A Michelin Star Experience in Taipei – Longtail

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Quite frankly, many people would be surprised to know we have a couple Michelin star restaurants in this island city. After all, we’re not as renowned as the French for our cuisine, neither are we as international as other cities, like Hong Kong, for example.

This year, Longtail was awarded one Michelin star along with 17 other restaurants in Taipei so imagine my excitement after a year abroad! Sadly, I was too busy catching up and focusing on the food to take photos of the decor which was simple, chic and straightforward. Nothing too fancy or fussy.

So why is it called Longtail?

When I was asking for the WIFI password which was “blue magpie”, I misheard it as “blue may pie” at first and had asked the waitress in a joking manner, “Why blue may pie? Does the owner like to eat it?”
She smiled and responded professionally, “I have no idea but I will ask for you.” And off she went.
A few minutes later she explained that as the national bird of Taiwan is the blue magpie and due to the length of its tail, the restaurant was therefore named: LONGTAIL. I thought it was an adorable detail so I thought I might add it in here.

Walking into the restaurant, you are met with the bar which looks refined and upscale with its standard wall of whiskeys, gins, liqueurs and bartenders in uniform. Longtail has a lovely selection of wine from almost everywhere, not just France, which often tends to be the case in Taipei. I was pleased to see they had a lovely, affordable bottle of Nero d’Avola from Sicily as well.

The meal consisted of six starters due to my friend’s suggestion; he’d been here a couple times so I thought it wise to just follow his advice. Apparently their starters are far more superior to their mains…

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We started with the kanpachi sashimi whose light, fresh flavours made it the perfect début and a beautiful introduction for the stronger flavours of the uni and crispy nori rice entrée which were pungent and present.

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Next was the fig toast with ricotta cheese. This was the dish that introduced me to ‘lemon balm’. How did it take me 24 years of life to discover this gorgeous grass?!

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Then came a delicate plate of charred foie gras dumplings with sweet corn sauce which was definitely an interesting pairing and a memorable dish! Who would’ve thought?! Foie gras, a Christmas favourite and a fairly expensive, luxury food item with everyday, ordinary sweet corn. Genius.

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After that innovative piece were the shrimp sliders. This is probably the most sophisticated burger I have ever eaten in my life. So much hard work and care had been put into every layer that it was almost a pity to finish it off!

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Last but not least, the crunchy soft shell crab with its spectacular salted egg yolk sauce. What a twist the sauce was! It certainly brought the dish together and was definitely something I had never tried before. I particularly appreciated the greens that accompanied the crab bringing with it a lightness that counteracted the greasiness often associated with anything fried.

softshell crab

Conclusion: divine; both the service and the food.
I read someone else’s blog post about their experience at Longtail and they had complained about the service, but apparently that was when the restaurant had first opened so perhaps there was some tweaking to be done. I can testify that the service is currently top notch! What a wonderful re-introduction to the gastronomic scene of Taipei!

Click here to check out the Longtail menu
For reservations: +886 2 2732 6616
Address: No. 174, Sec. 2, Dunhua S. Road, Da’an District, Taipei

 

 

 

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A Little Slice of Italy at La Felicita

Prepare to feast your eyes on the biggest restaurant in Europe~

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La Felicita, from the successful restaurant group Big Mamma, is a DIY, self-service, food market type restaurant in the 13th arrondissement. This huge space is creatively decorated with greenery, fairy lights and food stands. You can find seats everywhere, even in the library area on the second floor which gives you a gorgeous view of the entire space and is the perfect spot for a cosy cocktail.

While queuing up outside, the staff will hand out menus for you to browse as well as a map. You see, the thing is, every food stand offers something different. It might sound like a hassle but the food hunt if actually quite fun! Be weary of going during the weekend as the line was around 30-35 minutes long and would be rather tedious without friends to chat with.

Once the three of us had found a table, we sat down to ponder over the menu. It was decided that we would be having the BBQ ribs (12 euros), the truffle pasta (16 euros), a starter consisting of burrata and fennel saucisson (12 euros – 6 euros for each ingredient) as well as one bottle of white wine (which later became two bottles! – 19 euros for rosé and 21 for white). This added up to approximately 21 euros per person! Not bad especially for the quality of the food: fresh and delicious!

Also, the bar is probably one of the most impressive I’ve seen with hundreds of bottles of alcohol beautifully displayed on its shelves. The toilets are no exception – say hello to your childhood friends, ‘Ken and Barbie’ who will greet you at the door.

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Frankly, 5 out of 5 for this establishment! I will definitely be going back!

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Bar à iode – Seafood Paradise!

