EXCLUSIVE: Taïrroir’s Chef Kai Ho On Opening Taipei’s Restaurant Of The Moment

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An inside look at one of Taipei’s trendiest restaurants.

If you’re a foodie, you’re probably already familiar with the term terroir. It derives from the French philosophy which encompasses the complete natural environment wine is produced. Think: climate, soil, topography, and much more.

Taipei’s it restaurant of the moment, Taïrroir 態芮, is a name which plays off of Taiwan and terroir. Naturally, the restaurant’s concept expands upon the natural resources of this tropical island’s produce and European influences in presentation and methods of cuisine.

Inspired by cooking shows he was obsessed with during childhood, Taïrroir’s Head Chef Kai Ho was already winning various national culinary competitions as a teenager. He exclusively tells Jetset Times,

I remember at 16 years old, I had mastered the craft of Chinese cuisine. So Western cuisine fascinated me, I wanted to create something different.

Off to the United States he went, where he opened several restaurants. Afterwards, his résumé included: Singapore’s Michelin 3-star Guy Savoy, and working closely with star chef Julien Royer. For him, Taïrroir is his opportunity of transporting Taiwan’s past to its present.

Located in Dazhi, Taipei’s new crux of gastronomic hub; Taïrroir neighbors other much buzzed about premium restaurants headed by Michelin chefs such as: Andre Chiang’s RAW and Seiji Yamamoto’s RyuGin Taipei. Taïrroir’s entrance to Taipei’s gastronomy scene has continued to live up to its highly publicized great expectations. Moreover, it has now become that restaurant in the city. If you haven’t tried it, you remain excluded in an exclusive crowd who knows good eats.

Situated on the 6th floor of a modern edifice, the elevator doors open to glimmers of tangerine and apricot-colored panels that chicly hang from the ceiling. The bar beams of style and generosity, spotlighted by sunlight dazzling through floor to ceiling windows. The rest of the restaurant is modern, achromatic yet exuding a fashionable welcome.

If you understand Mandarin, browsing through the names of each dish on Taïrroir’s menu is akin to grasping verses taken out of Chinese poems with a wink of humor. Its signature taro dish consists of 65°C Silkie Egg, Taro “en Pureé et Kueh”, Yilan “Ya shang”, Sakura Shrimp. In Mandarin though, 迷魂香芋泥鴨 (mi huen xiang yu ni ya) describes an Ecstasy of Fragrant Taro Duck. Blubberlip Snapper ”au Naturelle”, Tainan #1 White Asparagus, Bordelaise is labeled in Mandarin as 誰魚爭鮮 (shui yu zheng xian) meaning, Which Fish is Fighting for the Freshest. Cucumber and Hendrick’s Gin Sorbet, Lemon Foam, Rose Water Jelly, literally translates to 瓜瓜樂 (gua gua le)  happy melon. But it also refers to lottery scratch cards. There’s the comical wink, if you’re bilingual.

Ho explains his approach whilst composing his playful menu ,

I actually write in English first, then I’ll think of the Mandarin translation because the composition of each dish is French-based, not the other way around. I noticed that most menus out there are very boring. If a customer studies our menu, after the dish is presented with the explanation by our staff, it engages more interaction between our service team and the customer which is the ambiance I wanted to create.

It’s clear Ho wanted the dining experience to be a sensory appreciation for all parts of our bodies. The perfect example is showcased in his signature taro dish which arrives in two dishes: a bowl of silky mashed taro adorned with a half-cooked egg, and a small plate of embellished sakura shrimp in the shape of a ring. The waiter then pours the ingredients from the small plate into the lavender bowl. After a good stir and a graceful bite, the crackling sound of sakura shrimps beautifully juxtaposes with the naturally perfumed pureé taro. It is heavenly.

Returning to the name of the restaurant, – Taïrroir – Ho explicits that it isn’t just about using Taiwanese ingredients in Western cooking. For him, it’s much more profound for a man who grew up in Taichung, a flourishing city situated in the middle of Taiwan. And for a man who never forgets his past,

Taïrroir is about my imagination, memories and my future vision for Taiwan.

Today, the most exciting culinary experiences are no longer confined in a traditional Michelin restaurant. In fact, many have grown bored. Taïrroir, however, is a true testament that a booming city like Taipei is cultivating a new kind of gastronomic thrill. One that infuses the love for a home country with a refined craft learned from overseas. The combination of the two is surely a tasty one, from beginning to end.

Wendy Hung

CEO, FOUNDER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and Russia because they were all so different! St. Bart's was pretty amazing too (wink)!

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