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Monday, December 15, 2014

Cooking with Olivier Jean and Reflets de France

"Hello, Michael, this is Olivier. Reflets de France invited me to do a demonstration next month, will you have time to come to the event?" Normally I don't get invited to food-related events. After all, I am not in the business of food and beverage, nor am I a journalist or a real food blogger. However, chef Olivier Jean of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Taipei knows I like to dabble in cooking and kindly called to extend an invitation. I am always keen to learn some new techniques, thus I was happy to make the time to attend the event.

Reflets de France was started in 1997 by Promodès, which later merged with Carrefour. Reflets de France seeks out small producers across France to make local specialties for the brand. Under Carrefour, the brand has steadily grown and has now expanded to Asia. The Carrefour in Taiwan started selling Reflets de France products in September of 2013. Reflets de France is a high-end supermarket brand, rather than a luxury brand. However, what separates Reflets de France from some of the other supermarket brands is Carrefour has enlisted chef Joël Robuchon as a consultant.

While Robuchon is the chef with the most Michelin stars, he also endorses products and acts as a consultant to other brands. For instance, Robuchon has formed a partnership with Veuve Clicquot to promote the champagne. His name can also be found on a beer by Sapporo. Recently Robuchon renewed his consultancy with Air France to design the menus for the first and business class passengers. Of all his endorsements, Reflets de France is probably the most curious one as it is the most value-oriented of Robuchon's endorsements; furthermore, Robuchon doesn't use Reflets de France's products in his restaurants. Yet, Reflets de France is one of Robuchon's longest relationships with a brand, an association that started in 1996.

In his role as a consultant to Reflets de France, Robuchon holds monthly meetings at his kitchen laboratory in Paris with the executives of Carrefour. Together they taste and discuss the quality of the old and the new products. Last November, the French television show Capital on M6 was provided access to one of these meetings. Chef Robuchon was seen with his right-hand man chef Eric Bouchenoire discussing the cheese and the new kouign amann products with Carrefour's director Richard Vavasseur and his staff. The products are scored from a range of 0 to 10 with 6 as a passing grade. Products that don't pass the taste test will be reworked based on the comments provided in the meetings.

Carrefour in Taiwan now carries around 80 Reflets de France products, ranging from juices to jams to duck confit. For this holiday season, Carrefour has asked Robuchon and Jean to create three dishes using Reflets de France products: Foie Gras Terrine with Sweet Potato, Duck Confit with Kabocha, and Caramelized Apple with Crepe. To promote the products of Reflets de France, Carrefour held an event at ATT 4 Fun in the Hsin Yi District of Taipei. When I arrived at the venue I thought I was just going to watch Jean cook the dishes. Instead Jean handed me an apron and said we will be cooking together.

The top floor of ATT 4 Fun is a cooking studio with cooking stations setup along two sides of a long counter. Each station has two induction burners and a small work area. Earlier in the day Jean and the staff at the venue have already set up the equipment and the mise en place for cooking the dishes. Jean stands in the middle of the counter and demonstrates each step along with verbal instructions.

We start first with prepping the kabocha of the main course as it takes some time to cook in the oven. Split the kabocha in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds with a spoon; drizzle with olive oil; season with salt and pepper; wrap in aluminum foil; and bake in a 150 degree Celsius oven for around 45 minutes or until soft to touch.

While we wait for the kabocha to cook, we begin on the preparation of the starter. The first step is to take the foie gras terrine out of the jar: lower the jar into boiling water for a few seconds; stick the knife along one edge of the jar to allow a little air to enter; and finally flip the jar over onto the cutting board to release the foie gras. The second step involves scraping off the fat on the outside of the foie gras; splitting the foie gras in half; and placing the foie back into the refrigerator to harden for around 30 minutes. The third step of shaving the foie is perhaps the most challenging. When Jean demonstrates the technique it looks easy.

While I know the theory – the foie needs to be quite cold and the peeler needs to be dipped in hot water before peeling – it isn't that easy to execute. Even when one manages to successfully shave the foie in one large piece, it isn't easy to shape the foie into an arch-like form. Nevertheless, Jean says that it's fine if the foie breaks. Just try to assemble it back in pieces; the garnishes will cover some of the cracks in the form.

The second component of the starter is the sweet potato, which Jean has already cooked earlier in simmering water for 30 minutes. Jean instructs us to peel off the skin of the sweet potato with a spoon. The sweet potato is then thinly sliced crosswise,  cut into calisson-shape with a cookie cutter, and placed on a plate. Diced shallots, thyme, salt and pepper are added. Everything is covered in cling film with as much of the air squeezed out as possible. The sweet potato is set aside to marinate for two hours at room temperature.

When the sweet potato is ready, the dish is ready to be plated. This is actually the easy part because Jean has already prepared all the other components: thin slices of radishes, toasted baguette, shavings of parmesan, slivers of arugula, and vinaigrette. The three pieces of sweet potato are first transferred to a plate and then topped with foie gras shavings. The garnishes are added, then drizzled over with vinaigrette, and finished with some Reflets de France fleur de sel and espelette pepper. While I know my foie gras shavings and plating techniques are not up to Jean's standard, I am pretty happy with my plate; looks more like a plate at a restaurant rather than my usual home cooked dishes. I like this dish and it is reminiscent of the dish Robuchon serves at his restaurants. The combination of shaved foie gras with parmesan, bread chips, and vegetables is a classic in the Robuchon repertoire.

With the starter plated, we start to work on the main course. The first step is to take the kabocha out of the oven, scoop the flesh out with a spoon and slather it on top of a tamis. The next step is to use a scrapper to push the kabocha through the tamis. This requires a little strength and patience. I suppose one can use a potato ricer or food mill instead, but the result will not be as smooth. Scraping through the tamis is one of the basic tasks at Robuchon's kitchen since it is the technique used to make the famous mashed potato. As I am scraping through the tamis, Jean says the commis at L'Atelier does the same task twice a day everyday and for at least 45 minutes each time. Afterwards, the kabocha purée is transferred to a pot over low heat and combined with some milk. Whisking constantly, butter is gradually added into the mixture to finish.

To prepare the duck confit, we first scrape off the duck fat, which is not used in this recipe but can be saved for other uses. Jean shows us how to take the skin off the duck using the edge of a spoon. We then clean off the fat on the underside of the skin and place the skin on a pan with low heat. The goal is to crisp the skin so it will be like a chip. Jean says it is best to cook the skin on a low heat for a long duration. High heat and overcooked skin will make the taste a bit bitter. I find the cooking of the skin to be the most tricky step in the recipe. It is not easy to achieve a crispy skin. The duck skin I prepare is crisp when I cut it into small pieces. However, by the time I assemble the dish and eat it, the skin has gone a bit soft. I believe part of the reason is the humidity of the room. I probably also should cook the skin a bit more. However, I don't have enough experience to know how to cook the skin to the edge of overcooking but not beyond. The precise control of heat is one thing that separates a home cook from a professional. The rest of the duck confit is deboned and cut into bite size pieces and set aside.

