October 27, 2012

Playing tourist in Taipei

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I'm back in Taipei this weekend, playing tour guide to Mrs. Tigger's family.  It's their first trip to Taiwan, and the guy who's often told he's not really Taiwanese was taking them to all the touristy destinations.  To be very honest, I hadn't actually been to some of these places myself…

After getting some soybean milk (豆漿) and deep-fried Chinese crullers (油條) for breakfast, we headed to the National Palace Museum (故宮博物院).  Despite the fact that the parental units live only a short drive from this place, it's been some 14 years since my last visit.  To say that I don't know much about the place would be an understatement…

We walked around a bit, then moved on to the Shihlin Official Residence (士林官邸) - the former residence of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).  This place is even closer to the parental units' home, but I have never been here.  We waited until the lunch break was over, and went inside the actual building where Chiang Kai-shek and Soong May-ling (宋美齡) lived during their years in Taiwan.  I later learned that the actual house has only been open to the public since January last year year, and the second floor has only been accessible since January this year.

It was kinda late and we still hadn't had lunch, so we headed to the Grand Hotel (圓山大飯店) to take a quick look and ended up doing lunch at Yuan-Yuan (圓苑).  I ordered a bunch of snacks for our late lunch, but ended the meal with some classic three-cup chicken (塔香三杯雞).  This famous Taiwanese dish is so named because the it is made with one cup each of soy sauce, sesame seed oil and rice wine.  Throw in some local Taiwanese basil (九層塔) and chili peppers, et voila!

The tour continued with yet another very touristy destination that I haven't been to… Taipei 101.  Of course I've been to the mall numerous times, but I've never found the occasion to go up to the observation deck on the 89th floor, nor have I found the urge to dine at one of the restaurants on the 85th or 86th floor.  Well, that changed today.  We took the high-speed elevator up, and went from the 5th to the 89th floor in all of 37 seconds.

After taking in the view in all directions, including looking at my apartment building from afar, we took a look at the famed tuned mass damper - a giant pendulum designed to keep the top of the building steady in strong winds or earthquakes.  It's 5.5 meters in diameter and weighs a whopping 660 metric tons.

We took the elevator back down, and headed to dinner at Gyodoike (魚道生) with the parental units.  Mrs. Tigger's parents are fans of Japanese cuisine, so I thought I'd show them one of my favorite places in Taipei.

Oyster (牡蠣) - from Hokkaido, with ponzu (ポン酢), spicy grated radish, cucumber and lots of finely chopped spring onions.

Appetizer set:
White fish (白身魚) with whelk (つぶ貝) and fish roe
Preserved persimmon stuffed with cheese and crab meat; prawn with yuzu miso (柚味噌); daylily (金針) and abalone (鮑)

Yellowtail (鰤) - torched (炙り) on the outside and not fully cooked.

Grilled mullet roe (カラスミ焼き) - still soft and fluffy inside, and stuck to my teeth a little.  Love this.

Splendid alfonsino (金目鯛)

Barracuda (魳)

Pacific Blue marlin (梶木) - lightly torched and dressed with yuzu rind.

Olive flounder (平目) - rolled with scallion sprouts (芽ねぎ) inside.

Scallop (帆立貝) and whelk (海螺貝) - both dressed with yuzu rind, wasabi (山葵) and perilla (紫蘇) flowers.

Salmon roe (イクラ) - marinated in-house so it's not too salty.  Apply a certain amount of pressure to burst the membrane, allowing the liquid to come out.  The yuzu rind is a lovely touch, adding the slightest hint of citrus fragrance in the mouth.

White bait - not sure exactly what type but possibly icefish (白魚).  Served with alfalfa sprouts.

Looking a little like the baby conger eels I was served last time

Grilled broadbanded thornyhead (喜知次) - yum.

Grilled beef with persimmon sauce - grilled mushrooms and deep-fried shredded burdock (牛蒡).

Then came the nigiri sushis:
Raw shrimp (甘海老)

Squid (イカ)

Rosy Seabass (赤鯥) - torched to release that fatty goodness…

Sea urchin (雲丹) - sweet and yummy.

Pacific saury (秋刀魚) - very yummy as it's still within season.  Can I just say how much I love oily fish?!

My bowl of soup had a giant clam (蛤), along with lots of minced garlic that made the soup really delicious.

We ended the meal with a little piece of pumpkin custard, which was sweet and good.

Of course there had to be some sake, and we ordered Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 50% (獺祭「純米大吟醸」50).  Sweet on the palate, with plenty of rice flavor and slightly bitter finish.

A pretty good meal to wrap up a long day of running around town.


Unknown said...

I am like that too - if I live in a place I don't try hard to do the Touristy places myself!!

If u don't mind me sharing what my Japanese sushi chef friend once said after being taken to many Japanese shops in Taipei by his ex-customer? He said the difference between HK/Taipei/Japan - is that fishes are fresher in Taiwan, but there are nearly no Japanese chefs unlike HK.

And he mentioned to me how Taiwan loves to give Sashimi to customers piece by piece during omakase/okonomi - but he said in Japan sashimi must be served with proper 刺身のツマ with various arrangements with at least 3 things. So he thought it was a little odd even though it was tasty! But in HK, I dun understand why I can't get good sushi here... hmmm. May be because I don't want to risk with Yoshitake haha

Peech said...

There are very few Japanese chefs in Taiwan. Many places have local chefs who have spent time in Japan.

It is also true that if you sit at the counter, your sashimi will probably arrive piece by piece, although it is still in an "arrangement" if you sit at a table. My memory is fading but I can't remember whether I was served sashimi piece-by-piece at Kyubey in Tokyo. I would tend to think that I was.

Taiwan has lots of good local fish which can be a good alternative to ingredients sourced in Japan. HK doesn't have the same...

Unknown said...

I must agree that the fishes available in Taiwan are so much closer to Japan's standards.

I think night time in HK is ok, but just a few more hours can be so detrimental to the fish's quality. I recently ate at Sushi Hiro at night and observed a freshly shucked Akagai, bled then thrown onto the table - turned from being moving and all so fresh looking, to looking like it died hours ago whilst it say on my dining companion's sushi platter as we were busy chatting.

I still think this can be mathematically worked out in a formula! All variables count :-


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