Sunday, July 10, 2011

Three Good Restaurants in Southern Taipei


#10-1 Lane 75, Xinsheng S. Road Sec. 3, Da'an Dist. Taipei

Brendan with me at Dako - we ate the delicious food too quickly for it to make it into the photograph!

Right in Gongguan near some of the coolest cafes you'll find this super cool Japanese bar and grill - but don't get any ideas from the term "bar and grill" - this is not a spacious restaurant with bustling waitstaff and endless customers. It's a tiny Japanese izakaya style place with a few tiny tables, a small grill, an impressive sake collection and some of the best Japanese snacks you'll find in Taipei, all housed in a small, low-roofed wooden house.

We had two different kinds of sake (the two cheapest options in the "cup" section) - they were served at what was deemed the appropriate temperature, meaning one came slightly warm in a small glass carafe, and the other came ice cold in a clear glass placed inside a square wooden cup, which was also filled partway with sake and from which you can drink. Both were fantastic.

We arrived late - 9:30 or so - so they were all out of many dishes, but what we did have was superlative. We ordered spicy chicken yakitori (meat on a stick), beef yakitori, shrimp "grass" yakitori, butter mushrooms and white bamboo. The chicken was truly spicy but not overpowering, the beef was juicy and rare/medium rare with a pink center as it should be, the mushrooms chock full of buttery umami (deep, good taste), bamboo cooked and seasoned to perfection and the shrimp were meaty and wonderful, and they'd cut the heads so as to be easily detached.

Besides sake, umeshu (plum wine) seems to be available (I didn't check closely), and Taiwan beer on tap comes in huge, frothy glasses. It's a tiny place so go with a small group, but definitely go. We'll be back.

Little Thailand Restaurant - 泰國小館
#219 Dingzhou Street Sec 3, Taipei

This has to be the best Thai restaurant in Gongguan, right up there with Yangon Burmese restaurant (which is basically Thai, but "technically" Burmese). It looks like a small Southeast Asian supermarket on the outside, chock full of snacks for sale, but once you go in it's clearly a restaurant that happens to also sell packaged snacks and other items from SE Asia.

The food is really quite good - very much the same in flavor as I enjoyed during my brief excursion to Thailand years ago (I keep telling myself I'll go back, but there are so many other places to see, too!) - and they don't pull punches on the spice! The pork with green beans and papaya salad were fiery, and the other dishes were at a respectable spice level. They have the usual selection of beer, are always bustling, the walls are covered with pictures and textiles from Thailand, and I love the cheap day-market plastic clock with the picture of the King of Thailand and his many dogs ("he loves dogs and raises rescued strays," the owner told us. "Our King is so good") on the clock face.

We didn't get dessert, but they seemed to have a wider selection than is usually available.

Oh, and do get the shrimp pancake (月亮蝦餅) - it's the best I've had outside of SE Asia.

#118 Jingxing Road, Wenshan, Taipei City (MRT Jingmei)

Taipei Times reviewed it before I had a chance to - although I may have mentioned it before - but we live very close to this place - maybe a ten minute walk, if that - and I have long been a devotee. It's a dirty-walled, Taiwanese-talkin', good-sake-servin' izakaya in a decidedly unpretentious neighborhood (ie, our neighborhood) with some really spectacular Japanese food and Japanese-style sunken tables.  I still have dreams about the yakitori (although the ones from Dako, above, provide good competition) and I love that this place just plain does good food, it doesn't try to be all hip, and for Japanese food it's quite affordable.

The Taipei Times said it better than I could, so I'll leave it there, but this place gets my stamp of approval!

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