Fri, Jan 10, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: Yishang Garden

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tonpo stewed pork is one of the delights of Yishang Garden.


Yishang Yuan has 22 years of history behind it, and in its new Tienmu location, it has taken on a new and sophisticated look. Fortunately this has not been done at the expense of the food, which if anything is better than ever. The addition of a number of dishes that are now hard to come by makes a visit even more of an adventure.

"Because this is an old family restaurant, we are able to make dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation," manager Li Yuan-hao (李元灝) said. As important, if not more so, Yishang Garden still cleaves to the old methods of cooking, taking time over preparation and abjuring flavor injections from MSG, the bane of so much Chinese cooking in Taiwan.

The menu at Yishang Garden is very extensive, incorporating Shanghai-style dim sim, banquet dishes, delicacies such as pickled crab, stir-fries and traditional Chinese sweets. The appetizers go far beyond the bean curd and seaweed, and some could almost be a meal in themselves. These can supplement the afternoon tea package (NT$220) made up of five different kinds of dim sum.

For something hearty, the Tonpo-style stewed pork (東坡肉) is an adventure in hedonism and forbidden calories, while the braised river fish head in sweet brown sauce (紅燒下巴) is rich and delicate by turns but demands considerable attention to detail to get at the best bits. For meal as spectacle, hot rock prawns (上海桑拿蝦) take a lot of beating -- live prawns thrown onto red hot river pebbles -- and the taste is as good and simple as you could desire. Another light dish is the shrimp mince lettuce roll, which is deliciously light and is a great way of starting out the meal. Among the traditional Shanghai dim sims, the crab and pork steamed buns are a match for the best in town.

Address: 41, Tienmu E. Rd., Taipei (台北市天母東路41號)

Telephone: (02) 2871-7755

Open: 11am to midnight

Average meal: NT$300

Details: English menu available. Credit cards accepted.

Open through Chinese New Year

"Every month or so we will also have a special `old recipe dish' -- things that you can only now rarely find in restaurants," Li said. For the Chinese New Year season, the dish is Hangzhou Duck Stew (杭州老鴨煲), which is guaranteed to keep out the winter chills.

The decor, which might be described as oriental minimalism, as well as the elegant presentation of the dishes, offers up an atmosphere of sophistication which is not reflected in the price, with generous main dishes priced between NT$250 and NT$350.

Although the main kitchen closes at 9pm, Yishang Garden continues to offer a selection of simple dishes on through to midnight -- many of these designed to go particularly well with wines or spirits (the latter available in shots or by the bottle). It is also nice not to be thrown out of a place at 9:30pm as is so often the case with family-run Chinese restaurants.

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