Cantonese fine dining at Le Palais (Taipei)
There are so many dining options in Taipei that it’s easy to forget there’s some really exquisite Chinese food on offer.
With baby number two just days away, we decided one of our last meals out would have to be Cantonese, and eventually decided on Le Palais (頤宮), the high class Cantonese cuisine restaurant inside Taipei’s famous Palais de Chine hotel, located right next to the Q Square mall near Taipei Main Station.
Le Palais is located on level 17 and is one of four fine dining restaurants in the hotel. The restaurant itself is huge, with apparently six private rooms and plenty of comfortable booths and couch settings. The decor resembles a traditional Chinese palace with lots of dark purples and emerald colours, though the dim lighting adds a Western touch to the atmosphere.
The restaurant is currently headlined by famous Hong Kong chef Mak, who according to the literature is from Tim Ho Wan, the legendary one Michelin Star hole-in-the-wall dim sum restaurant (my review of it from an old visit here). Mak passed his skills and menu onto the chefs at Le Palais and accordingly you can sample some of Tim Ho Wan’s famous dim sums here (though I am not sure if it is a temporary or permanent menu).
Le Palais has a broad menu with dim sums and traditional Cantonese dishes. We only had two people, so we opted for some of their specialties and some dim sums. They also have a lunch special, which is great value for around NT$1000 (whereas regular a la carte diners can expect to spend around NT$1200-2000 a head), but we thought the choices were to narrow.
There are two dishes that are must-tries in my book. Both of them require you to pre-order at least the day before (or so they say — we did see some people order them on the spot). The first is the baby roast duck (NT$960), which is not served like the traditional Peking Duck you might be accustomed to (with the wraps and hoisin sauce). It’s supposedly inspired by an ancient Chinese poem (which the waitress recites for you in its entirety) and is just a wonderfully succulent roast duck offering several textures from the crispy skin to the juicy meat to the cracking cartilage. The chef carves up the duck for you on the spot and each person gets several perfectly portioned pieces. It’s sublime.
But my favourite dish, by far, is the Matsuyama BBQ pork. It’s Cantonese BBQ pork as you know it — just the best you’ve ever had. Le Palais’ BBQ pork is incredible. The meat is so soft and succulent it virtually melts in your mouth, and the caramelised juices on the edges provide a sweet, crunchy contrast you need to taste to believe. I’ve had a lot of BBQ pork in my time, and this is the best I’ve ever tried.
The rest of the dim sums and dishes we ordered were very good too. We got the turnip cake (better than most because of its top quality ingredients and XO sauce), a stir-fry beef rice noodle, a shrimp zhaliang (fried dough stick wrapped in rice noodle), and har gow (prawn dumplings). For dessert we got a mango grapefruit sago, which mixes the aforementioned fruits with sago, coconut milk, sugar and cream. I don’t usually have this but I loved theirs.
The service is supposed to be top notch, though they botched our order up a little bit — they forgot we ordered the Tim Ho Wan BBQ pork bun, but we were so full by then it was actually doing us a favour. I had had it before in HK anyway and thought it was somewhat overrated.
All things considered it was one heck of a dining experience. Everything was pretty good but a visit is justified just from the roast duck and the BBQ pork alone. I would definitely go back there given the chance.
Le Palais Chinese Restaurant
Address: No. 3, Sec 1, Chengde Road, Taipei (nearest MRT: Taipei Main Station)
Phone: (02) 2128-9999
Hours: 11:30-14:30, 17:30-21:30