Next, we prepare the vegetables that will be served with the duck. Jean first demonstrates the cutting of the scallion. Here is another case where the home cook differs from the professional. The technique Jean uses with the pulling of the knife after the cut produces a very clean cut. I don't have the knife skill nor the correct motion. Therefore, while my scallion pieces may look okay, they are not as good as Jean's. The same can be said about the dicing of the mushroom, which we did after the scallion. To cook them, a little butter is first added to a gently heated pan. The scallion is tossed in to be soften but not colored. Then the diced mushroom is added to the pan. This method produces a more stew like dish. As a variation, Jean says one can sauté the mushroom first at high heat and then add the scallion, which will give a more roasted flavor. A few coriander seeds are added and toasted to provide some additional flavor. The duck meat is then folded into the mixture follow by some chicken stock to deglaze the pan and moisten the meat. After a few minutes in the pan, the ingredients are ready to be plated.

The ideal dinnerware for the dish is a shallow bowl. First, spoon the duck meat mixture into a bowl and roughly shape into a mound. Second, add the kabocha purée on top to completely cover the meat. Jean instructs us to gently tap the bottom of the bowl to let the puree settle around the meat and spread out on top. The garnishes include a lightly dressed frisse salad and the crispy duck skin. I must say my final result is pretty good. The little touches on the top really elevate the dish not just in terms of taste but appearance as well.

This main course is quite interesting to taste. Normally at L'Atelier the purée is served on the side of the protein. Here the two are mixed together, thus every bite of the dish is a combination of the purée and the duck meat. The occasional bite of the corriander seeds do add a nice elegant flavor profile. I only wish the duck skin is a bit more crisp to provide more contrasting textures.

The last dish of the day is dessert: caramelized apple wrapped in crepe. The first thing to do is peel and dice the apple. Second, we use our hands to crumble the cookies into large and small pieces. We sandwich the crepe in between two plates and place them over a bain-marie to soften and warm the crepe. I believe one can do this with the microwave as well, but Jean says the bain-marie method provides more control. In the mean time, we add some confiture du lait to the pan to heat and caramelize it. Apples are then added to the pan to cook. Once the apple is a bit soft and caramelized we pour in some Kinmen rice wine. One can almost immediately smell the fruit flavors of the alcohol. Jean says the more adventurous cook can also flambe the alcohol to make the dish even better. While there is still some liquid in the pan, we add some of the cookie crumbles and cook them with the apple mixture.

To plate the dish, we first lay the crepe flat with the lighter side up, spoon the apple mixture onto the middle, and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. I brush the edge of the crepe with some more jam, which helps the crepe to stick together as I fold up the sides of the crepe like a soup dumpling. Afterwards the crepe is transfer to a plate and topped with a little more whipped cream. A little cookie crumble is added to the side to anchor the ice cream. I spoon the ice cream as best I can as a quenelle and pretend to be like a professional, by rubbing the bottom of the spoon to release the ice cream onto the crumble. The result of the dish is quite nice. With more practice I am sure I can fold the crepe into a prettier shape. This is a nice and fast dessert to make. The products of Reflets de France allow one to save some time since one doesn't have to make the caramel and crepe from scratch. I can also imagine using other fruits such as pear or pinapple, in lieu of apple.

After the dishes are made we all sit down at a table to taste our own creations. As I taste the dishes I cannot help but be critical of my own work. I suppose this is just part of my training as an architect. Every time I visit my own buildings I just see the faults and think about ways to improve. For the dishes, I start to wonder whether I should have made the shallot brunoise finer for the starter, crisp the duck skin more for the main course, and cook the apples longer for the dessert. To be fair to myself, I probably shouldn't judge my dishes based on the criteria that I judge a restaurant. However, since the dishes turn out to look like restaurant dishes, one starts to be a bit more ambitious. Cooking is very much about technique and refinement. All the little techniques that Jean uses to make the dish, even with the simple tasks such as peeling the skin off of a sweet potato, all contribute to the refinement of the dishes. While a home cook may not need to be so self-demanding, it is important to have a high standard to strive towards.

I am very glad that Carrefour invited me to the event. It is a privilege to cook along with Jean. I benefit a great deal from simply watching Jean work. Besides learning from Jean, I am also able to try the recipes that he designed. After the session I can say the recipes by Robuchon and Jean are not difficult to execute, and they are ideally suited for a nice family dinner or even a large dinner party. I can easily imagine doing the recipes for a party for 8 guests. The use of Reflets de France products make the dishes look more complex than they really are. While each dish contains several components, most of them can be done hours before the meal. The dessert can even be done à la minute after the main course is finished. Jean is very keen to allow the cook to not be stressed at the dinner party and to spend some time with the guests or family instead of being tied up in the kitchen. Now I just need to invite my friends and family over for dinner. Perhaps I won't tell them upfront that I am using the products from Reflets de France. Maybe they will think I work very hard and appreciate my cooking more.

"Hello, Arthur, this is Michael, do you have time next month to come over for dinner? I am going to make a foie gras terrine, duck confit, and apple with crepe."

“你好,Michael,我是Olivier。下個月Reflets de France禾法頌邀請我示範幾道菜,你有空來參加嗎?” 食品相關的活動通常不會邀請我參加,畢竟,我不在餐飲業,也不是一名記者或是美食部落格作者。然而,台北侯布雄餐廳的主廚Olivier Jean知道我喜歡涉足烹飪,所以來電邀請我。我當然很高興挪出時間來參加這個活動,因為我總是熱衷於學習一些新的烹飪技巧。

 Reflets de France由Promodès於1997年成立,後來併入家樂福集團。Reflets de France在法國各地尋找小型製造者來為它做當地有特色的產品。這個品牌在家樂福管理之下一直穩定的成長,並且已經擴展到亞洲。家樂福去年九月在台灣開始賣Reflets de France的產品。Reflets de France並不是一個奢侈品,而是一個高端的超市品牌,但是Reflets de France與其他超市品牌不同的是,家樂福聘請了Joël Robuchon擔任顧問。 

