Fri, Mar 01, 2002 - Page 10 News List

Restaurant of the week: Marco Polo Restaurant

Address: Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, 38F, 201 Tunhua S. Rd., Sec. 2, Taipei (遠東國際大飯店台北市敦化南路二段201號)
Telephone: (02) 2378-8888 ext. 5950
Open: 11:30am to 2:30pm; 6pm to 10pm
Details: English menu available. Credit cards accepted

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

The truffles are a delight at Far Eastern Hotel's Marco Polo Restaurant.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MARCO POLO

Marco Polo is located on the 38th floor of the Far Eastern Hotel and has some of the best night views of Taipei. A window seat here is almost worth the price of admission, although Marco Polo is definitely designed for people who don't mind being extravagant when it comes to food. The decor is tasteful and expensive in an understated way, the service probably some of the most professional you will find in this city. But ultimately, going to a restaurant is about food, and with chef Claudio Cattarin at the helm, Marco Polo does not disappoint.

Chef Cattarin pointed out, after a five course meal featuring truffles and centered on a main course of broiled lamb, that Marco Polo is not about hearty Italian home-style dishes. This is cuisine as art with Cattarin as the artist. "The ingredients and the methods used are basically Italian," he said, "but I also like to experiment with some local products."

Now that this is the peak season for black truffles, Cattarin has designed a five-course set menu around this pungent fungus, each dish bringing out different aspects of its flavor. While one of the most traditional ways of serving truffles is to fry them up with eggs, this is not really an option for Marco Polo with its high price tag. This presents the chance to sample many different creations -- the veal carpaccio with zucchini, egg plant, tomato and black truffles has a magnificent aroma that just wafts up at you when it is brought to table. This is followed by potato cream soup with salmon dumplings, which refreshes the palate with its subtle variation on down-to-earth flavors. With the garganelli paste with lobster and broadbeans, Cattarin introduces a little bit of local flavor with the broad beans, a great favorite in Taiwanese food. The roast lamb is faultless, tender and firm, and the whole thing is finished off with mascarpone cream with black truffles and poached pears, a combination that is as wonderful as it is unexpected.

Cattarin performs a delicate balancing act that allows each of the ingredients to speak. Each mouthful is a new combination of flavors. "Traditional Italian cooking usually has very strong flavors, and they use a lot of oil and salt, and they also have a long cooking time," Cattarin said. "This is not the kind of cooking style that is favored now, Long cooking times, for example, reduce the flavor and even the nutrition of ingredients."

So while staying true to Italian roots, Marco Polo's menu ranges across the creative spectrum. The attentive service and the proximity of the Marco Polo lounge for pre-dinner drinks or as a place to relax over coffee or drinks makes Marco Polo ideal for a romantic dinner.

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