Restaurant: Shi-Yang Culture Restaurant
Cuisine: Delicate Japanese (set menu, changes seasonally)
Address: No. 7, Lane 350, Sec 3, Xi Wan Road, XiZhi City, Taipei County (you’ll need a car)
Phone: +886 2 26462266; +886 931381528
There’s a growing number of restaurants in Taiwan that have become popular almost entirely through word of mouth and online referrals (especially on blogs). Some of these are almost impossible to know or find unless you know someone who likes trawling food blogs for unique and fancy places to eat.
Fortunately for us, during our last visit to Taipei we had some friends that were really into finding and experiencing different restaurants. And this one they chose, called Shi-Yang Culture Restaurant, was about as interesting as you could possibly get. Tucked away in the mountains of outskirts of Taipei, literally in the middle of nowhere, Shi-Yang is a surprisingly popular place — ordinarily you would have to book several weeks in advance (we lucked out because someone cancelled at the last minute).
(to read on and see the pics, click on ‘more…’)
Our friends took a day off work for this special event. It was probably around an hour’s drive from Taipei city, and it mostly twisting and winding roads. We got lost a few times, even with a GPS, because the maps didn’t go that far. To make matters worse, there were no signs whatsoever.
Eventually, we saw a dude standing in a driveway, wearing a raincoat and holding a clipboard with a list of reservations for the day. He confirmed our booking and sent us down a steep road until we reached a parking lot. The rain had started to fall, and was getting heavier by the minute.
Shi-Yang is a classy-looking establishment — kind of like something you might see in a wuxia novel. The decor is distinctively Japanese, but it’s also very much built into its natural surroundings. Our table was originally on the bottom floor on some low benches, right outside some ‘private rooms’ built into what looked like a cave. But because my friend’s legs were too long (which made it quite uncomfortable sitting at a table that low), they moved us upstairs.
As lunch began at 12 (with set menus), we had time to walk around outside in the tranquil surroundings (with courtesy umbrellas) — a small creek, pebbly walkways, big stones, plenty of trees and man-made bridges. As we discovered, Shi-Yang has several buildings on the unexpectedly large estate.
Anyway, it was time to eat!
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but essentially, I can’t really describe any of them properly. There’s a lot of weird herbs and exotic vegetables. The flavours are fullsome but simple and natural. I won’t say that every dish was my cup of tea (especially the tofu, which I am not a fan of), but each item served was wonderfully presented and refreshingly different. I can definitely see why businessmen would take their Japanese clients to this place and tourists would make the long trip down to the middle of nowhere just to try it.
So that’s that. Shi-Yang is certainly very unique, and I assume if you had this type and quality of food anywhere else, it would cost at the very least AU$100 a head — but in Taiwan it costs just NT$1000 (+10% service charge) per person, which translates roughly to about AU$38! Considering the food, the setting, the ambience and the service, that is a very cheap meal!
As I said before, not every dish was to my liking (but that’s just my pickiness more than anything), and it is very very hard to get to, but Shi-Yang is a quality dining experience whichever way you look at it.
9 out of 10!