Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Taiwan Travels – Shang Palace @ Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel Taipei

Exquisite Creations by Chef Chan Kwok Wah

The dining scene in Taiwan has recently been inaugurated by the international renown bible of cuisine guide, The Michelin Guide. And it’s about time too… as Taiwan is a renowned for their epicurean cuisines.

My Taiwan travels continue in Taipei as we made a visit to the elegant and luxury 5-star Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel to savor an exquisite Cantonese epicurean journey of flavours. Shang Palace was recently awarded The Plate Michelin by the Michelin Guide this year among the prestigious 99 restaurants list.

We entered Shang Palace, the realm of the elites where gourmands dine in fine pleasures of Cantonese cuisine set in modern Oriental environment.

Opulence are everywhere, from the moment one steps into the path leading to the restaurant, to the moment one opts for their two themes dining scene of celestial clouds or the peony flower.

One feels the adrenalin rush of excitement while being led through a maze of Oriental vibes, brought up to the modern era of today’s gastronomy scene.

We pass the celestial clouds dining area and couldn’t resist a peek into the fine dining room, beautifully designed with simple sophistication of dark wood lifted by whites and splashes of gold. The ceiling of the room is emblemed with the celestial cloud motif to depict the whole theme of its design.

We pass another hallway, this time down-to-earth with warm glow lights leading us to the end of the tunnel where light prevails.

It is here where all the private rooms are set. Mostly minimalist with grandeur, the private rooms hold up to quite a few parties.

Modern contemporary furniture with classic table settings are seen in all the rooms. The gold, cream and black theme continues through the table setting, reminding us of how the East favors gold as their note of luxury.

We met with Executive Chinese Chef Chan Kwok Wah, humble and soft-spoken. Chef Chan, a Hong Kong-born master chef with over 30 years of experience, has been working in the kitchens since his early teens. Before joining Shang Palace recently, his previous stints include various Michelin Star restaurants in Hong Kong such as Shang Palace at Shangri-La Hotel Kowloon and Hong Kong Liyuan Restaurant. Garnering his skilled Chinese cooking techniques from other famous eateries, such as Donghai Seafood Restaurant, Maxim's Restaurant and Fudong Restaurant, has enriched his repertoire of Cantonese signature dishes through his culinary years.

When asked on his motto of being a chef, Chef Chan replies modestly with “Keeping to self-principles and doing every dish.”. He abides by his own six core principles of freshness, hygiene, safety, exquisiteness, benevolence and creativity when it comes to his cooking. With the evolution of gastronomy, Chef Chan believes that Chinese cooking is shifting to modern single plating affair while retaining the classic flavours of yesteryears through classic and new ingredients.

Shang Palace offers Personal Set Menu as well as A la Carte Menu where diners can opt of chef’s 7-course specials or savor individual signatures. We had the honors of trying the Personal Set Menu as well some few other a la carte signatures.

香宮三首碟 Appetizers

Barbecue Iberico Pork with Mullet Roe in Passion Fruit Sauce, Fried Conpoy in Spinach Sauce, Chilled Abalone with Jellyfish

Our individual Personal Set Menu commenced with a fine plate of trio of appetizers, showcasing Chef Chan’s creative interpretation of classic Cantonese dishes. Using the finest black pig, the Barbecue Iberico Pork with Mullet Roe in Passion Fruit Sauce is a moreish rendition from Chef Chan. The flavours are distinctively ‘Char Siew’ and yet the addition of fruity passionfruit tang balanced the rich meaty sweet notes with the salty mullet roe.

The Fried Conpoy in Spinach Sauce had a fresh and plump scallop wrapped with seaweed and paired with a spinach sauce. The scallop was juicy and beautifully sweet while the globules of salmon roe added a delicious briny finish.

The third appetizer was a lavish abalone, glazed in a caramelized sticky sweet and savory sauce. Tender and tasty, one cannot help but to indulge happily at this beautiful mollusk in Chilled Abalone with Jelly Fish. There’s also a spicy crunchy jellyfish salad beneath the abalone.

