Fri, Jun 24, 2011 - Page 14 News List

Restaurant review: La Maison de la Truffe

By David Chen  /  Staff Reporter

The tagliatelle with wild mushroom and shaved truffle at La Maison de la Truffe.

Photo: David Chen, Taipei Times

The cult of the truffle has arrived in Taiwan with La Maison de la Truffe, a branch of the renowned French restaurant that opened in Taipei earlier this year.

This high-end brand was brought to Taiwan by food and beverage entrepreneur Bob Yeh (葉兩傳), who was also behind the opening of several branches of the popular French bakery chain Paul.

La Maison de la Truffe is not likely to draw the same kind of lunchtime crowds that gather at Paul, nor does it intend to.

The restaurant presents itself as the pinnacle of fine dining, with its location at the boutique branch of Sogo Department Store on Dunhua South Road (敦化南路) and its high prices — a five-course set meal for one costs NT$3,880.

To put it crudely, a truffle is just a mushroom that grows underground. But the rarity and mystique of these fungi, especially the European varieties, puts them in a class with other expensive foods such as caviar and oysters.

Truffles are served as a garnish to a meal, often in thin shavings or slices on top of a dish or mixed in a sauce.

Except for desserts, truffles are served with every item on La Maison de la Truffe’s menu: Main courses include grilled lobster with seasonal truffle (NT$2,280), beef filet steak with seasonal truffle mashed potatoes (NT$1,580) or the sea bass with sliced potato and black truffle cream sauce (NT$1,180).

Both my dining companion and I were trying truffles for the first time at La Maison de la Truffe. We left unimpressed.

Not that the food was bad — our meals appeared to have been made with great care and quality ingredients — but nothing in particular made us go “wow.”

Under our waiter’s recommendation, I ordered the tagliatelle with wild mushroom and shaved truffle (NT$880). Truffles are often described as tasting similar to a mushroom and having a pungent and dark flavor. I found that to be true with this dish, and also found the white truffle shavings that garnished the pasta to have a mild garlicky flavor.

La Maison de la Truffe

Address: B1, 246, Dunhua S Rd, Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市敦化南路一段246號B1)

Telephone: (02) 2778-7955

Open: 11:30am to 2pm, 5:30pm to 10pm; afternoon tea from 2pm to 5:30pm

On the Net:

Average meal: NT$1,000 to NT$3,900 per person

My dining companion ordered the vegetarian set menu (NT$1,800 per person), a four-course meal that included risotto with seasonal truffle (NT$980 a la carte) as the main dish. Even though the menu said the risotto was made with Arborio rice, it lacked a certain creaminess, at least judging from the several bites I had. In terms of flavor, it was similar to the tagliatelle: dark mushroom-like tones, subtle.

Perhaps it was too subtle for my dining companion, who wondered if she was missing something: “Maybe I just don’t get it.” I started to wonder the same thing.

As our waitress brought each dish to the table, she explained the ingredients in a rushed manner, as if she were spouting off memorized speeches. Or maybe she was afraid of actually getting into a conversation about the food. But I was grateful for the instructions offered for one of my appetizers, the black truffle wild mushroom chicken soup (NT$450). I was told to enjoy the taste of the soup before breaking the egg yolk, which was covered in a crispy deep-fried coating.

To be fair, the overall service was very good. As you arrive, the waiters unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. If you have a bag or a purse, they bring another plush chair for it to rest upon (definitely a worthy resting place for your LV or Chanel bag). We were disappointed when dessert arrived — we were expecting “wild berries with raspberry sauce” as printed in the menu, but got a plate of wax apple and kiwi instead. The waitstaff failed to inform us of the change; when we told the manager, she offered us another dessert at no additional charge without blinking an eye.

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