Am an avid reader of many Taiwan foodies’ sites, and have been intrigued by the many rave write-ups on this Chef Show Time restaurant I keep reading about. Finally had the opportunity to visit this “must-go” restaurant recently, and I agree that it was indeed a unique dining experience.

The restaurant is located off the busy Tung Hwa South Road in a quiet side street, with an unassuming red brick exterior. The first oddity I noticed was how the tableware was laid out – a pair of chopsticks took the place of the norm fork and knife in a Western restaurant. I found out that this was the chef’s idea to encourage diners to share their food, which to us sounds like an excellent idea. In addition to being able to try out more dishes than normal, it also allow the diners to have more interaction during the meal. Chef Show Time serves more than just a European cuisine, in fact, it offers an unusual combination of Taiwanese-European fusion, which worked way better than it sounds.

We perused the menu in detail while waiting for our friend to arrive from Taichung. In English, a lot of the dishes sounded dull and ordinary, like the “poaching beef with soy sauce” and “grilled lamp chop”. Instead of relying on the bare menu, we asked the friendly hostess for recommendations and also snooped around to see what interesting dishes the other diners were having. Any of the main courses on the menu could be converted into a full set by adding NT$180 (cHK$45), which would give you an appetizer, soup, salad, bread, dessert, and drinks. Sounding like a great bargain, we opted for three sets and one more normal mains to share amongst the four of us.

The French bread was served still slightly warm, and went well with the herbed olive oil served on the side. The cream of pumpkin soup was more run of the mill and lacking in flavor though, and frankly quite disappointing. Next came the appetizer, which was the salmon sashimi salad that looked extremely inviting with its brilliant display of colors. The restaurant had thoughtfully provided an alternative appetizer of cooked squid salad for those that do not like raw fish. However, the home-mixed vinaigrette used in the salmon sashimi dish was too acidic and overpowering for our liking, and it was hard for us to taste the various components of the dish. Up to this point, we were slightly let down by the dishes, which were good, but nothing special.

Our perspectives quickly changed with the arrival of the first mains - Fried pork in Taiwan style (NT$380). At first glance, it looked a bit like the normal barbequed pork (char siu) served in the Chinese fastfood joints. We were however, dumbfounded by how good it tasted. The outside was crusted before cooking with some aromatic seasoning that was slightly sweet, while on the inside, with just the right mix of fat versus lean meat, the pork slices were so tender that they almost melted in our mouth. The chili sauce added a welcoming kick to the richly flavoured pork, while the crunchy cucumber slices in vinegar nicely balanced the heaviness of the dish.

Next came the Deep fried crab with sliced garlic (NT$1,200), our most expensive mains. Huge hokkaido crab pieces were crumbed and then deep fried to a golden yellow finish, and served with aromatic crispy fried garlic slices, on top of a bed of deep fried leaves. The snow white crabmeat we unearthed easily from the already cracked shell was extremely tender and juicy, and surprisingly sweet. This cross-border dish would serve well as a snack in a drinking session too.

Cold spaghetti with prawns (NT$580) was one of my favourite dishes of the night - served in a enormous glass plate and piled so high with ingredients that we almost couldn't see the pasta hidden underneath. The hostess advised us to eat the spaghetti first to avoid it sticking all together and losing some of its al dente texture. The was mindblowingly good and refreshing, served with a tangy vinegar sauce (way less acidic than the appetizer we had) - literally an explosion of flavours. The feta cheese cubes and olives and capers, together with the meaty tomato slices seemed to be of Mediterranean influence, and went well with the juicy whole prawns.

Curiously sounding Poaching beef with soy sauce was our next star of the night. Two cuts of beef were used, the fatty thinly sliced beef pieces that are nomally used in hotpot were poached quickly before being piled on the outter layer, while the inner layer had a richer shank-like texture. To serve, shredded cucumber, ginger, spring onion, and preserved winter veg were wrapped inside the lightly broiled beef slices and eaten together as a roll. On close-up, one can even see interwining layers of fat and meat on the paper thin beef slices. This exquisitely delicious dish was more subtle and delicate than the rest, and served as a fitting finale to our mains. Indeed an odd choice to be served in a European restaurant, but it was so good that we finished the whole dish even though we were already extremely stuffed.

The regular dessert that came with the set menu was a pumpkin mousse cake that we did not enjoy, although we appreciate the thoughtfulness of circling back to the pumpkin soup towards the end. Instead, we ordered the creme caramel, which is always a favourite Taiwanese snack of mine - here, instead of being store-bought, the creme caramel was made in-house.The dessert was creamy without being too heavy, with a light hint of vanilla flavour (you can even see the vanilla seed!). We left with a full stomach~ contented and satisfied.

In hindsight, we’d probably have had an even more amazing dining experience if we chose appetizers and desserts from the a la carte menu, versus the relatively average dishes included in the set menu. 

I applause the chef’s dedication and creativity in trying to weld the seemingly at odds European and Taiwanese cuisines and believe that he has done an excellent job in execution too (not to mention at affordable prices too). After dinner, he'd come round to the tables and chat with the customers on his passion for food, a gesture that we observe to be increasingly popular these days. For those in a hurry, try coming for lunch, as the dedicated chef changes the set lunch menu every month, catering to the season and striving to allow the lunch goers enjoy a highly satisfying meal. While this was no five star restaurant or michelin-starred establishment, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal, a total gastronomic experience.

ADD: 台北市敦化南路二段81巷20號

TEL: 02-2702-5277、2702-5276

PS Booking is a must~ the restaurant also closes early, like 9:30pm... so you'd probably have to eat early (and head somewhere else for after dinner entertainment!)

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