TRANSLATION | Eugenia Yang
Hidden within the alleys, the vintage, light yellow door welcomes guests with a touch of nostalgic warmth. As you step into Springleek, what comes into view is a stunning collection of antiques—a stone lion from the Qing Dynasty, walls of account books from the Showa period, artworks by legendary ink painter Chi-Mao Lee and more. Just like poet Du Fu once wrote, “We nibble on spring leeks just gathered in the evening rain, in a fresh meal that rough grains contain,” the homely dishes are a testament to the friendship shared between the chef and his guests. Now that the innovative but nostalgic dishes are served, let the Taiwanese fusion feast begin.
Essence of Gold
On a rainy winter day, a bowl of thick but sweet chicken soup is perhaps the best choice. As one of the signature dishes, Sprinkleek’s chicken soup is enriched with flavors while keeping the meat tender. Extracted from five chickens simmered for 15 hours, the essence is cooked along with Chinese yam, red dates, Jinhua ham, scallops and one whole chicken for over two hours. The recipe of the soup took Chef Vincent Lin and his team six months to develop. From countless attempts to the ratio of ingredients, they ended up following the traditional way of stewing. “It took us a lot of time and effort to find the perfect ratio. It was something that we built from scratch.” Presented in a way that makes the chopsticks appear to be floating in the air, the Black Gold Diamond Blocks, another popular dish, is both a feast for the eyes and mouth. Pieces of grouper coated in black are drizzled with mango lemon sauce and gold flakes, creating a crispy texture that is indescribable. Meanwhile, Springleek’s culinary concept is perfectly represented by one dish—the omelet filled with cilantro, preserved egg, crab meat, rice blood cake and daikon radish. By incorporating local ingredients to emphasize variety, the dishes taste like home without losing distinctive elements. “We want to present a menu that is simple, but also different from elsewhere.”
Connecting Art and Culinary
At the age of 17, Chef Lin met the owner of Springleek, Edan Tai, and began his 12 years of culinary journey. Coming from an artistic background, which appears to be the opposite of cooking, Lin is able to share a special bond with the owner because of their appreciation towards art. “I love art, while my boss understands it. From interior design, object placement to the presentation of the dishes, he is responsible for it all. Under his lead, we have learned things that are praised by others, while slowly developing a sense of accomplishment.” Known to be a perfectionist, Chef Lin sets the bar high. “I take everything very seriously when I’m in the kitchen. I want my colleagues to pay attention to the dishes because every single dish is a show we put on.” Once he is out of the kitchen, he aspires himself to be more elegant and treat his customers as friends. “The food is the priority, but we also want this place to be comfortable, where customers will enjoy interacting with the server.” Creating delightful moments through taste, environment and interaction is the key to the dining experience Chef Lin hopes to establish.
Striving towards Excellence
Throughout Chef Lin’s life, chicken soup has been a symbol of precious childhood memories. “Ever since I was a kid, I loved having chicken soup. I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family, so the ones we had were always clear broth. The fact that I get to have it every day now, especially during winter, is extremely heartwarming.” Outside of work, he searches for inspiration when he goes grocery shopping alone. Preferring vegetables, Chef Lin finds them to be high in variety and variability and hopes to incorporate different ingredients into his dishes. Out of all the international culinary talents, he admires Chef André Chiang the most. “He is from Shilin, which is where our company founded many of its brands, so I resonate with his stories a lot. The problems he encountered during his time in France alone were similar to how we started from nothing and built each and every dish, design and hardware from scratch. It’s almost like I see myself in him.” In terms of the future, Chef Lin wishes to offer more choices that cater to his regulars’ preferences. If you look closely at the gorgeous cutlery chosen for each dish, you will see the careful craftsmanship, innovation and the message behind them—“There is no best, only better.” Always striving for improvement and never hindered by boundaries, Springleek’s future is one that is worthy of anticipation.