showcase local cuisine. The number of plates began to pile up quickly, and patterns began to form. Eventually, my culinary curriculum led to the top floor of my Sheraton Taipei Hotel (shortest commute ever) to a private room belonging to The Guest House.
Chef Cheng-Ching Lin is from Taiwan, and primarily cooks his island nation’s classic dishes.
Our appetizer quartet consisted of bamboo shoot salad with mayo and micro mint; crumbly fried mullet roe with fibrous pear; shredded hundred leaves tofu with the delicacy of fresh pasta; and cool- chewy pan-fried chili squid with seaweed and calamansi.
An unami rich soup with touted braised baby abalone, soy-stewed black garlic that stained the brown brown, dates, goji berries and rich roasted pork belly.
Steamed king prawn with chile and scallion sauce joined steamed cabbage and broccoli.
A dish that became fashionable thanks to Momofuku chef David Chang includes pork belly and steamed buns. The Guest House version was not my favorite, with braised knuckle slathered in fermented sorghum sauce and sandwiched with bok choy in a clamshell.
Stir-fried sweet potato leaves, sautéed with dark soy sauce and topped with crispy fried garlic, is more than welcome to grace my plate on a regular basis.
The Guest House is strong on soups, and their peppery broth contained rice vermicelli, firm yellow skin-on pomfret, scallion, earthy chunks of taro and mushroom.
The Guest House is well known for beef noodle soup, and it was easy to enjoy their bowl of tender short rib, a big flap of tendon, scallions and bitter cabbage leaf. The soup’s available with or without soy sauce. The obvious choice was to go all-in.
A typical precursor to dessert in Taiwan is a plate of seasonal fresh fruit, which in this case included pitted grapes, watermelon, pineapple and honeydew.
A light, subtly sweet finish featured longan jelly, milk and mint garnish.
There were good Guest House dishes, particularly the beef noodle soup (which they weren’t going to serve us until I insisted), but the meal’s most valuable lesson is that it’s less fun to be sequestered in a private dining room. This experience isn’t indicative of a typical meal, and can be excessive, but at least The Guest House represented Taiwan well.
Note: My visit to The Guest House was part of a government sponsored tour to promote Food Culture in Taiwan.