Sunday, September 22, 2013

TATA Restaurant: Jiaoxi, YiLan County Taiwan; French and European Cuisine; Fine Food; Chef Jassway Lo




TATA Restaurant: A Culinary Jewel nestled in the farmland of Jiaoxi, in the Northeast of YiLan County, Taiwan. 


On my second trip to Taiwan in 2013, I visited YiLan County which is a little more than 1 hour Southeast of Taipei on the new Route 5 expressway.  Known for its seafood, and rich farmlands, the areas I have visited in YiLan county are the city of YiLan in the center of the county, the urban township of LuoDong to the South, and most recently the rural township Jiaoxi to the Northeast along the coast, almost due West of Turtle Island.

Farmland in Taiwan and farmland in the USA or Europe, is much different than in Taiwan, and other countries in Southeast Asia.  Areas in Taiwan producing rice and similar plants are grown in small plots of flooded land (urban rice patties so to speak).   Other larger flooded areas have fountains or aerators because they raise many types of freshwater fish in this area.

Just below Route 5, (which is an elevated road over this area), along a very narrow country farm road (barely wide enough for one car) and across from these water farmlands is the new Tata Restaurant.  

TATA Restaurant has only been open since May 18, 2013 and features scrumptious French and European cuisine.  Did I just say scrumptious?  Maybe I meant, fabulous, wonderful, delicious, mouth-watering, delightful……… I’m getting hungry again just thinking about their food.  This is one fine restaurant serving absolutely great food!

Now I know what I am saying about European fine food.  I have traveled and eaten at fine restaurants all over Europe, including Ireland, Scotland, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and more.  Over the years, I have eaten many hundreds of wonderful meals, all over Europe, and of course even more around the world, including many, many fine French and European cuisine restaurants around the USA.  So, without a doubt, I do believe I am qualified to judge a fine quality French/European restaurant….. and TATA Restaurant is just that.

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The two story TATA restaurant has a trendy and modern curb-appeal .  Inside the restaurant, the d├ęcor is warm, elegant, and inviting for aproximately 35-40 guests on the main floor.  The open kitchen is the center of attention with a generous number of chefs preparing the various courses. The serving staff is ready to greet you and they do provide great, attentive service.

Photo Courtesy of TATA Restaurant


We also had the chance to personally meet and talk to Mr. Jassway Lo, Head Chef.  He personally told me he developed his culinary skills and style working for other master chefs in Taiwan including two major hotel restaurants.


Chef Jassway Lo in his TATA Kitchen


I was not told about this restaurant just minutes prior to arriving, so I had no clue of what to expect.  Five of us were seated at the table and presented the full course menu and the ala carte menu.  One look at the full course menu peaked my appetite and I was excited about the food that would be served.  I am only showing a portion of the full course menu selections and none of the ala carte menu……these other entrees and offerings will be the extra surprises for my readers that have a chance to visit TATA.











My hosts, Calvin, Irene and Tiffany told me that Tiffany first visited TATA a few months ago with her Uncle.  The family then went back together to TATA shortly thereafter, so we all had a chance to try new items on this wonderful menu.  

The Restaraunt was full of customers



 All of my photos are courtesy of Tiffany Wen.   

We selected the following Main courses:


US Prime Rib Eye Steak:


French Tender Chicken:



Atlantic Cod Fish:


French Lamb Chops:



Also shown a generous size Pizza from the ala carte menu, that Tiffany enjoyed on her visit to TATA, and a main course from another visit that looks fabulous…...




Please take a close look at the full course menu options for Salads & Soups.  Each menu item also comes with a bread plate, a special hot plate, a sorbet to refresh the palette, fresh fruit and dessert.  And of course, they have a wide variety of refreshing drinks including wines from Chile, Europe and the USA, fresh fruit drinks, smoothies and much more.

The first course was a bread plate with a selection of bread for each individual guest.  The bread was served with butter, olive oil with Balsamic vinaigrette, and a small spoonful of chopped black truffles.  Yummy!



The second course served was our salad selection, and I ordered the Shrimp Caesar salad which was fresh and enjoyable with the highlight being a very unique and delicious salad dressing!  The Waldorf Salad and the Salad of Glazed Apples was even better!    

Waldorf Salad



 Glazed Apples & Pecans w/ Maple Balsamic Dressing and Mesculin Leaves

The third course hot plate that we were served was fried goose liver and a small serving of steamed egg with seafood.  As a special, just for us, Chef Lo prepared a second hot plate of special vegetables wrapped in calamari and bacon.  Also shown is another hot plate from Tiffany’s previous  visit which was a spoonful of vegetables and a piece of crab meat with the small serving of steamed egg.


