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Fleur de Sel continues to win hearts and palates

By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Alicia Yu

114, WuQuan W 4th St, West Dist; (04) 2372-6526
Hours: Wed-Sun 11:30 am-2 pm, 5-11 pm, Tue 5-11 pm (closed Mon)
Reservations required.
Credit cards accepted.
10% service charge.

Some restaurants enjoy a high-profile approach, but others have earned acclaim and deep loyalty by being--to borrow the slogan of a certain smartphone maker--quietly brilliant. For the past dozen years, this has been the case for Fleur de Sel and its head chef, Justine Li. Although Chef Li also oversees the Papa Mio and Tapas-1 restaurants, one gets the impression that this almost-hidden, 32-seat oasis of modern French fine-dining is where she really hangs her hat and puts her creativity and passion into full play.

Fleur de Sel Fleur de Sel
Right: Amuse-bouches

As previously noted in these pages, Chef Li was among the first Taiwanese chefs to head for Europe and study under masters like Michelin three-star chef Joel Robuchon and at France's famed Ecole Le Notre. Her regular, continued continental culinary explorations also mean that new delights are constantly coming out of her kitchens, including the one at Fleur de Sel where a friend and I recently sampled the latest sumptuous, multi-course offerings. There is no menu, but diners can choose NT$1,880, NT$2,880 or NT$3,880 options and wait for Chef Li to surprise them, based on fresh produce on the day and her creativity.

Fleur de Sel Fleur de Sel Fleur de Sel
Left: Abalone w/ cavolo nero sauce
Medium: Beef spere-rib w/ porcini sauce

Guided throughout this amazing experience by long-time restaurant manager Mr. Yen, we started out with three playfully-presented amuse-bouches, including a cone-like rolled crepe (resembling temaki sushi) filled with Smoked Salmon with Sorbet, a Pumpkin with Cheese Tart, and the lollipop-like Goose Liver with Raspberry Powder. This was a followed by Penghu Tiger Prawn Salad, and Octopus and Beetroot Salad, plus a hot Zucchini Soup, served in a small porcelain cup topped with a refreshingly-cool green/white mousse.

We next savored South African Abalone with vividly-green Cavolo Nero Sauce (made with Tuscan kale) and Rainbow-color Pasta with Seafood (scallops), garnished with striking purple cauliflower. These preceded the main entrees--very tender Iberico Pork with Mustard Sauce made with savory, nut-fed Spanish pork, Dijon mustard and figs, and a well-done, succulent American Beef Spare-Rib with Porcini Sauce.

Fleur de Sel Fleur de Sel
Left: La tarte tatin
Right: Zucchini Soup

A perfect conclusion to this magnificent repast was a dessert line-up of Vanilla Souffle with Strawberry Sauce, a French take on an apple-and-vanilla ice cream dessert made with flower-like dried apple slices, and cute Canele pastries with crispy caramelized shells and soft custard centers.

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