Modern Taiwanese cuisine showcased at Bava
By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Chen Sih-Yu
170, WuQuan W 4th St, West Dist. (Art Museum Parkway)
Bava New Taiwanese Cuisine owner Debbie McGuire notes that it is often very difficult to answer the simple question, "What is Taiwanese cuisine?" or point out restaurants and dishes that are specifically "Taiwanese". The veteran restaurateur--who also runs 1924 Shanghai, Le Jardin de Giverny, and Moment in Beijing--has gone to great lengths to address that question at Bava, which offers a creative modern twist on a mix of Taiwanese/Fujianese, Hakka and aboriginal cuisine, served in a spacious, equally-modern, chic 200-seat restaurant with an East-meets-West, traditional Chinese restaurant-meets-Western lounge bar ambiance.
Bava's new brand of Taiwanese cuisine is the brainchild of half-Rukai aborigine Chef Aga, who recently was recognized among "Taiwan's Top 50 Global Chefs" by local Traveler magazine. Aga's culinary inventions are more than creative, but also aim to be healthy, incorporating ingredients like the "king of grains", quinoa, cultivated in his Pingtung hometown. Bava ("millet wine" in the Rukai language) changes its extensive menu of a la carte and set meals twice a year and is now offering a variety of autumn/winter dishes.
Left: Chef Aga
Outstanding examples include the Grilled Abalone with Garlic and Butter (NT$480) which, instead of its usual chewy, stewed form, is baked in its shell with minced garlic, black pepper and chilis. Then there's the Singaporean-inspired Shrimp Deep-Fried with Corn Flakes (NT$580), prepared with garlic and fried tofu crumbs, and served with congee. The Lemon Seafood Hotpot (NT$680), made with juicy lemons from Bava's own farm that are cured in salt for three months, has a lemon-flavored stock perfect for seafood with a multi-layered, but not too heavy, flavor.
Grilled Abalone with Garlic
Medium: Shrimp Deep-Fried with
Right: Taiwanese Treasure Wraps
Continuing favorites from the regular menu include Taiwanese VIP Soup (NT$450), a nostalgic throw-back to traditional "jiu jia tsai" that includes dried cuttlefish, snails and leeks. The Dried Turnip Omelet (NT$240) is a modern combination of a traditional dish with an American-style cheese omelet, cooked Japanese-style with multiple layers. Other special offerings include creative desserts and Bava's own Taiwanese-style cocktails (NT$180-240) made with millet wine, kaoliang liquor and other local ingredients.
Left: Taiwanese VIP Soup
Right: Dried Turnip Omelet
Debbie and Chef Aga hope that such efforts will not only answer the question "What is Taiwanese cuisine?" but also make Taiwanese cooking popular with the island's younger generation, as well as foreign guests.
(Special note: American artist Linda Minor's "Global Art" painting exhibition takes place at Bava Dec. 8, 2013-Feb. 28, 2014)