雖然Robuchon是世界上擁有最多米其林星星的廚師,他也有幫產品代言和當品牌的顧問。例如,Robuchon目前與Veuve Clicquot合作推廣香檳。Sapporo 也有一瓶以 Robuchon為名的啤酒。最近Robuchon與法國航空公司續約,為頭等和商務艙的乘客設計菜單。在Robuchon所有代言的商品之中Reflets de France可能是最特別的,因為Reflets de France是一個平價商品,此外,Robuchon的餐廳並不使用Reflets de France的產品。然而,Reflets de France卻是Robuchon合作最久的品牌之一,源起自1996年。 

作為Reflets de France的顧問,Robuchon每個月在他巴黎的主廚實驗室與家樂福的主管舉行會議,他們一起品嚐舊的和新的產品,討論它們的品質。今年11月,法國M6電視台Capital節目跟隨了Robuchon拍攝了一個會議的過程。節目中Robuchon與他的左右手Eric Bouchenoire廚師和家樂福主管Richard Vavasseur代領的團隊試吃了乳酪和兩種布列塔尼蛋糕。會議中所有的產品都會獲得0到10之間的分數,6分以上為及格。不及格的產品將基於會議中提出的意見進行改良。

目前家樂福在台灣,有販賣大約八十個Reflets de France的產品,包括果汁,果醬,油封鴨腿。因為聖誕假期的來臨,家樂福特別請Robuchon和Jean使用Reflets de France的產品打造三道新菜: 精選鴨肝凍綴甜薯,香料南瓜泥與油封鴨肉,焦糖蘋果可麗餅。為了促銷Reflets de France的產品,家樂福在台北信義區的ATT 4 Fun舉辦了一場活動。一開始我以為我只是去看Jean煮菜,沒想到當我到達會場時,Jean遞給我一件圍裙說我們會一起烹調三道菜。 

ATT 4 Fun的頂樓是一個烹飪工作室,場內有一個長檯,兩側均是料理台,每個工作站有兩個感應爐。Jean和工作人員當天早上已經幫我們把工具與食材準備好了。Jean站在櫃檯的中間,一邊示範一邊解說每個步驟。


當南瓜在烤時,我們就開始準備前菜。第一步就是要把鴨肝凍從罐子拿出來:將瓶子放入沸水中煮幾秒鐘然後取出;用一把小刀插入瓶子邊緣,讓少量空氣進入瓶中;最後把瓶子翻轉過來讓鴨肝凍釋放出來。第二步是將鴨肝凍外的油脂刮掉;切成兩半;把鴨肝凍放回冰箱大約30分鐘使其硬化。第三歩是要用削皮刀將鴨肝凍刮成片,也是這道菜最有挑戰性的步驟。看Jean示範這個技巧好像很容易。雖然我知道此技巧的理論 – 鴨肝凍需要是冰冷的,然後削皮刀在切割前需要浸在熱水中 – 實際操作這個動作並不容易。即使可以成功削下一片完整的鴨肝凍,也不容易將鴨肝凍塑造成拱型。然而,Jean說,就算鴨肝凍在削的過程破裂也沒有關係,祗要盡量嘗試著把鴨肝片重組回去;另外,其它的配菜也將會把一些不好看的裂縫隱藏起來。


當地瓜準備好了,就可以開始擺盤了。實際上這倒是比較容易的部分,因為Jean早已準備好所有其他的配料:櫻桃蘿蔔薄片,法國麵包,帕馬森乾酪,芝麻葉,和沙拉油醋醬。首先將三塊地瓜放在盤子中間,上方曡上鴨肝凍片,再用配菜裝飾,之後澆上油醋醬,並灑上一些Reflets de France的鹽之花和espelette辣椒。雖然我知道我的鴨肝凍片和擺盤的技術達不到Jean的標準,我還是對我的成品蠻滿意的;看似一盤在餐館的菜餚,而不是我平日做的家常菜。我很喜歡這道前菜,它很像Robuchon餐廳的一道前菜。鴨肝片,帕馬森乾酪,麵包片,和蔬菜是一個Robuchon的經典組合。







裝盤的第一步是將加熱好的可麗餅放在盤中,淡色的面朝上,然後把混合好的蘋果和餅乾放在餅中央,淋上半湯匙的鮮奶油。之後用焦糖牛奶醬塗在可麗餅的週邊,這有助於餅粘在一起,折曡的方式如同做小籠包一般,可麗餅粘好之後再淋上少許鮮奶油。另外將一些餅乾小碎片放在盤子的一角以固定冰淇淋。我用勺子挖冰淇淋,盡我所能將其型成一個quenelle,學著專業的廚師,用手撑摩擦勺子的底部來釋放冰淇淋至盤中。我這道甜點的成果還不錯,若是有機會多練習幾次,我相信可以把可麗餅折的更漂亮。製作這道甜點很快。使用Reflets de France的產品可以更省一些時間,不必自己做焦糖和可麗餅。另外我想應該也可以使用其他比較結實的水果,如梨或鳳梨,來代替蘋果。

菜完成之後我們一起坐到一張長桌品嚐自己的作品。邊吃著我不禁要批評我自己。我想這是我做為一個建築師的本性。當我每次近入我自己設計的建築物,我都只看到一般人看不到的各種問題,並一直想如何可以改進。對於眼前的三道菜,我開始懷疑是否應該將前菜的蔥切的更細,將主菜的鴨皮煎的更脆,將甜點的蘋果煮的更久。不過我也應該對我自己公平一些,我不應該用批評餐廳的標準來評判自己做的菜。  但是當我的作品開始像似餐廳的菜餚,我的野心也變大了。烹飪的重點在於技巧和追求完美。所有Jean使用的技巧,即使是很簡單或是基本的工作,像是剝地瓜皮,都有助於菜餚最後完成的精細度。雖然一般家中的料理並不需要達到米其林餐廳的水準,不過內心有一個目標或是知道一個標準還是有其必要性。

我很高興家樂福邀請我參加這場活動。有機會與Jean一同烹飪是我的榮幸,單純看著Jean工作,我已經學到很多技巧。此外,能夠當場嘗試著做,得到Jean的指點,更使我受益匪淺。活動結束後,我可以說 Robuchon和Jean的食譜並不難執行,而且非常適合一個周末的家庭晚餐,甚至一個大的晚宴。使用Reflets de France的產品可以讓簡單的菜餚看似複雜。Jean非常了解在一個家庭晚宴,主人不應該整個晚上都困在廚房中,重要的還是要能夠與家人或是朋友共同用餐。因此,雖然每道菜中含有許多個原料,大部分其實都可以在餐前幾小時先完成。甜點甚至可以在主菜吃完後再開始做。所以現在我應該邀請我的朋友到我家來。我想我先不告訴他們我會用Reflets de France的產品。他們或許會認為我工作的很辛苦和費時,因而更欣賞我做的菜。

