Sugared & Spiced

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[Taipei] Vinotheque 吉悅酒窖

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Vinotheque 吉悅酒窖

Add: 317 Tayou Road, Taipei / 台北市塔悠路317號
Tel: (02) 2747 5888
Hours: 11am~8pm (closed on Monday)
Price: approx. 3000 NTD/person
Visited on: 2012-07

Wine storage facilities are not my usual hangouts, but through the introduction of some wine connoisseurs, I ended up taking a tour and having dinner at Vinotheque (吉悅酒窖) on my recent trip to Taipei. Since its opening in 2010, Vinotheque has been renting out its 2000 sqm space to wine lovers for storing their priced collections, and has also evolved to become a fine dining restaurant exclusive for members and friends. Let’s take a look at this massive space.

1st floor lounge area.

The basement, where an open kitchen, dining rooms and wine storage space are located.

My apologies for the mess – the picture of our room was taken after dinner was finished – but I can assure you that it was impeccable when we first walked in.

Dinner menu, an elaborate 10-course affair (including amuse bouche).

We were first served some freshly baked pastries, its texture somewhat reminiscent of 蔥油餅 (cong you bing, flatbread folded with oil and minced scallions), except these had an amazing truffle aroma. Served hot and crispy.

Our first bottle of the evening was a 2007 Kistler Russian River Valley Chardonnay. I’m not so well-versed in wine tasting notes but this is what it’s supposed to be: “A powerful Chardonnay with notes of citrus oil, wood smoke, roasted nuts, and tropical fruits. Superb concentration, considerable power, and a thick, layered mouthfeel with zesty acidity acts as a wonderful buttress to this large-scaled Chardonnay.”

Amuse Bouche of the evening was a smoked salmon mousse tart with raw scallops and Taiwanese caviar. I didn’t like how sweet the tart shell tasted, but otherwise this was quite a decadent start.

First course, Endive Salad (比利時生菜沙拉佐芥末蜂蜜醬汁). Slightly bitter endive leaves were topped with pine nuts, dried apricots and cranberries, sprinkled with bits of gorgonzola cheese, weaved together by a mustard honey sauce. Very refreshing.

Second course, Tuna Tartar with Sea Urchin 黃鰭鮪魚塔塔佐馬糞海膽 served with mango sauce. I didn’t really appreciate this dish – the flavors somehow didn’t quite work and the temperature was too low, perhaps exacerbated by how cold the room was at the moment (AC was readily toned down after our request).

After three cold dishes, I was happy to be served a hot plate of Prawn with Saffron & Crab Sauce 明蝦佐番紅花蟹肉醬汁. Everything about this dish worked for me. Almond flake-crusted prawns were sauteed with pernod anise and topped with a bit of red miso, all resting in a puddle of creamy saffron & crab sauce with bits of long beans that added a nice crunch. Finished with a sprig of pretty shiso flower.

The waitress then demonstrated the making of their house bread. The dough was placed in a small shot glass and left to rise, before it was baked in a stone pot right at our table.

Et voilà. The bread, punctuated with bits of dried cranberries and kumquat, was chewy on the top and crispy at the bottom. Yum.

That was followed by a light Tomato Consommé with Abalone 慢煨番茄清湯襯野菜鮑魚.

Our second bottle of the evening was a 2007 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla Valley (don’t you just love this name?). Here are the tasting notes: “The nose exhibits attractive black cherry, plum and smoky meat elements. Damp earth, cedar and lilacs all come through with a subtle hint of cracked black pepper. Flavors of blueberry syrup and strawberries are present. The mouth-feel is extremely soft on the palette and the wine is very balanced with great acidity and subtle tannins. The finish is long and silky leaving you wanting another sip.”

Next up, Saute Escargots & Foie Gras with Risotto 香蒜田螺佐煎鵝肝櫬雪菜燉飯. I particularly liked the risotto, which was slightly sour as it was cooked with pickled vegetables. The accompanying cherry sauce was a nice touch as well.

Pu’er Tea 普洱茶 to cleanse the palate.

My choice of main course of the evening was Grilled Pork with Natural Sauce 龍眼蜜餞炭烤宜蘭黑豬佐自然汁. Pork chops from grain-fed pigs were cooked in hot oil then grilled with preserved long’an. Tender yet with a nice bite to it, lovely.

I stole a bite of my friend’s Baby Lamb with Red Currant Sauce 紐西蘭小羔羊佐紅醋栗醬汁, but was really too full by this point to appreciate it.

Chef Special Traditional Dessert 特製傳統點心 was a delightful mouthful of deconstructed blueberry tart with vanilla custard.

Fusion Dessert 創意甜點 was an apple mousse cake with caramelized apple and chestnut cream, topped with a pstachio caramel crisp and a stick of mille feuille, then served with a dollop of crème fraîche and a layer of apple puree. It was quite an intricate construction, though I personally much prefer the simpler and more traditional renditions.

The meal ended with a cup of hand-dripped coffee.

After dinner, we were given a tour of the rest of Vinotheque, starting with this impressive audio-visual room.

But most importantly, the wine storage. It was a huge space that could potentially feel very intimidating, but the atmosphere was softened by classical music flowing through air – how very thoughtful.

Here’s bottle of 1973 Château Mouton Rothschild accompanied by Picasso’s original. What’s the story behind this? Basically, Baron Philippe de Rothschild came up with the idea of having each year’s label designed by a famous artist of the day (e.g. Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol). Yup, this is pricey stuff.

Here are some other expensive bottles stored down here.

Like what you saw? Restaurant service at Vinotheque is currently exclusive to its members and friends, but I heard they might be opening up to the public in the near future, so stay tuned if this is something of interest.

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Written by sugarednspiced

July 24th, 2012 at 6:55 am