We were lucky to meet Calvin who is a hip and stylish Taiwanese who knows his way around town and is an avid foodie travelling to Japan. Calvin is no stranger to the Taipei scene and is a niche player staying away from the usual fanfare of Taipei’s restaurant scene.
Calvin owns and operates restaurants in Taipei but his restaurant Tua has one of the coolest vibes you’ll find, a bistro styled easy-going yet bottom line emphasis on raw materials. Using wooden tables from Tine & Style Tokyo he mixes them with Scandinavian chairs and local antiques. It’s clear he has taste and enjoys what he does, yet works hard. Including a nice selection of imported wines, and we found two that accompanied the food nicely.
This course caught our table off guard, it seemed western by the virtue of the presentation yet it included a classical preparation of chicken, imo, figs and winter squash. What I found interesting was the cuisine had both a feminine and masculine balance, and this is a sign of food intelligence. I thought the lighting mood was perfect and it adds a sense of food suspense while Tua dishes pay careful attention to detail.
The cuisine here isn’t classical Taiwanese, or typical yet it fits into the Taipei settling into its own groove. We liked the way Tua adds a twist to the dishes, adding elements you wouldn’t necessarily expect. The pa-po tofu is a fiery Sichuan classic dish, but Tua serves it vegetarian and just the way we like it. It’s the way he uses Taiwanese raw materials as he recommends his beef stew to us. It was perfect and umami to no end, yet not overly salty, or ridden by a heavy sauce. The meat melted in your mouth and it had a nice clean balanced taste.
These dishes are crafted using elements from surrounding villages and markets, and no doubt Calvin makes an effort to be specific about what he adores, raw materials and simplicity.
The Tua deserts speak for themselves with a good pastry chef, and a meal without a good sweet is incomplete but here you won’t leave disappointed. The glazed persimmon filled with mascarpone cheese was awesome and the hazelnuts added made it the pièce de résistance until the soufflé arrived.
If you go to Taiwan its a place to try to enjoy the friendly exclusive atmosphere of a food lover, a serious owner who understands quality – and by the way try a whiskey while you’re there.
What I appreciated was the barrista a young Taiwanese woman, she was finicky about the coffee as I watched her work. She seemed nervous but didn’t flinch as I waited and watched her throw away the first coffee, she seemed dissatisfied and that’s a good sign of a serious barrista. Her espresso is one of the best espresso’s I’ve tasted in a long time – bravo!
Tua staff are passionate and enjoy what they do, yet the atmosphere isn’t stuffy at all and its more relaxed and elegant chic wabi-sabi Taipei at its best. Thanks Calvin for the effort in a city where many restaurants lack the passion and attention to detail we enjoy 🙂