Fri, Sep 03, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: Chiou Hwa Seafood Restaurant (九華樓) at the Gloria Prince Hotel (華泰王子大飯店)

Address: 369 Linsen North Road, Taipei (台北市林森北路號)
Telephone: (02) 2581 8111
Hours: 11:30am to 3:30pm and 5:30pm to 9:30pm, every day
Average meal: NT$2,000
Details: All major credit cards accepts. Menu in Chinese and English

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

The seafood and apple with mayonnaise is the only iffy dish on a superb menu.

PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

For a fruity meal fit for a king take a ride up Linsen North Road to the Gloria Prince Hotel and enjoy a combination of sweet pulps, savory meats and fish -- including some rare and unusual items even the most experienced gourmand may not have tried before.

Once you are seated in the elegantly appointed dining room, with its gilded furniture and brightly polished chandeliers, settle down for what could be a two-hour plus gastronomic experience.

There are nine items on the Fruit Set Menu, which was devised by head chef Peter Wu in June and has been continued because of its popularity. The winner of two consecutive cordon bleu contests in Taiwan, Wu hails from Hong Kong and specializes in Cantonese cooking, which he has internationalized for the local and high-end traveler set he services.

The only man to have been the head chef for two presidents on overseas trips (Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Wu cooked up his meals for 100 people in 16 rice cookers on Air Force One. (Lee liked a late light meal and Chen, apparently, is not a fussy eater.)

The set menu begins with fiery dragon fruit canapes and ends with a mango ice crush. In between the highlights were some highly inventive dishes, only one of which did not succeed, in this reviewer's opinion. That was the seafood and apple with mayonnaise sauce, which looked good enough, but was slightly sickly with the combination of sweet apple and overbearingly rich mayo.

The rest was an adventure for the taste buds that was rewarded by some original and flavorsome combinations. The pumpkin with egg and fried shark's fin was a revelation. The scooped-out half-pumpkin, steamed and filled with lightly fried eggs and bean sprouts, set off the delicately prepared shark's fin. Usually, I find the taste of shark's fin unremarkable, but on this occasion it was a treat. The sharks used are farmed, apparently, so conservationists need not be upset. The dish came with one of the most delicious clear broths I have ever tried. Made from ham, chicken, pork ribs, pumpkin, dried scallops and spices (the chef refuses to disclose), it is boiled, reduced and strained for days to form a golden nectar that is strong, yet refined in taste.

Braised beef and mango went together surprisingly well, the scallop dishes were superb and the deep fried banana fruit rolls were impeccable.

However, the most remarkable dish, fittingly enough, came last. Hasma sweet soup in papaya sounds bland enough, but the reproductive glands of the snow frog, dried, rehydrated and double-boiled with rock sugar, is a unique culinary invention that was previously only eaten by emperors. The hermaphrodite snow frog's sperm and ova form a glutinous and opaque dessert after cooking. It sounds weird and feels like tapioca in the mouth, but with a slightly salty after taste. Yes, indeed, a funny experience.

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