Spanish Chef Daniel Negreira, Chef and owner of the several award-winning restaurant “Hidden By DN” in Taipei City, Taiwan
Spanish Chef Daniel Negreira, chef and owner of the several award-winning restaurant “Hidden By DN” in Taipei City, Taiwan. About his contemporary take on Spanish cuisine, using the best Taiwanese ingredients.
As Chef and owner of the restaurant “Hidden By DN” in Taipei, Taiwan, and with your international stations as Executive chef, you became a well-known passionate Spanish Chef. When did your passion for cooking started?
I guess it all began when being a child the only way to touch a knife at my house, the forbidden item for kids, was to help out in the kitchen, so by helping my grandma to cook the family meal I got this spark that still burns today after almost 35 years.
You did visit the famous “San Sebastian culinary school”. What made this school and the education there so special for you?
The ambience of richness surrounding not only the school but the entire city, basque people knows how to eat and definitely knows how to cook, when you train on this environment it’s easier to fall in love with this job.
Already in 2014 you have been nominated with No. 42 among the 101 BEST RESTAURANTS ON ASIA and No 15 at the BEST EVER DINNING AWARDS No. 15. What was you culinary line / set up in 2014?
My team and I were focused on displaying the richness of Taiwanese products using the latest techniques with respect of traditions too to achieve a delicate balance between those two usually opposed concepts.
Before your time in Taipei, you worked in Shanghai. How did this time influence you as chef?
The time I spent in shanghai taught me how to be more reflexive and mature as the environment there was something really hard to handle because of the cultural differences and the particularities of the Chinese market.
Before you open your “Hidden By DN” in Taipei, your worked at the legendary Arzak and El Bulli. What have been your greatest learnings out of this time?
I could mention hundreds of recipes that truly influenced my style today but to me the most valuable thing I got from that stage was to be able to understand their thinking process, today those teachings are still the foundations of my projects.
After so many different culinary experiences, how would you describe your culinary line today?
At Hidden By DN I achieved my many years unreachable goal, to work mostly based on daily items and with freedom to propose everyday new items to the guests that visit us. To me this is a very special feeling, to see how the guests don’t need to physically read a printed menu, and instead of that they trust on you to cook whatever you feel is good that day, that’s the key word for a business to me, the TRUST of your clients.
What made you decide to open your own restaurant?
The willing to do what I want to do on every single aspect of the business without having anybody else involved on the decisions.
And why Taipei?
My three kids were born and raised here, my Taiwanese wife, the beauty of this country, the richness of its gastronomy, the kindness of the Taiwanese people,and a long long etcetera of positive reasons.
At the “Hidden by DN” you showcase your contemporary take on Spanish cuisine, using the best Taiwanese ingredients. Can you provide as 1, 2 dishes which describes this approach best?
We prepare for example with local sea urchin a dish shaped as a corn , we call it the UNI-Corn , being Uni the Japanese term for sea urchin, it’s playful and of course very tasty. To finalize the dish we serve it with a romesco sauce , similar way we eat the corn in Catalonia area.
Your Seafood comes from Daxi Harbour in Yilan. Which sorts of fish do you use most?
As we are mostly based on seasonal items and daily products we don’t have any specific items that stay consistently at the menu, so I can’t really answer this question.
You do offer prix-fixe tasting menus. What’s behind that?
We want our guests to enjoy a great experience without surprises, so we set a price that we never change even the elements on the menu go in and out , through this, even sometimes the cost is higher on some items of the menu we always provide our distinguished guests with a very high standard and CP value.
You do create Spanish flavours with modern techniques. What are some of these modern techniques you use?
We try to cover a wide range of the latest available techniques and decide which one will be the best to each single product.
As you offer Spanish cuisine, using the best Taiwanese ingredients; do you practice as well Spanish/ Asian fusion kitchen?
After so many years in Asia it’s inevitable for me to have clear Asian influences on the menu, although we try to keep the recipes as original as the way we use to do in Spain but when we use local products replacing imported items we slightly adjust to maintain the best quality of the main product.
Your dishes are perfectly complemented by Spanish wines. What sort of Spanish wines are preferred by your Asian quests?