Braised Bird’s Nest Soup with Alaskan Crab Meat

Cantonese cuisine are known to place much importance on soup course. In fact, most families would have at least a soup in all their meals. Every spoonful of Shang Palace’s Braised Bird’s Nest Soup with Alaskan Crab Meat is sublime. Thick broth filled with luscious essence of the sea followed by beautiful soft textures of bird nest and sweet crab meat flesh.

Shrimp Ball with Egg white and Tuberosa in Truffle Sauce

The next course was elegant and fine in flavours. The Shrimp Ball with Egg white and Tuberosa in Truffle Sauce showcased plump and sweet king prawn ball, carefully stacked on a bed of creamy fluffy egg white and crab meat sauce as well as asparagus. Both prawn and asparagus were generously coated in the earthy notes of black truffle sauce. A golden mount of crispy and fluffy egg floss crowned the splendid prawn as its finishing touch. Superb…

Beef Ribs with Black Garlic

The Beef Ribs with Black Garlic took hours to make but was gone in a few pleasurable minutes. Chef Chan took us back to the kitchen to give us a demo of this dish and his cooking finesse was impressive. Making it look so easy but we all know it was a skill set that was garnered over many years of slaving over the stove.

The beef was braised for hours till fork tender in its own jus. It was then finished up with a steaming process and then sauced up with a piquant black garlic sauce, minced onions and chives and a tiny piece of soft creamy black garlic.

Braised Whole Tomato filled with Fresh Lily and Cordyceps in Chicken Broth

For a lighter touch in between heavier courses, the Braised Whole Tomato filled with Fresh Lily and Cordyceps in Chicken Broth was delightful. Soft and sweet whole beefsteak tomato is stuffed with fresh creamy lily bulb, jelly cubes of broth and Jinhua ham. Finished with a thicken sauce on a bed of soft sautéed greens, the dish is creative and light even with so many ingredients.

Deep-Fried Chicken Wing filled with Glutinous Rice

Chef Chan’s Deep-Fried Chicken Wing filled with Glutinous Rice is one of the most popular signature dishes at Shang Palace. The clever classic dish of yesteryears is perfectly executed from its presentation to the flavours and textures.

Gorgeous at sight, the plump stuffed chicken wings had all the markings of perfection from its crispy golden skin to the lap mei glutinous rice stuffing. Solid balance of savory, sweet and umami notes. In fact, the acoustic was music to my ears when my knife cut into the 6 hours air-dried chicken wing …

Almond Tea blended with Egg White and garnished with Matcha and Red Beans, Sticky Rice Cake with Custard Inside, Fresh Fruits

The set menu ended with this pretty plate of desserts. From the adorable doggie shaped mochi to the golden sesame encrusted glutinous rice ball filled with hot nutty almond sweet broth, dessert was a medley of colours, flavours and textures. The pairing of intense green tea with the almond flavour was rather a bold risk but it paid off as the flavours work harmoniously well.

Besides the Personal Set Menu, we savored four other A la Carte signature dishes from the menu.

Roasted Duck

Many epicureans are said to visit Shang Palace just for their Roasted Duck. Ours was stunning at sight. Gorgeously evenly lacquered, the duck skin glistened with deliciousness.

Carved at tableside, the chef’s quick carving skills separated the Roasted Duck into a plate of crispy skin and another place of skin and duck meat.

Served together steamed pancake, thin batons of cucumber and spring onions as well as hoisin sauce, both platter of Roasted Duck looked utterly delectable. The duck skin is crispy and not fatty or oily at all, denoting the fat of the duck well-rendered under skillful roasting technique. The meat, tender and moist, had a lovely aroma and flavour with subtle herbal notes.

When savored all together with the condiments, the Roasted Duck is a masterpiece.

Wok-Fried Spotted Garoupa Fillets with Black Beans served in a Clay Pot

The first bite of the thick and tender garoupa fillet was deliciously pleasant. Delicate sweetness with moreish nutty notes, the fillet is cooked well and the accompaniments of the crunchy vegetables balance up the robust sauce well.

Pan-Fried Beef Tenderloin with Asparagus

The finest ingredients and skilled technique are the highlights of the Pan-Fried Beef Tenderloin with Asparagus. Marbled tenderness with sublime flavour, the cubes of beef is a joy to eat. There is a wondrous smoky aroma on the beef that enhances the flavour. It may looked rather simple but rest assured, it a dish that one would indeed return for.

