July 17, 2011

Taiwanese kaiseki for lunch

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Lunch today was with some of the parental units' old friends, from our their days in Bangkok a couple of decades ago.  The chosen venue was Shintori (新都里), a Taiwanese chain of Japanese restaurants with branches in Shanghai.  My last visit to the restaurant was 4 jobs ago, and I wondered if I'd still find the cuisine interesting.

I wanted some variety but didn't want to eat a ton of food, so I settled on the kaiseki lunch set (懷石套餐).  I should have remembered, of course, that these types of sets in Taiwan are often extremely good value for money... and you'd still get a lot of food.

First came a selection of nibbles / amuses bouches, laid out in a row:

This cube of fish cake (蒲鉾) was not so interesting...

The tomato was nice and ripe, and the sesame dressing is unsurprisingly good.

The deep-fried burdock (牛蒡) was a little soggy and hence disappointing.

The shrimp was OK, but the little dab of yuzu kosho (ゆず胡椒) on top was an excellent thought.  The marinated green beans were OK.

The marinated mushrooms and spinach was alright.

The sashimi (お造り) consisted of great amberjack (間八), marlin (梶木), red snapper (鯛) and chicken grunt (伊佐木). All have crunchy textures or bite.  Yummy.

At Japanese restaurants, one often gets served chilled tomatoes that are very ripe.  This one has been peeled, and contains jelly and lily root inside.  A nice surprise.  Mom actually drank all the sesame dressing...

Steamed crab and egg (玉子蟹蒸し) - this was not so good... The egg came in layers and were kinda like hard versions of the tamago yaki (玉子焼き), only coated with a layer of starch and deep-fried before steaming.  I didn't really see or taste much crab...

Baked summer bamboo shoot with miso - this was really good.  The bamboo shoot in season is always very sweet and succulent, and the miso (味噌) on top made it a little more interesting.  I'm just real glad it wasn't mayo...

The deep-fried course (揚げ物) seemed like your usual assorted tempura (天ぷら), and it almost was.  Interestingly there was a slice of red snapper (鯛), but the real winner was the prawn wrapped in tofu skin with a piece of taro.

The salmon rice with salmon roe was OK.  The salmon flakes had been baked till they were a little dry and chewy, producing a lovely fragrance.

I normally wouldn't write about anything as mundane as miso soup, but this one came with some hijiki (鹿尾菜) and was no longer so boring all of a sudden.

The unsweetened bean curd had plenty of soy bean flavor, but I would have preferred it to be a little sweeter.  Not surprisingly, the Taiwanese touch was there in the form of boiled peanuts...

This was a good amount of food for lunch, and very good value with good quality overall.  My main complaint (...and why wouldn't I find something to complain about?!) lies with the layout of the restaurant.  One is forced to meander through a maze to reach much of the restaurant, and the constant change of ground level (I counted several steps up as well as down) coupled with the low key lighting - means elderly customers would need to be very careful.  Not exactly a barrier-free environment...

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