Fri, Jul 14, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Restaurant: Megetsudo 明月堂

Address: 168 Zhongcheng Rd Sec.2 , Taipei (臺北市忠誠路二段168號)
Telephone: (02) 2876-8567
Open: 11:30am to 10pm every day
Average meal: NT$200; NT$120 minimum charge excluding dessert
Details: Chinese, English and Japanese menu; Visa and Master-card accepted

By Chris Pechstedt  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Milk and cookies, Japanese style.

PHOTO: CHRIS PECHSTEDT

It is perhaps not common knowledge that many Westerns are averse to eating sweet beans, and products in which these beans are a key ingredient.

This is according to Yang Kuo-jun (楊國君), manager of Megetsudo, which for 70 years has dealt in sweet-bean desserts, among other varieties. Subsequent investigation turned up little circumstantial evidence to support Yang's claim. “Some foreigners think it's disgusting,” she says.

Megetsudo is a place at which the novice in sweet bean consumption can cut his or her teeth. The shop specializes in Japanese-style dessert, specifically the classic combination of green tea and mochi with sweet bean paste.

Mochi is what's often called “sticky rice paste,” although by the time you eat it, it is neither a paste nor all that sticky. Instead, it's chewy, mildly elastic dough that is often wrapped around a sweet filling and rolled into a ball.

In Taiwan, the filling usually a pleasant little core with about half the diameter of the entire orb. The Japanese have another variety, which is the type served at Megetsudo — the structure resembles that of a bonbon, ie., almost all filling.

Since the filling is often made from one of the many varieties of sweet bean paste — which is both sweet and a paste, but doesn't taste like beans — this type of dessert is even heavier than the Taiwanese variety.

There are other small sweets that don't involve beans at all. Regardless of the ingredients, Megetsudo's desserts are very sweet, very heavy and very good. Fortunately, the tea does a remarkable job at taking the edge off. Yang says, the whole point of the restaurant is to emphasize the Japanese custom of tea as an integral part of dessert. At NT$160-NT$220 for a smallish pot, it's most of what you're paying for. The quality is good, and it goes with the sweet mochi like milk with cookies.

There are other routes to go, though. There's a smallish but decent selection of Japanese food, including good salads. There are also ices and a variety of drinks and other desserts that treat tea in very unusual and often successful ways — a rose tea latte, chamomile milk tea, green-tea tiramisu and even green-tea soda (not green-tea-flavored soda, but good green tea spiked with soda water and sugar). The list is too long and creative to finish here.

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