I’m fortunate enough that my parents have an apartment in Taipei close to the Zhongxiao Fuxing shopping district, which is one of the busiest shopping areas in Taipei. It was in my last week that I was in Taipei catching a bus when the bus turned off the main street…and drove past a Häagen Dazs ice cream parlour.
‘What?!’ I cried – how did I never know it was there?? In my opinion, after tasting a selection of their ice creams as part of an exquisite hotel buffet two years ago, Häagen Dazs makes the best ice cream in the world. Especially strawberry. I’m yet to find another ice cream that truly captures the essence of real, fresh strawberries, rather than the strawberry you get in the Neapolitan ice cream boxes which taste like strawberry Nesquik.
Anyway, the next evening I made haste and rushed over around 6.00 pm and went inside at ground level to have a look at the ice cream flavours, intending on just getting a scoop or two in a cup and leaving. As soon as I arrived, I was greeted formally in Mandarin by one of the three assistants, only to receive a blank look from me (my Mandarin isn’t really up to scratch). When I said ‘I’m sorry’, she said, ‘Oh’, and promptly spoke very fluently ‘Would you like to eat in or take away?’
I chose to eat in…the interior looked comfy and modern, full of warm wood paneling and cushioned red sofas. She then spoke into the mouthpiece of a radio and directed me upstairs, where I was greeted by another waitress in fluent English, who brought over three different menus.
Wow, even to work at Häagen Dazs you need to be bilingual. She brought over a napkin, spoon, fork, and a glass of chilled water, and immediately it registered that this ice cream parlour was going to be pricey.
The menu featured a lot of dishes that were designed for large groups – fondue sets, ice cream cakes with more scoops of ice cream piled on them, etc. The seating was arranged in groups of four plus as well, with me having the only table for two upstairs – a pair of lovely, soft red armchairs that made me sink down low as soon as I sat down. Yes, I had difficulty getting up afterwards.
They had both a winter menu and their usual menu, and ultimately I decided to go with the Paris, a crème brûlée topped with two wafers and three scoops of ice cream – supposed to be ‘just like a springtime stroll in Paris’.
The Paris took some time to arrive but when it did, it was lovely. The crème brûlée was silky and not too eggy, with the sugar on top was perfectly caramelised – crisp enough to shatter upon impact, but yet still hard enough to hold up the three scoops of ice cream, which were Mango, Summer Berry, and my favourite, the Strawberry. I spent a long time savouring each spoonful, licking the spoon between each bite – it was simply glorious.
The dessert cost $11 Australian dollars, $330 Taiwanese – expensive in terms of Taiwanese standards for a dessert, but if one were to have the identical dish in a Sydney restaurant, it would most likely be about the same price, if not a tad more – and how many restaurants can you walk into in Sydney and just have dessert?
Simply beautiful ice cream.