Wednesday, December 31, 2014

[Taipei] Toutouan (燈燈庵)

Another fine Japanese restaurant hidden in my stash.  I first heard of Toutouan for their afternoon tea.  A quick look at their website led me to discover their kaiseki dinner.


Toutouan is located in a quiet neighborhood in the Da'an District.  The easiest way to get there is by taxi.  Otherwise, it's a 10 minute walk from the Da'an subway station. 


Kaiseki, if you are unfamiliar, is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner.  The term also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such meals.  The word "kaiseki" can actually be written as either "会席" or "懐石".  "懐石" literally means "stone in bossom" so don't expect to be stuffed after a kaiseki meal.  It is intended to be a simple meal showcasing fresh seasonal ingredients in an artistic, yet simple way.  It focuses on balance, taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food.  Every dish is a piece of art.  Not to mention, you normally enjoy the food in a beautiful environment with top notch service.



The inside of the restaurant is very simple.  Perhaps not what you might be expecting for a kaiseki meal (in your own room, next to a Japanese garden, served by a "okami"...) but the place is very quiet and the ambiance enjoyable.  I also ordered a small bottle of sake (they said I can take it to go if I can't finish).  I am no sake expert but this one is very smooth and delicious.  (This was an extra order, not part of the kaiseki.)


As mentioned previously, kaiseki is a multi-course meal so allow yourself plenty of time to soak it all in.  It's an experience that's more than just the food alone.  Keep and open mind, take it all in, let the chef surprise you :)  A traditional kaiseki meal can take a few hours...  I only chose the basic dinner course since it is my first time there.  Here's what's served to me that evening.

Sakizuke (先附)

Normally, an appetizer similar to the French amuse-bouche is served
but in this case, I was offered an 
Hassun (八寸):  Assorted Seasonal Items (旬菜七品)

Hassun sets the seasonal theme.
It came with a sushi and several smaller side dishes.

Love the presentation.  Very spring indeed!
(Note: I went in March 2014.)

Wanmono (椀物): 雷魚鹽燒酒粕仕立

Wanmono is basically a soup.
I am not even going to attempt to translate this majority of the dishes.  It's too hard!
The soup is made with sake cake.
It was quite mild and not heavy 
at all despite it is creamy looking.
Tsukuri (造り): Assorted Sashimi 生魚片四點盛合

It's a little sashimi sampler indeed.
Luckily, everything was very fresh.
Wish I had just a little more.
Yakimono (焼物): 鰆魚青海苔燒

This dish is full of theatrics.
The first thing you notice is the Chef and the dry ice.
I like that the Chef goes to every table and "assembles" this dish in front the customers.

(everything is cooked already)
I couldn't quite figure out what the yellow thing was on the shell under the caviar
but I really enjoyed the seaweed on the fish.
Shiizakana (強肴): 四國櫻鯛若竹蒸

A very beautiful dish and the snapper is delicious.
I love how light and clean every dish was.
It is lightly seasoned but you don't feel that you need to add more salt.
Everything was very delicate.
Gohan (御飯): 櫻海老御飯

The rice was a bit dry and I wish I had more sauce.  

It also came with pickles and miso soup.
Lovely bowl
Kudamono (果): 勾玉豆腐櫻花凍

There are agar agar, almond tofu and a sakura sauce.
Can't really taste the sakura but because it's not too sweet, I like it.
But then I like all desserts that are not too sweet (oxymoron?)

I think the menu changes monthly.  As noted, I went in March so I had a spring theme for my meal.  The word sakura / cherry blossom is used in multiple dishes.  Overall, I enjoyed the delicate taste of the dishes and I like the ambiance and the service.  It's good portion - as in, I don't feel stuff after my dinner but I wasn't hungry.  It was a good meal.  Perfect place to impress your date.

Toutouan (燈燈庵)
No.20, Ln. 81, Sec. 2, Dunhua S. Rd., Da’an District, Taipei
Tel: +886 02-2705-0101
Hours: (Lunch) 12:00-14:30; (Dinner) 18:00-22:00
Reservation recommended

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