Thursday, March 31, 2016

Gourmet burgers with Taiwanese characteristics

I'm not a food blogger, and many international visitors to Taiwan tell me they want to try as many local dishes and delicacies as possible. So why am I writing about burgers served in a swanky hotel? Because W Taipei has put a fresh and distinctly Taiwanese spin on this Western staple: The hotel's Woobar and kitchen table (no part of the latter restaurant's name is capitalized, it seems) now offer what they call a DIY Burgerand among the protein options are local pulled black pork, three-cup chicken, and stinky tofu. 
As someone who adores the deep-fried, crunchy variant of stinky tofu, I felt compelled to go for the soy option. When this arrived at my table – in a charcoal bun, topped with coleslaw, bacon, a Portabella mushroom, and Swiss cheese – the first surprise was the smell. There wasn't any. Usually when I eat stinky tofu, I'm surrounded by what I regard as a mouth-watering bouquet even before I take a seat. (Non-fans might describe it as a nauseating stench.) This is because, in a night market, the tofu is fried or stewed in full view. W Taipei's burgers are, of course, cooked and plated in a kitchen the other side of at least one door. That said, as soon as I cut into the burger, I could detect the familiar aroma. For some stinky-tofu addicts, the flavour might not be strong enough, but I enjoyed both the mild taste and the crumbly texture. 

I dug out the toppings and tried each in isolation. The slaw was especially good. If I go back, I'll likely try kim chi; in Taiwanese night markets, stinky tofu is often served with zesty pickled cabbage. And rather than beer-battered onion rings, I'd go for a salad on the side. There are too many options to list all of them here: Eight proteins, 20 toppings (you can choose up to three), eight cheeses, seven types of bun, 14 different sauces, nine side dishes, plus a few other options (notably pan-seared rouge duck foie gras) for which you need to pay extra. The basic set is NTD385 plus 10% service charge; this includes a soft drink. 

W Taipei is within walking distance of Taipei City Hall MRT Station on the Blue Line, and thus in the same part of the capital as Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and Songshan Cultural and Creative Park.  

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