“嗨,Arthur,我是Michael ,你下個月有空來我家吃晚飯嗎?我會準備精選鴨肝凍綴甜薯,香料南瓜泥與油封鴨肉,和焦糖蘋果可麗餅”。

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bencotto Poco Cotto

Since Mandarin Oriental Hotel opened in Taipei in May of this year, the press has referred to the hotel as a 6-star establishment. I have little ideas regarding the differences between a 5-star, 6-star or 7-star hotel, and I don't really pay much heed; I am sure the hotel is wonderful. What I do care about is the number of stars in the restaurants of the hotel, especially in the town that I live in; after all I'm not going to stay at the hotel. In my mind, the hotels in the Mandarin Oriental group are not really famous for their restaurants. Mandarin Oriental doesn't have a single three-Michelin-star restaurant in any of its branches in the world. Most of the restaurants in Mandarin Oriental hotels, with the exceptions of Hong Kong, London, and Paris, are not terribly interesting. Even in Hong Kong, the Chinese restaurants in Mandarin's hotels have a total of one Michelin star. In New York, where I used to live, Mandarin Oriental is certainly not the fine dining destination. The same can be said for the Mandarin in San Francisco, the other food capital of the U.S. Given Mandarin Oriental's track record with restaurants, I wasn't as enthusiastic about the new restaurant openings in Taipei as some of my friends were.

The early days of any restaurant are usually not the best time to go. The staff at the restaurant simply needs the time to be in sync. Hence it is not a surprise to hear about disappointments from people who visited Bencotto, the Italian Restaurant at Mandarin Oriental Taipei, in the first couple of months. A friend of mine in the restaurant industry said I should give the chef several months to settle in before I go. Therefore, after more than five months since the opening, I finally made a reservation and dined at Bencotto.

Bencotto is located on the sixth floor of Mandarin Oriental Taipei. If one has never been to the restaurant before, it is not an easy place to get to from the street; the circulation of the hotel is maze-like and the way to the restaurant is not self-evident. In fact, there are actually two entrances to the restaurant but unfortunately they are located on opposite sides; this is the restaurant's biggest design flaw. Multiple entrances are never a good thing for a restaurant because there is only enough staff for one hostess station. Generally a designer will deal with this situation by connecting the secondary entrance to the primary entrance with a dedicated corridor; forcing the guests to enter the restaurant from the primary entrance where the hostess is. An example would be the entrances at the Bar Room at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Multiple entrances also happen at shopping mall as a restaurant can be entered both from the street and inside the mall. Without a corridor, there is very little control over the movement of the guests as they can simply wander into the dining area. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens at Bencotto. The New York-based Tony Chi who is responsible for the design of the restaurant tries to resolve this by the placement of furniture and a differentiation in floor paving materials. However, he does not succeed. He may not have created the problem, but he does not solve it.

If by chance one entered at the primary entrance of Bencotto, one will find the elevators open directly into the space of the restaurant, almost like a New York loft. This is not an ideal situation since there isn't a transitional space. In fact there is very little space between the elevator doors and the hostess table. The hostess table is a normal dining table height, which is a bit awkward for the standing customers being greeted by the sitting hostess. What I also find to be strange is the diners in the front room of the restaurant all have direct views of the two elevator doors, which are nice but frankly not that attractive.

If one enters from the back entrance, which actually has a set of doors, one will not be greeted by a hostess. Instead one will simply be inside the back dining room. The design of the back room is slightly different from the front room as there aren't any hanging light fixtures; the ceiling is white with down lights instead of grey. Connected to one side of the back dining room is a semi-enclosed room designated for wine tasting and storage. This room is very beautiful but it doesn't seem to get used much. On the other side of the back dining room is the sofa/lounge area - the strangest space in the restaurant. This space, besides the kitchen is, farthest in from the two entrances. Not only is the space somewhat unrelated to food and beverage, there is even a large flat screen TV on the wall. The setting feels more like an airport lounge than a restaurant. In the times when I was at the restaurant, the TV is always on with some sports program with no one sitting in front watching. In fact, the TV is a bit of distraction for some of the diners in this room.

Putting aside the aforementioned problems, some of which may or may not be the fault of the designer, Chi has created a good ambiance for the restaurant. I like the lighting, the choice of materials, as well as the Tuscan color palette. The various glass vitrines that hold wine glasses are elegant. The tables are not big but are placed enough apart. The kitchen is semi-open and the big light fixtures above the work stations make the kitchen feel inviting, more of a residential feel than a normal professional kitchen. With the use of patterned glass screens, Chi is able to achieve a nice balance of openness and room-like spaces.

The food at Bencotto is described by its website as "Home-cooked Italian Cuisine". I always find the idea of "home-cooked" in a restaurant to be a misnomer. If I want home-cooked, I would have just stayed home and cooked. For me, the point of going to a restaurant is to eat things that are hard to do at home. Perhaps Italian home cooking can be given the benefit of the doubt. After all this is a country where mamma and nonna's cooking reign supreme. I don't think there is another country where you will find the mother of a three-Michelin-star chef, Massimo Bottura, claiming, "Massimo’s cooking is fantastic, but I cook better." At Bencotto, the chef in charge is not an Italian mother, but Mario Cittadini, who used to be a chef and co-owner of Il Postale in Italy. Prior to coming to Taipei, he was the chef at an Italian restaurant of Regent Hotel in Beijing for five years. Cittadini's resume doesn't strike me as a "home-cooked" kind of chef. However, he does have an Italian women, Luisa Franceschetti, as sous chef to help him run the kitchen.

Based on two meals at Bencotto, lunch and dinner on two weekdays, the food is good but there is clearly lots of room for improvements. How the restaurant is judged partly has to do with our expectations. If we treat Bencotto as a neighborhood osteria, then we should be happy. But, Cittadini is referred by Mandarin Oriental and the press as a Michelin-starred chef; his previous restaurant Il Postale has a Michelin star. If we view Bencotto through the lens of Michelin and other Michelin-starred places, I would say the restaurant is clearly wanting.

The first meal I had was for dinner, where I ordered the set menu of 4 courses priced at NT$1,800. The restaurant does not serve any amuse bouche. Only bread is offered of which there are three kinds: sourdough, focaccia, and ciabatta. The quality of the bread is fine except, by dinner time, the bread seems a bit stale. In a subsequent lunch the breads seemed slightly better. The bread is served only with olive oil, which is slightly peppery and quite nice.

