Fri, Jan 13, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Restaurant: Nakayama Japanese Restaurant 中山日本料理

Address: 37-1 Zhongshan N Rd, Sec 2, Taipei (台北市中山北路二段37之1號)
Telephone: (02) 2542 3299 X 388
Open: Every day from 11:30am to 2:00pm for lunch and 5:30pm to 9pm for dinner
Average meal: Lunch NT$500; dinner NT$1,000
Details: Credit cards accepted. English, Chinese and Japanese menus provided

By Derek Lee  /  STAFF REPORTER

The seafood special is the chef's choice.

PHOTO: DEREK LEE, TAIPEI TIMES

Most old-timers in Taipei are familiar with the Hotel Royal Taipei (老爺大酒店) on Zhongshan North Road. It's a charming 12-story building, right next to the Grand Formosan Regent Taipei, with a red-brick facade and southern French-style interior.

Built 22 years ago, the hotel has become one of Japan Airline's international chain stores and its restaurant -- Nakayama -- on the second floor emphasizes its authentic Japanese connections to woo its Japanese clientele.

The chef, not surprisingly, is Japanese and is assisted by a Taiwanese deputy chef Hong Ching-biao (洪清標 ), who has more than 25 years of experience in preparing Japanese food.

The restaurant is to the right of the elevator, or can be reached by stairs from the first floor. It has a sushi bar, comfortable tables, three private rooms and one large banquet room.

Hong proudly said all the seasonings, even the soy sauce, are imported from Japan. Fresh food cooked in a genuine Japanese way are the founding principles of the restaurant. It is therefore no wonder that lovers of Japanese food such as Lin Huai-min (林懷民) and Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) are the restaurant's regular patrons. Even President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his family chose the place to celebrate Mother's Day in 2004. Hong said a lot of Taiwanese business tycoons love the food so much they often ask the restaurant to provide catering services to their house.

The restaurant adjusts its menu according to the season. According to Hong, in the winter the restaurant offers king crabs imported from Hokkaido and served in a hot pot as its main course. The emphasis in the spring is usually Japanese vegetables and salad courses. Samba fish, shellfish and sea urchin dishes are best during the summer season. Toro-tuna sashimi is an unbeatable gourmet dish in the fall.

For the first timer, Hong strongly recommends a set meal combination served with sushi-rice and miso soup, called the "seafood special" (Hirashi). The dish is served with nine to 12 different kinds of seafood and is a good way to get to know the seafood served at the restaurant.

Since the Japanese and local Japanese food lovers are often very picky about the rice used to make sushi, the chef uses only a particular kind of rice, called Yue-Guang rice (越光米), produced in Erlin (二林), Zhanghua County (彰化縣). Each grain of the Yue-Guang rice looks round and solid and has a stickier texture than standard rice. It mixes well with Japanese vinegar made from white chrysanthemum flowers used to make sushi and produces a refined taste.

As to the beverages, a wide selection of Japanese rice wine (Sake) is available to diners.

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