It is not hard to see why there is always a long queue outside a two-floor restaurant called I Pin Hua Tiao Chicken on Civil Boulevard across from the Breeze Center (微風廣場). The food is innovatively prepared and delicious, and the great service makes the dining experience relaxing and fun. And all these good things come at a price that will not break the bank.
The food at the joint is a creative mixture of hot pot and home-cooked meals. Featuring only four main courses on the menu, the restaurant is known for its strong-flavored, tasty chicken dishes. The recommended specialty is hua tiao chicken. For this dish, the chicken is first sautéed with 15 different seasonings and simmered with hua tiao wine (花雕酒), which is a high-grade shaoxing-style wine (紹興酒).
Pork rib pot (NT$880) is an alternative choice that comes in a huge portion that is enough for six people. It is grilled then stewed for 12 hours until all the flavor is released into the sauce.
After sampling the tender meaty delicacy, you can pick up your favorites from a wide range of hot pot items such as pig-blood sticky rice cake, fish and shrimp dumplings and various kinds of vegetables and mushrooms and stew the food in the rich-flavored sauce. For those who prefer a bit of luxury, crabs and lobster balls are the best choices.
Unlike in a hot pot restaurant where customers cook their own food, the well-trained, good-humored young wait staff frequently come to the table, adding broth as the soup thickens.
And if time permits, the wait staff will surprise customers with a bonus show of magic tricks. "We all know a few tricks and like to offer some entertainment to customers when we are not busy," one of wait staff and magician-to-be told the reporter.
Apart from the hot pot sets, a few exotic dishes can also be found on the menu including ostrich meat in oyster sauce (NT$250) and betel nut flowers (NT$168). A more lightly flavored clam pot is a popular appetizer using rice wine and ginger to bring out the fresh flavor of the clams.
Since it was established five years ago, the restaurant's reputation has kept on growing, and reservations are essential if you hope to get a table, even on weekdays.