Recently, I was tasked with finding a venue for a business lunch. Since my ‘Taiwanxifu’ blogging reputation has begun to spread, friends and colleagues often now expect me to know about the best places in Taipei. This is not always as easy as you might think: as much as I enjoy it, I don’t eat out all the time and often I am more interested in learning about hidden restaurant secrets from other people. But this work lunch posed the perfect opportunity for me to revisit a restaurant I had been keen to dine at again — DN innovacion. And quite coincidentially, one of my dining companies had been really keen to try it out, too, so it was a double excuse to go there.
DN innovacion is driven by its Spanish chef, Daniel Negreira, formerly of top-notch Spanish molecular restaurants including the famed El Bulli. And yes, DN innovacion’s menu does feature foam, innovative flavour combinations and foods that look nothing like what you might suppose them to be. Negriera, who is currently working on his second book, is a master of inventiveness and you immediately sense his passion for perfection (and for playing with conceptions of how food should appear). I have been stalking Negriera via Facebook for a few months ago (well, he actually invited me as his friend first), and have been salivating over photos of unusual foam and molecular creations, interesting interpretations of Spanish classics, and special menus with matching wines. Actually, he is such a star chef that I have been procrastinating about writing this blog post … I am not entirely sure that I am qualified to describe his art form with the justice it deserves.
DN innovacion has a range of menu options at different price points, and an extensive wine list, but on the two occasions I visited we opted for the Business Lunch Set Menu (NT$550 plus 10% service charge). The set menu consists of a basket of bread served with olive and balsamic vinegar, one of four entrée choices, one of three main choices, a simple dessert plus tea and coffee. Which was more than ample for us.
On my first visit, I tried the ‘molecular egg’ as an entrée. Regretfully, I forgot my camera so could not take a picture. But it looked exactly like a poached egg should — only it was made entirely without egg. I was fascinated with the discovery process of eating the molecular egg; just like a real poached egg, I found the texture changed as I spooned through it. I was glad that I experienced the molecular egg, but was not entirely sure if I enjoyed it in a pure aesthetic sense. Not that I disliked it, more that I could not decide if it had the same appeal and instant gratification as a giant slice of chocolate cake.
On my second visit, I opted for Negreira’s homemade Norway salmon marinated with baby greens. I loved this dish, and savoured each bite, tasting slowly to make the moment last. The fish was smoked enough to give it a slight edge to the taste, while retaining an almost sashimi texture in the semi-raw interior. While perhaps less edgy and innovative than other dishes, to me there was a reassuring earthiness to this entrée.
For main, I skipped the lower calorie options and headed for the lavishness of the red wine stewed Spanish Iberico pork cheekbone with oven roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables (I notice that the menu has now changed to low temperature Australian beef cheekbone, which also sounds luscious). The pork was temptingly tender, falling away at the knife and smothered in a wickedly sweet, sticky sauce. It was accompanied by a type of creamy foam, which perfectly offset the sweetness of the pork sauce. I wanted this course to go on and on, but was relieved that it was surprisingly not too rich and heavy.
One of my dining companions ordered tuna with risotto. While I did not sample this dish, I had to include a photo of the beautiful, confetti like colours in the dish.
The meal finished with a light and fluffy dessert, featuring once again a foam — this time a delicate, sweet fruity one. I enjoyed this, and had a hard time resisting leftovers from one of our party who was called away early to another meeting. It was an airy, and almost healthy, was to finish our meal.
As a business lunch venue, DN innovacion was more than appropriate. Service was thoughtful, pleasant and yet unobtrusive and timely. The venue was funky in an almost retro kind of way, with an almost romantic feel and quiet interior that made it perfect for intimate, work-related discussions. Plus the food was both delicious and the presentation and innovation served as a good talking point. If you book early, try to get the seat near the front of the restaurant (pictured above), which has a real A-list vibe to it (plus good natural lighting perfect for food photos!)
DN innovation is at 93 Songren Road, Xinyi District (台北市信義區110松仁路93號) directly opposite the Outback Steakhouse). While it is in the Xinyi commercial district, it feels as if it is a world away as its entrance kind of slinks into the background waiting to be discovered by those in the know. For reservations, phone 8780 1155.
****Edited to add that one of my dining companions has sent in a photo of the molecular egg that she took on her smartphone. So here is the eggless molecular egg.