By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Anna Yang
31, JingCheng 3rd St, West Dist
Hours: 11:30 am-2 pm, 5:30-10 pm (closed Mon.)
10% service charge.
Given the history, size and varied regions of France, it's no surprise that its world-renowned cuisine is equally diverse and well beyond the scope of one restaurant or dining experience. Here in Taichung, however, one restaurant arguably captures the diversity of French dining better than any other establishment in town.
Chez Philou, in a house on a quiet residential lane between JingCheng and ZhongMing South roads, was opened by Parisian chef/owner Philippe Rouchet almost five years ago. Starting from the age of 16, his three decades of culinary experience have included cooking for French generals at the Ministry of Defense and a stint at a Champs-Elysees restaurant, where his food was enjoyed by the likes of French President Francois Mitterrand and actress Audrey Tautou.
Philippe's menu is striking in its variety, ranging from French standards like escargot (stuffed snails), quiche, and Croque Monsieur sandwiches (NT$220) to eight unique Moroccan specialties (NT$480-550), learned from his Moroccan mother. These include Moroccan Couscous and seven tajine dishes, cooked and served in a distinctive clay pot, like the most popular lamb and prune Tajine a l'Agneau & aux Pruneaux (pictured at top). He's also started offering doner kebabs (NT$250), plus Mitrailette (NT$250)--hamburger topped with Sauce Andalouse (mayo, tomato paste and peppers) in a baguette--also known as an "Americain".
The true French culinary journey can be found among the 11 "French Specialty" entrees (NT$260-550), each representing a French region. From Dijon, the unique Rabbit with Dijon Mustard Sauce (pictured), made with rabbits raised in Taiping district, attracts many curious diners. From Toulouse comes Cassoulet, a stew of white beans and various sausages; from Burgundy comes Boeuf Bourguignon; from Bordeaux comes Duck Magret with Pepper Sauce; from the Swiss border region is Raclette (NT$550), with melted cheeses, meats and veggies prepared on a special imported grill. Other stand-outs include Frog Legs in Pesto Sauce and the favorite Mussels in White Wine & Cream Sauce.
Complementing these entrees is also a broad selection of desserts, beers and wines. Since May, Philippe has also started serving a French breakfast on the first Sunday of every month (8:30 a.m.-noon).