If you are yearning for really good, nouvelle style Cantonese food in Taipei, you should go to YEN Chinese Restaurant 紫艷中餐廳 at W Taipei. YEN Restaurant and YEN Bar share the top 31st floor of W Taipei with views of central Taipei from the dining room side of the restaurant and Taipei 101 when you’re at the bar.
Besides the awesome views of the city, the interior of both parts of the dining floor are modern and primarily with the color palate of purple, black, white and chrome or stainless steel.
We started lunch with a modern appetizer of pan-fried mullet roe, green apple, crisp rolls 青蘋果烏魚子脆筒. A crisp cornet filled with a thick slice of mildly salty, crumbly mullet roe and fresh, sweet-tart and crisp apple slices. It’s a great starter and it feels uniquely Taiwanese with a whiff of modernity. This goes well with our wonderful cups of dong ding oolong tea (dong ding tea is grown in the mountains of Taiwan and our tea had a lovely floral aroma and had notes of chestnuts) or the glass of crisp Chardonnay.
Shortly, our spread of upscale dim sum dishes arrived in traditional steamer baskets. The shu mai topped with baby abalone was delicious and absolutely luxurious. The steamed dumplings with peanuts,.dried daikon radish and pork 潮州蒸粉粿 was expertly made with the filling perfectly seasoned and the textures of the skin and filling were spot on. The best way to judge a Cantonese dim sum restaurant is how the kitchen makes their har gow (蝦餃) and it’s a very solid dish. The terrine-like slices of cold pigs ear jelly with fish maw 花膠千層順風耳 were delectable and had a subtle flavors of five spice powder.
The bowl of Szechuan-style poached chicken in chili sauce (口水鸡) or literally translated as “saliva chicken” was arguably the best dish of the afternoon. The cold poached chicken was perfectly cooked and had that addictive flavors and burn of the chili sauce that chicken is sitting in. I remembered feeling full after a piece or two of chicken but I couldn’t stop eating it because it was sensational.
Our first soup course and arguably our vegetable course the soup of the day was Taiwanese sweet potato and luffa. The clear, savory chicken broth felt restorative. The fork tender sweet potatoes and luffa was a nice contrast to the savory soup.
The seafood soup with lobster and minced ginger was briny and had incredible depth of flavor from the many mollusks and the time that made this soup. The large pieces of scallops were sweet and cooked perfectly and I’ve recalled digging through with my spoon, large chunks of lobster and mussels.
The plate of baked barbecue pork puff pastries were glorious. Served warm, the crust was wispy, flaky from the lard and buttery. The filling was flavroful, savory-sweet char siu filling with a nice amount of sauce.
My friend who was traveling with me probably have informed the waitstaff that it’s my birthday since I was presented this intense looking chocolate cake. When I sliced my cake, it was indeed a very intense, rich chocolate cake that felt like I was slicing into a thick, cooled ganache. Thankfully, it’s not a very sweet cake but the intensity of the dark chocolate really hits my stomach hard having the large lunch prior to this dessert that I ate a few bites. Nevertheless, I’m grateful the staff gave me a lovely chocolate cake.
We did come back to the YEN Bar for drinks the night after the above lunch and without a doubt, it’s a great place to have drinks. The bar is gorgeous at night and the buzzing atmosphere are filled with people here are having fun hanging out with friends, coworkers or even a date. The best table out of this entire area is tucked behind the bar area that gives you some bit of privacy and it has the best view of Taipei 101. (There were a number of people walking by us taking selfies and photos of the landmark with their drink.)
The tightly edited cocktail menu has oolong tea infused cocktails (a nod to Taiwan) and fruity drinks that isn’t too sweet. The oolong tea martini is much better here than the one I had “made” for myself as a welcoming drink. The flavors are so much brighter and cleaner and the lemon juice is much sharper (in a good way). The oolong mojito was delicious and my friend drank her mojito quickly (essentially stating it’s a very delicious drink).
The Oriental Sparkle and Hibiscus & Rose Fell Champagne cocktails were vibrantly colored and fruity without the cloying sweetness. The former drink was a concoction of high grade sensa green tea, organic honey tea infused Belvedere vodka, Veuve Cliquot Brut, raspberry puree, yuzu jam and fresh lime juice. The Hibiscus & Rose Fell is a mixture of rose zephyr tea infused Belvedere vodka, rose syrup, grapefruit juice, fresh lime juice and topped with Veuve Cliquot.
If there’s a platonic ideal of Taiwan’s famous braised beef noodles, I would daresay YEN Bar makes it. The broth was deeply flavorful and had so much going on beyond pure beef bones and ginger. (My friend believes the kitchen used some traditional Chinese herbs to take this soup to another level.) The noodles were springy to the chew and stood up nicely to the broth and the geonerous amount of tender, large chunks of braised beef and beef tendon made it substantial.
The experiences for both YEN venues were excellent. Though these dining experiences are upscale, it’s worth the expense. Service for both places were professional and friendly. I would definitely dine at these places again.
For more photos, please CLICK HERE for the complete set or see below:[alpine-phototile-for-flickr src=”set” uid=”26389565@N00″ sid=”72157675490690852″ imgl=”flickr” shuffle=”1″ style=”gallery” row=”4″ grwidth=”1200″ grheight=”800″ size=”640″ num=”30″ shadow=”1″ border=”1″ align=”center” max=”100″]
YEN Chinese Restaurant and YEN Bar
at W Taipei
10 Zhongxiao East Road Sec. 5
Xinyi District, Taipei, 110, Taiwan