All too often we quote others as identifying ethnic restaurant which delivers authentic and stays true to their cuisine. I was fortunate to try the food at Teriyaki House before making a trip to Taiwan and now comparing those flavors. Hands down it is with personal experience that I can say these are authentic flavors.
The setting of this restaurant reminds me of walking along the streets of Taichung, Taiwan. Peering into these open doorways I was mesmerized by various unique smells that just beckons whether I was hungry or not. It was very hard for me to walk along without ducking into a different doorway every other step. From the sparse seating to the ornate walls, to the wall menu, to the happy cheery owners, this restaurant really captures the soul of Taiwan.
On my last visit, before going to Taiwan, the menu was somewhat separated. The current menu includes English and Taiwanese translated dishes. Even so, there are always additions that is not on the menu. These items are listed on a board behind the counter, of course in Chinese.
Daikon Cake – Made specifically for the up coming Chinese New Year this weekend. This is made from shredded daikon and rice flour. The owner told me that this is pre made in batches and refrigerated. Then when an order comes in they pan sear it. Since she gave me the refrigerated item to taste, I seared it and tried it with fish powder, soy paste, and soy dipping sauce. Apart from my condiments the cake itself is a treat. The texture resembles a potato pancake with chunks. The taste is distinctive daikon, slightly radish, slightly crunchy, putrid to the nose. I am told that this cake is served with several other items. As in any festive celebration there are tons of food. This is just one of many. If you are thinking of ordering this, you might want to call ahead and preorder. This is not on the menu.
Milk Fish Combination – The fish is a delicate, flaky, semi firm filet seasoned and seared. The flavor is similar to tilapia without fishiness, but more silky and sweet. Taiwanese Pork Sausage is a sweet semi firm nugget of happiness. Green picked vegetable gives that burst of saltiness. White stir fried cabbage adds crunch. Braised egg in soy sauce is a staple in these combinations. As a matter of fact egg in all of its glory is a big portion of Taiwanese cuisine. I remembered stopping in at a temple and there must have been at least 25 different types of eggs on sale!
Pork Chop Combination – All of the elements are the same as the previous Milk Fish Combination, with exception of the pork. I remembered when this dish was first presented to me. My reaction was, “What’s the big deal, it’s a battered pork chop?” Was I so wrong. This is marinated and battered with sweet potato flour. I challenge anyone to try this and tell me if this is not the most juicy, succulent, tender pork chop you’ve ever had.
Taiwanese Pork Sausage – This is an appetizer portion. These bits of heaven is served on every street corner in Taiwan. Sweet with a slight saltiness, all porkilicious heaven.
Salt and Pepper Chicken – or more appropriately called Popcorn Chicken. Same sweet potato flour batter as the Pork Chop, but more crunchy. This goes well with a tall cold Taiwan beer. Or any beer for that matter. The crispy basil leaves add a palate cleanser. These are very addictive, just like popcorn. Caution: Before you realise you can eat a whole order by yourself.
The amazing thing about this restaurant is it’s truth to self. Yes there is the “Americanized Chinese Menu” like every other Chinese take out restaurant. But every time I’ve gone here the place is packed with huge groups of people. Many times I see young people, obviously Taiwanese students, who reaches for the comfort of home. Or groups with several older members who are hunched over things I cannot recognize. They are not open on Sundays, but this Sunday being Chinese New Year they will open for a huge party. I asked what was on the New Years Menu, the owner replied that they were booked for big parties on the weekend. This is the true essence of authenticity, when people gather in a place to celebrate their culture.