There are three choices for appetizer and I went with the Hokkaido scallop with cauliflowers. The dish consists of just one scallop with cauliflowers of different textures. The scallop was well cooked with a nice caramelized surface. The combination of scallop with cauliflower is a classic one and I enjoyed the flavors. I wish the dish was seasoned a bit more. The other problem with the dish is the cauliflower chips. I assume the chef wanted to provide some crunch in the texture but the chips were not crisp at all and didn't contribute much to the dish. I can only suspect that the chips were made early in the day and were simply not kept well.

For the second course I picked Spaghetti Carbonara because I read that Cittadini's old restaurant Il Postale is famous for its carbonara. Usually I don't like to order carbonara at a restaurant because it is a dish that I make fairly often. There are only a few components thus it is a nice dish to make at home and it is a plus that my kids like the pasta. Cittadini makes the dish a bit fancy by putting the egg sauce in an egg shell and pouring it table side. I like the flavor and the pasta was cooked well. The only downside was the dish wasn't hot enough by the time it got to my table.

For the main course, I selected roasted pork neck. As with the other dish, the protein was cooked well and the sauce was nice and clean. Again, as with the appetizer, I feel the dish was slightly under seasoned. By this point, I asked the server to provide some salt. The problem was again with the garnish, which was simply gummy; probably made early in the day and wasn't kept well.

For the dessert, one can choose any item from the regular menu and I went with one of my favorites: rum baba. One problem with the dessert is the menu said roasted pineapple but the pineapple on the plate was fresh and only has the surface caramelized. When I emailed the restaurant the next day about the discrepancy, I was told the pineapple has been served fresh for some time and they simply did not update the menu. I would have preferred some roasted pineapple, especially since the fresh fruit was not sweet. I can only surmise the chef wants the acidity of the fresh pineapple to balance the sweetness of the baba. I also wish the baba was soaked with more rum; there was hardly any.

Despite the problems encountered at dinner, I went back for lunch shortly after. Instead of ordering from the set menu, which is cheaper than at dinner but with less interesting choices, I decided to go à la carte. I started with a slow-cooked and char grilled octopus served with potato and dusted with bottarga. This was a very good dish and my sole complaint is again that it was a bit under seasoned.

My second dish was a tortellini with hen consomme. I am not sure why the chef decided to serve the tortellini with a deep bowl as opposed to a shallow bowl like the ones I had in Bologna; I prefer to see all the tortellini at once. Nevertheless, the soup was very fragrant when poured table side. Similar to the other dishes I had to add some salt myself.

Besides the seasoning, the biggest flaw of the dish is the lack of uniformity in the tortellini. The smallest ones are almost half the size of the largest ones. One cannot help but wonder what happened to the quality control of the kitchen. One assumes that the tortellini were made in the morning before the service. Someone should have rejected the ill-formed tortellini instead of serving them to the customers. You would think uniformity is very important not only for the sake of appearance but also for cooking time.

For the most part, the prices for the food at Bencotto are not unreasonable. The portions are standard but not generous. The prices may be a little higher than I would have liked, but for the most part they are acceptable. The same cannot be said for the beverages at Bencotto.

I'm not remotely an expert on wine, yet I find the wine list to be of very little interest. There doesn't seem to be much thought placed on the construction of the list. The list is short and has a little bit of everything - as if the restaurant went to every wine importer in Taiwan and bought a few bottles. The prices of the wine is a bit crazy, with many bottles costing four times the retail price in the U.S. I understand the need for markup, a restaurant needs to pay for storage, glassware, and a sommelier. However, whatever happened to the usual 2.5 or 3 times the wholesale price? I understand that given the import tax, the prices of wine in Taiwan is higher. Nevertheless, one expects Mandarin Oriental to have big bargaining power with the local dealers. To add insult to injury, some of the expensive wines are too young to drink. I feel the restaurant basically bought recent vintages from the stores to fill the cellar. Bencotto is too eager to make money from drinks. Perhaps the restaurant thinks tourists or expense account business people tend to be price inelastic. Or maybe the restaurant simply wants to encourage people to bring their own wine with the NT$1,000 corkage fee.

Given the high prices for wine, you would think there would be some great service from a sommelier. Instead, I ate at the restaurant twice and did not meet the sommelier. My server simply gave me the wine list and offered no help. I ended up ordering the wine by the glass on the menu, which is actually priced more reasonably than the bottles. When the server brought over the wine for me to inspect, I told him it was the wrong vintage. He was incredulous, as if he couldn't believe a customer would question him. I repeated my claim and he reluctantly went back to check the menu. Five minutes later, he came back to apologize. They ran out of the 2010 vintage and the menu has not been updated. I should have wagered him some money. To the restaurant's credit, they didn't charge me for the wine.

The cost of an after dinner drink such as an espresso is also a bit too high in relation to the food. An espresso at Bencotto is NT$200. In some 3-star restaurants, that may be acceptable. But at Bencotto this is half the price of the chicken appetizer. The restaurant also does not offer regular (free) water. One has to order bottled water, which costs around NT$250. While the three-course set menu at lunch is $980, an order of water in the beginning and an espresso at the end will balloon the cost to $1,430.

Bencotto is a restaurant that I really want to like. The menu consists of many Italian classics that I love. Furthermore, unlike other Italian restaurants in Taipei, there are many large format dishes meant to be shared. The restaurant also seems to be children friendly and well suited for family gatherings. The biggest flaw with Bencotto is a sense of casualness about how things are done. For instance, there are three risottos listed on the menu but only one said the rice is by Acquerello. When I asked the manager about the rice used on the other two risotto, the response was all three risotto use the same aged Acquerello rice; and he doesn't know why only one of them lists the source. When I asked about the origin of the culatello, the server just said, "Italy". For a culatello that the restaurant charges NT$1,600 per 100g or around US$250 per pound, you would think the server can be a bit more specific. Some of the items on the menu, such as the previously mentioned wine and pineapple are no longer valid. Yet, the restaurant doesn't update the menu. I am hard pressed to think a so called six-star hotel cannot pay for the printing of a new set of menus. Many of the problems I have with the food are with components that are made prior to the service. In other words, the mistakes were not made during the mad rush of the dining hours. Someone in the chain of command should have checked the quality of the preparation. There is really no excuse for serving the customers an inferior product such as the mushy chips or sub-standard tortellini. Do the staff at Bencotto think the customers will not notice?