Fried Goose Liver and Steamed Egg Hot Plate Course

......... Another Hot Plate

........and yet another Hot Plate

The fourth course, the Soup, was very special.  I ordered the Truffled Wild Mushroom Bisque but I sampled the Carrot and Ginger Soup as well as the Clam Chowder.  WOW!  All three were great, but the Truffled Wild Mushroom Bisque was simply to die for.  My only disappointment was that I wish I was served a large bowl with second and third helpings!  Sorry, in my haste to taste the soup I wish I had taken pictures of it before it was consummed!


Carrot and Ginger Cream soup

The fifth course was a refreshing lemon sorbet.  It was a little to tart for me, but it truly was perfect to cleanse my palette for the Main course to come.



For the sixth course (Main Course) I ordered the Atlantic Cod Fish since I lived in the Boston area many years and love Atlantic Cod.  The nice size serving came with a delectable scallop and large shrimp on top and tempting vegetable garnishes.  This meal was cooked to perfection, but the sauce (Ahhh Yes the SAUCE) was unique and made an usually bland tasting cod fish come to life with an explosion of flavor and yumminess. All of the other Main courses were equally delicious and cooked to perfection. 

My Atlantic Cod Main Course


The seventh course was the fruits and TATA did not disappoint.  The fruit was fresh and super sweet, unlike many other restaurants that sometimes serve un-ripened/sour fruit.



The eight course, dessert changes regularly and today they served a trio of delights including a small orange color fruit (not sure what it was) next to cheesecake and a small Ice Cream mocha.  Also shown are two other deserts from previous visits.





One of the signature items on Chef Lo’s courses is his marvelous sauces, and a brush stroke of sauce on almost every plate for presentation and taste.

Signature Brush Stroke with Main Course Vegetable Garnish


Each course came on a fast yet comfortable pace.....  and the drinks were served last.


My Kahluha Smoothie


We all agreed that TATA restaurant hit a home run for quality, taste, ambience, and service.  NO….Wait a minute, TATA actually hit a GRAND SLAM HOME RUN, and in my personal opinion, this was one of the top 25 meals I have ever been served around the world.  

I plan to visit TATA Restaurant on my next trip to Taipei, but can only hope that they are so successful that they open a similar restaurant here in California!  

The TATA Restaurant definitely deserves a place on everyone’s BUCKET LIST.

Bon Appetit !

Edward C.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Seattle, Interstate I-5, Westin Hotel, Westin Hotel, Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge, Saltys West Seattle, Pike Place Market, Le Panier (Very French Bakery), Seven Feathers Casino, Casino Chips, Top Ten Places to visit in Oregon, Mount Shasta




Last month, I recently had the opportunity for a business trip to Seattle, Washington.  So, I decided to travel by car, and enjoy the scenic views along the way.  It would also give us a chance to take along our Italian Greyhound dogs since the city of Seattle is a pet friendly city.  According to Yahoo maps, the drive would be about 800 miles and take 12 to 13 hrs. non-stop.  

We researched hotels in Seattle and was pleasantly surprised to find out that large hotels like Westin, Kimpton and others were all pet friendly, and our dogs could stay in our room with us.  The Westin had a great promotion, and because we are Starwood club members, this was a great choice.    We also decided to stop in Portland, Oregon overnight, and we also had lots of hotel choices to pick from so we decided to stay in the Jantzen Beach area at an Oxford Suites Hotel.

Well, we finished our travel plans and a few days before, I changed the oil in our SUV, checked the water, windshield fluid, and tire pressure.  Everything was all set.  The morning of our departure, I got up at 5am, loaded the car, made breakfast and fed our dogs.  I decided to check the car one more time, and to my horrified surprise, I had a flat tire in the garage.  HOW COULD THAT BE????  Well as I said before expect the unexpected when travelling!


So, I pulled out my electric air pump, filled the tire, and we departed.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I hoped the weather would hold for the entire trip so we could enjoy the scenic views along the way. .  

 I stopped at the gas station a few miles away, and the tire was holding the air pressure perfectly.  I decided, I would take it easy, drive slow and check the tire often……and off we drove to Interstate I-5 North bound which would take us directly to Seattle.  


On our Way
Along the way, we saw a huge golden eagle soaring along the fields near I-5.  This was a good omen for the “soaring eagle traveler”!!