Our guests, luckily for us, most of the times will let us decide and trust our judgment to recommend the right wine to match the food. As the menu changes so often the wine list is also updated frequently introducing new wines, we try to keep it fresh in both aspects, as many people is beginning to discover Spanish wine and its diversity so we feel ourselves confident to keep bringing new regions and grape varieties from Spain to fulfill this need and showcase the best that my country can offer in terms of wine. Only 8 restaurants in taiwan have been distinguished with the grapes sign by Michelin, Hidden By DN among them, as even we only have 25 seats we have more than 400 labels of Spanish wine to offer, serving exclusively Spanish wine, probably the fact of being stubborn about this is the reason why Michelin decided to provide us with this award.
What are typical feedbacks of your Asian guests compared to your – maybe more critical – Spanish quests?
After so many years in Asia I got to understand the local palate and what people is looking for in terms of a dining experience.
We have very few Spanish guests as the Spanish community in Taiwan is very small and most of them are students.
Among our guests probably the most repeated comment is the high CP value we offer and the flexibility we deal with guests in terms of special needs or tailor made menus.
Where do you get the ingredients for the Spanish parts of your menus from?
There are plenty of local importers that provide us with almost everything we need, but for some very specific items we import them directly from Spain.
The “Hidden By DN” was mentioned in the Michelin guide TAIPEI 2018, the Bib gourmand MICHELIN selection. What is your secret behind your success?
I think it should be the teamwork, we open for over 1.5 years and we didn’t change or replace any key member from the original team, that will provide our food with a sense of consistency.
Can you share some of your latest creation/ recipe with us?
- 2 RED SHRIMP ( CARABINERO )
- 50 g Curacao liquor
- 2 g Gellan
- 15 g Shrimp essence
- 100 g Syrup
- 5 g Vegetables gelatine
- 5 g Squid ink
- 250 g Shrimp consomme
- 5 g Extra virgin olive oil
- 10 g Shrimp head essence
Peel the shrimps , remove the intestine and reserve. With the heads and the shells we will prepare the shrimp essence, cooking them with a 20% of the total weight of butter, really slowly until the head release almost all the juices. Ride after that we will blend it and using a fine seep we will seep it in order to obtain a paste that we will use as the essence.
With the remaining pieces of shrimp we will place that into a pan, and cover with one liter of mineral water. Cook it slowly as if it was a chicken consommé for about one hour. Seep again the soup that we will obtain and filter through stamen to remove all the sediments. Cool it down and remove as well the fat that will become solid on the top. Reserve.
Place half of the shrimp essence on a silicon mold with a half sphere shape and freeze it. Meanwhile prepare a vegetable gelatin bath that we will use to create the membrane to cover the shrimp coolant, mixing the squid ink with 100 grams of shrimp consommé, boil it and add the gelatin mixing well all the time . Once our half sphere is frozen, stick it with a needle and put into the gelatin bath twice, being careful to do not let it fall down. Reserve the coulant on the chiller.
With the remaining gelatin prepare on top of a non sticky surface a few drops or pearls that we will use to create the illusion of Miro’s dish. Now we will prepare the blue carpet that will be the base for the dish.
Mix 125 grams of lobster consommé with 2 grams of gellan and the curacao liquor, boil everything and extend on a oven tray or a flat surface keeping an inclination of 10 degrees to let it flow down all along the surface to create a thin layer . Once this is cold we can cut the size we prefer. On this case we will use 18×12’5cm.
On a glass tube place put half of the remainig shrimp essence and cover with the olive oil. Reserve it on a warm place as a bain marie.
To finish the dish we will place on the bottom the blue gelatine, on top of that following Miro’s design, the coolant and the small black pearls, the remaining shrimp essence under the shrimp and before we serve we will place the grilled shrimp on top of the essence and the glass tube on the side.
The best way to have this recipe is to ask our guests to roll the gelatine around the shrimp and then eat this as a cannelloni, using the sauce on the tube as a dressing.
If you are not busy in your restaurant. if there any special local street food place in Taipei and food you are in love with?
I love the cold noodles with peanuts near Muzha station, the store is probably older than me and most of it is placed on the walkway, but their food is consistently wonderful.
Thank you, Daniel Negreira!