One cannot help but wonder if Bencotto is simply a place for tourists and the guests of Mandarin Oriental Hotel. I suppose a business traveler with an expense account would probably be content with the food at Bencotto after a long flight or long day of work. However, for a local diner, I have higher expectations. I need to see more care put into the operation of Bencotto. The restaurant has potential. I don't necessarily expect or need a Michelin-star quality restaurant, but Bencotto needs to raise its standard for me to become a regular customer.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Form Follows Function Follows Form

The famous designer Marc Newson has been in the news lately due to his employment at Apple. Looking at the Apple Watch on the Internet, I am sure Newson provided significant input on the design. I always love Newson's design, whether it is a car, shelf, or hourglass. I just cannot afford to buy most of them, not even his new book published by Taschen. I own just two objects designed by Newson: Dish Doctor Dish Rack and Alessi Sygma Hook. I see both objects on a daily basis as the dish rack is on my kitchen counter at home and the hook is on the wall of my office. Of the two objects, the hook is the perhaps the more intriguing one.

The Sygma Hook was produced in 1999 by Alessi; sadly the production of the object has been discontinued. The shape is wheel-like with a central spoke, which is attached to the wall with a couple of screws. The shape is utterly functional yet unlike a normal coat hook, the purpose of the Sygma Hook is not as readily obvious from the design. Visitors to my office have wondered out loud about the function of the Sygma Hook.

I have always been fond of the modernist idea of "form follows function", however I don't always subscribe to the idea. This powerful principle has been challenged and debated for a long time. Many aphorisms have sprung up in relation to the principle. One can think of "form follows emotion", "form follows form", or "function follows form". The Sygma Hook is interesting to me because it is an example of both "form follows function" and "function follows form".

The form of Sygma Hook holds certain fascination for Newson because he has used it for several other projects in the past 15 years. In 1999 when Newson designed the concept car 021C for Ford, he use the same form for the steering wheel.

In 2013 Newson employed the form again for the Orotund Light Fixture produced by Flos.

The idea that a form can be derived from function yet different functions can also be assigned to the same form is very appealing. I also like the fact that Newson is not hesitant to repeat the design for multiple projects with different scales and contexts. In an age where the public and the press seem to constantly seek out the new, it is nice to see that one doesn't always have to reinvent the wheel.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Felice Anniversario Angelo Aglianò Restaurant

This month marks the one year anniversary of the opening of Angelo Restaurant. I first wrote about the restaurant a month after the opening and called it the best Italian restaurant in Taiwan; frankly, that was an easy call. I have since gone back to the restaurant regularly. It is no secret amongst my friends that I only like to go to two western restaurants in Taipei and Angelo is one of them.

A year has gone by quickly and the restaurant has matured. The chef owner Angelo Aglianò once mentioned to me that his mentor Joël Robuchon told him, a restaurant is like a baby and will require time to grow, to stand up, and to walk. The irony with any restaurant is when it opens there is usually the most press coverage and the greatest anticipation from the public. Yet, the early days of the restaurant is probably the worst time for the customers to go because the staff is still learning to work together. Therefore, in the early months of Angelo Restaurant Aglianò held back the volume of the business to ensure the quality and at the same time made small improvements.

So what sort of adjustments has Angelo Restaurant made in the past year? For starter, to avoid confusion with other Italian restaurants with Angelo in their names, Aglianò added his last name to the marquee of the restaurant. Since Chinese New Year, the awning on the exterior of the restaurant has changed accordingly. The light box outside the entrance now has the menu displayed like a restaurant in Italy. Inside the restaurant, Aglianò has tweaked the decoration by placing ceramic fruits (mostly pears and apples) of different sizes and colors on the shelves above and in front of the counter; I particularly like the golden apple. The paintings on the walls change every few months, providing different visual interests for the customers of the restaurant.

Aglianò has also added more staff in the restaurant both in the kitchen and the front of house. Since the opening of the restaurant the kitchen is led by chef de cuisine Kedy Chou, who has worked with Aglianò since their days at Robuchon Taipei. Chou can often been seen working on the left side of the open kitchen, cooking meat or fish, enforcing the standard, and mentoring the junior cooks. He also contributes to the creation of the new dishes. The front of house is managed by Joanne Wang, another veteran from Robuchon Taipei. Wang has been at the restaurant since the beginning as well and has assembled a young team of servers. The service is attentive but relaxed.

Over the course of a year, Aglianò has changed the menu a few times. While one or two dishes from each course, such as the risotto Milanese and Tiramisu remain, the bulk of the menu changes with the seasons.

A meal at Angelo always starts with some house made bread. The quality is superb with good structure and crust; only a couple of restaurants in Taipei can match it. Instead of the two types of bread (mini-baguette and ciabatta) served in the first months of the restaurants, now there are three, with focaccia added to the bread basket. The breads are served warm with butter and olive oil/vinegar. This is followed by an amuse bouche, which is generally some form of puree, whether with chickpeas, tomato, or bacalao, served in a small soup bowl with crispy chips providing contrasting textures.

When I am at Angelo, most of the time I like to have a four-course meal. For the starter, a good choice is always the assortment of Italian antipasti, which are displayed in a glass case near the pass of the kitchen. Usually I simply ask the chef to choose for me as all the items are excellent. Besides the cold antipasti, I often like to start with some seafood dishes on the menu. Whether the dish is with langoustine, hamachi, or crab, they are always well seasoned and balanced in their flavors. The presentation is often done with the main ingredient formed as a circular plane at the bottom and dotted with different ingredients and condiments on top; visually the dishes are very beautiful.

While I love expensive ingredients, the mark of a good chef is the ability to take cheaper ingredients and make a delicious dish out of them. Hence, one of my favorites is the octopus terrine. The octopus is first cooked in liquid and formed into a log. The natural gelatin in the octopus allows it to bind together like a terrine. At service time, the octopus is sliced thinly and served with vegetables and herbs.

I find the starters to exemplify the basic characteristics of Aglianò's food: light but flavorful. In Taipei, people are always looking to eat "light" but often times, the restaurants and customers confuse light with bland. Aglianò shows that light can be delicious or as the Chinese would say, 鲜 (xian).

For the primi, I like to order a risotto, because Aglianò's risotto remains to be the gold standard. The classic risotto Milanese has remained on the menu ever since the opening and it is still fantastic.  My ten-year old daughter loves it and orders it every time she goes. I think she will be disappointed if Aglianò ever decides to take if off the menu. Besides the Milanese, there seems to be an infinite amount of variations that Aglianò can do with the risotto. One of the most memorable risotto that Aglianò made for me was the red wine risotto with berries and topped with seared foie gras. This deserves the phrase, "to die for".