Golden Eagle in Flight - Courtesy of Wikipedia


Once we drove passed Sacramento, CA and about 1/3 the way to Chico, CA, the clouds rolled in and it started to rain lightly.  I stopped multiple times and checked the tire pressure, and the front tire was rock solid.  
KoKo & MayMay resting in the back seat being good puppy dogs


By the time we arrived in Chico it was cold, very windy, and a light drizzle.  The dogs did their business but wanted the warmth of the car so after filling the tank with gas, we headed North.  

 

By the time we passed the city of Redding, CA and approached the Shasta National Forest, and Lake Shasta, it began to rain steadily with bursts of heavy rain.  It rained most of the way to our first stop in Portland, OR. 

 Look ...... A touch of blue sky ahead

While we saw a little of Lake Shasta, unfortunately, we did not get much chance to see Mount Shasta, or any other mountain heading North such as Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainer, etc.  When we started approaching the Oregon Boarder and left the Mount Shasta National forest, the rain stopped momentarily at the Weeds Rest Area, and we were able to stop at a rest stop and let our dogs take a walk and chase a large group of sea gulls.






As we passed Medford and Grants Pass, Oregon, we found the small town of Canyonville, OR with a large Indian Reservation Casino along I-5 called Seven Feathers Casino. 




Another good omen…at the front of the casino is a huge statue of a bald eagle that looked to be over 15 feet tall or more.  We decided since their resort was pet friendly we would stop there on the way back to California.

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As a side note, I have a small collection of casino chips from around the world approximately 500 or so chips.  So, I had to visit the Seven Feathers Casino and buy some chips from one of their gaming tables.  I decided I would try to find other casinos like this along my trip since there are many Indian reservations in Northern California, Oregon and Washington.




Some of the Casino chips I collected on my trip
I have casino chips from over 150 different casinos from over 60 cities and 10 countries around the world.  More than 75% I have visited over the many years of my travels, and the rest I have either received from friends with a few I have purchased from other collectors.

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We made it to Portland, Oregon and got a nice rest and some great food.  For those people interested in visiting Oregon, I lived there on two different occasions and there are great things to see and do in Oregon.  



My top things to see in Oregon (Not in any special order):

1.  The Lodge on Mount Hood:  Built in the late 1930s, this National Historic Landmark sits at an elevation of 5,960 and is famous from the movie “The Shining”.  Awesome winter skiing.



Courtesy of wikipedia

2. Sun River Oregon: Majestic views at a great Resort with golf, fishing, canoeing, and much more.

Sun River Resort Courtesy of tripadvisor.com


3.  The Annual Cannon Beach Sand Castle Tournament (Next Contest is June 21, 2014). Many master sandcastle expert teams and over 7,000 visitors in 2012.



Above three photos courtesy of cannon-beach.net

4.  Sand Dune national Park: Rent sand dune buggies or 4 wheelers and explore over 19000 acres of sand dunes.  The park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising about 750 feet (230 m) from the floor of the San Luis Valley on the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, covering about 19,000 acres. Researchers say that the dunes started forming less than 440,000 years ago.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

5.  Salmon, Rainbow Trout and Steelhead Trout Fishing: Fabulous fishing in Oregon’s many rivers including the Willamette, Wilson, Deschutes, and many more.


6. Oregon County Fair: Visit the 45th annual fair in July 2014, with hundreds of world class entertainers and performers, hand craft artisans and gourmet food creators lining up to provide, once again, an experience unequaled in the festival world. This fair is located in 280 wooded acres west of Eugene Oregon.

Courtesy of Oregon County Fair

7.  Hood River windsurfing: world class windsurfing and competitions including Hood River’s annual June “Gorge Windfest” competition.

Courtesy of mileslight.com

8. White Water Rafting in Oregon Rivers: Oregon offers some of the best white-water rafting in the country; the mighty Rogue River is a thrilling ride. Several outfitters offer trips along this frothy, 215-mi river in the southwestern part of the state. Other excellent spots for rafting include the Deschutes River in Bend, and the Clackamas and White Salmon rivers near Portland.


Courtesy of Wikipedia

9. Crater Lake: In summer this 21-square-mi lake is southern Oregon's foremost attraction, and its encircled by a well-maintained 33-mi road. At 1,943 feet (592 m), it is the deepest lake in the United States, and the seventh deepest in the world.

Courtesy of traveldee.com

10.  Columbia River Gorge:  The 75-mi section of the breathtaking Columbia River that extends just east of Portland to The Dalles provides some of the most stunning scenery in the Pacific Northwest.

Courtesy of Wikipedia


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We departed Portland bright and early heading over the Columbia River bridge on I-5 North.

