Monday, April 9, 2012

Restaurant Review: Yin Yi (銀翼/ "Silver Wings")

Yin Yi / Silver Wings Restaurant
(02) 2341-7799
Jinshan S. Road Sec. 2 #18 2nd floor / Jinshan Xinyi intersection

金山南路2段18號2樓 / 金山信義路口
10am-2pm, 5pm-9pm

MRT CKS Memorial Hall (you could also get there from Zhongxiao Xinsheng without much trouble. It's very close to the Xinyi end of Yongkang Street).

Notes: Reservations recommended, great for large groups, some specialty dishes need to be ordered in advance (a few hours ahead)

Four words: really tasty, great service. Here's a rundown in Chinese.

So, OMG, I managed to find a good restaurant recommended by a student that has not already been reviewed in the Taipei Times! Yin Yi is locally famous, although not really well-known among expats (obviously, the restaurants that get to be known among us foreigners tend to be the ones that end up in guidebooks, which are often good, sometimes not). Rather like Rendezvous (龍都酒樓, another gem), local reactions to my eating there run along the lines of "it's famous! How did you know about it?!" with the strong implication that all Taiwanese in Taipei have heard of these places but it's expected that foreigners have not.

清炒鱔魚 - slivered braised eel (or something like eel)

Yin Yi specializes in Yangzhou food (from the province of Jiangsu, but cuisine from here is apparently closer to Shanghainese or Zhejiang food), although locals I know have mistakenly said that it's a "Zhejiang" restaurant or even a "Shanghai" restaurant. I'll be honest - the food was amazing, but if you told me "this is Zhejiang food" and not "this is Yangzhou food", I'd be all "Oh, OK." The three cuisines are really very similar. I wouldn't really know. I know a fair amount about regional Chinese cuisine, but I'm not an expert.

鍋粑蝦仁 - shrimp and puffed rice in tomato sauce

But anyway. The food. It was excellent! We had three kinds of dumplings cooked on pine needles, which give the dumplings a subtle but unique aroma and flavor. I highly recommend any one or all of the three.

小籠菜餃 (the second photo) - all the dumplings cooked on pine needles are recommended!

We had the famous shrimp pot with tomato sauce and puffed rice, which is a good dish to order if you're entertaining visiting friends or family members (or clients) - very easy on foreign palates. We had the "shanyu", which is like eel ("manyu"), which had an interesting texture. There was a shredded tofu and dried meat dish that, by east coast Chinese standards was spicy, but to this woman who lived in Guizhou and ate Sichuan-style food for a year, was not spicy at all, but still good. It was hard to tell what was tofu and what was meat, because it was all quite tender. We also had a sour cabbage salad and the red bean paste in fried tasty thing (it has a real name, but I prefer this one) as well as their famous noodle dish (蔥開煨麵), which was fantastic, but I don't have a photo. It's thick noodles in a cloudy soup with dried meat and shrimp: delicious!

紅椒肉絲炒干絲 - dried slivered pork, I think with tofu, and some chili

Finally, we had the duck. It's served as something between Beijing duck and fatty pork gua bao (the dish for which you put slices of braised fatty pork into sesame buns): a roast duck, more dry and not as 'lacquered' as Beijing duck is torn to shreds, and the shreds dipped lightly in salt and put into soft white buns. Absolutely delicious, and a real treat. The salt really made the dish: don't skimp.

香酥全鴨 - duck with bread. You can see what we did to this poor duck, who is now just a carcass (in our fridge, because we took it home - Imma make SOUP!)

Everything was  really just...good. I'm not sure how else to describe it: think of visiting a new city and having your friends there introduce you to their favorite place that isn't in guidebooks. Or going out with a group to a new restaurant and having just a fantabulous meal together. Think of a well-made, well-served meal where you leave thinking "that was so yummy, my stomach is so full, I'm going to get cramps if I try to walk!" That's really the tone the food at Yin Yi sets. For me, that's the hallmark of a good Chinese meal.

I'd also like to note Yinyi's fantastic service. These folks could really go teach Song Chu a thing or two about cultivating service that will keep people coming back. We got a free dish because I said the boss (or a boss, it's hard to tell), who also took care of our table looked like my boss - and he did. To the point where I was startled for a second. He brought a free dish (the sour cabbage salad) and said "it looks like you don't like your boss, and I don't want you to not like me!"

                                               拌白菜心 - sour cabbage salad with peanuts

When they realized it was Brendan's birthday - our reason for going out - they helped us with the cake I'd brought from My Sweetie Pie and gave us a plate of mint candies and almond roca (although we were so stuffed already that it was hard to eat it)! They didn't pressure us right away with the check, and they didn't try to overload us with food: what they said should be enough for 8 people was just about enough, but we ended up ordering more. At some less ingenuous restaurants - not sure if that's the right word but we'll go with it - they'll purposely upsell and oversell in the interest of raising the bill, not what you actually want to eat. At Yin yi, they recommended the dishes that they were truly famous for and didn't kill us with volume.

We killed ourselves with volume, ordering three extra dishes that we could barely finish!

It was never difficult to get a waiter to come over (something that is a problem at a few good restaurants in Taipei) and we never felt rushed, bothered, upsold or kicked out even though we stayed until closing time, even long after we'd finished our order and were having cake and Brendan was opening gifts.

                                            豆沙鍋餅 - red bean paste in tasty fried thing

All in all, it was a fantastic evening and I strongly recommend this restaurant to anyone and everyone. Especially for foreigners who like Chinese food but want dishes that are palatable to Western diners: this isn't American Chinese, not at all, but the flavors are the sort that Westerners can enjoy, even if they aren't used to the many variations of Chinese cuisine.

Now, as it was my dear husband's birthday, enjoy a few birthday pics!

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