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To say that it’s a hidden gem in the heart of Paris does not even begin to cover le bar à iode. It ranks high on my list because these are one of those rare moments when quality, price point and service come together in perfect balance. Honestly, it doesn’t get better than this! However, in all fairness, I have yet to try L’ilot which embodies the same concepts but was sadly closed for the summer vacation period when we had attempted to get our hands on one of their highly praised seafood platters. Alors! A la prochaine!

So what exactly makes bar à iode so exciting? Let’s just say that Paris is not exactly seafood haven as the city is completely landlocked which is why fresh, high quality seafood is so expensive. This is also why finding a place like bar à iode is such a game changer. Prepare yourself for large, copious platters, much like the ones you get in Bretagne, Normandie etc…but for the SAME PRICE IN PARIS.

On this particular night, we had the petit iode platter which usually comprises of 4 fine de claire oysters, a portion of whelks, periwinkles, a portion of grey shrimps (also known as crangon crangon – funny name, isn’t it?) and a portion of cocktail shrimps. Since neither of us are huge fans of periwinkles, we asked the waiter to leave those out and give us extra whelks instead. It was done at no extra cost nor fuss!
We ordered 6 extra Cancales oysters, a squid carpaccio, dessert to share and a bottle of Riesling for only 59 euros!

Not only was the food highly satisfactory, but the service was also top notch, especially considering the amount of customers they had to handle.
We went on a Saturday night and of course, they were fully booked, save the terrace which they reserve for walk-in customers only. Despite this fact, we were still very well taken care of and frankly, there isn’t much more to say than, “What are you still waiting for?” Go and enjoy the rest of your summer with some fine de claire oysters and a bottle of sweet Riesling on the Boulevard Saint-Germain!

Address: 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75005 Paris

Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 12-3pm and 7-11pm

Check out the bar à iode website for the menu and/or further information!

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Hidden Retreat In The Heart Of Paris

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Firstly, who would have ever thought that such a charming, exotic yet peaceful place could exist smack-bang in the middle of Paris?

And yet it does.

In the form of the Muslim Institute of the Great Mosque of Paris.

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This is definitely not your typical Haussmann building but a dazzling work of Moorish style architecture built by 450 North African craftsmen and artists. The intricacy of the mosaic that covers almost every wall is insane as well as the vibrancy of the colours!

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The Great Mosque is made up of:

  1. The Court of Honour
  2. The Great Patio
  3. The Prayer Room
  4. The Minbar
  5. Le Minaret
  6. The Library
  7. The Hall of Honour

The star of the show is, of course, the Court of Honour (the gardens) with luxurious fountains, pools and the gorgeous turquoise tiled floors give the impression of walking on water.

Entrance fee is at 3 euros per person and the mosque is open every day from 9:00-12:00 and 14:00-18:00 except on Fridays and Muslim holidays. For futher information, feel free to consult their website!

grand mosque

The cafe just next door is a lovely way to finish off the afternoon with a glass of hot mint tea at just 2 euros each! Please note that no alcohol is served at this establishment which doesn’t take away from the fun whatsoever! The terrace is aesthetically pleasing and calm yet “hidden” in a sense, giving the place an air of intimacy.

What did kill the good vibes a little was perhaps the waiter who was grumpy and not at all helpful but maybe we just caught him on an off day!

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Etretat: The Perfect Weekend Getaway

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If the buzz and pollution of downtown Paris is taking a toll on you, maybe it’s time for a getaway and there really is no better place than Etretat. Perhaps Deauville as quite a few Parisians tend to go there but I’ve never been so I can’t say.

This charming location, though, is a two and a half hour drive from Paris so you could potentially do a day trip but having a full two days is strongly advised if you don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel!

You can either stay at a hotel or you can go camping at Yport which is literally just a 20-25 minute drive away from Etretat. There are several campsites gathered in one area that cost less than 20€ a night. Of course you would need to bring your own tent, camping car, inflatable bed etc but that’s all part of the fun! You also get to wake up to a spectacular view in the morning!

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One thing I would not advise, however, is dining at Le Petit Saint Pierre which boasts a fancy terrasse. We tried the mussels, the shrimps and the whelks and were extremely disappointed by the quality of their seafood. Other customers had also complained about the mussels, to which the waitress apologised and replied, “It’s not the season for them right now so it’s very difficult to find good ones.”

Meanwhile, in Etretat at La Flottille, they said completely the opposite and highly recommended the mussels. The food was impeccable and the service likewise!

la flottille

Overall, Etretat is divine. Both times I went, there were magnificent sunsets that bathed the entire seaside town in hues of orange, pink and violet. Even the sound of the waves are different in Etretat as the beach is mainly made up of pebbles so each time the ocean retreats, you hear the crunching sound of thousands of pebbles; oddly calming but not pleasant to walk on barefoot.