Crossing the Columbia River into Washington State

MayMay is enjoying the ride and the scenery

After sporadic rain and cloudy conditions, we arrived at the Westin Hotel in Seattle. 



We arrived at the Westin Seattle

Taking the elevator with MayMay & KoKo up to our room at the Westin

"Hey KoKo those other two dogs are watching us lay on the bed"

MayMay & KoKo love laying in the sun at the Westin

KoKo says, "MayMay, isn't Seattle beautiful!"

"Yes KoKo Seattle sure is a beautiful city"

Time to play like kids on the soft Westin beds"

"I love this Westin hotel room"

Time to rest on the wonderfully plush Westin beds

"Enjoy your Dinner, MayMay and I will be happy here by ourselves"

That night, we went to dinner with one of our clients and his wife (Rick and Kari) to a simply wonderful restaurant in the Queen Anne district in Seattle.   According to Wikipedia, Queen Anne Hill is a neighborhood and geographic feature in Seattle, Washington, northwest of downtown. The neighborhood sits on the highest named hill in the city, with a maximum elevation of 456 feet (139 m). It covers an area of 7.3 square kilometers (2.8 sq mi), and has a population of about 28,000. Queen Anne is bordered by Belltown to the south, Lake Union to the east, the Lake Washington Ship Canal to the north and Magnolia to the west.
We traveled from the hotel to the restaurant in style…. A black Hummer3 SUV. 


We arrived at our destination, the Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge.

Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge
601 Queen Anne Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109

(206) 432-9069
toulousepetitqa@gmail.com

This cool and trendy neighborhood features many eclectic restaurants, bars, and boutiques, a must stop on your next trip to the Seattle area.  The Toulouse is owned by Brian Hutmacher and also owns the Mexican style restaurant Pesos Kitchen & Lounge which is right next door.   






The ambience of this restaurant is spectacular.  The large windows bring in lots of light and as the sun goes down the hundreds of candles encircling the room and the artistic glass lighting sparkle with magic.



The Toulouse has a phenomenal New Orleans inspired menu.  





Mr. Hutmacher hired executive chef Eric Donnelly who produces the menu that features:

·         Twenty Seven (27)tantalizing  items to choose from on their three course Prix Fixe Menu including items such as:
     o   Cauliflower & white Truffle Soup w/ Dungeness Crab
     o   House made Boar-Garlic Sausage with Tomato-Basil jam
     o   Savory Crawfish Beignets with red Pepper Jelly & a spicy Louis sauce
     o   Cajun Meatloaf with a Smoky Tasso-Black Pepper Demi
·         Eight (8) wonderful Toulouse salads such as:
     o   Marinated Rabbit Salad with Asparagus, Treviso and Pistachios
·         Three (3) soups including:
     o   Crispy Fried Chicken Gumbo soup
·         Five (5) Chilled Seafood Appetizers & Four (4) Charcuterie items including:
     o   Sashimi Tombo Tuna Crudo with wild Arugula and Fennel Salad
     o   Rustic duck and wild Boar Terrine
·         Twelve (12) Seafood Small Plates Including three Oven Roasted Oyster offerings
·         Seven (7) delectable Curiosities including:
     o   Caponatas Bruschetta with Prosciutto San Daniel
·         Five (5) tonight’s Cheese Selections
·         Eleven (11) tempting Pasta, Gnocchi & Risotto entrees such as:
     o   Braised Rabbit with Leeks and Prosciutto over Fresh Pappardelle with Sage
     o   Fennel Braised Pork Shoulder Sugo with Housemade Ricotta Gnocchi and Sage 

·         Fourteen (14) savory Meat and Poultry entrees including 3 USDA Prime Steaks such as:
     o   Grilled Spring Lamb Chops in a Tuscan Marinade with Herb Roasted fingerlings
     o   Slow Roasted Duck Confit with Lentils de Puy, thyme and Bacon Lardons
     o   Lagniappe Rib Eye Steak
·         Nine (9) Specialty Steak Preparations
·         Nine (9) Vegetable and side offerings
·         Seven (7) Seasonal Seafood Preparations
·         Eleven (11) French Quarter Seafood Standards
·         And more……………. I am so hungry just reading their menu!





The Service is great, and the food comes to the table at a very reasonable rate.  All items we were served were cooked to perfection, and we all agreed that we had to come back for more, including our guests Kari and Rick that come here often.

Kari & Rick enjoying the great food!
Our awesome waitress, Angie Wilson did not only a super job at taking care of us, but she was very willing to share some information about the owner and the restaurant.  Thank You Angie!!!