Sautéed Assorted Vegetables Served in Pumpkin

The Sautéed Assorted Vegetables Served in Pumpkin features a garden medley of crisp and crunchy sweet vegetables and pops of nutty macadamia nuts. Colorful and tasty, the dish is very light and enjoyable.

Shang Palace offers a refine Cantonese epicurean dining experience. Coupled with its beautiful ambiance, diners are pampered with much fine elegance from the quality of the food to the discreet and excellent service. A gastronomical fine dining experience of fine Cantonese cuisine…

Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel
No. 201, Section 2, Dunhua South Rd,
Da’an District, Taipei City,
10675 Taiwan
Tel: (886 2) 7711 2080

Business Hours:
Lunch     11.30am - 2.30pm (Mon - Sun)
Dinner    6pm - 9.30pm (Mon - Sun)

*This trip was made possible by Taiwan Tourism together with First Class Magazine and Eva Air. However, all stories and comments in my posts are purely derived from my own experiences through the trip.

Taiwan Travel Series
Shang Palace, Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Taiwan Travels – The Silence Manor @ Hualien

A Charming Hot Spring Homestay

After a day’s rendezvous in Hualien, we arrived at The Silence Manor in the late afternoon as the sun is almost down. Nevertheless, The Silence Manor looked peacefully beautiful. Set against a backdrop of scenic East Rift Valley and mountains in the distance, the hot spring bed & breakfast is located in the serene Ruisui township of Hualien.

Owned and managed by an architect, The Silence Manor is a gorgeous retreat that allow guests to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of what Taiwan countryside has to offer. Named after a metaphor for pines, the modern homestay’s main highlight is the ‘Golden Hot Spring’ with chloride-containing carbonate hot spring water that is available in all the rooms in the homestay.

Set on acres of surrounding land, undisturbed by other buildings except for Mother Nature, The Silence Manor offers an unforgettable travel experience in Taiwan. From the terrace deck, rattan lounge chairs along with umbrellas are set nearby the swimming pool. In a short distance, another deck is built for leisure with beautiful surrounding greens and shrubs as well as flowers.

The evening scene is mesmerizing even though we didn’t manage to catch the sun set due to the cloudy sky that day.

We checked-in and was given a quick tour of the place. The Silence Manor is a certified hot spring as listed at the entrance. We were also told that all the rooms were named after family members of the owner and their design concept focus on ‘reunion’.

While every room has its own hot spring, guests can also enjoy bigger hot spring facility on the top level of the building. Designed with minimalist concept but plenty of space, the gorgeous rooms use natural elements of stone and wood which can also be seen throughout the entire homestay.

One can also enjoy the scenic view in the evening as the weather cools down and the sky turns dark.

The hallway has gorgeous modern art pieces such as this one that is made by the young owner himself.

The Silence Manor offers different rooms cater towards your traveling requirements. All rooms have their own bathhouse with hot springs and some even have their own patios. On a general note, the rooms here are very spacious and design with much simplicity and comfort in mind. They all do have the same theme of clean and natural concept.

The Family Room with double beds and outdoor patio.

I stayed at ‘Ling’ which is named after the owner’s family members. The Pine Room comes with king bed and an indoor bathhouse on level 2. My room is very spacious. Extra brownie points are well-deserved here as there aren’t many accommodations that is design with such space, allowing guests to feel at ease and relaxing with this luxurious element.

There were also these pretty artistic 3D artworks that was seen not only in my room but also at other places throughout the homestay.

There is a lounging corner, basic open hanging rack, work desk with flat-screen tv, mini fridge, mini safe-box and area for luggage.

Cotton printed robes with bedroom slippers, mini bar of snacks and instant noodles with coffee & tea facility as well as mineral water are included as well.

The indoor bathhouse is cleverly designed, offering privacy as well as a sense of nature’s pampering space. There is the hot spring bath as well as rain shower corner, all designed with sheer simplicity and Zen appeal.

The Silence Manor provides Bvlgari shampoo, conditioner and lotion… how’s that for another touch of luxury?

