I am so fond of afternoon tea that it is always part of my itinerary no matter where I go. I am truly grateful that sweet-toothed Hellish likes afternoon tea more than most men (even gay men :P) do,
and he is always too lazy to plan anything, so he is happy to go along with whatever tea adventure I propose. ;)
We went to Taiwan with our families 2 months ago and as usual, I reserved 2 afternoons for tea. Like HK, there's an explosion of afternoon teas in Taiwan in recent years. The choices in Taipei are staggeringly abundant, from authentic traditional tea sets in posh hotels to desperate emulations with merely fruits and cookies on tiered china stands. As the obsession with afternoon tea continues to grow in Taiwan at an infectious rate, tea sets can now be found virtually everywhere - even in Japanese restaurant!
Toutouan is a modern Japanese fine dining restaurant that has taken the lead in offering afternoon tea set. It is located in a sleepy neighbourhood in Daan District.
We were excited when the waitress showed us the tea menu!
This is really cool isn't it? :)
Hellish and I ordered a tea set for 2 persons. There's no need to share the food as it came as 2 individual tea sets, each of which was elegantly presented in a wooden bento box.
The tea set was essentially an edible Japanese courtyard garden! I knew I should spend some time admiring its beauty, but it was so mouth-watering that I grabbed my chopsticks and started eating right away... :9
Top tier: savouries (more or less) including tsukudani, grilled chicken, roasted chestnut, egg roll, pork patty, squid ball, etc... I wouldn't say the food was amazing, but it was good enough to make me happy and want more!
Bottom tier: sweets. A variety of ingredients, colours, textures, and cooking style, were used to give unique character to each little piece of sweet.There were dried strawberry and apple pieces, caramelized walnut, red bean mochi, sweet potato yokan, and a few items which I could not really label. If only the waitress could give us a bit of introduction to what we were having! Though I didn't really care as long as the food was yummy. :P
We weren't served our matcha until we wolfed down the whole tea set... which I couldn't understand why. Matcha is the best companion to Japanese sweets because its bitterness can mellow the latter's extreme sweetness. There's a pretty layer of foam in my bowl of matcha which reflected the whisking skills of the person who prepared the tea. I remember how hard I had practised in a Japanese tea class before I could make a foam that was only half as dense as this one. :0 For those who think matcha is an acquired taste, Toutouan offers genmaicha or sencha which gently cleanses and refreshes the palate.
Service: B (Service could have been more attentive, but I was quite impressed by their kid-friendly attitude. They gave my young nephew an origami ball as a gift!)
Food: B++ (A tea set for 2 cost only 1088 TWD, i.e. ~284 HKD! There's no way you can find tea sets of similar quality at this price in HK!)
Overall remarks: A recommendable place for afternoon tea lovers who 1) want to stay away from fattening cream, 2) want something different for a change and 3) wish to share their love for tea with their boyfriends/husbands (who typically shudder at the thought of having cakes on floral patterned stand in pink tearoom).
Toutouan 燈燈庵 (website)
20, Lane 81, Dunhua South Road Section 2, Taipei City, Taiwan
*The restaurant is currently renewing their afternoon tea menu, so tea set is temporarily unavailable. Keep an eye on their official site or Facebook page for future updates!