The first thing you need to know about Sanda (三大) is that reservations are required. Tucked among a row of teashops and breakfast nooks along Tingzhou Road (汀洲路) close to the Guting MRT Station (古亭捷運站), the Japanese-style restaurant serves a steady stream of clients for its lunch and dinner specials.
Sanda’s tiny interior has the feel of a fish bowl in the way patrons are squeezed into its cramped space. The kitchen, with its rectangular shape and glass front, looks like a small aquarium and enables diners sitting at the tables for two or four directly across from it to watch the chefs slicing raw fish and rolling maki. Listed above the dining area is the week’s special, which was a seven-piece sashimi set platter (NT$200) on the day we went.
Two pieces each of salmon, yellowtail and saba kazunoko and one slice of tuna arrived on a plate with separate dishes of garden salad, miso soup, kimchi, egg custard, white rice, octopus salad and dessert. The saba (mackerel) with kazunoko (herring roe) sashimi was particularly memorable. Not usually a fan of roe, I found that the briny and slightly crunchy yellow eggs balanced nicely with the sweet saba. The other fish slices were fresh and free of any additional ingredients, such as mirin, that might have distracted from their subtle taste. Also notable was the octopus salad. The tiny — perhaps far too tiny — dollop came presented on a soupspoon and was enlivened by spicy hints of wasabi.
The bland kimchi and salty egg custard were standard additions and seemed more of an afterthought, as did the dessert. But the miso soup and fresh salad with miso dressing made this weekly special good value.
Somewhat disappointing was the Taiwanese interpretation of maki sushi (NT$120). The virtue of maki resides in the flexibility of the ingredients you can add. The two versions served here — one wrapped with nori (dried seaweed) and the other, inside out, with a layer of roe — contained cooked egg, imitation crabmeat, cucumber and the dreaded fuzzy pork. My dining companion, who didn’t share my reservations about the latter intrusion, eagerly gobbled them down.
Sanda’s menu also has a number of a la carte dishes that are worth a try. The gorgeously presented seafood salad (NT$130) contained cuttlefish and shrimp that were mixed with fresh greens and a tangy miso dressing and topped with salmon roe. Also containing cuttlefish and prawns was the seafood with thick noodles (NT$130), but here Sanda slightly upped the ante with the addition of clams. Fried with soy sauce and sweet vinegar, the seafood retained its delicate flavors, and the cabbage and spinach added a flavorful crunch.
Sanda doesn’t score high marks for originality. But with a reasonably priced menu, fresh ingredients and generous portions, it is easy to understand why the place is always booked.
Address: 205 Tingzhou Rd, Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市汀洲路二段205號)
Telephone: (02) 2366-0103 Average meal: NT$200 for lunch, NT$400 for dinner
Open: Tuesdays to Sundays 11:30am to 2pm and 5pm to 9:30pm
Details: Chinese menu, credit cards not accepted, reservations necessary
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