The global pandemic may have forced Taiwanese restaurants and chefs to hit the pause button, but they have since bounced back with new vigour. As dining restrictions gradually eased in the last two months of September and October, Taiwan’s F&B landscape has emerged transformed, bringing surprises to the market with a slew of creative new launches and the promise of renewed energy, as chefs take the opportunity to rest and regroup.
Gēn Creative launches dessert brand Nena
MICHELIN-recommended restaurant Gēn Creative recently launched Nena by Gēn Creative, a bakery and dessert brand operated out of the restaurant in the Da’an District. Developed over the last few months, Nena has been launched online, while its brick-and-mortar store is marked by lively graffiti, a contrast from the austere restaurant.
"Having our own dessert brand has always been part of our development plans," says head chef Eric Liu, sharing how the team used to joke about ditching the savoury courses since customers would always praise the desserts as they left the restaurant. The idea started to take shape as they began to think in response to the pandemic and the restaurant’s unstable operating conditions. Although the chefs were adamant about only creating handmade desserts, they recognised the opportunities in packaging and diversification of retail channels.
Nena by Gēn Creative will be managed by the restaurant’s dessert chef Melanie Garcia as well as Catherine Shih, the dessert chef behind Gēn Creative’s other bistro, Bottless. Nena, which means “little girl” or “little baby” in Spanish, was Garcia’s nickname growing up in Guatemala. According to Liu, Nena by Gēn Creative will offer renditions of the desserts that the chefs grew up with, including nostalgic American classics and other sweets inspired by precious family memories.
"Many people may think that American desserts are very sweet and come in huge portions, but that’s not all it is," explains Liu. For example, a dessert called Mel's Rocky Road Candy Bar features a fun combination of bittersweet chocolate, oats, toasted walnuts, and marshmallows, a classic American flavour balanced with sweet and salty dimensions.
Liu also emphasised that the restaurant will continue to uphold the philosophy of Gēn Creative and maintain close cooperation with smallholder farmers in Taiwan, and are looking to collaborate with other brands in the future to engage with a wider pool of consumers.
A new burger joint by Chateau Zoe and Bib Gourmand restaurant Master of Mushroom’s new hot pot brand
MICHELIN-recommended modern European wine bar and restaurant Chateau Zoe has launched a new burger joint. Mooo Burger offers American-style burgers created in the spirit of the restaurant, which is to focus on the quality of the ingredients and the balance of flavours. Diners choose between brioche, low-gluten focaccia, and soft French-style bread for the buns; sandwiched between are a variety of fillings from beef and chicken to vegetarian and sustainably sourced seasonal seafood. The Mooo X Dong Chang Fishery Farm burger features a crispy beer-battered swordfish steak slathered with Mooo mayo and house-pickled shallots.
In addition to freshly made smoothies, the drinks menu takes a leaf from Chateau Zoe’s wine pairings, offering 375ml glasses of red and white wines.
Another restaurant to launch a new brand recently is Master of Mushroom, which debuted in the MICHELIN Guide with a Bib Gourmand distinction in late August. As expected, mushrooms are the hero at its newly opened hot pot restaurant in downtown Taichung, 菇神首采鍋物 (Master of Mushroom Shou Cai Guo Wu). Diners can also tuck into the restaurant’s signature Mushroom Minced Pork Rice with their hot pot.
Temporary closures at Chou Chou and Le Plein
Two MICHELIN-listed restaurants in Taipei and Taichung have announced temporary closures: modern French restaurant Chou Chou by chef Lam Ming Kin will be closed for renovations from October 1, while Le Plein in Taichung will cease operations at its current location on Wuquan 1st Street at the end of October to move to Cunzhong Street, a 10-minute walk away. "The outbreak of the pandemic has been very difficult for the restaurant. It has made me think about how Le Plain can evolve as a restaurant to become an indispensable establishment. I want to put in my best for the team, and for our guests, to do my best to take care of everyone,” writes Le Plein's chef Lin Kaiwei on Facebook.
The header image is Debby's Caramel Popcorn Bar from Nena by Gēn Creative (Photo by Nena by Gēn Creative)
This article was written by Hsieh Ming Ling and translated by Rachel Tan. You can read the original text here.