This Chinese restaurant belongs to the four-star Asia-Pacific Hotel on Taipei's busy Chunghsiao East Road. It is one of the few hotel restaurants in Taipei where one can enjoy a wide range of delicacies at fair prices. It was also the site chosen by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) for his daughter's engagement banquet in June.
For either of the two reasons, it's definitely a place worth frequent visits.
According to executive chef Yuan Wei-hung (洪袁偉), Chao-chow (潮州) refers to coastal villages of Guangdong Province. So the taste and style is Cantonese, with dim sum as a major feature. Chao-chow dishes are lighter and fresher than most found elsewhere, with an abundance of stewed and steamed seafood dishes, Yuan said.
For a starter, try the assorted stewed goose (潮式滷鵝片). The goose is first stewed in a rich juicy sauce and served in slices, which is different from Cantonese barbecued goose. Cold sauted fish slices (凍烏魚) or cold crab (凍花蟹) are also recommended starters.
A chef for the first family, Yuan gained his reputation by making premium Chao-chow cuisine rich with fresh seafood and innovative dishes. It would be a pity not to try Yuan's first family banquet dish, wrapped chicken in golden soup (金湯石榴球). In this dish, chicken, mushroom and bamboo shoots are wrapped in an eggwhite pancake. The chicken balls are cooked in a rich, gold-colored pumpkin sauce. It's a dish that requires both time and skill in its preparation, Yuan said, adding that the specialty is usually part of a 12-dish feast meant for 10 people and orders must be made two days in advance.
For a slightly richer taste, Chao-chow-style mixed stir fry (潮州小炒) and Szechuan pepper spicy chicken (碧綠川椒雞) are recommended. The stir fry dish mixes shredded jellyfish, celery, pork and squid, for a strong flavor and crisp texture. The Szechuan chicken is surprisingly non-greasy.
Asia Pacific's frequent Hong Kong visitors are further proof of the food's quality. For those confounded by the choice, there is a convenient set menu, which for NT$680 includes the exquisite shark fin soup and five other dishes.