Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: South Train(南方列車坊)

Address: 1, Ln 51, Boai St, Danshui, Taipei County (台北縣淡水鎮博愛街51巷1號1F)
Telephone: (02) 2629 2688
Open: 11:30am to 10pm
Average meal: NT$200
Details: Menu in English and Chinese. Credit cards accepted.

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thyme-chicken at South Train in Danshui.

PHOTO: DIANA FREUNDL, TAIPEI TIMES

It seems as though a good part of Taipei converges on the Tanshui waterfront at the weekend, which makes it nearly impossible to find a table in a restaurant, let alone one with a view. The restaurants lining the estuary might be crammed on Saturday and Sunday, but Wang Zhi-bi's (王治弼) obsession with trains and home-cooked food pack his small diner throughout the week. South Train has been serving Western-style fare in its restaurant-cum-train museum for the last six years, and based on the size of the queue last Sunday, is still doing well.

In its early stages, South Train relied on the celebrity status of Wang's wife and partner, singer Yan Zeung-yu (閻宗玉). News of the couple's joint venture brought flocks of reporters, pop idols and fans for the first year, but according to regulars waiting outside for a table, it was Wang's model train collection and home-cooked meals that brought people back.

Half of the restaurant is designed to resemble a train dining car, while the entire establishment is decked out in railway paraphernalia, including everything from pictures, signs and miniature models to a substantial collection of reading material and documentary-style footage playing on the TV set.

The menu has expanded from its original choice of either chicken curry or beef stew to include some 20 meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes as well as a lengthy list of specialty coffees and teas. The thyme-chicken baked in a moderately spicy sauce and ginger garlic teriyaki beef, both of which are served with rice and vegetables, are among the most popular dishes. The casseroles (seafood, beef or vegetarian) packed with vegetables and tofu are highly recommended and highly satisfying, if not too hot or heavy during the summer.

All the food is made from scratch by Wang, who spent years studying Western cuisine at college and cooking at various restaurants in Taipei. He also said he learned a lot from his mother, who he described as a naturally gifted chef. As the menu grew to include more options, the sets got smaller until Wang stopped serving salad and desert, because, according to him, few people ate the salad and no one ever stayed for desert. "Most people who come to Tanshui on the weekend want to see the view, not spend a long time in a restaurant," he said.

All meals are served with soup and coffee or tea, and while it might not be a four-course meal, it's definitely a lot of food for a reasonable price.

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