Fri, Feb 07, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: 12 Yaki 十二燒

Address: 2, Lane 62, Yenchi Street, Taipei (台北市延吉街62巷2號)
Telephone:(02) 2752-2099
Open: 11am to 11pm
Average meal: Monday to Saturday, 6pm to 2am; Sunday, 6pm to 12am
Details: Credit cards not accepted. Chinese menu with pictures

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tulip wing chicken helps the beer go down at 12 Yaki.

PHOTO: YU SEN-LUN, TAIPEI TIMES

Most people think of Japanese restaurants as posh establishments serving up fancy food with a very light taste. But the Japanese grill shop 12 Yaki offers you juicy meats in rich and strong sauces washed down with beer or sake in a cozy atmosphere. It is the perfect way to drive away the winter cold.

The popularity of Taipei's Japanese-style grill houses has been growing rapidly. This has largely been the result of the "all-you-can-eat" and "do-it-yourself" concept "yakiniku" restaurants where you grill sliced meat at your table. 12 Yaki is a "yakitori" restaurant, which, although it sounds the same, is a different kettle of fish altogether.

In Japan, yakitori is a synonym for Japanese pub-style cuisine. Office workers visit yakitori shops after work to have a few drinks. The food is generally strongly flavored to meet the tastes of drinkers.

"Yakitori" means grilled bird in Japanese, so it is no surprise that chicken is the main dish, with just a few red meat dishes and seafoods thrown in to fill out the menu. Food is grilled on skewers in the kitchen and then served.

Restaurant owner Wang Wei-shun (王維璿) was trained in Tokyo at a school specializing in grilled cuisine before opening his own restaurant. It was from there that he brought back his grill technique, special sauce and the cosy atmosphere of a yakitori house.

In his small restaurant, tables are close together and it is easy to mingle. Wang knows many of the guests personally. He has even been matchmaker for a couple who met there and are now getting married. More recently the already popular restaurant gained still more fame as the place Chu Hsiao-tien (朱孝天), a member of the super popular boy band F4, was discovered.

However, it is the food that 12 Yaki is really about. tulip chicken wing (鬱金雞翼) is a must-try, both for presentation and taste. In this dish, the chicken wing is folded to make it look like a tulip and stewed in the restaurant's special sauce. It's a very rich and juicy dish and you won't have any trouble with the bones.

There are two popular fried dishes: seafood croquette and crispy crab. The former uses cabbage to wrap shrimp and fish which is then coated with egg and bread crumbs before being deep fried.

The latter is a very complex dish to prepare, requiring that the meat is first removed from the shell, seasoned and then put back. The whole thing is then deep fried until crispy. On a Friday night, this dish is in such heavy demand that it quickly runs out.

Reservations are recommended not simply to get a seat, but also because you are treated to a free cold dish if you reserve a place by phone.

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