Fri, Sep 08, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Restaurant: Wasabi

Address: Taipei 101 Mall, 4F, 45 Shifu Rd, Taipei (台北市市府路45號4樓)
Telephone: (02) 8101 8166, fax (02) 8101 8167
Open: Every day from 12pm to 2:30pm, 3pm to 5pm for tea, and 6pm to 10pm
Average meal: NT$1,800 plus 10 percent service charge
Details: Menu in Chinese and English, credit cards accepted

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wasabi serves Japanese food at its best in the Taipei 101 Mall.


PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

Impeccably dressed in a formal suit and silk tie the manager of Wasabi, Ken Chen (陳偉德), placed a live abalone and tiger shrimp on a dish piled with steaming stones, then added sake. There was a whoosh and the air became scented with alcohol, herbs and seafood.

Other diners looked around, surprised by the sound or fragrance, and watched as Chen discreetly covered the plate with a lid that had a small hole in it, allowing a jet of steam to escape. We were told this was done so no-one had to witness the death throes of our tasty mollusk and crustacean.

It doesn't get much more natural or fresher when the catch-of-the-day is live abalone from waters near the South Pole.

“Abalone is the king of seafood,” said the executive chef of Wasabi, Yankee Yang (楊正全). “These shellfish are from the least polluted seas in the world, off the Tasmanian coast by the South Pole. This live performance is a traditional and creative way of cooking. You really can taste the sea.”

The “Live Australian Abalone Set Menu” is a seven-course meal of fusion fare crafted by Yang, who learned the arts of preparing sashimi and sushi in Japan.

The meal began with abalone salad, which was served with green asparagus and bamboo shoots. The bream soup was artfully prepared as the fish was given a thin covering of flour before being steamed, so it retained its full flavor and moisture.

As may have been expected the quartet of sashimi slices — abalone, octopus, fish and shrimp — were excellent, partly because they came with wasabi made that day, grated from the root rather than recombined from powder. The sushi platter offered four taste explosions, notably the foie gras, which was outstanding.

The only dish your reviewer had reservations about was the grilled and buttered abalone in apple. The various fish elements were overpowered by a fruity, creamy, almost cheesy taste. Asian palates, we were told, are tickled by this combination but it left us unmoved.

Over 1 million Japanese visitors a year pour into Taiwan because it's relatively close, has the tallest building in the world and has many of the trappings of home: namely good shopping, hot springs and fresh fish prepared in a Japanese style.

Wasabi in the Taipei 101 Mall, therefore, is a popular destination for these tourists. So, unless you want to wait for a table and perhaps be disappointed, booking is advised.

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