Latest Recipe (探索廚房) is an upscale hotel buffet in the upscale Xinyi District (信義). Inside, it’s calm and quiet with an art deco vibe. Silver plates extend from the ceiling in an arc and reflect the warm light. The food bars are marble and the walls are granite, adorned with mesmerizing X-ray photos of fish.
Facing the entrance going clockwise, there is a hearth for pizza, made-to-order steaks, a tempura station, carved meats, a western-style hot food line, a Taiwanese-style noodle bar and a sushi bar. Perhaps because the food is broken up into so many small stations, lines are short or non-existent.
In an island at the center of the room, there is a gourmet salad bar (over a dozen greens, quality controlled to the very last silken leaf), chilled clams and crab, cheeses, crepes on demand, ice cream and the dessert case. A plastic cabinet of colorful candies sits in the corner — a nice touch, making you feel like you are in a whimsical food wonderland.
At most of these stations the food is outstanding, with an emphasis on quality over quantity.
There are two red meats: prime rib and baked-to-order Angus beef steaks, which are gently marked with a sear and topped with whole garlic. The prime rib was surprisingly sweet, perfectly medium rare and tender with a buttery finish.
The Japanese sushi bar has three types of sashimi — tuna, salmon, marlin — laid out on leaves inside a temperature-controlled case. Again, it is a tiny menu, but these are taut and visibly fresh slices that melt in the mouth like a deeply marbled ribeye.
Sushi chefs behind the counter also prepare a few stylized modern sushi and don, bowls of sashimi on short-grained rice. There are shot glasses filled with vinegar and sweet filaments of seaweed. Pair the shot with salmon sashimi, a dab of wasabi and soy sauce and you have something layered and very interesting, a symphonic aggregation of every major flavor possible.
Address:38 Songren Rd, Taipei City (台北市松仁路38號)
Telephone: (02) 6622-8000
Open: Breakfast from 6:30am to 10am, lunch from 11:30am to 2pm, afternoon tea from 3pm to 5pm, dinner from 6pm to 9:30pm
Average meal: Breakfast (NT$790), lunch (NT$1,590), afternoon tea (NT$990) and dinner (NT$1,590)
Details: 10 percent service charge, credit cards accepted, reservations advised
One of the buffet’s crowning dishes is king crab soup, a split claw served in yellow miso. The station it comes from is really a three-step noodle bar that offers fancified versions of Taiwanese street snacks. Choose a noodle — rice noodles, live-pulled noodles with spicy chili sauce, original fresh noodles or Taiwanese-style egg noodles infused with oil — and the chef will drop it al dente into your choice of soup and your choice of protein and seafood.
Another crowd favorite is the pizza station, manned by a chef who rolls flour and slides his creations into a wood-fired oven. There were three pizzas out at one time — in artisanal varieties like margherita — featuring dough with a puffy, then chewy texture.
The buffet also has a western-style food line (tomato soup, seared catfish, lamb rump, pasta and potatoes that are room temperature) and a magnificent sweets emporium.
Taking up half the central island, desserts include made-to-order crepe stations and sweeping glass cases of Lilliputian treats with long names (“panna cotta with blood orange compote” and “green tea roll cake with yuzu”). These are beautiful but they also taste less rich than they look, so better picks are the Haagen-Dazs and Movenpick ice creams, which taste exactly as they look. Throughout the meal, servers circulate with souffles that are oven hot, springy on top, molten inside.
Latest Recipe has a pleasant atmosphere with equally pleasant service. A minor drawback of coming here is that you’ll have to consume a considerable amount of protein to justify the bill. There is a strictly enforced exit schedule, meaning that this is the wrong place for hard business deals or long-lost friends. Lunch hours are 11:30am to 2pm, and everybody is out by 2pm.