[Taiwan Series] Day 6 in Taipei: L’Atelier by Joel Robuchon and Elephant Moutnain 象山

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Since S’s birthday was shortly after our trip in Taipei, I decided to do an early birthday meal for him since there are so many nice restaurants in Asia. I ended up deciding on L’Atelier by Joel Robuchon which is located in the beautiful chic mall called Bellavia. I had made reservations in advance by sending an email online and I was able to get a response quite quickly. The restaurant actually was awarded a Michelin star last year shortly after we had visited! So even more of a reason to visit!

 

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I decided on the set lunch course menu and when you make the reservation, they will ask what type of seating arrangement you’d like. There is counter/bar seat, high table, or lower couch seat. We decided to go with the counter/bar seat because you got a view of the kitchen showing the action of the chefs. The interior of the restaurant is actually quite dark but with cool lighting and red and black tones.

 

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From our seat, we could see the chefs preparing our food. And all the ingredients in the kitchen. It was definitely quite exciting!

 

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We decided to go with Menu A which is offered only during weekday lunches. For $1,380 NTD, you get an amuse-bouche, your choice of 1 appetizer, 1 main course, dessert, and coffee or tea served with petite desserts. To start, we are given a LARGE basket of bread. I have never seen such a big basket for two people. But wow, the variety is amazing and the bread itself tasted absolutely delicious! I think there were at least 6 pieces of different bread so over 12+ pieces for the two of us. I wanted to save room for the rest of the food, but I couldn’t stop eating the bread! Oh, and another note is that even if you order still water, it will come in a bottle. So we ended up paying almost $10 for a bottle of Evian water.

 

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We started with an Amuse-Bouche which was sort of like a mushroom soup. Quite a nice palette cleanser!

 

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For appetizers, S got the Chicken Wings and Mushrooms Fricassee served with Chateau-Chalon wine sauce. This was nothing like we’ve had before but the flavours were delicious. It was almost like a deconstructed chicken wing with the chicken already de-boned. The foam was also a cool twist.

 

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For myself, I got the Duck, Foie Gras and Pistachio Pate with Young Bitter Salad. I loved how it was paired with a mustard sauce. The pate was also wrapped with a bit of puff pastry so it was quite different from the usual.

 

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For the main course, S got the Braised Pork Cheek with Red Wine Sauce and Seasoned Vegetable. The pork was very tender and the sauce was hearty. A great main course!

 

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For myself, I got the Lamb Shoulder Confit with Vegetables Couscous and Coriander for my main. This wasn’t what I was expecting because the lamb shoulder was shaped into a circle. The flavours were quite tasty and it didn’t have any gamey taste it.

 

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For dessert, S got the Bahibe Chocolate Ganache with Coffee Sorbet. What a beautiful dessert with so many different textures.

 

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For myself, I got the Banana and Milk Mousse with Coconut Ice Cream and Honey Caramel Chips. Again, this was a beautiful dish and even the plate was perfect! The flavours were refreshing and I especially enjoyed the honey caramel chips!

 

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As I mentioned in my reservation that we would be celebrating a birthday, they asked if I wanted to add a birthday cake for $150NTD. I decided to add it, but probably could have skipped it because we were already very full from the 3 course meal. However, it was nice that they added a candle and a message to make it extra special. This was a chocolate cake with different textures on each layer.

 

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To finish, we were provided with Petite Desserts and they included macarons and little puffs. As if we didn’t have enough desserts already!

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To end our meal, you can choose your choice of Coffee or Tea. I decided to go with a Earl Grey. Overall, it was a great meal given it’s only $60 a person for a famous restaurant and the dishes were very unique. However, since the restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star, the same menu now costs $1,580 NTD which is around $70. Still, I think it is well worth it!

 

 

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After lunch, we decided to walk over to Taipei 101 to get some quick shots. We had gone up to the observatory last time, so we skipped it this time around.