What is remarkable about Aglianò's risotto is the consistency in quality. Many so-called Italian restaurants in Taipei serve risotto but the reality is those are not really risotto. Cooks in these restaurants ought to be a stagiaire at Angelo for a few months and learn how to cook a proper risotto. At Angelo they would learn that the risotto needs to start with a good rice, with the preferred choice being the one-year aged rice from Acquarello; they would learn how to make a stock; then they would learn how to par-cook the rice before service; learn how to keep the temperature of the stock and the rice constant when cooking the rice; and finally learn the process of mantecare and to have the right amount of liquid with the rice.

Besides the risotto, the house made pasta are also wonderful. I particularly love some of the Sicilian style ones with seafood and topped with breadcrumbs.

In October and November it is worth a special journey to go to Angelo for some pasta with shaved white truffle. There's nothing quite like the white truffle from Alba as they are simply intoxicating.

Another memorable primi that I thoroughly enjoyed in the past year was the fregola sarda with lobster: simply divine.

For the secondo, I am always happy to order a fish, which is usually sourced locally. Aglianò has a light touch with fish. The technique can be poaching, grilling, or sautéing, the dish is always light and the flavors are very clean. The vegetables that accompany the fish both compliment and provide a balance in terms of flavor.

Several months ago, Aglianò added a rotisserie, which is situated front and center inside the open kitchen. Customers sitting at the bar now often has a clear view of the daily roast.  Recently, Aglianò has been roasting pork which he procures from Ilan county. The meat is delicious and for a Chinese reminds me of the Cantonese char siu. The pork is served with some mashed potato. The mashed potato reminds me of the one served at Robuchon except some of the butter is replaced with olive oil and also a touch of pepper.

In terms of meat, I also enjoyed the lamb, which was cooked perfectly.

The dolce is supervised by the pastry chef Joshua Wang. Working with Aglianò, he reinterprets many of the Italian classic desserts, such as the cannoli, and panna cotta.

Recently, Aglianò is serving his take on a Sicilian breakfast dish: almond granita and brioche. The contrasting textures and temperature make this a delightful dessert.

While the Italian desserts don't necessarily have the wow factor or delicateness like their French counterparts, they are a very nice and light way to finish the meal. I am curious to see what Aglianò has planned for the next season. I would like to put a vote in for some sort of zabaione or bombolone.

Most of the time when I am at Angelo Restaurant I like to sit at the bar. Angelo has three private rooms which gets used quite a bit. Unlike most Taiwanese, I actually prefer to be in the dining room rather than the private rooms. I like seeing what other people are ordering and what they are wearing. Nevertheless I have eaten in two of the smaller private rooms. I like the medium size room which has windows to the street. The space of the room has a comfortable feel with a generous size. I don't really like the small private room, which I find to be a bit too small. Another problem with the small room is the acoustics. The room consists of only hard surfaces which do not absorb the sound well. Actually my wish for the private rooms is that one day they can have large format meals, similar to some of the restaurants in New York City, such as the Breslin or Momofuku Ssam Bar. Instead of simply having the same menu as the rest of the dining room, one can reserve in advance with a party of 8 persons or more and be served large format food such as the whole pork shoulder, whole roasted suckling pig, or whole roasted duck.

Unlike the opening months, Angelo Restaurant now has a wine list. Kenny Lee, the affable sommelier will happily help to select a wine. The corkage fee at Angelo is low, however, I still like to order wine at the restaurant for three reasons. First, similar to the fact that I don't bring a jamon to the restaurant for Aglianò to slice it for me, I don't bring a wine to restaurant. Second, I prefer to drink and learn about wines that I am less familiar with. Therefore, most of the times, I don't even ask for the wine list. I simply have a quick discussion with Lee about the day's mood and food and let him pick a wine for me. This is similar to if I go to someone's house for dinner I am not going to go to his or her celler to pick a wine. The host will choose wine that he or she wants me to drink. Third, beverage is an important source of revenue for any restaurant. If we want to see good restaurants thrive, we should support them and let them make the necessary profit. The mark-up on wine at Angelo is not high, therefore at dinner I am always inclined to have glass or order a bottle. Like an Italian I also enjoy having an after dinner drink such as the limoncello.

Aglianò said to me that even though the restaurant has the color of the Italian flag he isn't necessarily cooking Italian food per se. I am reminded of the story that Jacque Pépin, the great French chef in America, told about his mother. In Pépin's autobiography he said his mother scolds him whenever he visits her because while she loves his cooking it is no longer French. Pépin agrees with his mother that his cooking is not purely French or purely anything. In the same vein Aglianò's cooking is not purely Italian nor purely anything. It is simply his cuisine which is a reflection of his training, travels, and life experiences.

Aglianò likes to incorporate local ingredients in his cooking and I applaud him for it. In doing so Aglianò's food sometimes feel like it is a cross between Taiwan and Italy. We live in an increasingly globalized world where restaurants can easily be detached from their locations. Ingredients can now be sourced from anywhere in the world. Ingredients can also be detached from the seasons. For instance, we can now have black truffle from Australia in the summer and black truffle from France in the winter. While I am not a locavore, I feel a restaurant should have a connection to its location. An Italian restaurant in Taipei should not be the same as an Italian restaurant in Milan. Therefore, I love the fact that Aglianò uses Shuilian 水蓮 and serves it like a pasta with crab; adds green soy bean 毛豆 to a classic Italian burrata and tomato salad to give the dish some crunch; or serves water bamboo 茭白筍 with gnocchi for contrasting textures.

Using Taiwanese ingredients in Italian cooking is not an easy task. It is a testament to Aglianò's skill and experience that he can produce these types of dishes. To be creative with cuisine requires a full understanding of the the fundamentals. In other words, one needs to know the rules before one can break them. I have seen many restaurants in Taipei where the chefs tried to be "creative" but in reality didn't have any frame of reference. When one talks to Aglianò about cooking, he constantly mentions techniques and the balance of flavors. This can range from the precise temperature for sous vide cooking, the length of time to marinate the cod, or a pinch of oregano from Sicily to provide more depth of flavors. Good cooking is very much about the culmination of all the little details.

Angelo Aglianò Restaurant is an important restaurant for Taipei for many reasons. One, the restaurant shows that it is possible for a foreign chef with local partners to establish his own fine dining restaurant without being part of an international chain or a hotel. Two, the restaurant's success means that there is indeed hope in Taipei for a better western dining scene. My wish is customers in Taipei will get accustomed to the high standard, e.g. Aglianò's risotto, and start demanding better food elsewhere. Third, while some of Aglianò's staff may not stay at the restaurant for a long time, they will be properly trained and carry on the work mentality and the self-demand for quality. Finally, the restaurant is important because it cannot exist anywhere else but in Taipei and is a representative of its location, culture and moment.

