September 18, 2013

No photo no service, no go

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I'm back in Taipei to spend time with family during Mid-Autumn Festival, and decided to take the opportunity to catch up with old friends.  I missed the opportunity to catch up with Big Mac on his last trip to Hong Kong, so I figured I should deliver some moon cakes to them during the festive season.  Lunch reservation was made at Shoraku (匠楽), and I was kinda looking forward to checking the place out, having heard a few friends sing their praises.

I had requested for a Japanese venue because I wanted the ability to order sushi à la carte, and I figured Big Mac would also appreciate the ability to do portion control… given that he's recently lost a ton of weight and is on track to slim down further.  Unfortunately I was told that we'd have to follow the lunch set… which inevitably leads to too much food…

I really don't get restaurants that forbid customers from taking pictures.  Are they that insecure about their dishes?  I understand why it is generally frowned upon in Japan, but I just don't get it elsewhere.  The last place that didn't let me take pictures in Taipei just had mediocre food and was vastly over-rated.  You won't find me going back there since there are too many better alternatives in Taipei.

So I was a little annoyed that the menu here states that photography is forbidden.  I was even more annoyed when I was reminded by the staff multiple times about this as I handled my iPhone while taking notes and what not.  As I'm taking pictures of every single meal (even snacks) during my 3-month diet program, this means I had to leave this meal blank.  That's just annoying.  So I decided to post a black background in place of what should have been a nice picture of their food.

Anyway… lemme save half the rant for later and talk about what we had…

The amuse bouche was block of sesame tofu (胡麻豆腐) topped with some sea urchin (雲丹), and paired with chayote shoots (龍鬚菜) and some shrooms.

Slices of olive flower (平目) from Rishiri Island (利尻島) came with some spicy grated radish (おろし) and ponzu (ポン酢).

A trio of seafood came on a platter, consisting of:
White whelk (白海螺貝) from Yamaguchi Prefecture (山口県)

Hokkaido horsehair crab (毛蟹) with vinegar jelly and perilla flowers - a nice balance between the sweet, tender crab meet and the acidity of the jelly.

Raw prawn (車海老) from the Pescatores (澎湖) served with tofu skin (湯葉).

Sashimi platter came next with quite a few selections, although I gave away both pieces of fatty tuna (トロ) as I don't eat bluefin tuna.  The remaining pieces were all excellent, including striped beakfish (石鯛),  torched red sea bream (真鯛炙り), greater amberjack (間八), squid  (烏賊), sweet shrimp (甘エビ), ark shell (赤貝).

The simmered bowl (煮物) came next, with half an Ezo abalone (蝦夷鮑), a slice of fish cake with bits of octopus encased inside, julienned matsutake mushroom (松茸), a deep-fried taro ball, some salmon roe (いくら) and a piece of sansho leaf (木の芽) on top.

The grilled fish was rosy sea bass (赤鯥) from Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), topped with some mentaiko (明太子) sauce.  The fish was very juicy while the texture was a little chewy and springy.  Very nice.

Then came 4 pieces of nigiri sushi (握り寿司):

Crimson seabream (小鯛)

Rosy seabass (赤鯥) - torched to melt the fat.

Chicken grunt (伊佐木)

Golden alfonsino (金目鯛) from Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島) - torched and tasty.

There was also a tiny bowl of rice, with some minced fatty tuna and spring onions (ネギトロ) that I gave away, sea urchin and salmon roe.

I normally don't touch the miso soup (味噌汁) because of the salt content, but today there was an oyster in the bowl so I took that in.

For fruit we had a slice of very ripe melon (マスクメロン), a half slice of pear, and a little cherry tomato.

Finally there was a soy milk pudding (豆乳プリン) topped with some green tea jelly (抹茶ゼリー), azuki bean jelly (小豆ゼリー), green tea sauce and a sprinkle of brown rice crispies (玄米).  Not bad.

Well, the food itself was pretty good.  High quality ingredients, pretty good execution.  Unfortunately, I won't be returning to this place because they just piss me off.  The no photo policy already put me in a bad mood before the meal even started.  Then we got shoddy service.  No, they don't know us here, but that doesn't give them the right to ignore us and cater only to other customers they know well.  Our server dropped off a particular dish at our table, then proceeded to chat with the regulars at the next table without announcing what he's given us.  WTF?!

And it didn't help that there was a group of model/celebrity yummy mummies sitting at the counter, who were clearly the focus of attention for the chefs and staff.  The result?  I had to ask several times for someone to explain what we were having.  Service like that means you don't get repeat business from me, no matter how good the food is.


Anonymous said...

Pardon my mentioned you understand why it is frowned upon in Japan and therefore you accept no photo-taking in what is their reason? Thanks.

Peech said...

Many restaurants in Japan do not allow customers to take photos, for fear that the photos will include other customers in the restaurant and therefore disturb the other guests. This is a reason I can understand and respect.

However, I have had experience in politely asking for, and receiving, permission to photograph just the food. Once they know you won't be disturbing others it becomes less of an issue for them.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's perfectly understandable. With the popularity of food blogs, I do wonder why taking photo of food is a problem. Thanks.


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