Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dining @ MUME in Taipei, Taiwan

While I was in Taipei, I wanted to check out a pretty nice restaurant.  Pretty much every guide and article about the best restaurants in Taipei brought up MUME.  The restaurant sports 3 chefs that are alumni of Noma, they got a Michelin star in 2018, and are in the Top 50 Asia Restaurants List.  Luckily that have easy online reservations, so I snagged a reservation when I had the chance.

Interestingly enough, MUME does not have a menu on their website.  Research online showed they serve an a la carte menu of about 15-20 different dishes split up into snacks, smalls, bigs, and desserts.  The waitress recommended we get a snack, small, big, and dessert for each of us.

This is what we ended up having, ordered in the semi-random way they came out.


First up we have these two tartlets, one of sweet peas and ricotta, and the other of ginger and (IIRC) milt cod.  The peas are some Taiwanese variant that I was unfamiliar with and the ricotta was a sweeter lighter variant than the typical western type.  Overall, both were tasty, I preferred the cod one.

2) LIVER BRULEE - chicken liver parfait, seasonal herbs


3) COUNTRY SOURDOUGH - smoked beef fat butter

So the liver was an interesting dish.  They did a brulee (think "creme brulee") like thing to the top of the liver, then topped it with all of these herbs.  It gave the liver this extra bit of sweetness, that surprised me when I tasted it.

Not bad, but it was hard for me to wrap my head around the sweetness with the liver.

So the liver above does not come with any bread, so you have to order some.  There are two options on the menu, toasted or not toasted.  They are apparently the same, you just decide how you want it.  We got the untoasted version below.  In hindsight, I think toasted bread with the liver would have been better.

 4) CEVICHE TOSTADA - nixtamilized Taiwanese quinoa tostada

This is the first appetizer dish we got.  It comes out presented with the giant tostada you see above, and underneath was a swordfish ceviche with minimally cucumber, avocado, and onions.  Overall, refreshing and tasty.  The tostada was particularly good.

5) MUME SALAD - 20+ types of seasonal vegetables,  fermented black beans

This dish is apparently a pretty famous dish from Mume.  The salad is made up of over 20 different vegetables and herbs.  Minimally there were atleast three different types of tomatoes, radishes, cucumber, and god knows what other types of the leaves.  Beneath all of this was some ricotta cheese, I think the same as the ricotta in the tartlet above.

This was probably my favorite dish of the night.  With the light ricotta cheese and the light addition of fermented black beans, this was a light and refreshing dish, yet with a lot of flavor.  I would love to see this in a giant size, it'd be great for lunch.

6) PORK NECK - clam sauce, baby cabbage, dill

This is the first main course we got.  Obviously, all you an see is the cabbage with some seaweed powdered on top.  In this next pic, you can see some of the pork underneath.

The sauce was made with a clam broth, creme fraiche, and what I assume was dill.  The sauce was delicious and the pork very tender.  I really enjoyed this course.  Tied with the salad above for my favorite dish.

7) BARLEY PORRIDGE - slow cooked egg, sweet peas, sunflower seeds

So this was sort of a re-imagined congee, but with barley and peas.  There is a slow cooked egg in the middle which you an break up and mix up with everything together.

While not bad, I didn't love this dish.  It did not have the umami I was really looking for in an entree dish.  That said, it was perhaps foolish of me to order the one vegetarian entree option on the menu.  It just seemed neat, so I ordered it :-)

This dish's consistency made me think of risotto far more than congee, even though didn't have cheese.  Perhaps if it had something to add crunch to it, I'd enjoy the texture more.  (I'm reminded of the soft-cooked egg dish from Aster, which has crispy bits of potato in it.)

8) CUCUMBER - yogurt mousse, celery granita, lemon verbena

This dessert was served like the above picture, but once you smash it, it looked more like this:

Basically we have layers of meringue, with celery sorbet/granita and a yogurt mousse layered in between.  We also found some cucumber chunks in there.

I enjoyed the flavors in this dessert, although I wish there was less meringue.  I think a single outer shell would have been enough.

9) PEACH - young ginger icecream, basil, green tea

Finally, we had this dessert.  The young ginger ice cream you can clearly see, with liquid nitrogened chunks of yogurt (I believe peach flavored) all around.  Underneath, there were some green tea cakes to provide a texture difference.

I enjoyed the flavors, but the texture of yogurt I was unfamiliar with. It was sort of airy and light and took me by surprise.  I would have to eat this more times to get used to it.

Overall, a good meal, but I wasn't necessarily wowed by it given its Top 50 in Asia listing.  It was a very enjoyable experience, with a lot of interesting/different flavors and textures.  I suspect it went down the "innovative" path a little more than I was knowledgeable about.

The meal actually reminded me a lot of my meals at Aster in San Francisco.  Just like Aster, it was a very casual 4 course meal (although we shared each course here) with some sourdough.   There are a number of interesting dishes throughout but no earth shattering dishes.  No dishes are necessarily umami bombs, but there are subtle and enjoyable flavors throughout.

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