 

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I then suggested that we hike Elephant Moutnain 象山. We got to MRT Xiangshan Station, and took Exit 2 and walked alongside a park. Then, you will find some signs telling you to take a left to go to Xiangshan Hiking Trail. You’ll then find this sign which is the beginning of the hike!

 

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The hike itself only takes around 20 minutes but it was actually quite grueling because of the heat and the steep steps. I advise doing this late in the afternoon, because the heat will really get to you.

 

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Along the way, we found some cute statues with the Chinese words Elephant Mountain.

 

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The steps up top became not as steep so it was a bit easier. However, be warned that there’s tons of mosquitoes and it doesn’t help when you’re sweating too! Definitely put on some bug spray before you head here.

 

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As we approached the top, the sun was setting! The view from up top is truly quite beautiful. A different view from Taipei 101 because you actually get to see Taipei 101 from here!

 

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And if you wait until the sun fully sets, you’ll see Taipei 101 turn on its night lights. If you want to set up a tripod for your pictures, be sure to come early as there will be lots of people around sunset!

After we finished hiking, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up as we would be meeting up with my friends who were also in Taipei. Didn’t end up taking pictures as we just wanted to enjoy the moment but we had a nice dinner and drinks and headed to a rooftop bar called Frank’s and called it a night!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[Japan Series] Day 13: Takama Soba たかま, Abeno Harukas あべのハルカス, Ichiran 一蘭, Osaka 大阪市

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The next day, we decided to stay in Osaka to hit up a few more attractions. On my list was to try Takama (たかま), an affordable one Michelin star soba restaurant.  They open at 11:30am and I’m not sure if they take reservations, but were told to arrive 30 minutes before they open to ensure we get in during the first seating. The restaurant is tucked away in the side streets near Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai, a shopping alley, but this restaurant is super low key looking so you would miss it if you were just walking by. There is no English outside, so just look for this wooden house with a sliding door.

 

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We arrived around 11am and a small line was already forming.

 

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The restaurant is extremely small, with one round table that fits around 10 diners, and then a small four seater tucked on the other side. We were the second last couple to get a seat, so we ended up having to share a table with another another couple on the side. The only downside is that you can’t see what’s going on on the other side. I’m not sure if you can see the chefs on the other side making the soba, but we were lucky enough to get a seat, so it didn’t matter.

 

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They have a small number of appetizers available, including the Dashimaki-Tamago. Of course it was pricier than the tamago we have been getting at the markets, but this was so light and fluffy! You can really see each layer of egg and it came paired with some grated radish and light soy sauce. Highly recommend getting this!

 

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S got the Ebiten-oroshi Soba Set for 2,000 yen and it came with prawn and vegetable tempura. As you can see, the tempura batter is extremely light. It came with a variety of vegetables that we were not familiar with, but overall, it was very good.

 

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At Takama, they serve two types of soba. The first style is called mori, a regular-style soba made from marunuki flour. The second is called inaka, a noodle made with hikigurumi, a whole buckwheat flour. Both flours are extremely high-quality and are from the Fukui prefecture.  S can choose either type for his set. He went with the mori style and had it cold (zaru-style). The noodles are served cold with a light sweet soy dipping sauce. I really enjoyed this as the soba noodles were super thin and had a nice chewiness. The cold soba turned out to be my favourite. With the cold soba, you will also have leftover dipping sauce, and at the end of your meal, the server will bring a pot of hot water which you pour into your leftover dipping sauce to dilute it as a drinking broth. Really tasty!

 

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For myself, I decided to try the warm duck broth and got it with the inaka style, 100% buckwheat flour. The inaka style has a more nutty flavour, but I personally like the lighter mori-style. The duck broth is flavourful with 2-3 pieces of duck inside. However, I am not personally used to have soba in a warm broth and found that the duck broth overpowered the noodles. Back in Vancouver, I think the only comparable soba restaurant would be Kinome, but I think I have to say this is the best I’ve had. At the end of the day, the meal for two probably cost around $50 in total, which is extremely good given it is a one Michelin star restaurant. There are English menus available and the servers can speak simple English. Keep in mind, they are open open for lunch from11:30 am – 2:30am.

