Mume was the only restaurant where I actually had a table booked in advance, for our recent trip to Taipei in Taiwan. If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen some updates from our journey already, and if you plan a trip yourself I recommend checking out my foodie map of favorite spots in Taipei. My only goal in Taipei was to check out the amazing street food scene the city has to offer – and Mume. Even though Mume is as far away from a street vendor as you can get, with their concept of a modern European casual fine dining restaurant, they’re still a reflection of the country through their use of local and seasonal produce.
Three Young and Talented Chefs
Mume was established in late 2014 by three young chefs with unique experience from high-end restaurants around the world. Richie Lin, originally from Hong Kong, had worked at two-Michelin-starred and four times World’s Best Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. Australian Kai Ward gathered his valuable experience from Sydney’s flagship restaurant Quay, and lastly, Long Xiong who previously cooked at three-Michelin-starred restaurant Per Se in New York. If you follow foodies for inspiration on Instagram you may also know the sister of chef Richie Lin: @little_meg_siu_meg. If not, I highly recommend that you start following her now.
Cocktails and Oysters Were a Welcoming Sight
I was in Taipei to visit my brother, Fredrik, who studies Chinese. We traveled together with my parents and my youngest brother Kristian, and we arrived just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve with spectacular fireworks from Taipei 101. Up until our visit to Mume on January 5th, our meals were dominated by more traditional food: A lot of dumplings, steam buns, beef noodles, Chinese pancakes, potstickers, and hot pots. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I loved the local Taiwanese food, but just like you get a bit tired of pasta and cheese in Italy it was a welcoming sight to see oysters and cocktails on the menu at Mume.
Snacks, Smaller, Bigger, Sweeter
The menu at Mume is divided into four sections: snacks, smaller, bigger, sweeter. Apparently, they used to offer tasting menus, but now it’s just à la carte. Our lovely waiter explained how everything worked and gave us a suggestion on how many dishes we should order. Since we were a party of six, she figured we could almost go through the entire menu if we were set on sharing stuff. I love to share plates and taste as much as possible, and luckily the rest of the table agreed. However, we began by ordering all the snacks and smaller dishes but waited with the bigger and sweeter stuff. That turned out to be a good strategy.
Eye Pleasers and Favor Bombs
From start to finish, the dishes that came out from Mume’s kitchen was as much of a pleasure to look at as they were tasty and delicious. From the ice cold poached oysters with a citrusy granita to classics on the menu like the wagyu tartare. Even the sourdough bread serving with two different butters – beer and smoked beef fat – was a great dish on its own. I think the bread inspiration was clearly from Noma, and the same goes for the small tartlets we got as appetizers. The mini tartlets may look innocent, but they were, in fact, small flavor bombs.
The favorite course by almost everyone around the table this night was the Mume salad. I asked chef Ward, who served the salad if it was inspired by a recent visit from Zaiyu Hasegawa of restaurant DEN in Tokyo. Kai confirmed that indeed it was a result of their cooperation, but of course, Mume made their own version with local Taiwanese, seasonal vegetables. I haven’t been to DEN yet myself, but I met Zaiyu and his team when I was at Noma Australia. They are wonderful people and DEN will definitely be my first stop in the Japanese capital – hopefully, this year.
The Mume Experience
It may seem silly for Scandinavians to visit a modern European restaurant when we are in a far away country known for its street food. Well, I am happy to say that we certainly didn’t regret our reservation at Mume. On the contrary, it was one of the best nights of our visit. Friendly service, a good ambiance, chefs who took the time to explain each course and even spent some decent time at our table just chatting and talking and exchanging restaurant recommendations. Taiwanese food has a lot of punch and flavor in each dish, and I feel Mume managed to stay true to that element, even if the chefs developed the local ingredients after looking through a Danish lens or an Australian objective for quite some time. I guess that’s what the Mume experience is all about: bringing some innovativeness into a super-traditional food culture.
Barely Room for Main Courses or Desserts
By the time we finished all the smaller dishes and snacks, I wasn’t sure if we need to order any main course before the desserts. Personally, I barely had room for any more food, but my father and brothers had their minds set on some more meat. In the end, I was happy we got the BBQ pork ribs in particular. With meat that fell off the bone, and a sweet and savory plum and miso glaze, it was one of the meal highlights. Funnily, my youngest brother found the small coconut & lime palate cleanser we were served before desserts to be his favorite dish of the entire dinner.
The desserts were good too, but not the highlights of the meal on my part. In particular, the smoked vanilla ice cream wasn’t much of a success around the table. It sounds weird, but the smokiness almost gave the dish an umami taste, which doesn’t fit a sweet serving too much. Besides that, I believe every plate was licked clean this night, and it was a highly satisfied family that walked out of Mume and back onto the streets of Taipei in the Da’an District. Mume is a must-visit if you find yourself in this part of the world.
Have you been to Mume or another high-end restaurant in Taipei? Please share your experience in a comment below.