The N°168 Prime Steakhouse located in the Grand Victoria Hotel in Neihu might easily be mistaken for just another general-purpose hotel restaurant, except for two factors. The first is the two wood-fired ovens that stand prominently in the restaurant’s open-plan kitchen. The Australian-made Beech Oven and the US-made Woodstone Oven both have high reputations as items of outstanding culinary technology, and are brand names that are familiar with most serious foodies as able, in the right hands, to provide outstanding results. The second factor is the controlling hand behind the counter, chef Danny Deng (鄧有癸), who is widely regarded as Taiwan’s “godfather” of the steakhouse, who helped shape both Sonoma and A-Cut.
With N°168 Prime, Deng says he is trying to create a family-friendly dining experience that nevertheless offers the absolute top of the range in steaks, as represented by offerings in its set menu such as the USDA Black Angus Top Cap Steak (6oz), which comes with a starter, a soup, a salad, roasted seasonal vegetables and a desert for NT$1,500. Cheaper options, such as the Black Angus New York Strip start at NT$800 for the set.
Of the seven starters offered, I picked the sizzling Hokkaido Scallop, a minimally simple dish garnished with a dab of parsley puree and beurre blanc. It was all that was needed, for the fat, succulent scallops, seared with just a hint of gold around the edges and barely cooked on the inside, were one of those taste adventures that it would be possible to write a whole essay about. The warm spinach salad was no more than a small pile of beautiful baby spinach leaves and a few crispy pieces of bacon. The dressing, enlivened by mustard and sesame oil, had just a hint of the Orient. The main course of Black Angus Top Cap Steak, a cut pioneered by Chef Deng, was melt-in-the-mouth succulent. Three sauces (red wine, horseradish and Bearnaise), three kinds of gourmet salt (Himalayan rose, Hawaiian black and French fleur de sel) and three kinds of mustard (English, Dijon and grain), are provided, and while all are of excellent quality, it is all too easy to ignore their presence and focus on the steak in its totally unadorned state. The results of careful selection, aging (the restaurant has its own aging room), and preparation can be tasted in every bite. There was also a side dish of roasted seasonal vegetables, also unadorned, their natural flavors brought out through roasting in the Woodstone oven.
If steak is not your thing, there are options such as oak-roasted pork chop (NT$980), roast chicken (NT$750) and Moroccan-style rack of lamb (NT$2,000).
The restaurant offers 12 wines by the glass, and a three or four wine pairing menu for an additional NT$880 or NT$1,100, respectively, that can be part of the set. This provides an opportunity for diners to sample a variety of wines at a relatively inexpensive price. Even the steaks are presented on a separate dish to facilitate sharing, and several steak dishes, such as the a Chateaubriand (8oz, NT$1,200) or a prime rib eye (16oz, (NT$2,000), are designed for two.
The food at N°Prime is a match for any steakhouse in Taiwan, and the laid-back atmosphere and simple setting may even be a bonus if you are not in the mood for the plush and leather luxury that are so often inseparable from top-tier steakhouses.
Address: 4F, Grand Victoria Hotel, 168 Jingye 4th Rd, Taipei City (台北市敬業四路168號4樓)
Telephone: (02) 6602-567
Open: Weekdays 11:30am to 2:30pm and 6pm to 10pm; weekends noon to 3pm and 5:30pm to 10pm
Average meal: NT$1,000 and up
On the Net: www.grandvictoria.com.tw
Details: Chinese and English menu; credit cards accepted
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