 

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Since we were nearby, we decided to check out Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai (天神橋筋商店街). This is the longest shopping street in Japan which stretches 2,600 meters and has over 600 shops. On a weekday afternoon, it actually wasn’t too busy when compared to the famous Dotonbori. I found that many of the pharmacy shops here (if you look for the non-chain shops) were slightly cheaper so perfect if you are looking to stock up on Japanese drugstore cosmetics and snacks.

 

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After some shopping, we decided to train to JR Tennoji station. Here, we visited Abeno Harukas which sits on top of the Kintetsu Osaka-Abenobashi Station, which is across the JR Tennoji station.

 

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The Abeno Harukas (あべのハルカス) is the tallest skyscraper in Japan at 300 meters tall. The building includes a department store, an art museum, a hotel and an observation deck. The observation deck is called Harukas 300 and provides a 360 view of Osaka from the 60th floor. Admission costs 1,500 yen so since we already checked out Osaka from Umeda Sky Tower, we decided to skip this.

 

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Instead, you can go to the 16th floor for free and enjoy the garden terrace. I really enjoyed this modern clean space and it is a good option if you don’t want to pay the admission price. Of course, I’m sure the 60th floor would offer better views.

 

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This is what you can see from the 16th floor at the garden terrace. Not bad since it’s free!

 

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After walking around the department store, we decided to go check out Amerikamura. This is supposed to be a district near Shinsaibashi which offers more American style shopping. Funny enough, we searched Amerikamura in Google maps, and ended up at Universal Studios… Yes we have no idea how we ended up here, so always be careful with Google Maps in a foreign country. Turned out there were quite a lot of brightly lit souvenir shops before the entrance, so we did get to walk around a bit. As it was late, there was no point in entering Universal Studios at the time.

 

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After our excursion, we decided to head back to the Dotonbori area and walking by Ichiran (一蘭 道頓堀店別館), I suggested we enjoy a warm bowl of ramen. There are two outlets in the Dotonbori area. One is by the canal outside, whereas the other is under the shopping area along the strip. We went for the latter because we heard this location has 3 floors and way more seats. Of course, there was still the usual crazy line up, but this one is super organized for the tourists. You will still have to purchase the ticket at the vending machine, but you will also be asked whether you want to sit at the traditional individual booths, or if you want family seating arrangements. If you have never been to Ichiran, then I suggest trying the unique individual booths. However, since we have already tried it, and the line up for family seating was quicker, we went with family seating. Definitely not as interesting, but this is perfect for large families or families with kids.

 

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Be sure to check out the bathrooms! How many rolls of toilet paper do you need?

 

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We ended our night with a delicious bowl of Ichiran and it did not disappoint. Consistent with the other locations we tried and service was quick.

Takama Soba
Address: 7-12-14 Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka

Ichiran 一蘭 道頓堀店別館
Address:

 

Tapas 24 – Barcelona

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On exchange, I was able to meet some amazing friends from all over the world. I was especially happy to have met C, who was from my hometown and was also a fellow food blogger! It was great to have someone understand the time we go through to write these posts and why we could take minutes just trying to take a good picture of our food. I have to say, C is a serious foodie compared to me! You can check out her food blog here: http://cherriehui.blogspot.ca/She definitely did her research, and suggested we go try out Tapas 24 as it is owned by Chef Carles Abellan. Carles is a Catalan chef who was trained at elBulli, which is a former restaurant famous for their molecular gastronomy. Now, Chef Carles has several Michelin star restaurants all over Barcelona, and Tapas 24 is just one of them. It’s probably one of the most casual and affordable restaurants he owns. The restaurant is always packed and we luckily got a seat outside.

