Hong Kong is famous for its private apartment restaurants, with talented amateur chefs welcoming people into their homes. This trend has not yet caught on in Taipei, but Fun Cuisine Cooking Studio (樂活烹調工作室) recreates the same ambience. ‘Bonjour’, chef Vicky Pan greets guests as they enter into her bright red kitchen which is the nucleus of her homely restaurant and provides a stage for her cooking.
Pan trained in France, where she met and married her husband. Together they ran a restaurant in the fairytale Loir et Cher region for nine years, before she followed him back to Taiwan in 2004 (he now works as an executive chef with the Formosa Regent). And last year she opened her cozy cooking studio in Tienmu, which she runs in-between teaching cookery, providing food consultancy, staging cooking demonstrations, and catering for private functions. She is a busy lady, with a clear passion for sharing the French food and culture that she loves so much. I heard about Pan’s studio via her reputation in the Taipei European community for catering, especially at Taipei European School functions. She also organises private dinner parties.
Pan offers a simple lunch menu: entrée and main for NT$340, or main and dessert for NT$380, with two choices for each dish. I ordered the Caesar salad for entrée followed by stewed Tilapia with couscous and pesto sauce. The salad was the real deal: crunchy fresh cos lettuce topped with shaved parmesan cheese and parma ham.
But I half wished I had ordered the pumpkin cream soup instead, which was served laced with an intricate spider-web cream design. My friend, also formerly from Australia where pumpkin soup is a winter staple, was effusive in his enjoyment of his soup.
I felt redeemed with my order of Tilapia fish, which was firm and flavoursome perfectly paired by the slightly herbed cous cous underneath. This dish disappeared quickly, revealing the full beauty of the crockery.
The other main dish choice was baked tomatoes with farfalle pasta. This dish, the vegetarian option, was colourful and almost Christmasy.
And let’s not forget the fresh baked bread, which was European style rather than the more usual sweet white bread served in Taiwan. I would have preferred a little butter or olive oil. Still, most of us went back for seconds (or thirds) which indicated that it was pretty good.
Having eaten to elegant sufficiently, I passed on the crepes. But they looked exquisitely tempting: thin and crispy and folded expertly around homemade kumquat jam. Pan also has jars of kumquat jam for sale, so that you can recreate at home.
One of my friends called her husband and invited him to join us. He arrived half way through the meal, and then ordered his own chocolate-hazelnut crepe. (Pan has a whole separate menu for crepe options, including crepes Suzette and savoury options.)
Fun Cuisine is in Tienmu, in a small lane directly behind Wendel’s bakery at No 6, Lane 157, Chung Shan North Road, Section 6 (台北市士林區中山北路6段157巷6-3號, phone 2623 9176). Her studio seats up to 16 at a stretch, but works best with two tables. Fun Cuisine opens from Monday to Saturday from 1200 noon to 6.30pm, and for dinner by appointment only.