Recently a few of my friends held a birthday dinner at Forchetta (叉子餐廳), an "Italian" restaurant in Da-an district of Taipei. Though I have never been to the restaurant, I heard good things about the place from some friends. Hence, I was actually looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately, after the dinner I don't think I will go back again.
The dinner started with a soup that was lukewarm with flavors that were okay. However, the soup contained a small but whole lobster tail. Since I didn't want to be seen chewing off the lobster with my hand, I had to use a knife to cut it up. This must be the first time I ever used a knife to eat a soup. My feeling is the chef didn't want to cut up the lobster, he was afraid his customers wouldn't notice the ingredients that he was using if he did. The soup shows the chef doesn't think about how his customer will eat the food. The soup was also a sign that the chef cared too much about perception and was self-indulgent. It was not a good start.
The second course was a ravioli with a piece of abalone on top, served with a gorgonzola cheese sauce. The pasta was gummy, the abalone was rubbery, and the cheese overpowered everything. There are good reasons why most of the time Italians don't put any cheese on their seafood, and even when they do, it is not with a strong blue cheese. In this case, I just don't understand what the concept was behind the dish.
A sorbet was then served in a Chinese teapot filled with dry ice. It was a bit gimmicky, especially considering the size of the teapot in relation to the portion size of the sorbet. The presentation reminded me of the mango pudding dessert served by Yuji Wakiya at the defunct Wakiya restaurant in New York City.
My main course was a braised wagyu beef cheek, which lacked flavor. Different vegetables were served individually around the perimeter of the plate. One of them was a baby corn served in the husk. It didn't look good and didn't have much taste. The plating of the vegetables suggested the chef was looking for refinement, but didn't succeed. He should have started by serving tomatoes that are peeled.
After the main course, they served us some pasta with Chinese pickled cabbage and chicken. I was told this is the restaurant's signature dish. Having the pasta after the main course was another first for me. It was just weird; if the idea is to serve things in reverse, we might as well had the soup at the end like a Chinese meal. I didn't quite understand the pasta dish either. The pickled cabbage and chicken didn't do much for the pasta itself.
For dessert, my friends brought in cakes from an outside pastry store. The restaurant served the birthday cakes on paper plates with plastic forks. This was unfortunate, as people in Taiwan would say, "no fu." If one brings a wine from the outside, no restaurant would serve it in plastic cups. I just don't get it.
From what I gathered from many blogs, the restaurant has changed quite a bit from its early days. Rather than cooking simple dishes well, now it seems the chef is just trying to be "creative." The ingredients may be organic but the cooking wasn't. It doesn't feel like an evolution from his own career. Instead the dishes are reminiscent of other places, yet with flavor profiles and presentations that don't quite make sense. The dinner was not fusion, but confusion.