#65 Yongkang Street, Da'an District, Taipei
Last weekend we tried this restaurant in an old building on Yongkang Street just north of Jinhua. They've only been in business for three years or so, but their ambiance makes it seem like they've been around since the '20s. The front has old Japanese-style menu boards, a window painted aqua-green and two red glass lanterns hanging outside.
James Kitchen - named for the owner, James (I never did get his last name or Chinese name) - an affable older man who hangs out by the counter - specializes in fish. A chalkboard near the counter announces fish specials, and gets erased whenever they run out of something. We chose a red fish braised in a broth with fermented "na dou" beans (the same beans used in the slimy Japanese "natto" but not slimy) and tofu. It was firm and delicious: I tend to prefer firmer fish to softer-fleshed varieties.
We also ordered salted clams, which were stewed in a soy sauce concoction, some basic green vegetables, fried oyster rolls (delicious: definitely try these) and minced pork and onion rice. The restaurant also provided a free eggplant xiao chi (small dish).
The overall feel of the place recalls Taiwan under Japanese rule: strongly Japanese (sashimi and sake were both on the menu, as well as some kinds of tempura and fried rolls) but at its core, still Taiwanese (hence the fried oyster cakes and other more Taiwanese foods). The sake was quite good and for 200 kuai, the serving (a small pitcher that is enough for two) is generous.
In the end, we ordered way too much food, but all of it was delicious. I definitely want to go back, and soon. There's something on the menu that is basically deep fried pastry stick (油條) smothered in garlic and oysters. I am all gung-ho to try it, so we have to return with friends!