We're back in Taipei again and loving how the food scene in Taiwan continues to evolve. Today we're at Gen Creative. Despite the propaganda, Taipei is more metropolitan than you think. Taiwan is filled with creative people from around the world who have made their home in Taiwan.
GĒN has been around since 2015 and a favorite of the gang. Chefs Eric Liu, Hansong Cho, and Melanie Garcia continue to create imaginative food that reflects their respective origins: Taiwan Korea and Guatemala. Like Restaurant Page, these are young chefs who are putting their experience and soul each day into the food they create. The multi-lingual staff is warm and attentive. The team is surprisingly young and give more senior waitstaff in Taiwan a run for their money in front-of-house operations.
The menu is divided by Snacks, Earth, Sea, Land and, of course, Sweets. They will suggest that you pick one from each of the categories.
We started our meal with three Snacks: Olives (who doesn't like warm olives?), Beef Tendon and their famous "Hot & Sour" Fried Soup. For those of you familiar with Taiwanese cuisine, beef tendons are usually served as generous gelatinous pieces in beef noodle soup. GEN's beef tendon is served puffy! Their modernist interpretation includes brown butter turned into a powder. (How? Just mix it with maltodextrin.) Take the powder and dust it over your crispy pieces. Take bite and it all melts in your mouth. So good!
The "hot and sour" red soup is another deconstructed modernist play. Hot and sour soup is a staple in Taiwan. Soup is frozen and turned into blocks, breaded then deep fried so the outside is crispy and inside is warm soup. Served with wood ear, a poached egg, cilantro, and scallion takes a wintertime favorite and transforms it into a refreshing spring salad.
If you are a vegetarian, you will want everything from the earth menu. Every dish is beautifully executed. I mean every dish. My personal favorite was the Beet Tartare. The combination of beets, rocket, goat cheese and candied pecans was a fun savory play. The candied pecans were only just sweet enough to enhance the savory. (Don't think New York street side pralines.)
The only thing that we didn't like on the menu had more to do with execution than concept. Their cauliflower vadouvan is a great idea. Vadouvan is the French version of Indian masala. It is a blend of garlic, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, and fenugreek. Cauliflower and curry is a natural combination. What is not to like? From what we can tell, they poach the cauliflower in hot water to soften the fibers. Unfortunately, all that wonderful cauliflower flavor that would have been beautifully complemented by the vadouvan. gets cooked away. Moreover, the cauliflower also lost its crunch and became limp. Rather than serve a hunk of cauliflower, I personally would have taken horizontal slices to minimize the impact of the fiber. That being said, the spices were wonderfully savory. It is still a dish well worth to try,
From the Sea menu, we had the octopus. Chefs in Taiwan have access to amazingly fresh seafood. The Octopus was perfectly cooked served on a bed of sauteed birdnest ferns, a.k.a shanshu (山蘇), a crispy mountain vegetables sauced with young garlic and fermented black beans. This is a dish that exemplifies balance. The octopus is perfectly cooked, the sauce is light and the salt of the fermented black beans balance the umami of the octopus. Shanshu added a wonderfully crisp texture to the dish. As we finished the plate, we were all looking for more fermented beans to have with our octopus!
So you may ask, what are the other must-haves on the menu?
The Drunken Monkey for starters. You might ask why I started with dessert? Well, we ordered several - even after a full meal. Yep. It was that good. Making banana soufflés that are perfectly pouffy and flavorful is not easy. To make one where it isn't brown AND double layered one with a surprise in the middle (go try it to find out) is even harder.
You will also want to have their Short Rib, served with fresh Asian pear, and cannellini beans. Sous-vided perfectly tender, the short ribs are finished with Korean BBQ flavors. Don't think of it as a deconstructed Kal-Bi. This dish stands on its own.
No restaurant reviewed by us wouldn't have a video right?
GEN version of Aiyu Shaved Ice is fun. Aiyu (愛玉)is a popular jelly used in making refreshing limeade sold on the street in Taiwan. The jelly is made from the seeds of the ficus pimila, a type of fig found in Taiwan. GEN's version is more savory. The aiyu jelly is served with carbonated salted limeade, thin slivers of Japanese ginger (zingiber mioga), green mangos (ooooh!) and a generous scoop of pink guava ice cream. This made a refreshing finish to our meal that included TWO Drunken Monkeys.
Good night folks, I'm going to pass out. Food coma kicking in.
Kent is a management consultant who has spent years traveling for work. His refuge is looking for the perfect meal so that he can reproduce it at home with his wife and friends.