It may be difficult to come to terms with the thought of eating out on Christmas, but those with reservations for Sheraton's Kitchen 12 French Noel Christmas Buffet (yes, it's a little redundant), you're sure to have a very Merry Christmas night. French chef Noel Bernard is back at the Sheraton Taipei, after a two-year stint there 12 years ago.
Bernard says that with the French labor laws as they are these days, coming to Taiwan just made financial sense. And it probably helps that his wife is Taiwanese. And Bernard knows how to do Christmas -- it's his first name after all!
In addition to a few French Christmas favorites -- such as the turkey stuffed with chestnuts and apples and the salmon marinated with dill -- Bernard is cooking up some dishes that will remind you why French cuisine is king.
As far as appetizers go, the sauteed shrimp with asparagus and garlic butter sauce are a great start. One can never get enough tender, chewy shrimp smothered in rich, garlicky butter. And the asparagus was cooked until the last trace of that bitter, raw taste was gone.
I'm not too sure about well-cooked vegetables, but after tasting the stewed beef in red-wine sauce, there's no doubt in my mind that the French know how to cook meat. Bernard said that he had started cooking the beef four hours earlier. First he pan-fried it to give it that crispy outer layer and seal all the juices inside. Then he left it to stew ever so slowly in a very special beef stock. Bernard's description of how the stock was made me realize how much work can really go into a good piece of meat.
Bernard said the beef was Australian, due to Taiwan's ban on US beef. He prefers US beef for its size and juiciness, which he says Australian beef lacks due to the continent's drier climate.
Speaking of juiciness, the veal tenderloin with porcini served with duck liver sauce was my favorite dish -- again, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside but still thoroughly cooked. I'm not normally a fan of liver, but the rich texture of the duck's liver that adorned each tenderloin was the perfect complement to the meat's taste and texture.
As more incentive to get out on Christmas evening, Kitchen 12 is offering a endless flow of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial (a dry sparkling white wine) to go with the feast. Regrettably, the buffet is booked for both Christmas Eve and Christmas and is filling up quickly for New Year's Eve.