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ViNi's Deil: Pop Up Dinners spice up

By Douglas Habecker
Translated by S. Ying
Photos by Douglas Habecker & Lucas Lin

87, DaYe Rd, Nantun Dist
(04) 2329-6518
Hours: 11:30 am-10 pm (last order 9 pm); closed Tue
Credit cards accpeted.
10% service charge.

Nothing puts a smile on the face of a "foodie" faster than a talented chef with some fresh, fun inspiration. Such has been the case for the small, but growing, number of diners who have had the privilege of partaking in one of Chef Nicholas Pena Alvarez's periodic "pop up dinners".

Chef Nick is already well-known as the former Hotel ONE executive chef and current chef/owner of ViNi's Deli. This Canadian culinary expert's long resume also includes executive sous chef positions with The Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and The Venetian Resort and Casino Macao, plus stints at Spain's El Bulli and Restaurante Arzak, and on multiple gold/silver-winning Team Canada sides at events like the World Culinary Olympics.

In mid-2013, he organized his first Pop Up Dinner--a limited-seating, reservation-only meal (NT$1,400-1,800/person) featuring 9-10 courses of his choosing, plus a couple drinks. Besides offering personal enjoyment and a creative outlet, these events aim to provide casual enjoyment of high-end dining. The enthusiastic response led to the most recent Pop Up Dinner #4 on March 7 at ViNi's Deli, filled to capacity with about 35 eager guests.

ViNi's Deil: Pop Up Dinners spice up ViNi's Deil: Pop Up Dinners spice up ViNi's Deil: Pop Up Dinners spice up
Left: Chef Nicholas Pena Alvarez
Medium: Dashi with Daikon, Radish & Salmon Roe
Right: "Pig" meat course

Reflecting "Continental cuisine with modern French technique and some Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish and Italian influences", the meal started with Cauliflower, shaved, pickled, roasted, veloute, followed by Salmon Mi Cuit, Horseradish & Peas, a savory, half-cooked slab of salmon on a bed of peas and horseradish foam. Next was a distinctly Japanese soup, Dashi Daikon, Radish & Salmon Roe, and Cod "Cioppino" Saffron Zabaglione, transporting diners onward to Italy.

After the refreshing, frothy, slushy, crunchy Green Apple palate cleanser came two succulent, succinctly-named main courses--"Pig" (Chinese-style pork belly cooked 36 hours in water; French-style roasted jowl; roasted bacon, and homemade bacon powder) and "Beef" (rib eye slice; braised beef cheeks; beef jus, plus yam puree). The perfect ending was two desserts--"Tropical", a pineapple jelly base with coconut panna cotta, passion fruit sauce and mango fluid gel; and "Cafe", a coffee mousse, chocolate ganache, caramel, chocolate powder, and smoked white chocolate.

If this sounds amazing, Chef Nick is already planning a Mexican Cinco de Mayo themed Pop Up Dinner for May 8. For reservations/information, check ViNi's Facebook page or call.

ViNi's Deil: Pop Up Dinners spice up ViNi's Deil: Pop Up Dinners spice up ViNi's Deil: Pop Up Dinners spice up
Left: Cod "Cioppino" Saffon Zabaglione
Medium: "Cafe" dessert
Right: "Beef" meat course

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