Sunday, July 9, 2017

[TRAVEL] Top 3 Japanese Food to Visit in Taipei City, Taiwan

慢游台湾 · 台北必吃的三大日本料理 / Top 3 Famous Japanese Restaurants in New Taipei City, Taiwan 

If you know me, I am a big fan of fish! (Not related to my name, duh…) I mean, I love having all types of sashimi and Japanese cuisine in general. And I heard Taiwan has cheap yet good Japanese food! Well, after having several meals at the night markets and convenience stores, it’s good to treat ourselves with something fresh and premium eh! :P

Sashimi and Unagi, here I come! 


9D8N Itinerary in Taiwan
Day 1: KL - Taoyuan - Taichung
Day 2: Taichung - Sun Moon Lake (Blog)
Day 3: Sun Moon Lake - Qingjing - Taipei City (Blog)
Day 4: Ximending, Taipei
Day 5: Jiufen - Shifen - Pingxi - Ruifang, Taipei (Blog)
Day 6: Jiufen - Danshui, Taipei (Blog)
Day 7: Danshui - Daan District, Taipei (Blog)
Day 8: Yang Ming Shan National Park - Shilin, Taipei (Blog)
Day 9: Taipei 101 - KL

To recap, here’s my 9 days 8 nights itinerary in Taiwan.
Feel free to read about the following posts on each day:
Day 8: 1 day trip to Yangmingshan National Park

So I have found these top 3 Japanese restaurants highly recommended in a lot of online websites, blogs etc – and have decided to try all of them! No worries, these places can easily be accessible via Taipei metro subway (台北捷運) and they are all just few stations away from one another.


Let's zoom into the details into my Japanese food hunt this round...


1. Sunway Siokudo / San Wei Shi Tang (三味食堂)
Address: No. 116, Section 2, Guiyang Street, Wanhua District, Taipei.
台北市萬華區貴陽街二段116號
Contact: +886 2 2389 2211
Business Hours: 11.20am – 2.30pm (Lunch) / 5.10pm – 10pm

How To Go To San Wei Shi Tang:
❤ Nearest MRT: Ximen Station (西門站)
❤ Take Exit 1 from MRT Ximen Station and walk for 10 minutes to reach here.

It is a two-storey outlet, but rather cramped as the tables are arranged closely together.
Do expect table sharing (hence, less privacy) when dining here. 

Here's part of the menu in San Wei Shi Tang -- it's less than half of the full menu! Imagine how extensive the menu is!

Being huge fans of sashimi, we order 4 cold dishes as our brunch. The waiter is surprised when taking our order, and comments, “These are all raw stuff! Why don't you try some hot food?”. Well, we don't mind having everything raw - pretty much sashimi die-hard fans here!

Look at the amount of sashimi we order! They are all so fresh, succulent and thick in portion.

Salmon Nigiri (3 pieces) (鮭鱼握寿司) @ NTD190 (=RM27)

The fresh salmon sushi is the No. 1 dish that floods my Instagram feed when I search the hashtag of this restaurant. Wondering why? Because the salmon slice is double the size of the sushi rice here!


A dollop of wasabi is stuffed between the fish and the rice; but its flavour is overwhelmed
by the freshness of the fish with a nice coating of Japanese shoyu (soy sauce).

Nigiri Sushi (3 pieces) (手握寿司) @ NTD190 (=RM27)

Basically for the Nigiri Sushi, you can’t really taste the rice, because the portion of the raw fish is so generous that it overwhelms the senses with ultimate freshness. Seriously so delicious! Even when it costs RM9 per piece, I am definitely not complaining!

Salmon Belly (3 pieces) (鮭鱼肚) @ NTD250 (=RM36)

Similarly, the raw salmon belly comes in extremely thick cut. Seriously huge, no joke! To our delight, each slice has very well-balanced layers of fats between the solid, crunchy meat. But we are just too bloated to have another after one slice.

Assorted Sashimi (Half Portion) (综合生鱼片) @ NTD250 (=RM36)

Fresh scallops and tuna are my favourite too. Our brunch here is not cheap, but considering the quality of sashimi and sizeable portion of each item, it is definitely worth a gastronomic experience here. 

Verdict
Highly recommended if you are a fan of sashimi!

$$$
Approximately NTD440 per pax (=RM62) 


2. Fei Qian Wu (肥前屋)

No. 13-2, Lane 121, Zhōngshān North Road Section 1, Zhōngshān District, Taipei.
Contact: +886 2 2561 7859
Address: 台北市中山區中山北路一段121巷13-2號
Business Hours: 11am – 2.30pm (Lunch) / 5pm – 9pm (Dinner)

How To Go To Fei Qian Wu:
❤ Nearest MRT: Zhongshan Station (中山站)
❤ Take Exit 1 from MRT Ximen Station and walk for 5 minutes to reach here.