Our super waitress Angie Wilson
I must say that for my worldwide travels over the decades, I have enjoyed well over a thousand different restaurants, and this ranks in the top 50 of my most favorite and delightful dining experiences!

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Well the next night we decided to gather a little larger group of six of us and try another Seattle favorite.  Who could refuse a Steak and Seafood Restaurant right on Elliott Bay at Alki Beach in West Seattle, facing the Seattle skyline at dusk, and enjoy a tremendous meal!  Well our clients suggested Salty’s Restaurant and they hit a home run in my book!  Salty’s is owned by Gerry and Kathryn Hilger Kingen.  In 1969, Gerry purchased Red Robin from the original founder and grew the business as a successful franchise enterprise and then sold a controlling interest in the company.  Red Robin later went public in 2002.
Salty’s, according to their website(http://saltys.com/seattle):

 "One of the World's Great View Restaurants"™ You'll love our sweeping views of Elliott Bay and the Seattle city skyline, like no other restaurant in Seattle. Enjoy award-winning Northwest Seafood & Steak Cuisine and Five-Star Diamond Award friendly service. Voted Best Waterfront Restaurant in Seatte and Best Sunday Brunch in Seattle year after year on Seattle.Citysearch.com.


Front Entrance


From the minute you walk in to this restaurant, you will find the staff friendly and very interested in providing you great service from the time you arrive until to the time you depart this fine establishment.  This is a well trained staff that makes you feel at home. 










The atmosphere is spacious, wide open with 180 degree view of Seattle.  The vibrant decorations throughout makes it a fun and enjoyable place to eat, but the food is simply wonderful.  From our table, the large windows afford us great views of the Seattle skyline at dusk.



The following is just a sampling of what our group had for dinner, and our server did a wonderful job with her attentive service of our needs:



Fried Calamari and Coconut Shrimp for Appetizers
Caesar Salad with baby shrimp
Filet Mignon
Bering Sea King Crab Legs
Grilled King Salmon
Daily Special
And Delicious Deserts!















After dinner, we had the distinct honor of meeting both Chris Darst, Salty’s General Manager, and later before we left, Executive Chef, Jeremy McLachlan at our table.


GM Chris Darst in center (3rd from left)

We all had a delightful meal and a great time, including our partners (from left to right), Susan, Rick, Rich and Rick.



I know on my next trip to the Seattle area or to one of Salty’s other location areas, I will make a point to stop at Salty’s for another fine dining experience.

Bon Appetit!
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As we prepared to leave Seattle, we drove around town to explore some of the sites.  We found Pikes  Place Market.  



According to Wikipedia, “Pike Place Market is a public market overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle, Washington, United States. The Market opened August 17, 1907, and is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers' markets in the United States.”  We walked the market with our dogs, KoKo and MayMay, and enjoyed the sunny day in Seattle.




At the market, we walked the busy aisles filled with people, and then we bought our favorite fruit, Ranier Cherries for our ride back home. 





We also walked around the area to see street artisans and explore the small shops. 




Across the street, they have a great bakery, Le Panier with fantastic baked goodies!









We also stopped by other stores including Seacut (Seattle Cutlery) and of course a Starbucks.  Even KoKo pointed out a small organic cookie shop so I bought peanut butter cookie and we shared it with our dogs.

KoKo wants a cookie.....she love Peanut Butter cookies!





As we headed South on I-5, I decided I would stop along the way at the Indian Casinos near interstate I-5 and collect chips from those casinos.  From Seattle to our home destination, I collected almost 40 chips from more than 15 casinos and poker rooms to add to my collection. And the best part, I actually sat down at 3 different casinos with table games, and won anywhere from $40.00 to $200.00+, including the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, Oregon, where we stayed overnight.

Along the way, we had great views of most of the mountains such as Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainer, Mount Hood and Mount Shasta.  As we traveled I-5 South, the road goes approximately 180 degrees around Mount Shasta.  Our first good views did not show the peak well since there were clouds just near the top.  As we encircled the mountain we had plenty of great views of the peak.

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta
Our Italian Greyhounds were very content traveling with us, sleeping in their beds in the back seat.  Occasionally, they too wanted to see the sites.  Here is MayMay enjoying the view in downtown Seattle.  


We arrived home safely, and we thoroughly enjoyed our trip.  The business portion was successful, and the drive gave us many opportunities to see and enjoy the Pacific Northwest that only a drive along interstate I-5 affords you.  

From the Soaring Eagle Traveler, Safe travels!


Edward C.