|Red Date Pork (紅糟肉) at 呂桑|
# 12-5 Yongkang Street, Taipei
(they also have a branch in Zhongshan: Zhongshan N. Road Section 2 Lane 59 #5-1)
What a fantastic restaurant! Along with my quest to find a suitable Japanese restaurant in which to SPEND ALL THE MONEY, I'm also on a mission to find a short list of restaurants to prove anyone who says "Taiwanese food isn't very good/flavorful/delicious/well-seasoned" wrong.
I also have to say that the past few weeks have really reminded me of how well I eat in Taiwan for such little money. People say "it's cheap to eat out" and usually mean the night market or hole-in-the-wall restaurants, but even nicer food is generally cheaper than you'd pay at home, unless you're going out for Indian, German or some other non-Asian "foreign" cuisine (and even then, prices are not bad)...and better. Washington DC was a mecca of good foreign food, but didn't have a lot of good "American" or continental fare - and yet restaurants charged through the nose for what they did have - bilking politicians, networkers, social climbers and foreign dignitaries no doubt. In Taipei I can enjoy quite literally the best the city has to offer and not end up in the poorhouse. Sure, there are NT$6,000 per person restaurants serving birds' nest soup, but come on, that's not really the best Taipei has to offer.
It's places like this that remind me that, as well as I can cook, I can't really cook. Not like this. I couldn't turn out a perfect red date sliced pork like the delicious dish above. I wouldn't dare put cheese on a baked papaya. I can't create the dishes we enjoyed here.
Recommended by our friend Joseph and well-known in its own right, Lvsang is one of the restaurants that gives Yongkang Street its reputation for good food. Serving Yilan Taiwanese food, including plenty of lesser-seen or less-known dishes, this is also one of those places that kicks to the curb any notion that Taiwanese food lacks flavor or that it's all just the light&sound of soy sauce, chili oil and deep fryers.
|Fatty stewed intestine|
For our meal, we got the "liver flowers" roll, the fatty stewed intestine (above), the red date pork, the cold chicken, the vegetable salad and a baked papaya, and have agreed to try the liver next time (it's supposed to be great).
Other than the papaya, which was interesting and unexpected but not exactly something I'd try to re-create, everything was amazing. I'm not a fan of intestines or innards normally, but the intestine used to make two of the dishes we tried was soft and tender, not chewy and weirdly-textured. It's really the texture, not the flavor, that bothers me. This stuff was melt-in-your-mouth soft and savory without being too salty, served with slivered ginger to give it a spicy, dry punch.
|The restaurant itself has an Old Taiwan vibe going, as well.|
Quick warning: they don't seem to serve water or any alcohol here - the only beverage available is tea, and the tea seems to be a slightly savory kumquat potion which I liked, but I wouldn't say it sated my thirst. It was made from dried kumquats and so had a bit of the salty-ish stuff they use to preserve fruit and vegetables in it.
|Cold chicken (白斬雞腿)|
I don't have a good picture of the stuffed "liver flower" (宜蘭肝花）but, served with a very Taiwanese "pink sauce" (the kind you get on sticky rice and Taiwanese tempura), it's cooked beautifully and delicious. Above is the 烤木瓜, which is a slice of papaya baked with cheese, underneath which are chopped vegetables in a creamy sauce. Although it was interesting and new, I'm not sure I'd recommend it, an I've never actually seen this dish in Yilan. It's...something. I'm happy I tried it - it was a new experience. I didn't dislike it, but I am really not sure I see the point.
Overall, though, I was thoroughly pleased with Lvsang - especially that divine red date pork. Thoroughly and highly recommended overall!