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It’s cute how your utensils come in a little envelope with the menu on it. As you can see, prices are above average for small portions. It’s quality over quantity here, so definitely don’t come with an empty stomach unless you’re ready to empty your wallet.

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Sangria de Cava

We got a pitcher of Sangria de Cava for drinks, which is Sangria but instead of red wine, it’s champagne. Therefore, it’s a bit fizzy! This was good!

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Bikini Comerc 24

The Bikinis are one of Tapas 24’s most well known item. In Spain, Bikinis are essentially sandwiches with ham and cheese. Inside this prized Bikini, is a white mild cheese, jamon iberico, and flecks of black truffle! The sandwiches are cut into little pieces, and you can basically finish it in two bites. Extremely small for around 8 euros, but so worth it! The bread was toasted perfectly and the truffle flecks made a simple sandwich full of flavour. A must order!

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Les Braves

Braves are one of the most popular tapas in Spain. Chunks of bite size potatoes which are deep fried. They were topped with a garlic mayo and ketchup. The sauce was excellent and the potatoes weren’t oily. Excellent!

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McFoie – Burguer

The McFoie is also extremely popular at Tapas 24. I didn’t expect the burger to look like this, but it tasted so good! It’s essentially a beef patty mixed with foie gras and this is filled inside the burger like a pocket. I can’t even really describe how the outer burger was like. It’s definitely not a burger… It was crispy, warm and soft. It also came with a dipping sauce which was made of foie gras. It was like foie gras heaven. A small portion, but so good and well worth it if you’re a foie gras lover!

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Pan amb Tomaquet

Bread brushed with tomatoes is eaten at almost any Spanish restaurant. It’s interesting to note that Tapas 24’s menu is all in Catalan, so the menu names are a little confusing sometimes for a Spanish reader. However, our server was really nice and basically went down the whole menu and translated it into English despite her running around for several minutes before helping us. These were toasted to perfection and lathered lavishly with tomatoes, olive oil and lightly seasoned with salt.

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Alitas “coreanas”

These were Korean inspired Chicken Wings! This was off their regular menu and on a menu they had written on the chalkboard. Definitely one of our favourite dishes. The sauce had an Asian flare to it and was a little spicy. I loved how the chicken wings had the bones removed so it was easy to eat. The skin was slightly crispy and the meat was tender and moist.

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Sepionetas

These were baby grilled cuttlefish and they were also a big hit at our table. Cuttlefish in Barcelona are so tender! These were slightly grilled, topped with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and lightly seasoned with salt. My favourite!

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Xocolata amb Oli

And for dessert, we got their signature Chocolate with olive Oil. Who would have thought olive oil would go with chocolate right? Well at Tapas 24, they know how to play with their ingredients. It was essentially scoops of chocolate mouse and it was drizzled with olive oil. On top, they placed pieces of thinly cut crostinis so you could scoop the mousse. The mousse was already smooth, and along with the olive oil, it was just chocolate heaven! It was also topped with some salt, so it was a mixture of sweet and savoury, which was unexpected, but somehow worked!

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All in all, Tapas 24 is worth a try if you’re ready to try something different and challenge your taste-buds. Their menu is very limited, but they do have some daily specials which are worth trying. It’s a cheaper alternative than trying the other elBulli restaurants which could really break your bank! And to finish today’s post off, is a view from the top of Montserrat. Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain just a few hours away from Barcelona. If you’re ready for a hiking activity, challenge yourself by climbing to the peaks of Sant Jeroni for a spectacular view. If hiking is not your thing, then visit the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary. The mountain is known for its religious significances in the past, but for myself, I was wowed by the beautiful formations of the mountains. Not exactly the same as the mountains in British Columbia, and the hike itself was actually pretty easy! Nothing compared to the Grouse Grind, so definitely check it out if you want a physical activity here in Barcelona.