Diners at the Marco Polo, located on the 38th floor of Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, will notice that there is something delectably unique about the dishes on offer from its current Black Truffle Set Menu. Concocted by head chef David Hsu, the menu features a luxurious selection of high-end traditional Italian fare with modern flourishes and the incorporation of local Taiwanese ingredients, allowing customers to sample the full spectrum of flavors in each successive dish.
As the meal begins, diners seeking to get their palates up to speed may order the Culatello e Melone, Italian Culatello ham served with lightly sweet Taiwan cantaloupes and punctuated by the crisp crunch of honeycombs and pungent kick of Gorgonzola. Other appetizer options include the Carpaccio Di Salmone, which features vodka-cured salmon, cucumber, mini carrot, cream cheese mousse, roe, and mesclun field salad. Meanwhile, the Capesante Scottate in Padella con Purea di Cavolfiore e Tartufo boasts a powerful blend of pan-seared scallops, sambuca cauliflower purée, sautéed baby spinach, and Italian black truffles. It is sure to delight any connoisseur of fine Italian cuisine.
Entrées on the Black Truffle Set Menu span a wide range of high quality meats and seafood, from U.S. and Japanese steak to Iberico pork and Boston lobster. Recommended in particular is the New Zealand Premium Lamb Rack, grilled in the Marco Polo’s Josper brand charcoal oven and served with Jerusalem artichoke and truffle sauce on the side. The mouth-watering tenderness and strong flavors of the lamb are enhanced by the artichoke’s rich nuttiness and buttery texture.
No true Italian meal is complete without dessert, and when it comes to sweets, Marco Polo never fails to disappoint. Chocolate lovers will celebrate the Tortino con Cuore Liquido di Cioccolato, a classic lava cake made with buckwheat and filled with viscous melted chocolate that flows gently across the plate once the lucky diner cuts through its solid outer shell.
Chef Hsu is no newcomer to the world of culinary arts. With well over a decade of experience cooking in some of Taipei’s finest restaurants alongside world-renowned Italian chefs, Hsu has worked his way up from absolute novice to master chef. His tenure at the Marco Polo began in 2014, and this year he was promoted to the position of chef de cuisine.
Hsu says the key to crafting the Marco Polo’s menu, which changes each season, is to adjust and improve upon time-honored Italian cuisine, modifying it to accommodate the local Taiwanese market while taking care to preserve its original flavor and style. He also enjoys using all of the different culinary elements from Italy, from red and white meat to fresh seafood and vegetables.
One of Hsu’s favorite practices is thinking about how to integrate Taiwanese specialties into his dishes. Influenced by the recent popularity of lavender flower tea at Taiwan’s tea stalls, for this season’s menu he created the Ravioli alla Lavanda, which consists of lavender and parmesan ravioli garnished with house-made semi-dried grapes and wild berries and topped with a champagne foam.
The quality of the Black Truffle Set is already very high when the menu is launched each autumn, Hsu says, but it reaches its peak in the cool winter months as all the different components are tweaked to perfection over time.
Reserved and modest, Hsu attributes much of the creativity and success of his menus to his expertly trained, world-class kitchen staff. He also stresses his appreciation of Marco Polo’s customers, whose support have helped carry the restaurant through what has been a very difficult year for the food and beverage industry.
“Everywhere you go, you can find Italian food,” says Hsu.“It’s a style that everyone knows how to make. But Italian food that is made well and with care – that is something that the customer can definitely perceive, and it is the biggest strength for me and my team at the Marco Polo.”