‘No Menu’ Teppanyaki at Shen Yen (Yilan)

August 10, 2015 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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We went to Yilan on a family vacation a couple of months ago (yes, this is how far behind I am) and, of course, planned the entire trip around what restaurants we were going to eat at. After some research, we put Shen Yen (饗宴), a no-menu teppanyaki restaurant, at the top of the list.

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As with most restaurants in the countryside, Shen Yen doesn’t look particularly extravagant from the outside or the inside. In Taiwan, the decor would indicate a mid-range restaurant, though in Yilan it’s one of the most expensive places you can visit.

They have two levels but there aren’t that many seats, so reservations are a must. Everyone is seated around the teppanyaki grill for the main meal, which has more dishes than I can count, and will be moved to a separate table seating area for the dessert.

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While there is no menu you choose your sets by price range, which go from NT$1600 to NT$1800 to NT$2000. I don’t exactly know the difference, but I was told that the higher the price the better quality the ingredients. Given that this was likely once in a lifetime, we went all out with the $2000 set.

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Everyone gets one of these triple sauce trays — a tangy soy-based dressing, onion garnish and pickled vegies. They go well either by themselves or with any of the meats dishes.

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Interestingly, the first dish is fruit with some nuts. Chinese restaurants usually serve fruit at the end, but I didn’t mind trying some of the Yilan fruit produce to kick things off. It’s supposed to be good for digestion. Taiwanese fruit is the best. The best.

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Next up, some sashimi. The first was extremely fresh. The wasabi is also freshly made and is supposed to be from Taiwan’s famed Alishan.

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We also got some of these cold cut bamboo shoots — proud local produce — along with some fish roe. Very refreshing.

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Next up, the first hot dish, fresh prawns. The chef even taught us how to peel them. Massive and juicy, and the natural flavours alone were sufficient.

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The chef then began preparing scallops and meats.

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I love scallops. This was perhaps a little too well done for my liking but it’s easy to tell how fresh it is.

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This was one of my favourites, a cheese roll with fish inside. The Parmesan was really crispy and flavoursome and the fish inside was only seared, not full cooked. My kids loved it.

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This is one of Yilan’s most popular dishes, the cherry duck. It wasn’t as mindblowing as the cherry duck I had the last time I was in Yilan but it was still pretty good.

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Beef fillets. Steak is always good, and it was interesting getting a different type of experience with each bite by mixing the cubes with fried garlic, sea salt, black pepper and white pepper.

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Abalone. Fresh from the tank.

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This one was incredible. Basically a beef dumping with foie gras inside. The juices just explode in your mouth.

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This was a tangy, saucy, slightly spicy creation with lots of mushrooms. Reminded me kung pao chicken. I haven’t seen this one in a lot of other food blogs, so perhaps it’s a seasonal inclusion.

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Lobster with sea urchin sauce. If you’ve had sea urchin sauce before you’ll know it’s very sweet, and when you squeeze some lemon on top it’s just divine. There wasn’t as much lobster meat as I had expected though.

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A simple grilled dish with salt and pepper. It’s good for what it is.

We moved to the table section for the last few dishes. This is a baby dried shrimp fried rice.

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And this is a very exquisite seafood soup with lots of goodies inside.

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Lastly we were treated to beverages (tea, coffee, juice, etc) and this slightly underwhelming chestnut cake. I was looking forward to something more chocolaty, personally. Shame we didn’t have more choice for this one.

As you can imagine, we were absolutely stuffed after this meal. The servings were not big, but when there are so many dishes they add up. By the end I was overflowing. So basically what I’m saying is that you probably don’t need to get the NT$2000 set. Judging from other food blogs it seems you more or less get the same things as the cheaper sets expect they tack on a few additional dishes. I don’t think it’s worth it.

In all, Shen Yen was a solid experience, but it’s not a place I’d be rushing back to if I were in Yilan again. For the same price you could get a much more comfortable experience in Taipei, though I understand the appeal of Shen Yen is that you get a lot of local produce that’s extremely fresh, and the enjoyment comes from the natural flavours more than any culinary additions. As a bit of a picky eater, I’m also not a huge fan of the no menu idea because it limits your options.

7.5/10

PS: Look for the photo of Jay Chou near the toilets.

