Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shiyang Culture Restaurant- Fanciest meal I didn’t enjoy


My family had a lot of delicious meals during our trip to Taiwan, but the one we like to discuss the most is the meal we had at Shiyang Culture Restaurant, which no one enjoyed other than my mom.

I was actually surprised. I’m used to my siblings being very picky, but I’ve always prided myself in having a very open palate. But for some reason, our meal just consisted of ingredients I didn’t quite care for.

The restaurant is quite well known in Taipei. It’s located in the mountainside of XiZhi City. Reservations must be made well in advance and there is no a la carte menu. Instead all guests dine on the prix fixe menu which changes depending on the fresh ingredients available.  The price is approximately $60 USD.

The story for the restaurant experience startswith the drive. Windy, narrow mountain roads are never fun, especially in the rain. In addition, we encountered a strip of road where there appeared to be many wild dogs roaming. The dogs would sit in the middle of the road, and when a car approached they would move out of the way, only to chase the car, barking ferociously after it.  We passed by at least 20 of these wild dogs on our way to the restaurant, making me feel like I was in the middle of a horror movie.

Once we arrived, someone greets you at the top, and you have to give your reservation name. The person then radios down to check that you do have a reservation before letting you drive down to the restaurant. The restaurant is located in a lush green forest-like environment. It provides some breathtaking views. We couldn’t truly enjoy it because of the rain, but I did have an idea of just how beautiful it would look on a clear day.

The restaurant consists of several private Japanese style rooms. You remove your shoes and sit down on the benches of the long table. The clear glass walls allows you to enjoy the view while dining.

One thing that bothered me right away was the lighting and table set up. The dim lighting made it hard to take good photos to properly convey the beautiful presentation of the dishes. In addition, rather than have a tablecloth, a long piece of orange construction paper covers the table. The color made my photos even worse and it also made the table quite ugly because there would be stains all over it from the condensation of the various dishes. I really wished they had either left the table bare or put a proper table cloth on it.

The cuisine is a fusion of Japanese and Chinese. They concentrate on using organic local ingredients, with a lot of vegetables and fruit.


The first dish was a cold cup of guava puree and passionfruit topped with some passionfruit seeds, to open up the palate. The juice was quite mild, with no additional sugar added. The fruit used wasn’t very sweet either.

As you’ll see, most of the dishes would be decorated with some sort of flower.


Next came a trio of appetizers. On the far right was a piece of fried vegetable tempura. The middle was homemade tofu. And the end was abalone. I usually like homemade tofu but this one had a thicker, grainier consistency I didn’t quite enjoy. The item I liked the most was the abalone, which was pretty much left by itself, no fancy preparation.


Next came a steamed egg custard. One of the few dishes we did all enjoy because we all love egg custard.


I was very excited to see this cold platter filled with sashimi and raw vegetables. Unfortunately the only item I really enjoyed was the fresh uni. There was also this thick crisp vegetable that looked like a large plant leaf that I enjoyed crunching on. The rest of the platter was filled with shrimp, oysters (which my siblings and I don’t eat), a fish which I didn’t really love, and squid pieces filled with black ink that stained your teeth once you bit in.


After a few courses, there would be a course of house made vinegars for you to drink to cleanse the palate. I don’t particularly like drinking vinegar, but I enjoyed these. Each course of vinegars had such unique flavors, many fused with fruits.


The plate consisted of stuffed prawns, sandwiched between slices of squash and tofu skin sushi stuffed with mochi. I enjoyed the savory mochi sushi and the prawns but I think the filling was a little bland.


More vinegar


Fried rice balls, topped with thin slices of meat, and king oyster mushroom stems next to them. I loved the presentation but found the fried rice too healthy tasting. Not enough oil or salt.


This was probably the prettiest dish of the night and one my mom raved about after her first visit to the restaurant a few years ago. A steaming claypot of chicken lotus root soup is first brought out. Then a single dried lotus flower is placed inside. The flower is initially closed, but the steam opens it and it blooms inside the soup before your eyes.

Wonderful presentation and we all love chicken soup so we happily indulged in this. We were sad it arrived so late into the meal though because by this course we were pretty stuffed with all the other food.


Guava, pear, and papaya


One final vinegar cleanser


The final dessert was a taro mash with some barley. I think I remember enjoying this but in small amounts.

