Chinese, happiness

Food: Maosheng Sushi House

Salmon sashimi
Originally uploaded by shimmertje
We decided to go with Mr Yu to try out a Japanese restaurant he'd passed by on several occasions. "There are always lots of people there," he said, an indication that the food is very good, and/or great value for money.

The Maosheng Sushi House is practically a hole in the wall, just a little shop tucked in a small alleyway with tables strewn around onto the road outside. The chef was dressed Japanese style with a bandanna and a happicoat, and stood behind a small counter with a glass display case of raw fish, flanked by his wife who took care of the sushi orders.

Since we were new to the place, the chef suggested that he'd serve his house specialties, or 招牌菜. We didn't give a budget, but the meal was surprisingly affordable at NT$1360, including a bottle of sake and some beer.

Many of the dishes were standouts, explaining why this place has been around over 30 years. Salmon sashimi may be salmon sashimi, but this serve, cut into fingers, seemed so fatty it tasted like toro (fatty tuna sashimi). The miso soup, with bits of salmon in it, echoed on the tongue, while the grilled fish was superb, being crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and just salty enough. And that's not all - the tonkatsu tasted like kurobota, but certainly cost nowhere as much as the flagship dish at Tomton in Singapore.

We'd just been to Xiaoshan with Mr Yu and Tinkerbell where business was by no means as hopping, and waits much longer. We figured it was because the chef there had less help and chose to serve a lot more on his menu, some of which took ages to prepare. This meant that while you get great food, you may get some items after you've practically finished everything else, detracting from the dining experience somewhat.

You can get Japanese food anywhere, but it is often mediocre or overpriced. The best you can usually do is good but expensive (such as at Tomton). For extremely high quality Japanese food at very low prices, you cannot beat Taiwan. But ask the locals where to go, and make sure the place is crowded. As Anthony Bourdain points out, food quality depends a great deal on the freshness of the ingredients; and without enough patronage, you can't expect food that is that fresh.

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This picture is from the Chiayi 2007/2008 set: