The San Want hotel in downtown Taipei is known for its convenient location, but also for its marvellous food. I’ve already reviewed their Chinese cuisine at Chao Ping Ji and their Japanese cuisine Sumie, and now it’s time to check out Papillon, their French fine dining restaurant.
Papillon is situated on the ground floor of the hotel and is in a bit of a strange spot as it shares its space with the hotel’s all-day buffet (I will have to leave that for another day). Both are part of Papillon and basically occupy the same room, but those going for the set courses rather than buffet will be ushered to a section with a few boothed tables behind a large curtain. So in terms of ambiance it’s not the best, but for me, as always, it’s always about the food.
Papillon’s menu is simple. There are four set courses of different price levels, from NT$1800 to NT$2500 to NT$3600 to NT$6000. This is what you get with each set.
You really can’t go wrong with any of these, and in the end we went with what we liked best from the menu and chose the NT$2500 and NT$3600 sets. It’s quite expensive for Taiwan but not that bad by Australian standards for the type of quality you get (plus I got a 20% discount on the day).
As a start, some hot house bread, which looks average but was surprisingly good. A nice mix of textures and flavours. No dips but served with high quality butter.
Before we got started, we were each given a little appetizer that’s not on the menu. A small piece of biscuit bread with a square of prosciutto, jelly and balsamic vinegar. A great way to kick things off.
Next, the trio of fresh sea urchin, seared scallop and braised abalone from the NT$3600 set. I loved this dish. Three types of seafood each cooked a little differently and with different sauces and flavours. The scallops were seared to perfection and were my favourite, and the abalone had a light oil dressing that provided a sweet contrast. I’m not usually a sea urchin man but it was very good here.
With the NT$2500 set we got the fresh seafood plate to start things off. This was cold and interesting, with an assortment of fresh seafood in a gooey, almost jelly-like sauce, together with fish roe. I didn’t like all the seafood they had in it but the ones I did like were excellent, and everything was fresh.
The second course in the NT3600 set was sauteed duck fillet, foie gras with fig and port win sauce. The one in the NT2500 course was similar — also with foie gras — but there was no duck fillet and it was in a wild berry sauce. Both were magnificent, probably my favourite dishes of the entire lunch. The foie gras was some of the best I’ve ever had — literally melts in your mouth. Neither were too oily and the little berries, figs and so forth on the side provided a different taste with every bite. Incredible.
Next, steamed lobster with lobster jus (NT$3600 set). I’ll just say wow and let the photo do the talking. Sublime stuff.
Sauteed cod fish with Provencale vegetable ragout (NT$2500 set). This was a lighter dish, as they tend to be with cod, but still very nice. The cod was not overcooked and went well with the thick yellow sauce, with the surrounding vegetables adding some variety to the textures and flavours.
Then it was time for soup. We got the pumpkin soup with oyster (NT$3600 set) and the clear tomato soup with mascapone tortellini (NT$2500). The pumpkin soup was a delight that had a superb oyster taste to it, and while the clear tomato soup was a little bland the delicious tortellini more than made up for it.
The NT$3600 set had one extra course, the parma ham with asparagus and balsamic vinegar. This was an interesting choice after a soup but it did kind of help cleanse the palette before the main courses. I was surprised how nice the asparagus was.
And now, time for the main courses, both of which in this case are steaks. The NT$3600 set comes with the grilled Australian Wagyu with chive and red wine sauce, while the NT$2500 set comes with US rib eye with red wine and Bearnaise sauce. The Wagyu is of course more tender, but I personally preferred the rib eye because of the Bearnaise sauce, which really added a thick, tangy flavour to it. The baby onions and tomatoes were great accompanying sides too. I wouldn’t say they are the best steaks I’ve had, but they’re pretty good.
Lastly, the desserts. The NT$3600 set dessert was the Grand Marnier flavored with peach and mint sherbet (I’m sure there is a typo in the menu something), while the NT$2500 dessert was a green tea cake with nuts ice cream. Very interesting selections here, especially the first one, which is something I never had before. It’s more or less a minty jelly and ice dessert with a peach on top. Not the type I would normally order but it was refreshing and went well with the green tea cake and nut ice cream, which was much heavier but equally awesome. I loved the piece of chocolate coated crackle on the side and the fact that the middle layer of the cake was not red bean but chocolate. One of the best green tea cakes I’ve had.
Good quality tea and coffee after that and that was about it.
Overall, Papillon is fantastic and one of the best dine fining restaurants I’ve been to in Taipei. The setting is not optimal because of it’s shared with the buffet diners, but if you’re after quality French cuisine you can’t go wrong here.
Address: Level 1, San Want Hotel, No. 172, ZhongXiao East Rd, Sec. 4 (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua)
Phone: (02) 2781-7063
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2pm; Dinner 6:30pm-9pm