Now I don’t want to come off as sounding ungrateful. My mom’s friends generously treated my whole family to this meal when they learned how much she loved this restaurant. And my mom also knows how we felt about the experience. I’m very grateful to have the experience and see the presentation even if I didn’t enjoy the food. And since my parents raised us right, we ate every single bite even though we didn’t enjoy a lot of it. Looking back and writing this post, I think my palate has been filled with foods that are much richer and heavier, whereas this place focuses on a much lighter fare, which was hard to adjust to. While it wasn’t a meal we loved, it is one that created a lot of memories and family bonding.

For some better photos of the restaurant setting and food, you can check out their website.

 

16 Responses to “Shiyang Culture Restaurant- Fanciest meal I didn’t enjoy”

  1. 1

    Iris — June 5, 2012 @ 12:43 am

    Hahaha omg I went there with my family too XD it definitely wasn’t my favorite fancy meal due to the ingredients used but the presentations were great and I did enjoy the mountainside. :p I actually didn’t try any of the vinegar offerings and gave it all to my uncle lol.

    • Kirbie replied: — June 5th, 2012 @ 9:45 am

      Ooh, the vinegars were good. Too bad you didn’t try them. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one that wasn’t thrilled by the meal. I kept reading rave reviews

  2. 2

    Oceanside Chiropractor — June 5, 2012 @ 1:00 am

    This place is really interesting. I would really like to try their food. Their food presentation is a bit weird for me.

  3. 3

    Faye — June 5, 2012 @ 9:28 am

    That was a really nice post. The location seems so Jurassic Park. Whenever I go back to Taiwan, I always go for the cheapest food b/c it’s hard to find that type of stuff here in the US. I haven’t ever really experienced high end ‘organic or locally sustained’ stuff thou – it’s amazing how much taiwan has changed (at least in my mind). Did you think $60 was a decent price for what you guys got?

    • Kirbie replied: — June 5th, 2012 @ 10:00 am

      I thought the price was good, especially compared to how much we pay here for multi course meals. I’ve dined at high end places in Taiwan, but this was also my first time with the local organic ingredients.

  4. 4

    Tina — June 5, 2012 @ 10:22 am

    Blog Twin — completed unrelated to this post, but have you seen this book??? I might have to buy it. http://www.amazon.com/The-Unofficial-Guide-Nutella-ebook/dp/B006YRN15O/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338920399&sr=1-1

    • Kirbie replied: — June 5th, 2012 @ 11:50 am

      Hi Blog Twin! I had not seen this book. Looks interesting though it doesn’t look like there are that many recipes.Perhaps we should write one full of recipes!

  5. 5

    Cliff — June 5, 2012 @ 10:31 am

    Not to mention that because it was dark and rainy, walking to the men’s bathroom, you have to cross a dark yard to another building, only to be in a small room with a hole asa window that faced the path to the womens bathroom so you just hear footsteps outside as you’re doing your business, expecting at any moment to be murdered either there, or on your walk back.

    No doubt, if it were brighter or not rainy it probably would have made for a much better experience.

  6. 6

    caninecologne — June 5, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

    hi kirbie – that restaurant sounds like something right out of a movie! too bad the food wasn’t as memorable. i have never heard of drinking vinegar between courses. the orange construction paper is a little odd as well.

    • Kirbie replied: — June 6th, 2012 @ 10:54 am

      I hadn’t really experienced drinking vinegar until this trip but I actually enjoyed it and I don’t usually add vinegar to my food.

  7. 7

    Iris — June 5, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

    I’m not a fan of drinking vinegar, hahaha. When my parents bought some apple vinegar, I pretty much stayed away from it even though they promised it didn’t taste too much like vinegar.

    I think (from what I can remember…) a lot of the dishes were very plain in terms of spice and flavoring, most were cold, and most were small portions… and while I do like cold foods, I’m not a fan of plain foods. And their food wasn’t plain in a way you could enjoy (like traditional Japanese cuisine), it was just… plain, lol.

  8. 8

    Kay — June 6, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

    It sounds like a v. interesting experience – but I’ve always found that not everyone will love a place just because you’re “supposed” to love it. Thanks for the honest review!

    • Kirbie replied: — June 7th, 2012 @ 8:39 am

      It was definitely an interesting experience. It would have been nice to explore the grounds but the weather was really crummy. We got completely soaked just walking from the car to the restaurant.

  9. 9

    Tina — June 7, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

    Haha, OMG we totally should – The “Nutella Makes Everything Taste Better” Cookbook.

    • Kirbie replied: — June 7th, 2012 @ 2:27 pm

      Hehe, yes!

  10. 10

    borneoboy — September 16, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

    You need to get your palate checked right away !

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