Perched on the 31st floor of W Taipei, Yen (紫艷) flaunts its title as the first Chinese restaurant operated by W, the global design hotel brand known for its air of urban chic and easy glamour. To tune in with the design-savvy environment, Yen’s menu features what executive chief Kong Khai-meng (鄺啟明) describes as “modern Cantonese cuisine” that values creativity over tradition.
Occupying the entire floor, the swank establishment accommodates more than 220 diners while remaining pleasantly spacious, with a high ceiling and French-style windows overlooking the Xinyi District (信義). The decor sparkles with playful designs in a symphony of colors and textures based on the restaurant’s signature scheme of royal purple, metallic silver, black and ceramic white. The centerpiece of the dining area is a sleek compartment enclosed by transparent, ceiling-to-floor glass, ideal for glamorous types who enjoy seeing and being seen.
For the well-heeled, four private rooms are embellished with decorative art made of dining and cooking utensils by Japanese artist Hirotoshi Sawada, and offer views of the city’s celebrated landmarks, including Taipei 101 and the Miramar ferris wheel.
The food at Yen is as photogenic as the surroundings. The cool drunken chicken with shaohsing wine jello (冰鎮愛玉紹興黃酒醉雞, NT$420) takes its name quite literally and features slices of chicken stumbling out of a wine glass. The roast kurobuta pork belly (脆皮金磚黑毛豬燒肉, NT$480) is adorably presented with a miniature stove and grill. The display of the dishes, however, surpasses the taste, which is fine but doesn’t impress.
There are few delectable examples of chief Kong’s adeptness in crafting a careful balance of flavors and textures, although some of the dishes wouldn’t impress animal rights supporters.
The maltose glazed goose liver mousse with chilled sour plum jelly (鵝肝慕斯酸話梅凍, NT$580) is an ingenious composite of velvety foie gras, local plums and a Cantonese-style marinade in which the goose liver is soaked before being pureed into mousse. The buttery delicacy literally melts in the mouth, and the plum jellies are tart enough to complement the savoriness of the mousse without overwhelming its flavors.
With shark cartilage, chicken and almonds simmered for over eight hours to make the broth, the fish maw and tiger prawns with almonds and fish cartilage (花膠龍皇杏仁魚骨濃湯, NT$580) impresses with its clear, light soup and plump crustaceans. The crisp fried prawns with wasabi mayo, pomegranate and kumquat (山葵金棗石榴蝦球, NT$880) offers a delightful synthesis of the sweetness of the fruits and the tanginess of wasabi.
The restaurant has a small collection of dim sum items prepared in the open kitchen, where impeccably attired young cooks work in full view. A good way to wrap up a feast at Yen is the creamy egg tart (香滑蛋塔, NT$180), which soothes the palate with a warm pastry crust and a luscious filling that is slightly caramelized on top.
Diners can also start or finish their meals at the Bar at Yen (tel: (02) 7703-8769), located adjacent to the restaurant. Open daily from 11am to 1am, the stylish bar serves up a selection of wines and spirits and offers an unobstructed view of Taipei 101.