I have no idea about this restaurant until a friend recommends it, then I realise it is a specialty house of Unagi (Japanese Grilled Eel). Well, basically it is a Japanese restaurant well-hidden between some narrow lanes in Taipei. I believe this place should be very happening in the evening as I walk past the bars and pubs lining the street.

Thanks to Waze, it does not take us too long to locate this Japanese eatery. When we arrive around 11am, it is fully occupied but luckily the wait is short before we get seated.

Dimly-lit and furnished with traditional tatami-style furnishings from floor to ceiling, it reminds me of an “izakaya” Japanese gastro-pub. They do serve alcohol here, but generally it is a family-friendly restaurant.

Orders are taken quickly by the impatient staff, and we have to share table with other diners (due to limited space). We also practice self-service by pouring our own hot green tea from the water heating dispenser at the corner of the restaurant.

The No.1 signature item here is the large Unagi Rice Bento (NTD500 / RM71)! To be honest, I’d expect the unagi to be of bigger portion for this price. Despite of the portion, I am totally smitten by the rich, savoury flavours of the unagi coated with thick sauce. Plus, the well-marinated unagi is beautifully soft, and not overly soggy for my liking.

The Chirashi Don here is presented in two separate bowls – 1 for the sticky sushi rice, another for the assorted sashimi. It may look pretty basic but the good thing here is, the fish is fresh and crunchy. Simple yet satisfying!

For the side dish, I order a plate of Tamago (Japanese omelette) and it tastes so different from those in Malaysia! The texture is slightly crunchy and it tastes naturally sweet on the mouth, so yummy…. Trust me, you can hardly find such standard of tamago in KL except for very few authentic Japanese eateries here.

Verdict
Overall, this is just a place to satisfy that Japanese craving, and definitely not meant for gathering with friends as there is always a queue outside the restaurant and the waitstaff are busy clearing tables, signaling diners to leave once finishing the meal.

Service? Poor. Food? Great! It’s a matter of give-and-take I guess. Nevertheless, it is recommended for unagi lovers!

$$$
Approximately NTD480 per pax (=RM68)


3. Addiction Aquatic Development (上引水產)

Address: No. 18, Alley 2, Lane 410, Minzu East Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10491.
台北市民族東路410巷2弄18號
Contact: +886 2 2508 1268
Business Hours: 6am – 12am everyday
(Take note of different operating hours for various sections)

How To Get To Addiction Aquatic Development:
❤ Nearest Station: Xingtian Temple Station (行天宮站)
❤ Take Exit 3 from Xingtian Temple Station and walk for 15 minutes to reach there.

I found this place when I was Googling for Japanese food in Taipei. Dubbed as “Taiwan Fish Market”, it is a smaller-scale Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market in Taiwan that attracts millions of visitors annually. Here, they do large-scaled distribution of raw ingredients to restaurants as well as supermarket-style retail for walk-in customers.

It is mainly divided into 10 areas – Each of them is independently operated, so you cannot bring food from one area to another. For first timers, it is best to visit the supermarket first, before settling at one of the eateries for a proper meal.

The first section of the Wholesale Supermarket is where the live aquamarine products are stored in large water tanks. I guess we just skip this part because we aren’t any restaurateur there.

Unagi @ NTD550 (=RM78) per box - I find it slightly more expensive here.

Walking further into the supermarket, we reach the Fresh Food Market section where all the imported and local fruits, vegetables, and quality meat cuts are displayed. They even sell high-quality dining ware and kitchen utensils that look really expensive.



Wanna whip up a Japanese meal? These imported raw ingredients definitely help!

Cooked Gourmet Section : Some bentos and prepacked hot food items are going at
40% discount in the evening! Come at this hour if you wanna enjoy good bargains.

At another section of the supermarket, there is a live cooking counter where the chefs prepare grab-and-go bento sets, hot food etc. The raw seafood purchased in the live aquamarine area can be cooked or fried for a service charge here.

We pick a box of sushi roll which is going at 35% discount as it is already 8pm in the evening (I believe they have massive offers every evening for the unsold fresh food items). But to be honest, the sushi tastes meh…. Don't trust cheap food here. 

If you want to enjoy fresh, delicious sushi, do head over to The Sushi Bar (located in the middle of the supermarket). We are told that we have to wait at least 30 minutes to enter into the 12-meter standing sushi counter area, and there are no seats for diners!

Despite of that, everyone seems to enjoy the food standing by the counter. Probably because the Nigiri Sushi and Sashimi Set here are really fresh? Price wise, I am not sure if it is worth the experience here to pay between NTD580 (=RM82) to NTD980 (=RM140) for a set of nigiri sushi.

