If the fancy, high-end Japanese restaurants dotted across the capital are just too much for you, tucked away in the alley behind the intersection of Nanjing East Road and Jilin Road is Yu Xin Japanese Restaurant, a good place to go for a quick taste of Japan without breaking the bank.
Proprietor Zhang Ming-zhang (張明章) has more than 40 years of experience in Japanese cuisine and the restaurant business. Opened in 1997, the fine eatery long ago established a name for itself and attracts a steadily increasing number of patrons.
The authenticity of the food is proven by the number of Japanese customers who frequent the restaurant -- enough for the waiting staff to know how to take orders in Japanese.
Moderately decorated in a homey style, the joint can seat over a hundred customers with several private rooms for intimate gatherings. Though the menu is not huge, it is representative of traditional Japanese food. Here, you can order your favorite dishes from a selection that includes hot pot, fresh sashimi, charcoal grilled or steamed delicacies and vegetable and tofu dishes.
What makes this eatery stand out from the crowd is it signature eel rice bowl. According to Zhang, seven out of every 10 patrons order the famous grilled eel dish and those who have tasted it come back over and over again to get a fix. The key to this restaurant's popularity is word of mouth: freshly slaughtered eels and the specially made sauce, the ingredients of which Zhang prefers to keep secret.
Around 8am every morning, chefs begin preparing eels netted from the holding tank located behind the restaurant. The eels have to be grilled first then steamed in a wooden steamer. The eel meat is then grilled again until the it is saturated with the sauce's sweet flavor.
On weekdays, the joint can sell an average of 300 eel meals. On weekends, the number can jump to over 500. The good news is that you can sample the divine taste at the reasonable price of NT$140. The bad news is the dish is usually sold out before 8pm. Another must-try on the menu is hua sushi. For NT$340, you get a plate of eight super-sized hua sushi; enough to feed three people. Wrapped in baked egg strips, the restaurant doesn't skimp on tasty ingredients when making the sushi -- a gratifying mixture of fried shrimp, crab meat, asparagus, cucumber and shredded pork can be found in each bite.