October 5, 2009

A very Taiwanese Japanese meal

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I finally had a chance to go back to Mitsui (三井) tonight after a few years.  This is a Japanese restaurant that is popular with locals in Taipei, as the food is pretty good, although I never found it terribly authentic.  Instead there is a strong Taiwanese twist to the cuisine, which is just fine with most Taiwanese.

We took one of the cheaper set dinners, which was good enough for me in terms of quality.

First came a plate of sashimi, with toro (トロ), yellow tail (はまち), scallop (帆立), humpback shrimp (牡丹蝦), some fish I didn't recognize and squid and seaweed roll.  Pretty fresh stuff, and the shrimp was particularly crunchy and bouncy.

Next we had a bowl of abalone salad (アワビサラダ).  This is where the "fusion" element comes in.  It was a nice and refreshing salad, with ingredients like apple, yamaimo (山芋) and alfalfa sprouts in addition to the usual suspects.  The abalone was tasty and served out of the shell.

Some green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) was served on a bed of shredded yamaimo (山芋).  This was pretty sweet, and perfect with a couple of drops of soy sauce.  The combination of the two elements worked pretty well, as both the sea urchin and the root had creamy and viscous elements in their textures.

The grilled red king crab legs (タラバ) were pretty good.  The legs were nicely done - not too dry - and there were still juices running down the shell when I tried to peel off the meat.

We were served a burdock hand roll (牛蒡手巻き), and it was surprisingly good.  The burdock were cut into very thin shreds, then grilled until it's dry and crispy and wrapped with some mayo.

Braised head of red snapper (鯛) tasted more Chinese than Japanese, but never mind...

We had some cubes of yummy beef, slowly cooked on top of a large leaf over a mini hibachi. The beef stays nice and red in the center, with just enough fat to impart the yummy flavors to the meat.

Finally, we had seafood hotpot with clear broth and red king crab (タラバガニ).  I always prefer clear broth instead of miso, as you get this wonderfully sweet aftertaste from the seafood.

The fruit and dessert platter was pretty good, too, with some nectarine, ripe grapes and a very, very yummy dorayaki (銅鑼焼き).  A very nice way to finish off the meal.

This was actually too much food for me, as I was kinda full by the time the beef came around.  But I really enjoyed the food here.  The only drawback was the service.  Not that we were ignored by the staff or the staff didn't have smiles on their faces.  They were just poorly trained.  We had someone who special dietary habits in our group, so a few of her courses were substituted.  The staff didn't bother to mark down which person was getting the special dishes, and we had to correct the serving waitress repeatedly.  The kitchen also sent out food at a really fast pace, without allowing us enough time to finish the previous dish.  This became annoying, and marred what was otherwise a great dining experience.  I guess it really is hard to get good service in Asia...

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