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Some interesting facts about Etretat: many people come here to commit suicide and a famous robber once hid his treasures in one of these caves. This doesn’t stop the hoards of holiday goers each year and it didn’t stop Monet from banging out a gorgeous masterpiece of Etretat back in 1883!

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The Parisian Dream: Realistic?

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Where does your mind wander off to when you hear the words ‘Paris’ or ‘France’? Does it conjure up images of endless pavements filled with sprawling terraces, the melodic chitchat of French and romantic fumes of cigarette smoke on a lazy summer’s day? Does your mind drift off into the streets of Montmartre while Edith Piaf’s ‘La Vie en Rose’ plays in the background? Or do you smell freshly baked baguettes instead?

If so, you’re not too far off but you’re not seeing the full picture either. More often than not, tourists and first-timers are shown the shiny side of town. Eiffel Tower, Galeries Lafayettes, Arc de Triomphe, Le Louvre, La Seine, Champs Elysées et tous les incontournables! And do you know what? That’s okay because it is part of what makes up the true essence of Paris.

What’s not okay is thinking that that’s all there is to this city. What about Chinatown aka the 13th arrondissement? The slums around Paris? The colourful graffiti and the kebab restaurants that can be spotted here and there but especially around Gare du Nord? All the places that tour groups avoid because they’re not always pretty?

Perhaps it’s just where I used to live, but people often seem to have a rather distorted image of what a Parisian lifestyle truly entails. You have French bureaucracy (which is your worst nightmare and that’s putting it lightly), you have some interesting people to put up with, not speaking French will render even the simplest tasks impossible or highly complicated and the transportation is a mess.

BUT

You have delicious bread. A friend of mine once said, “If it’s not made in France, it’s not a baguette.” I thought it was just arrogance….until now, and while I’m on the topic of food, what about the countless gastronomic restaurants that make this city a chef’s dream? The museums and exhibitions are top notch and there is ALWAYS one happening somewhere. Summertime is when you sit along the Seine and share a bottle of crisp rosé with friends, laughing about life. The architecture is gorgeous, for the most part, and the shopping is great!

I guess what I’m trying to say, and this goes for everything in life, is that one should always try to be as realistic as possible. This way, fewer people would be susceptible to the “Paris Syndrome” (It’s a real thing!). Falling in love with anything or anyone requires you to accept the flaws just as much as you accepted the beautiful and the positive!

Chateau de Chantilly

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If I had to sum up Chateau de Chantilly, I’d say it is a modest version of Versailles. The chateau, just 45 minutes away from Gare du Nord station in Paris, is a beauty surrounded by a moat with acres of gorgeous greenery and an enormous stable house (Les Grandes Ecuries or The Great Stables) just behind.

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Walking from Chantilly train station, however, you’d most likely reach the stables first. These impressive stables could house up to 240 horses and 500 hounds back in the day and is considered a masterpiece of 18th century architecture. Today, this impressive space has been turned into a horse museum (Musée Vivante de Cheval/Living Museum of the Horse) and filled with a variety of equestrian equipment that look very much like torture devices. Truth be told, the horse museum was not exactly my favourite part of the visit but the sheer size and grandiosity of the building is indeed breathtaking. The first part of the visit stops at a little cafe serving sandwiches, refreshments and crepes so that you’re ready for the next part of the trip which involves crossing the road over to the gardens and the chateau itself.

The gardens itself are so large that you’d need more than the little afternoon I had given myself to escape the hectic ambiance of central Paris. Still, I managed to poke my nose into L’île d’amour. How magical would it be in summer ? The November fog gives the place an almost eery feel, very reminiscent of a 19th century vampire movie.

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Inside, the Chateau is set up very similarly to Versailles. You’ll walk through rooms and rooms lavishly decorated with fancy armchairs, ornated tables and grand chandeliers that sparkle and glisten even hundreds of years later. What sets it apart completely, however, is the Musée Condé that houses the second largest collection of art after the Louvre. In here, you will find gorgeous pieces such as The Three Graces by Raphael and other works of art by famous artists such as Nicolas Poussin as well as my personal favourite: Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci by Piero di Cosimo. Also, can we just take a minute to talk about the library?! #Goals.

 

All in all, a calm and tranquil afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of Paris. Just don’t wear white trainers, haha!

Before I sign off, here is some practical information. The chateau, the stables and the gardens make up the Domaine de Chantilly. To visit the entirety of this domain, take an entire day off and bring 17 euros unless you are handicapped, a student, between 3-17 or unemployed, in which case you pay only 10 euros. If you only want to visit the gardens, it is 5 euros during low season instead of the usual 8 euros but I am definitely going back next Summer to finish my tour of the gardens! See you then!

For more information about tickets and opening times: https://newdomainedechantilly.tickeasy.com/fr-FR/accueil