There are other bathroom amenities that added to the comforts of staying at this homestay.

We headed down to ‘Lan’ Restaurant in the evening for our dinner. A special menu crafted by private French chef, our dinner was priced at NTD2000 per person for a 5-course meal. Lunch and afternoon tea menu are also available for reservations too.

Dining in the evening at ‘Lan’ was lovely and serene. Spaciously designed, diners enjoy the beautiful evening view from the glass enclosed restaurant. Modern and contemporary, the restaurant was also elegant and warm from the soft lighting.

Dinner commenced with Black Truffle with Tomato & Cheese. Ravishingly gorgeous at sight with a halo of sundried tomato perched on cheese cubes, fresh and soft tomato flesh, truffle sauce and finished with drizzled of balsamic vinegar and rocket leave as well as edible flowers, the dish is sublime. Such fine and finesse of incredible ingredients that truly harmonizes in flavours…

Pour tableside, the Crab, Celery & Mushroom Soup is delicious as a second course. The soup is relatively light, with bold earthy mushroom notes. Poured over sweet crab meat and tiny brunoised of celery for textures, this course really warmed up the appetite for more to come.

A simple and warm Wild Mushroom & Vegetable Salad features the fresh ingredients at its best. It’s not a wow dish but sufficiently light with a tangy dressing to go with the earthy sweetness of mushrooms and crispy greens.

A palate cleanser of Roselle & Plum Tea perked up our palate with its vibrant tangy flavour…

For mains, we had two options of either beef or prawn. I had the Rossini Foie Gras with Fillet Mignon, an excellent pairing of scrumptious tenderloin with seared goose liver. The fillet was cooked medium with a lush juicy pink center, perfect for my taste. A rich and lightly peppery sauce tied all the elements together well. The seared foie gras was divine and goes exceptionally well with the fillet and all the side condiments.

The King Pawn with Caviar in Butter Cream Sauce was a second option that looked equally enticing. Two large crustaceans, grilled to smoky and tender yumminess, are sauced up with a luscious creamed sauce stuffed with briny black caviar. A dish that rejoices the element of the sea at its best!

Dinner ended with a pretty Banana Chocolate Parfait. A composition of ripen sweet banana enveloped in light chocolate mousse parfait and meringue, the dessert also has marshmallow, French macaron and a tiny wedge of citrus fruit with berry coulis. A very sweet and attractive ending to our dinner…

The evening ended as we all couldn’t wait to retire to our room and enjoy a good soak in the hot spring. After the hot spring, I could feel the silky smoothness of my skin from the water. The hot spring also calms and soothes the body and mind, making me sleepy and relax as I dozed off to wonderland…

The next morning, it was another day of early rise and shine. With the enticing cool and beautiful morning weather, I woke up fresh and excited. I couldn’t resist tucking into their local instant noodle while enjoying the lovely view from my room through my balcony.

Breathtaking morning view and the air smells amazingly fresh…

After a quick shower, I headed outside to check out the area with one of the available bicycles.

From stretches of wild greens and flowers to uneven side roads, the morning stroll was amazingly satisfying.

Breakfast at Lan Restaurant was more than my expectation. Besides a main order of Western or Oriental breakfast, there was also a buffet counter laden with fresh baked bread and pastries, fruit, cold cuts, cereals, yogurt and even desserts.

Opting for the local breakfast of Sweet Potato Congee with house-cured salted egg kimchi, fried fish, three color steamed egg and seasoned greens, breakfast was perfection in my book. The salted egg kimchi is superb.

The Western breakfast option…

We left The Silence Manor, waving with heavy heart to leave such a beautiful place. The homestay has truly etched a wonderful fondness in my heart for its beautiful homestay experience. I will return one day with my family to this amazing place in Hualien.

No.37, Ln. 2, Sec. 3, Wenquan Road,
Ruisui Township,
Hualien County 978,
Tel: +886 3-8873318
Fax: +886 3-8870389

*This trip was made possible by Taiwan Tourism together with First Class Magazine and Eva Air. However, all stories and comments in my posts are purely derived from my own experiences through the trip.

Taiwan Travel Series
The Silence Manor
ShangPalace, Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel

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