Just think of all the great things that Japan has given the world. High-mileage cars, quality electronics, pornographic comics, stylish tatami mats, tasty green tea, the list goes on. Add to that list yakitori, the Japanese version of barbecue, which is also the latest culinary trend in Taipei. On practically every block and in every alley in the East District, new yakitori joints are opening up.
There are a lot of pretenders out there offering lackluster yakitori, but Sleepingwind is certainly not one of them. Its barbecue items are all exceptionally good and its prices are some of the lowest in town.
The restaurant, which was opened about six months ago by admitted gourmand Simon Tsou (
Take the lamb in black pepper sauce, for example. The tang of the lamb and its tender texture is perfectly complemented by the crunch of the pepper and its zesty spice. Another highlight is the beef marinated in a light soy base grilled medium-rare for a delightful and delicate taste.
One of the items that Tsou especially recommends but that frightens some diners is the grilled chicken skin seasoned with a vaguely sweet sesame sauce. The dish pulls no punches when it comes to greasiness, but the pleasure in biting into the crispy skin is worth the health risk.
Being a yakitori store, there isn't much in the way of light fare. The sauces used for the kebabs are universally heavy and flavorful, even for the few grilled vegetable items on the menu. The hefty use of salt in the soups, which is to stay faithful to the way they are prepared in Japan, is often overpowering.
On the merits of its food alone Sleepingwind stands out among yakitori joints, but it is also one of the few cozy places in the east district to have a meal. There are only four tables to seat about 20 people total and the interior, which Tsou designed, is stylish with random, flea-market furnishings, discreet lighting and platters from Yingko. There is also a small bar serving liquor, Taiwan beer on draft and the Belgian brew Delirium Tremens. The name Sleepingwind, by the way, was proposed by a friend who had an American Indian relative by the same name.