Trésors de la Mer (Taipei)

April 29, 2015 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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I’m not much of a seafood guy, to be honest — too much trouble getting all that shell off, sorting through bones and putting up with potential skin allergies — so I had never heard of Addiction Aquatic Development, basically a fish market joint owned by the Japanese cuisine juggernaut Mitsui Group.

The website can explain the place better than I can, but essentially they offer many different types of ways you can eat fresh seafood. There’s a supermarket with a lot of sashimi, sushi and bento; a stand-around sushi bar where they make the stuff fresh; a hotpot area; a grill/BBQ section; and a proper restaurant — Trésors de la Mer .

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The view from the second floor of Trésors de la Mer

The restaurant also serves fresh seafood, which you can choose yourself from the tanks and iced section outside the front door.

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They have set specials (in Chinese only) that range from NT$1,280 to NT$2,280 per person (minimum 6 per table), but as I am quite picky with my seafood we decided to order a la carte.

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The seafood is REALLY fresh

The upstairs dining area is spread out but comfortable, and also surprisingly child-friendly.

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It’s all about the food, of course, so let’s check out what we got.

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First up, salmon sashimi. We only got salmon because that’s what we like, but we got half belly and half “normal.” Served on a bed of ice and with fresh lemon pieces, this was an absolute delight.

If you noticed that it is missing wasabi, it is because we have to grind it fresh ourselves.

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You get this plate with trapping holes in it and you have to grind a stick of Japanese horseradish to create the wasabi, which you then scrape to the edges with this wooden brush. It’s a lot of work, but totally worth it, because fresh wasabi is totally different to that processed stuff you mostly get and it’s fabulous.

If you order sushi, they will roll around a sushi cart and make it for you on the spot.

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I ordered a tuna one and it was just OK. Not enough tuna for the amount of rice you get and for the size of the dried seaweed sheet.

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One of the highlights was the prawns, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic and served with a side of salad drizzled with a vinaigrette dressing. The prawns were just so fresh and succulent and makes you realise that freshness really makes a huge difference.

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To ensure we would we full, we ordered a stir-fry seafood and chicken udon. Also very good, with a thick but light sauce but not too starchy. The seafood again was fresh and the chicken was surprisingly succulent.

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I love scallops, so we got a couple of skewers of grilled scallops. It was fresh and flavoursome, though in hindsight seared might have been better because scallops are more awesome when they are raw.

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The biggest surprise of the meal was the fish. It looked small and dry, but boy was it marvellous. With just a dash of salt and lemon, the natural flavours were allowed to shine through, and despite being grilled it was so fresh it almost melts in your mouth with a natural moistness.

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Lastly, you get a plate of fresh fruit — in this case sweet pineapple, bell fruit and guava.

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After sampling the meal at Trésors de la Mer I can definitely understand why Addiction Aquatic is such a popular destination for tourists, especially those from Hong Kong and Japan. If you love seafood, there’s probably no better place to visit in Taipei.

8.5/10

Details

Trésors de la Mer

Website: http://www.addiction.com.tw/lamer/

Address: Level 2, No.20, Aly. 2, Ln. 410, Minzu E. Rd., Zhongshan Dist., Taipei City

Hours: 11:00-24:00 (Addiction Aquatic open 6:00-24:00)

Phone: +886-2-2508-1268

Sumie Nouvelle Cuisine Japonaise (San Want Hotel, Taipei)

January 19, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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Sumie has a sushi bar but most of the seats are at spacious tables

Say what you want about Taiwan’s powerful Want Want Group, but no one can deny that they deliver amazing cuisine. Their Japanese restaurant, Sumie, located on level 4 of San Want Hotel in Taipei’s busy East district, is one of the highlights. There’s nothing really fancy or flashy about the cuisine, designed by renowned chef Sakae Miura, but it’s just extremely solid and tasty. Simple, classy and delicious is how I would describe the place.

Here are a few pages of the menu I managed to snap with my camera.

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As you can see, even the business lunch sets are around NT$1000 per head (including the 10% service charge). Each set comes with an appetizer, salad, sashimi, a seasonal dish, soup, rice and dessert. The healthy set is even more expensive at NT$1580 + 10%.

We ended up ordering two business lunch sets with the teppanyaki beef and teriyaki lamb as the mains. I was also very enticed by the sushi so we ended up getting a set of tempura prawn rolls.

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A refreshing vegetarian appetizer that has an unusual jelly texture

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A surprisingly tasty salad with sweet corn and a tangy Japanese dressing

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Seasonal dish — tofu with vegetables

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Assorted sashimi

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Miso soup and clay pot rice with pippies

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The teppanyaki beef

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Teriyaki lamb chops

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Tempura prawn sushi

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Dessert — black sesami panna cotta

The photos pretty much speak for themselves, but I don’t think the really do Sumie justice. Everything was delicate and simple but flavoursome. I hate tofu and I even tried some, and thought it was good. The main courses were excellent, with the beef tender and the teriyaki lamb chops incredibly juicy and saucy without being overbearing. I was also very happy to have ordered the tempura prawn sushi. I’ve had many of these in the past at other places and Sumie’s are at or near the very top. The sprinkle of bonito flakes and sauce just capped it off.

