On our last night in Taipei, we had dinner at C’est Bon, which had received a great review in the New York Times a while ago. The staff there mentioned that they’ve had a big boost in the number of foreign guests since the article was published. In any case, the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. Lunch is congee with a set of side dishes. Dinner is a set menu. Both menus are updated monthly. In addition to having wonderful food, I really enjoyed the beautiful atmosphere – it was quiet and relaxing instead of having the noise and bustle that you find in so many modern restaurants.
We began our meal with a cup of Eastern Beauty tea, which is a specialty oolong tea of the Pinglin tea growing area, where we had been earlier that day. The flavor was like black tea, but with a mildly spicy character that reminded me of cinnamon or cloves. When the tea became too strong or cooled, the waitress refilled our cups with more hot water. Even after being brewed several times, the leaves still produced a delicious and flavorful tea.
Our first course was chilled free-range chicken with sliced cucumber and lightly pickled napa cabbage garnished with cilantro. The cucumber was better for looking at than eating, but it was certainly beautiful. The cabbage was fantastic.
Next came naturally raised shrimp wrapped around a small tomato and garnished tableside with flakes of coconut ice followed by goya (bitter melon) stuffed with meat and then braised. This may have been my favorite dish; the coconut, tomato and shrimp were a surprising and delicious combinations, while the stuffed goya had just a hing of bitterness that contrasted nicely with the coconut’s sweetness.
Our next dish was a shrimp fritter layered with cilantro, wrapped in ham and coated with a batter made from lotus roots. The fritter was garnished with green pea sauce and lily bulb.
This was followed by abalone mushrooms with mashed potatoes and xing tsai (green amaranth leaves). The greens were very delicious, but overall this was my least favorite dish – it was a bit too salty and heavily seasoned with pepper for my taste.
The fish course was a saltwater white fish that had been stuffed with 1-year salt cured winter melon. The salty melon stuffing was the only seasoning that was used, but after having been steamed, but the fish and winter melon were nicely seasoned, with neither having too much or too little seasoning.
The meat course was a pigs foot braised in pineapple and tofu sauce garnished with a thin slice of dried fresh pineapple and cippolini onion. The pig’s foot was tender throughout with all of the fat rendered nicely. This dish was very tasty, but quite rich in comparison to the lightness of the fish dish that had come before.
Our final savory course was a broth of free range chicken with baby napa cabbage. The chicken was very flavorful and refreshing after the rich pig’s foot.
For dessert we had a sweet potato stuffed with sweet green pea filling with spiced plum sauce. The sauce was quite lovely and I couldn’t help but try to scoop up every last bit of it from the plate.
Our meal at C’est Bon was a bit of a splurge, but I highly recommend it, and wouldn’t hesitate to eat there again.