*The Sushi Bar opens from 9.30am to 12am everyday.

If sushi is not something you fancy, there are 3 other eateries in this space
(and yes, all 4 of them have proper seating for diners):

1. The Seafood Bar (10am – 12am daily)
Located next to the sushi bar, it serves premium fresh raw oysters, shrimps, and crabs which costs double the price at the sushi bar. Yes, I mean it is fresh but premium.



Well, how about pairing the fresh seafood with wine? Definitely a yes! I spot this Wine Bar located right next to the sushi bar. Good to check it out if you have budget.

2. Hot Pot (11am – 12am daily)
Located upstairs, the hot pot restaurant serves sukiyaki-style steamboat. You can reserve seats by phone (886 2 2508 1268).

3. The Charcoal Grill (10.30am – 12am)
Located outside the supermarket, the grill bar is the first thing we see from the main entrance. After the dissatisfying sushi from the supermarket, we have decided to treat ourselves with barbecued fresh seafood, meat and vegetables over charcoal and some draft beer too.

I love the vibrant and comfortable ambiance here, especially with beautiful lines of warm-hued bulbs lighting up the space. Excitement rushes into me when I am told that there is no printed menu and we have to go around the live grilling counters to choose our dinner menu. It means I can point and pick anything I fancy there!

There are lots of meat skewers, seafood, vegetables, steaks and lamb chops at the grilling station. Just pick anything you like and the chef will cook ala minute for you. But good food is always worth the wait.

Wow, look at that gigantic claws on the grill! The delicious aroma makes me salivating, now where's my food?

I love how they serve the grilled food here using the most traditional Japanese method. Every table is equipped with a tall, beautiful hot stone pot, containing hot pebbles in it. Upon serving the grilled meat, the waitstaff will place it on the hot stone to preserve its warmth without overcooking it. 

Here are some of the grilled items we order for dinner/supper: 
Grilled Salmon (鮭鱼西京烧) (per portion) @ NTD250 (=RM36)
Grilled Mushroom (香菇串烧) (per stick) @ NTD30 (=RM4)
Grilled Beef Stick (牛小排串烧) (per stick) @ NTD80 (=RM12)
Grilled Pork Stick (活菌松阪豬串燒) (per stick) @ NTD120 (=RM18)
Grilled Angus Beef Steak (安格斯无骨牛小排) (per portion) @ NTD280 (=RM41)
Grilled Lamb (羊排) (per portion) @ NTD150 (=RM22)

Most of the grilled stuff we order are very well-executed – from the well-flavoured marination to the fresh juicy texture – so I have no complaints at all! My personal favourite is the grilled salmon which has very flaky, melt-in-the-mouth texture and exudes oceanic freshness to the very last bite. Must order if you are a seafood lover! 


Salmon Onigiri (日式烤鮭鱼饭团) (per piece) @ NTD50 (=RM7)

Not forgetting to mention my second favourite – the Salmon Onigiri! This is a real deal – Well-stuffed with shredded salmon meat, the huge lump of rice is extremely filing and flavourful. Every single bite of it comes with the flavour of salmon – excellent! 

Another reason it tastes so good is because of the crisp, warm exterior, as the onigiri here is lightly grilled to bring out the savoury aroma too. 

$$$
Approximately NTD580 per pax (=RM82)
(Despite of the price, this is the most satisfying Japanese meal I have ever splurge on!)

Travelling Tips: Avoid the crowd during weekends / peak hours, it is best to visit on a quieter weekday.

Although this place gives me some excitements from the wide variety of fresh fish and condiments, I find it a little overrated. The downside here includes:
– They don’t accept credit cards, payment can only be in cash terms. That’s not very traveler-friendly for me.
– All the areas, except The Hot Pot section, are on a first-come, first-served basis. The queue can go up to an hour.
– There is no seat at The Sushi Bar. You have to stand and eat.

Verdict
Overall, Addiction Aquatic Development (上引水產) is quite an interesting place to look, see, shop and eat fresh seafood, sashimi and sushi. But it caters more for tourists (especially Japanese and Korean), and the price falls on a higher side as compared to other Japanese eateries / supermarkets in Taipei.

Nevertheless, it should be in your Must-Visit List if you are having a food hunting trip in Taipei! 



Apart from Japanese food (I know, I know you must be thinking that I should visit the famous Taiwanese night markets instead of having foreign foodstuff here!), we have plenty of great experiences (including food hunting) along the streets in Ximending shopping area (西門町), Ning Xia Night Market (寧夏夜市), Yongkang Street (永康街) and Taipei 101 area.

Stay tuned at this space for more Taiwan travelogue posts! :)

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