The servings are not huge and the prices are relatively high by Taipei standards, but not for a high quality restaurant in a major hotel. I would recommend Sumie to anyone who enjoys good Japanese food. A wonderful experience.

9/10

PS: San Want Hotel also has an adjacent bakery on the ground floor that is ridiculously awesome. Try their cakes if you get a chance, with the fresh chocolate cake being the deserved signature item.

Details

Sumie Nouvelle Cuisine Japonaise (澄江創意懷石料理)

Address: Level 4, San Want Hotel, No.172, Sec. 4, ZhongXiao East Road, Taipei, Taiwa (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua)

Phone: (02) 2781-6909 (ext. 10)

Hours: 11:30am-2pm; 5:30pm-9pm

Deluxe Japanese Buffet at Irodori (Grand Hyatt Taipei)

January 13, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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I love Japanese food and I love buffet, put the two together, add a dash of class, and what you end up with is Irodori, a posh all-you-can-eat restaurant at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Taipei.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking as much as possible, but as you might expect, Irodori offers a marvellous assortment of Japanese dishes, from sushi and sashimi, fresh seafood, teppanyaki dishes, oden, skewers, salad, fried stuff (including tempura) and of course, desserts. The buffet section is a large square with chefs in the middle who are constantly putting together new delights, and you can always go up to them to order custom sushi and other dishes.

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Fresh sushi

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Fresh seafood

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Skewers

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Just some of the desserts

The sushi selection is very good. The variety is decent, though apart from the unagi (eel) the nigiri is all raw fish or beef, so people who don’t like raw stuff can look to the Californian rolls and the custom-made hand rolls. The sashimi is also very fresh and next to it are some tasty salads, one with chicken and another with calamari. There was also (on that day at least) a seared salmon salad with a refreshing vinaigrette dressing which turned out to be one of my favourites.

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Chicken and calamari salad, hand roll, seared salmon salad, and an assortment of sushi

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Sashimi!

The next photos feature some items from the teppanyaki and tempura section, which includes stuff like pan fried fish fillet, wagyu beef cubes, stir fried bean sprouts. The tempura selection has prawns and a bunch of vegetables and sauces. For a while there was even some tonkatsu (with egg and onions) but I wasn’t quick enough to get to it. Around the corner there’s the skewer section, where you can get some awesome garlic sauce or teriyaki sauce.

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Pan fried fish fillet, wagyu beef cubes and tempura (plus a salmon sushi)

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Tempura, croquette, stir fried bean sprouts, dish, beef and yakitori skewer

The last photo of some desserts, is hazy for some reason (I’m using the camera on my new Samsung Galaxy S4). Most of the desserts are Japanese (mochi, red beans, green tea, etc), a pudding, a tofu, a cake or brownie, and, surprisingly, taiyaki, which is essentially a type of soft waffle with bean or custard filling.

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Desserts!

All that is well and good, but what makes Irodori’s dessert even more awesome is the ice cream! Yes, they do have a self-serve ice cream section, which I strongly suspect is Haagen-Dazs. I had myself some green tea and vanilla bean — in a waffle cone! Woo hoo!

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That’s about it from me. I was eating so much that I forgot to take a lot of photos of the other food, unfortunately, so you’ll just have to check it out for yourself.

If you like Japanese food and buffet, then Irodori is definitely a place I would recommend. At NT$1200 per head on weekdays and NT$1400 on Friday nights and weekends, it’s a little on the dear side, given it is, after all, in the Grand Hyatt. There are some cheaper alternatives available in Taipei, such as Shin Yeh, where some people might not be able to notice much of a difference in quality (though there is), but you really can’t go wrong with Irodori if you are looking for a top class meal.

9/10

Details

Irodori (彩日本料理)

Website: http://taipei.grand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/Irodori.html (online reservations available)

Phone: +886 2 2720 1230

Address: Level 3, No. 2, SongShou Road, Taipei, Taiwan (nearest MRT station: World Trade Center or Taipei City Hall)

Hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 am – 8:00 pm; Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays 9:00 am – 7:00 pm

Price: NT$1200 Monday-Thursday + Friday Lunch; NT$1400 Friday Dinner and Saturday-Sunday

Fresh Japanese at Nomenu (Taipei)

December 27, 2013 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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Tucked away in a small alley in New Taipei’s Banqiao district, just across the road from the city hall, lies Nomenu, a new Japanese sushi and sashimi bar that offers delicate and fresh cuisine prepared by chefs right in front of you.

It’s called Nomenu, but having absolutely no guidance would pose a bit of a problem for customers, so…there actually is a menu — albeit one that just lays out some basic parameters of meal sets and prices and some grilled ala carte options. This contradiction aside, Nomenu turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable experience, an intriguing joint I would recommend to people who like their fresh fish and don’t mind leaving the fate of their meal to the chefs. Of course, you can tell them in advance what you like and don’t like, and they will try their best to accommodate, though I have to admit it made me a little nervous because the Japanese are known to be quite adventurous in their choice of ingredients.