Details

Shen Yen Teppenyaki (饗宴食坊)

Address: No. 326, Hebin Rd, Luodong Township, Yilan County

Phone: 03-965-7998

Movie Review: The Green Hornet (2011)

January 21, 2011 in Movie Reviews

The Green Hornet is the worst superhero movie I’ve seen in a long time.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  It’s a pretty decent movie about the worst superhero I’ve seen in a long time.  In fact, it’s almost an anti-superhero movie.

Before you read further, let me make it clear that I have never seen the original TV series (or read the comics or heard the radio show or watched the film serials ) that made Bruce Lee famous (other than brief snippets in Bruce Lee documentaries/films), so I have no idea whether this film was faithful to the source material.  I highly doubt that it is, but honestly, I don’t really care.  Regardless of whether the original superhero is anything like the new version, this particular Green Hornet is egotistical, moronic, basically useless — and as a result, very funny.  Some say that Rogen was ‘miscast’ as the superhero.  That’s not correct.  Seth Rogen co-wrote the script (with Evan Goldberg — Superbad, Pineapple Express), and he has essentially reshaped the Green Hornet into his own image as opposed to the other way around.  How can he be miscast if he wrote the character as himself?

So for those wondering how someone as goofy as Rogen could have ever pulled off a superhero, wonder no further — because Britt Reid (the Green Hornet’s alter ego), the wealthy slacker son of a newspaper magnate, is exactly like all of Rogen’s other characters — lazy, incompetent, but with a good heart.  For some that might be a reason not to watch this film, but for me, in an age when superheroes were taking themselves very seriously, it was refreshing to see a superhero that’s not always moody, doesn’t have any special powers or abilities, doesn’t even design or make his own gadgets, and has absolutely no desire to save the world.  Reid wants to be a superhero for the same reason we all did when we were kids — because it’s cool!

This is why The Green Hornet is unlike any superhero movie I’ve seen.  There are guns, fights and car chases (with a very cool car) but it’s predominantly a comedy (as opposed to an action film) — and it’s not a spoof or satire.  The guy who does all the work is not the hero, but his sidekick (in this case Kato, played by Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou — who is beyond huge in Asia).  The ‘love interest’, played sparingly by Cameron Diaz, has little interest in the hero.  And even the bad guy, played by acting god and Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz (from Inglourious Basterds), is a deadpanning hoot.  There’s also a very sweet cameo from one of Rogen’s ex–co stars.  It’s completely farcical and intentionally so.  I think a lot of people are looking at this film straight up and have failed to see what Rogen, Goldberg and director Michel Gondry (the guy directed Be Kind Rewind for goodness sake!) were going for.  This is essentially Pineapple Express for superheroes.  Yes, that means the film is pretty weak, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be lots of fun.

Having said all that, The Geen Hornet is not without plenty of problems.  The biggest one is that the tone and pacing are quite uneven, making the film sporadically entertaining — but it also means it occasionally suffers from sequences that don’t work.  Chou, who only started learning English recently, struggled with some of his lines, though I think he did okay — certainly no worse than say Chow Yun Fat, Jet Li or Rain when they first tried to crack Hollywood.  And of course, Rogen’s stupidity does get a little tedious towards the end, and the film loses steam in that tricky area between the second and third acts, as many films do.  And even though I watched this film in 2D, I’ve heard that the 3D effects absolutely suck.  Don’t waste your money again.

On the whole, however, I still enjoyed The Green Hornet much more than I thought I would, probably because I know nothing of the original character and don’t care.  I suppose it’s the type of film that you need to be in the right mood for, and it certainly helps if you weren’t expecting a ‘proper’ superhero film.

3.5 stars out of 5!

[Note: It’s interesting to see how this film developed.  Initially the Green Hornet was supposed to be George Clooney, then Greg Kinnear, with Jason Scott Lee [who played Bruce Lee once] as Kato.  Then the role was offered to Mark Wahlberg before it went into hiatus.  Next, Jet Li was offered Kato, and then Kevin Smith was offered to write and direct, with Jake Gyllenhaal intended for the lead role.  Then in the most interesting development, Hong Kong comedy star Stephen Chow came onboard to direct and star as Kato, before dropping out of both commitments.  Nicholas Cage was offered the role of the villain that Christoph Waltz eventually took.  Each of these configurations would have created a completely different film, but this is what we ended up with!]