August 6, 2010

Trippin' with the elves day 1: plus ça change

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I flew into Taipei for a long weekend, partly to play tour guide to the elves.  This is their first trip to Taiwan, and they seem intent on eating their way through the island.

We started our journey together at Da Shan Wu Jia (大山無價), as I want to introduce them to the simple yet wonderful cuisine here.  I know they'd be hitting the night markets and numerous little eateries, but for a nice sit-down meal that we can enjoy together, I can't think of many other places that would be better.

This is my third time at the restaurant, and I wondered how much of the menu would change.    The answer is: not much at all.  I like the food here, but it IS getting a little boring...  I don't think the restaurant changes their menu as often as the waitress claims...

We always start with the red wine jelly, made from some sort of local wine, as an amuse bouche.  Seems to do the trick of whetting the if we weren't all starving by now...

Peanut tofu topped with wolfberry (枸杞), pinenuts and wasabi, bamboo shoots and shrimp roe - the tofu was pretty much like it has been, with real peanutty taste.  The bamboo shoot was nice, and this time came with tiny orange shrimp roe.

Poached scallop in burdock (牛蒡) soup, garnished with tomato with a sprinkle of thin paprika strips - pretty much the same except for the garnishes, and the scallop was still soft and tender.  The soup, though good, was a little bit less impressive than I remember.

Assorted sashimi with salad - the usual amaebi (甘エビ), mackerel/herring roe (鯖/数の子) combination as well as two  over-sized pieces of tuna and salmon.  I don't really like oversized pieces of sashimi but I guess they do it to make it look impressive...  The salad had lily bulb and same faux crab inside.

Some black date vinegar to cleanse our palates...

Poached fatty pork neck with scallions, cucumber and topped with fermented red bean paste (紅粬) - I thought the pork was definitely a little overcooked, although the fat compensated for it.

Yilan gaozha (宜蘭高渣) - probably the one dish that I don't get tired of having here... I just love the texture of the "deep-fried chicken soup", and of course the vegetable purée is always excellent.  Thank you, sir....may I have another?

Grilled tiger prawns with grilled eggplant, green beans, pumpkin and deep-fried sweet potato - the prawns were nicely done, seasoned just lightly.  It's pumpkin season so it was really delicious...

Rose vinegar to cleanse the palate again.

Mushroom gomoku rice with deep-fried mullet roe (烏魚子) - the mullet roe was pretty good, but the rice was somehow not as good as I remembered.

Waterlily chicken soup (蓮花雞湯) - I could see that the waterlily was already half-opened when it was brought to the table, before we had put it in the soup.  There were the usual ingredients, which easily took up half the pot.  Very filling.

Waterlily tea - very nice and floral.

Fresh fruits and mango yogurt - there was definitely some disappointment at the table that the dessert wasn't the sweet taro mash.  We were surprised by the yogurt, however, as it was very rich and creamy.  Not bad, but a little too much for me at the end of this big meal.

A pretty good meal, but I'll need to schedule my next visit only during the winter season.  Three meals with the same menu, over the space of 2 years, tells me that the chef's creativity level has gone to zero.

We make our way back to the city, and I tag along while the elves hit the touristy Shihlin Night Market (士林夜市).  We hit both the indoor section as well as the sprawling street section, and ended up getting kinda wet in the rain.  They went through a number of famous street food items such as Hot Star Fried Chicken (豪大大雞排), but I was still too full to eat anything.  Eventually I succumbed to temptation and got myself a baked pepper bun (胡椒餅), which was not bad but certainly not what my stomach needed at this point in time...

The elves were soldiering on, but I had no more capacity for food, so I left them and agreed to check in tomorrow morning about meeting up for breakfast...

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