Happy Anniversary Angelo Aglianò Restaurant and may you have many more wonderful years to come.


一年很快的過去,安傑羅餐廳也日漸成熟了。廚師兼業主Angelo Aglianò跟我提到名廚侯布雄曾説過,一間餐廳就如同一個嬰兒需要時間來成長、站立、然後學會走路。通常餐廳剛開幕時是新聞報導最多的,也是一般大眾最想去嘗試的時候。但是相反的,餐廳開幕的初期卻也是最不宜顧客造訪時候,因為員工需要時間學習及培養工作默契。所以,Aglianò在餐廳最初的幾個月,限制了顧客的人數,以確保食物及服務的品質,並同時一步步的改進。





我到安傑羅用膳一般會點四道菜。前菜,義大利冷開胃菜是不錯的選擇,靠近廚房的玻璃櫃展示了許多吸引人的菜色,我都會直接請Aglianò為我挑選。除了冷開胃菜之外,我也常喜歡點一些海鮮的菜餚,不論是海螯蝦、青甘魚或螃蟹,味道鮮美並且溶合著複雜的口感。 擺盤的方式通常是將主要的原料擺放成圓形,上面點綴著不同的配料,視覺上都非常吸引人。


我認為Aglianò食物的特徵在前菜就已充份的表現出來:輕盈,也具有層次與豐富的味道。台北的人多半希望吃得輕淡, 但很多時候,餐廳所做食物卻是淡而無味,相對的Aglianò,不但吃下去沒有負擔同時也兼具了鮮美口感。


Aglianò燉飯的品質不但高而且很穩定。在台北有很多的義大利餐館都有燉飯,但是都稱不上是真正的義大利燉飯。那些餐館的廚師都應該到安傑羅學習如何正確的煮一道燉飯。諸如:做燉飯先需要用好米,如Acquarello的一年老米;學習如何做高湯; 學習如何將米先煮到半熟;學習如何在製作的過程將高湯與米保持在同樣的溫度;學習如何在最後攪拌,並且適度加入一些高湯等工序。

除了燉飯,餐廳自做的麵食也同樣精彩。我特別喜歡一些西西里風味的海鮮麵。十月和十一月,值得專門去安傑羅品嘗一些白松露加義大利麵。來自阿爾巴的白松露非常的特別,口味著實的令人回味。過去一年另一些難忘的菜,是一系列不同的fregola sarda。

主菜呢,我喜歡點一道魚(一般都是來自台灣的近海)。 Aglianò烹調魚不論是煎、烤、或水煮有很好的技巧。搭配著合宜清爽蔬菜,提供了和魚平衡口感或是提升了對比的香味。



安傑羅有三個包廂。有別於大多數台灣人,我比較喜歡坐在餐廳開放的空間,尤其是在吧檯。我喜歡看到別人點的菜餚和欣賞他們的穿著。我曾經在兩個較小的包廂用餐。兩個房間之中,我比較喜歡有窗戶的房間,空間的大小與感覺都非常的舒適。小的那間包廂,空間似乎太小了且音響效果不好,因為整間餐廳的建材都是不吸音的材料。我希望安傑羅的包廂能像是一些在紐約巿的餐館,如Breslin 和Momofuku Ssam Bar,當人數多時可提前預訂,如烤豬肩肉、烤全乳豬、或烤全鴨等,以供大伙聚餐共享。

不同於開幕的幾個月,安傑羅餐廳現在有一個酒單。親切的侍酒師Kenny 李,很樂意幫助客人挑選葡萄酒。雖然安傑羅的開瓶費不高,我還是喜歡在餐廳點酒,主要有三個原因:首先,就如同我不會帶火腿到餐廳請Aglianò切給我吃,我也不帶酒到餐廳喝。其次,我喜歡嘗試一些我不熟悉的葡萄酒。因此,有時我不看酒單,請Kenny就當天的情境與食物幫我挑一些酒。這就如同我去別人家吃飯,我也不會去主人的酒窖中挑酒,主人想要我喝什麼酒我都很高興。第三,飲料是餐館收入的重要來源之一。如果我們希望看到好的餐廳茁壯成長,就應該支持他們,讓他們能有合理與必要的利潤。在安傑羅餐廳,葡萄酒的售價不算高,所以在安傑羅用餐,我總是傾向於點一杯或一瓶酒。另外,就如同在義大利我也喜歡在飯後喝一小杯烈酒,比如說檸檬酒之類的。

Aglianò說,儘管餐廳標記上有義大利國旗,他並不一定烹飪義大利菜。這讓我想起了,在美國的法國廚師Jacques Pépin的故事,Pépin在自傳中説他的母親常會罵他,因為她認為Pépin做的已經不是正統的法國菜。Pépin也同意他母親的看法,因為他的烹飪的確已經不是純粹的法國料理,而是跨國界的食物。Aglianò的廚藝同樣也不限制於單純的義大利料理,他的食物反映著他的歴練、旅行、和生活經驗。

我非常贊同Aglianò將臺灣本地的食材用在他的菜餚中。因此Aglianò的食物有時像是穿梭在臺灣和義大利之間。我們現在生活在一個日益全球化的世界裡,餐廳很容易的可以脫離他們的所在地。食材現在能夠來自全球各地,並且甚至跟季節分離。例如,我們現在冬天可以用來自法國的黑松露,夏天則可以吃來自澳大利亞的黑松露。雖然我不是一個locavore,但是我認為外國餐廳應該與它的目前的所在地保持一定的關係。在台北的義大利餐廳應該要不同於米蘭的義大利餐廳或日本東京的義大利餐廳。因此,我喜歡Aglianò使用水蓮代替義大利麵來配著螃蟹; 將毛豆加到經典的義大利burrata起司番茄沙拉; 還有用茭白筍在義大利餃子湯中,使得這幾道菜各有些不同的輕脆的口感。


許多的因素促使安傑羅成為臺北市非常重要的餐廳。一、 安傑羅餐廳的成功證明一個外來廚師與當地合作的夥伴是可以建立起自己的品牌,而不需依附著一個國際連鎖或酒店。二、餐廳的成功,意味著台北確實開始有高級餐廳的市場。我希望台北的顧客會習慣食物高的標準,如Aglianò的義大利燉飯,然後開始要求其它餐廳提升食物的水準。第三、雖然一些Aglianò的工作人員可能會離職或創業,但是他們所受到的高要求養成與訓練,將會把這些工作態度帶到其它的地方漸漸普及。最後,此時位於台北的安傑羅餐廳,確實代表著西方飲食文化與台北地理環境的美好結合。