Determining what is sublime and what is slops among the myriad night market stands and restaurants that serve staples like hot and sour soup (酸辣湯), scrambled egg and tomato (番茄炒蛋) and sesame paste noodles (麻醬熱麵) requires experience at both ends of the culinary spectrum. Call it the sweet-and-sour theory of dining.
Little Hyatt, which has been in the business for 65 years, was once located in a military housing complex on Xinyi Road and moved to its present location opposite Taipei Municipal Xingya Junior High School in 1998.
Perched at one of the restaurant’s Formica-top tables on a bright red plastic stool, taking in the grubby floor, tacky ship-anchor clock and set of rules posted on the wall, it’s difficult not to conclude that whoever came up with the name had delusions of grandeur. Then the food arrives.
The menu lists 26 dishes. On a recent visit, out of nine dishes ordered six could be termed outstanding, none more so than the steamed crab (清蒸螃蟹, priced according to weight, about NT$425 for one), which was served with a tangy vinegar and mashed ginger dressing.
A dissected crab contains white, orange and dark green edible flesh, roe and fat, the latter of which has a strong fishy taste and is a little bitter.
A plate of steamed shrimp (12 for NT$150, 清蒸草蝦) was delicately prepared, the shells so soft that it took very little effort to remove the flesh. To extract the crustaceans’ brains, bladder, stomach and heart, place your lips around the open end of the carapace and suck back gently.
Little Hyatt’s noodles are knife-cut (刀削麵). They are deliciously chewy and appear in the sesame paste noodles (small NT$45/large NT$60), which unusually includes chunks of fried garlic, and the noodles with pickled mustard greens (榨菜肉絲麵, small NT$45/large NT$60), which are served in a tasty clear beef broth.
Address: 1F, 14, Alley 8, Ln 423, Zhuangjing Rd, Taipei City
Telephone: (02) 2720-7388; (02) 2729-8691
Open: Daily from 11am to 2:30pm and 5pm to 11pm
Average meal: NT$130
Details: Chinese menu; credit cards not accepted
The one disappointment was the tomato and cabbage (番茄高麗, NT$120), which was so saccharine it wouldn’t have been out of place on a dessert menu, especially when eaten next to the bolder, saltier bacon and cabbage (培根高麗, NT$150).
Still, Little Hyatt definitely hits the sweet spot.
Although there are 21 tables on two floors, the restaurant is usually packed at meal times.— Steve Price