Today's Notables

FEAST in Taiwan !

October 2008
Hisashi Furuichi
President and C.E.O.

The word, "FEAST" is derived from the Latin word "celebratory meal" and means "a grand dinner or banquet," but also represents superb hospitality. A feast is not the same as kaiseki or French cuisine which is served as a course, one at a time, despite the fact that it may be very delicious. "FEAST" projects an image of tables practically overflowing with delicious food.

As we do every year, a group of people involved in the foodservice and food industry traveled to a new destination, looking for the ultimate "feast." This year, a Harvard MBA graduate who is now a management consultant, a medical doctor involved in nutrition education, and a food marketing and promotions director were among the eclectic mix of people who have had different backgrounds but definitely have one importance thing in common: We all have an extreme penchant for food. This "Gourmet Group" of nine traveled to Taiwan in pursuit of the best in dining.

Because we visit these destinations over a long 3-day weekend, we are limited in the distance that we can travel. Anything over a 3 hour flight severely limits the time spent at the destination so we avoid 5 or 6 hour flights. That being the case, this ended up being my second visit to Taiwan. The coordinator for the last trip was not a very good choice and the trip ended up being uneventful and unimpressive. This time, however, with more thorough investigation and selection, I was able to avoid the same scenario.

Compared to 6 years ago when I visited, the streets and city seemed significantly cleaner. It also seemed like I heard and saw Japanese much more readily than before. Of course, historically, there's a certain segment of Taiwanese that speak Japanese naturally because of their background. This time, however, it seemed like there were many more products imported directly from Japan which reminded me of the way Japanese people like to speak English and buy foreign products. The supermarket in the basement of Sogo Department store near the hotel probably had more Japanese products than a Sogo Department store in Japan. Furthermore, product packaging was exactly like it is in Japan so it seemed like we were surrounded by Japanese.

What's more interesting, of course, is the main event--the 3 meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner--in 3 days of Chinese food starting with tea right from the airport. Of the places we visited, The Landis Taipei serving Hangzhou cuisine left a significant impression with tonporo (simmered pork). Mr. Oh, president of Primix Shanghai, is fan of this dish and has eaten tonporo in Shanghai and says that it is the absolute best thing he's ever had. Each person had a portion of simmered pork served in a small pot with a very lightly seasoned, yet bold broth that had a definite robust flavor to it. The pork meat was so tender it could be cut with chopsticks and although it was somewhat fatty, it did not taste heavily greasy or fatty. It was truly surprisingly delicious. If I have the opportunity, I would definitely like Mr. Oh from Primix Shanghai to try this place.

I was also quite intrigued to see what this restaurant would do with a beef fillet steak topped with simmered shark's fin so I ordered it. In my personal opinion, it seems like this combination would be better eaten separately; however, since one does not often have the chance to eat both, I tried it and liked it.

Finally desert-a steamed bun with custard much like the egg tart once popular in Japan-was an appropriate finish to this very impressive meal. This dish, called shentan, uses the yolk of a duck egg that has a very delicious balance of sweetness and saltiness, is hot and fluffy--it was wonderful. There were many other delicacies we sampled that were also delicious but I will not elaborate any further.

As far as sightseeing, we went to the Palace Museum which was renovated last year and is now a very beautiful modern building--and finally, Taipei 101. As the name suggests, it's on the 101st floor and stands 509.2 m from the ground level. Before a taller building was built in Dubai, this building stood as the tallest in the world. In this modern building, Japanese technology is ubiquitous as usual with the elevator made by Toshiba that goes at speeds of 60km so you can go from the 5th floor to the 89th floor in 37 seconds without so much as a sound or vibration-quite an amazing feat.

As some programs have highlighted recently on television, retirees are taking extended visits to various places. I would think that Taiwan would be ideal given its warmer winter for those who dislike the cold; the food is good; there's lots of shopping; and it is easy to get around without much hassle.

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