Well, Silks Palace at the National Palace Museum knew it had a tall order to fill when creating dining space next to all those masterworks. The museum itself was created to house the personal treasures of the last Emperor of China and the location in Taiwan is thanks to Chiang Kai-shek’s foresight to get the best of the best moved away from invading Japanese forces and Communists.
There are lots of museum restaurants that serve interesting food, but rarely does the menu relate to the art inside. Silks Palace at the National Palace Museum not only has kept the high quality expected with the Silks brand, but also has created gastronomical art that reflects what patrons flock the world over to see. I was very glad to be hosted to experience it!
From the moment you sit down in the classic on the outside, modern on the inside restaurant, the nexus between all the senses is stimulated. The restaurant has design elements from the museum in the tableware. The menu has items created to resemble some of the most famous art pieces in the museum, like the jade celery. Everything is presented beautifully.
There was an asparagus and crab claw appetizer served chilled, with an aioli drizzle. This was followed by baby prunes with chilled yam and (tomato?) leaf appetizer. This part of the lunch definitely had a innovative, Western bent.
The next course was a chicken and pork dish, poached in a salted broth with the skin on. This is a more typical Chinese dish that is seen at various area restaurants.
The dish was followed by a soup course, presented in a bowl that resembled one of the ancient treasurers belonging to the Chinese royal family. The soup itself was a tofu soup with minced baby shrimp and scallops, perfectly delicate and fresh. The consistency was of an expertly made egg drop soup.
In a calligrapher’s arm rest sits a wet nap to clean your fingers, especially helpful if you’ve been using chopsticks.
The next course was a “meat stone” — pork belly cut to enhance its marbling and look like a marble carving. It was fatty and rich, served with a deep-flavored and well-developed pork gravy, garnished by a crisp, steamed broccoli crown.
The next dish would make any visitor to the museum smile: a rendition of their signature artwork, the jade cabbage. In the museum, it’s a cabbage with white and green carved out of a single piece of jade, with a grasshopper and natural “spots”. At the restaurant, a shrimp substitutes for the grasshopper.
Next came a hearty dish of e-fu noodles with a peanut flavor.
Dessert was an etagere of desserts molded to resemble the little miniature models the Emperor had created to transport his art collection. A little something to play with on the road. Many of the desserts were created with bean paste. This was served with architecturally carved fresh fruits — not gimmicky, but just like big, raw gemstones.