REVIEW: Oysters & Wine at Origines French Bistro

REVIEW: Oysters & Wine at Origines French Bistro
Credit: Origines French Bistro

What you need to know

An evening of oysters and wine is trumped by charcuterie.

The good:

  • Excellent wine
  • Great charcuterie
  • Refined yet cozy design

The bad:

  • Lacking service
  • Oysters left something to be desired

While French fare isn’t new in Taipei, there are few quality bistros and wine bars. Origines in Da’an District hopes to answer the need for both.

The venue, officially titled Origines French Bistro and Wine Bar, on Nov. 10 hosted an “Oysters and Chablis” event featuring, obviously, oysters and wine. While still a new restaurant and not perfect, Origines has great potential and is a solid choice if you’re in search of a quality glass of wine and charcuterie.

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Credit: Origines French Bistro
The event featured tasty French Chablis and oysters from Essex in England.

Background

Origines opened in 2015 in Da’an District between Anhe Rd. and Dunhua S. Rd. Chef and owner Cyril Hou was born in France and raised in Germany, and after attending university in Europe, he returned to France to pursue a career in French dining, including interning at Michelin-rated eateries. He and his girlfriend Sylvia Su run the bistro, hoping to exemplify quality French dining and wine in the heart of Taipei.

Atmosphere

Origines is less a fine-dining restaurant than it is an upscale cafe, better for sharing hors d'oeuvres and a bottle of wine than tucking into a seven-course supper. The atmosphere is equal parts refined and unostentatious, especially at an event where most people seemed to know each other and were friends with Mr. Hou and Ms. Su.

The restaurant is easy to find and close to Xinyi-Anhe MRT Station.

Clientele

Most attendees were foreign professionals and their plus-ones, with the crowd tending towards middle age and business-casual. Considering it was a Friday night wine event, more than a few customers came away well-marinated, and as the evening waned, so did the level of formality.

Wine

While the Origines wine menu is extensive and filled with excellent variety, we stuck to the Chablis, as that was the theme of the evening. It was seductively drinkable and paired nicely with the other items. The sales representative, himself hailing from Chablis in Burgundy, France, was there presenting his product, offering something of a background for the wine.

Cheese board

Origines’ cheese board features three varieties. First the comté, a milky, nutty cheese that went well with walnuts and walnut oil. Next, the stracchino, which is a local goat milk cheese actually made in Taichung, western Taiwan. Also featured is a brie that paired well with the rye baguette provided with the platter.

The cheese itself was great, but considering the price, NT$600 (US$20) per plate, not much was offered. If you are a cheese connoisseur it is probably worth your while, but for something simple to snack on along with wine, you’d be better served with the charcuterie.

Oysters

The oysters were imported from the coast of Essex in England and served with an onion vinegar sauce and a slice of lemon. We ordered a total of seven for NT$700NT (NT$100NT). Unfortunately, the oysters were a little disappointing. While they were not bad, it was also fairly clear they had traveled and weren’t as fresh as they might have been, as well as more bitter than oysters ought to be.

Charcuterie

The charcuterie was outstanding. It featured head cheese, chicken liver mousse, confit duck rillettes, jambon persillé, Basque cured ham, and Basque chorizo. Mr. Hou makes everything in-house (except the ham and chorizo) and it shows. The confit duck rillettes were especially tasty.

The board also featured pickles and mustard grains, and along with the baguette, it is one of the best French culinary experiences foodies can find in Taipei. There are two sizes - a NT$350 board for one and NT$700 for a pair.

Service

The harshest marks Origines earned were in terms of service.

When we were seated and ordered, we were asked to pay upfront, and had to pay again each time we ordered something else. This, we were told, was because it was a special event and was sure to be busy.

Strangely, there were never more than 25 guests present at any point with two servers and Ms. Su, along with Mr. Hou and what appeared to be a sous chef. And while three service staff for 20-plus people can be a task, it’s hardly turn-and-burn capacity.

Being preemptively warned that service was going to be lacking, not having the ability to simply open a tab, and then seeing a relatively small turnout struck me as unprofessional. Furthermore, the service staff seemed to commit a number of faux pas throughout the evening: we were never offered a cheese knife nor any silverware for our charcuterie, there was a single sauce “station” for oysters as opposed to separate dishes for different parties, and we had to get up to ask for items on more than one occasion.

While this type of service is common in cafes and Taiwanese restaurants, considering the price, atmosphere, and that it is supposed to be French dining, Origines could present itself better to diners.

Cost

Origines is not a budget restaurant – it is very much a French Bistro and the quality of food and beverages reflects this. A higher price point should be expected; much of the fare is imported and generally rare in Taipei. We spent a little under NT$5000 for two people, but it was a special event and we could have comfortably spent less.

While it is a little pricey, Origines isn’t overpriced and is a good spot for a bottle of wine, hors d'oeuvres, and even for dinner. If you’re in the mood for something laid back, something French, or great wine, Origines is a strong choice and will only get better.

Information

Origines French Bistro

French Restaurant and Wine Bar

Hours: 6PM - 11PM

Phone: 02 2701 4545

Address: Dunhua S. Rd. Sec. 2, Lane 81, No. 31 (敦化南路 2段 81巷 31號)

Website: Origines.tw


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