Sat, Sep 28, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Restaurant review: ULV Restaurant and Bar

By Davina Tham  /  Staff reporter

Crispy chicken-and-cream cheese balls with salted egg yolk shavings and shio koji.

Photo: Davina Tham, Taipei Times

In 2004, 12 visionary chefs from seven countries in Northern Europe came together to sign the Nordic Kitchen manifesto. The document expressed their commitment to pure, fresh, simple and ethical foods combining “the best in Nordic cookery and culinary traditions with impulses from abroad.”

That manifesto spawned a style of cooking called New Nordic, which has become a revolutionary force in 21st-century cooking, and one of the most important cultural exports from Northern Europe in modern times, right up there with the Swedish band ABBA.

Before New Nordic, the popular imagination of Scandinavian food involved either reheated meatballs from IKEA’s canteen, or bearded men in Viking helmets guzzling ale and tearing into bone-in steaks.

Now, it means wild ingredients foraged from forest, field and sea; preservation techniques like pickling and smoking, at first born of necessity but now creatively applied to transform flavors and textures; and deep knowledge of the local climate, environment and producers.

The reverence for this style of cuisine, amplified by food media and Netflix chef specials, has by now made the mere mention of Nordic or Scandinavian influences a kind of shorthand for cooking done with integrity and good taste.

The Mecca of this modern religion is undoubtedly Noma in Copenhagen, led by Danish chef Rene Redzepi, one of the original signees of the manifesto. And if you’re a believer, that makes The Noma Guide to Fermentation, Redzepi’s latest book published last year, food gospel.

Redzepi has described fermentation as the “main pillar” of cooking at Noma. At ULV Restaurant and Bar in Daan District (大安), it is the literal centerpiece of the restaurant.

ULV RESTAURANT AND BAR

Address: 18, Lane 160, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市敦化南路一段160巷18號)

Telephone: (02) 8771-0828

Open: Daily, 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to midnight, until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays

Average meal: NT$1,900

Details: Minimum charge of NT$600 per person before 9pm; 10 percent service charge; credit cards accepted; menu in Chinese and English

On the net: facebook.com/ulvrestaurantandbar/


Upon entering the minimalist interior, diners are greeted by a towering shelf filled with large glass jars. From afar, the display resembles specimens floating in formaldehyde. Up close, they turn out to contain a range of kombucha and fermented or pickled produce, including cabbage, bamboo shoots and calabash, and even a jar of dried and pressed hibiscus flowers.

Chef and founder Sid Hsin (辛易東) opened ULV in April this year, after training in the Taipei kitchens of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and S Hotel’s HYG Restaurant. ULV joins other restaurants in the city that blend modern Nordic cuisine and other European influences, such as MUME and JE Kitchen.

It seems to be under the radar still. I had no trouble securing a same-day dinner reservation during peak hour on a Sunday evening; on another Saturday night after 9pm, when the kitchen transitions from dinner service to bar bites, my table were the only customers. This was surprising to me, given the bistro’s downtown location and how on-point it is with current trends toward natural foods and cooking methods.

DEGUSTATION

To sample as much as possible on my first visit to ULV, I order the chef’s degustation menu (NT$1,880). This is calibrated to the seasons and will be revamped for autumn at the end of October. I also tack on a few a la carte offerings to round out the meal for my party of two.

The degustation starts with an amuse-bouche of an open-faced monaka shell, a thin mochi wafer about the size of an NT$50 coin, filled with egg salad and tiny cured fish eggs. The single bite prompts a Proustian moment — the flavorless monaka triggers strong flashbacks of communion wafers from my youth. I can’t say that’s a desirable quality in a food.

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