L’Idiot means, as you may guess, idiot. Why? Well, its owners hope that after eating there, patrons will feel happy and stupid. Like the donkey they have chosen as their motif (the Chinese translation of L’Idiot is ‘Donkey Restaurant’).
I visited for lunch, but I have heard they do a mean all-day brunch. (Part of the charm is L’Idiot’s sinfully sweet brunch options.) L’Idiot’s set lunch menu includes the stock-standard salad, soup, main, and dessert plus tea/coffee combo, but with a twist: salad is a Sizzler-style all-you-can-eat salad bar with some innovative Asian-style choices. I liked their emperor bean with purple yam and grilled tofu with smoked chicken salads. My colleague felt they could have been fresher, but still L’Idiot’s salad bar is a feast for the salad starved Westerner in Taipei. And I didn’t realise until I heaped my plate how much I missed the salads back home in Australia. (Most Taiwanese people prefer their salad vegetables cooked, probably a throw-back to a time days when it was more hygenic to cook everything.)
Back at the table, I passed on the oven-baked bread and soft butter that bloggers have raved about in an effort to save calories. But I did finish every last spoonful of their vivid orange tomato soup, which although slightly too acidic was – unlike some other offerings – obviously made from fresh tomatoes. I suspect the soup will be more robust in the warmer months, when tomatoes truly come alive.
For my main course, I ordered pan roasted salmon, fried soft-shell crab with roasted kohlrabi and cabbage, lemon risotto and licorice root oil (NTD650). The serving was smaller than I expected – lucky I filled up on salad – but also surprisingly rich. I especially liked the tangy al dente-style lemon risotto, even if the serving was a bit skimpy. I’m sure that some people will love the deep-fried soft-shelled crab, but for me it was just too oily.
My colleague, however, was disappointed with his deep-fried halibut burger with spicy chop slaw and French fries (NTD499). I suspect had had been secretly hoping for a juicy fat beef burger with the works rather than fish and chips crammed on a sweet, Taiwanese-style bun.
But we all agreed the dessert ensemble of strawberry studded mascarpone roll, passion fruit curd, hazelnut crumble, financier, raspberry almond powder and margarita sorbet was fantastic. Actually, I loved the intensely flavored margarita sorbet and would have been content to eat a bowl of that alone. Yet the mascarpone roll, which I originally planned to only taste, somehow gradually disappeared. And yes, I enjoyed every guilty bite, even if it meant hours at the gym afterwards.
L’Idiot (驢子餐廳 — Lǘzi cāntīng) is located at 156 Minsheng East Road, Section 3 (台灣台北市105民生東路三段156號), on the ground floor the commercial building that also houses the Straits Exchange Foundation. If you read Chinese (or if you don’t but but like pictures) check out the blog by head chef Fudy. His passion for food, and clear love of Taiwan’s natural environment, shines through.