For our visit, we were presented with several set options, two of which were NT$280, one for NT$380, and two special “no menu” sets valued at NT$800 and NT$1600. The cheapest sets, to be honest, probably don’t offer enough for most average people, as they only include an appetizer, six sushi pieces or sashimi don, a soup and panna cotta dessert. The NT$380 set is a little better with both the sushi and sashimi don (with less suishi pieces), but you’ll probably have to order some side dishes to feel completely satisfied.

I have no idea what the NT$800 and NT$1600 sets provide, but I’m assuming it’s high quality produce. All prices are subject to a 10% service fee.

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The chilled appetizer that day was a three-pronged attack, with potato mash and fish roe, that slimy green thing I don’t really like with sesame sauce, and a skinned tomato with a vinaigrette dressing. They were not exactly the type of things I like, but then again it tasted pretty good for stuff I don’t like.

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The sushi set was the highlight for me. It came with an assortment of fresh fish, some lightly seared and others completely raw. You can tell it’s fresh and the wasabi is also freshly made, not like the packeted stuff you get at sushi trains. The sashimi don was good too, though I felt there was not enough sashimi pieces for the amount of rice you get. We also ordered a chicken with sea urchin sauce from the ala carte menu (mostly skewers and grilled items), which was wonderful and went well with the leftover rice.

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The soup was not miso as expected, but a light seafood broth, and the panna cotta dessert was fairly good, creamy but not too heavy, with a dash of sugary syrup on top. On the whole it was a very light but tasty meal, which I was happy with but unfamiliar with as most Taiwan restaurants like to stuff you to the brim with low-quality food so you feel like you go value for money.

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The best part about it, however, is that you are likely to be presented with a slightly different experience every time you go there given the chef-designed sets and depending on the produce available. From other food blogs I have visited it seems the food I had — or at least the appetizer and soup — was different to theirs. If the opportunity presents itself I will be back.

8/10

Details

Nomenu (旬鮮/鮨)

Address: No. 160-11, Section 1 Zhongshan Road, Banqiao District, New Taipei City (it’s actually on Min-an Street which is perpendicular to Zhongshan Road, across the road from the front entrance of New Taipei City Hall)

Phone: 0930 300 616

Hours: 11am-3pm, 5pm-9pm; closed Mondays

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/alwaysnigiri

nomenu

Musashi Sushi (Kyoto)

April 17, 2013 in Food, Reviews

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Outside Musashi Sushi near the corner of Kawaramachi Sanjo

If you like sushi that is cheap but fresh and tasty, I recommend Musashi Sushi in Kyoto, situated at the corner of Kawaramachi and Sanjo.

It’s one of the most popular and well-known places for kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) in Kyoto, but for whatever reason I never went there when I lived in the city about a decade ago. My old haunt was Kappa Sushi, which is a cheaper, but crappier kaitenzushi joint that offers machine-made sushi and other sides for 100 yen a pop (I believe the price has since been elevated to 105 or 110, inclusive of tax). Musashi Sushi on the other hand, does not have the fancy electronic ordering screens and offers its sushi for 137 yen a plate, but the quality of the hand-made sushi is clearly superior.

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Inside Musashi Sushi

Musashi Sushi has a great variety of different sushi, and even if you don’t like raw fish like many people, you can still enjoy a good meal here as they have lots of cooked options. I do eat the raw stuff but I’m not as adventurous as some other people, so I tend to stick to the safer choices.

If there is something you want that isn’t on the menu, just ask one of the waitresses and the chefs will make it for you on the spot. They have English menus, but the selection appears to be a lot smaller than what they really have. You just need to look at the conveyor belt to see this.

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Musashi Sushi’s English menu

The first dish I grabbed is one of my all-time favourites, the prawn tempura nigiri, which probably the most popular sushi for non-raw fish eaters.

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Here are some more photos of the conveyor belt and the type of stuff they have on offer.

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Here are some of the sushi we got. My top sushis for the day were the unagi (eel), which was made fresh and still warm when it melted in my mouth, the seared salmon sushi and the seared scallop sushi. You can ask them to fully cook the seafood if you like, but it just won’t be as nice.

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The wasabi is fresh and the tea and sauces are self-serve. Not much more to say except that it’s a fresh meal that guarantees satisfaction and won’t empty your wallet. We had, from memory, a total of 14 plates, which came to 1,918 yen, just AU$19. Now that’s what I call a great deal!

9/10

PS: We went during a weekday and it was early, like around 11:30. Apparently the place can get packed during peak hours, so plan accordingly.

Details

Musashi Sushi

Address: Kawaramachi-dōri Nakagyō-ku Sanjō agaru (corner of Kawaramachi and Sanjo)

Phone: 075 222-0634

Hours: 11am-10pm

Price: 137 yen a plate