When the restaurant has no menu, you just dig in.... A dear friend of my mom’s retired to Taiwan 5 years back. She admittedly doesn’t know Taipei all that well, but she always seems to know a great place to eat when we come to town. Great would be an understatement for this one.
This basement restaurant serves Hakka cuisine without a menu. You walk in, take a seat, and you start by self-serving 1 out of 2 options from ginormous soup pots (or take both, if you desire): vermicelli in homemade broth, and rice porridge with taro.
Then, the dishes start coming out. I don’t understand enough Mandarin or Taiwanese enough to get the full scoop, but this is what I learned:
1. the more people in your party, the more dishes come out.
2. Party of 3 or more, make a reservation.
3. Party of 2 or less, you’re probably going to share table space and/or wait.
4. 20 minutes after opening their doors, no more seats were available.
This was the first time I’ve ever been to a restaurant where you just eat what’s given to you, no questions asked, and then you take care of the bill and walk away yearning for your next return. Not the pretentious Michelin star-rated kind of restaurant with tweezers, but the plastic soup spoons and fresh, delicately balanced flavors kind of place. Fresh greens sautéed in garlic, shredded mountain roots battered + deep-fried into savory pancakes, perfectly peppered sliced pork chops fragrant with rice wine and spices, steamed black chicken feet, steamed belly-split whole fish, followed by other dishes of chicken, shrimp, lightly pickled sweetened white gourd, and cabbage with 2 types of mushrooms (black wood ear and white enoki). We finished off our lunch with lemon tea (more like a fresh squeezed Calamansi/lemon taste), before departing, stomachs filled to the brim.
I know in my lifetime I had very little chance of meeting Anthony Bourdain. If I were to have just one meal with him, this would be the place.
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