Undefinable & Undeniably Good Contemporary Fine Dining in Taipei
On the 12th floor of the Kimpton Da’ An Hotel, find a sophisticated yet contemporary restaurant and bar known as The Tavernist. Offering all-day dining, the interior restaurant, bar and outdoor patio merge to create an open and comfortable space unlike no other.
Whilst the hotel guests have access to the same space, The Tavernist is also open to the public as one of Taipei’s most exciting new restaurants. Designed by Neri&Hu, the interior reflects contemporary dining at its finest. Find curvatures in the lighting composition to arched partitionings to segment dining areas. The Tavernist manages to balance a sense of intimacy yet with an open, spaciousness too. Seating 40 in the main dining area, an additional dining table is placed in front of the kitchen where guests can oversee their dishes in preparation, and even engage with chefs. The transparency provides a brilliant dynamic.
Here, the mood is set with a bold interior colour palette. The three main areas; dining, sharing table, function space, and bar lounge area, are each segmented by wall colour. In the main dining area the dark timber arches are paired with emerald green tiles, whereas in the sharing table by the kitchen the walls are a dark brick red in geometric pattern. Dining tables feature a solid marble with marble grey, linen seats for small group tables, whereas timber tables with latticed bamboo and leather chairs are provided for larger groups. As we take a seat, there’s a vibrant energy in the space. The staff are effortlessly modern and welcoming, and the music is just at the right tempo to set the tone. The Tavernist’s winelist ranges from Argentina, USA, NZ, Germany to Hungary and even McLaren Vale in South Australia, so it is no surprised to find a 2016 Malbec from Susana Balbo (Mendoza, Argentiniana), currently one of the world’s leading female winemakers.
We begin with a crisp, white wine that only perfectly reflects the progressive menu at The Tavernist, offering the best from any corner of the world: a 2016 Vermentino di Argiolas from the island of Sardinia, Italy. The winery was founded in 1938 and continues to be one of the islands leading wines – and notably still family-owned and produced. The Tavernist’s menu is led by British chef James Sharman, who formerly worked alongside Michelin-starred chef Tom Aitken, and time at the world-renowned NOMA in Denmark. Since his time in Europe, he now leads The Leah restaurant in Hong Kong and has also taken on as culinary director of The Tavernist. He’s easygoing and charming, and proud of his team in the kitchen.
It’s important to note that Sharman’s menu is delightful simple, yet packs a punch. From the dinner menu, we begin with a tender Squid with a light yet refreshingly zesty lemon purée sauce. The citrus provides a perfect match to balance a refreshing hit. His Fried Chicken cleverly features a roasted kelp seaweed mayonnaise sauce served in a brown paper bag. The presentation is divine. Find the paper bag tied with string and placed on a wooden board with a bamboo skewer. Not only is the chicken cooked perfectly sumptuous, but the experience of consuming it is equally fun. Next, a coral trout (sourced from Taiwan waters) with red shrimp and almond slices, with a pairing of broccoli found both as thinly sliced pieces and as a purée smearing. The purée acts as a sauce, and provides an added moisture to the dish.
The menu is driven by the freshness and quality of their vegetables. Chef Sharman explains that they work closely with a number of quality producers in Taiwan and the importance of maintaining those relationships. Whilst we learn that The Tavernist’s signature dish is the Pork Belly & Tenderloin with Pineapple and Sugar Cane, we can’t help but be drawn to the Bean Bacon and Balsamic Salad, where you can taste the freshness and quality of the variety of white and green beans, snap peas, baby spinach, all brought together with a light and balanced balsamic dressing. Perfection. Utter perfection. Can the best dish be a salad? Flawless. Furthermore, the salad was served in thick, handmade ceramic bowls. The brown, clay exterior and white-spotted interior of the bowls presented a wabi sabi-like aesthetic, bringing a wholesome, stone age feel to the dish. For dessert, we opt for the Mango Sour Cream Ice Cream. Semi-dried mangoes slices, crunchy peanut butter and mango sauce, and delicate white chocolate balls with mango sauce inside. Impeccable. If you break it down, the minimalism is so powerful. Sharman’s use of mango is nothing short of magic.
Adjacent to the restaurant, The Tavernist Bar and lounge area exudes a deep blue with accompanying indigo seats and tables. The mood is set by ambient tempos to modern beats throughout the course of the evening. The cocktail list includes Signature aperitif Bubble and Squeak Guava (Taiwanese pink guava topped with rose processo and gold leaf), to Signature Digestifs Cheeky Monkey (Laphroaig 10 year Islay Single Malt Whiskey, cantaloupe melon, sea salt, drunken red date). Whilst at the bar counter with Signature Cocktail Heads or Tails Kavalan (Kavalan Classic whiskey, Taiwanese black tea, kumquat; ginger, lemon, whites and aromatique bitters) we chat with head bartender Thomas Kao, who himself has returned to Taipei from time in Australia. His energy and enthusiasm is infectious, allowing you to enjoy the bar on end.
Taipei’s contemporary food scene is certainly in it’s infancy and growing, with international and local culinary talents leading the way. At The Tavernist, it’s without a doubt, that chef James Sharman is setting the bar.
(12F, Kimpton Da’ An Hotel)
106, Taiwan, Taipei City, Da’an District,
Lane 27, Section 4, Ren’ai Road