On entering Ting Chen Fang (鼎珍坊), the first thing that stands out are the many celebrity endorsements it has received since opening in 2009.
The signatures of former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村), food writer Lucille Han (韓良露), Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and the likes adorn the wall and sing the praises of renowned Hong Kong chef Wong Chan-kau (黃燦球) and the restaurant’s septuagenarian proprietor Chang Ying-lai (張應來).
With expectations running high, my dining companions and I settled into our seats on a recent Sunday evening.
The restaurant was full, populated by wrinkly patrons topped with gray hair, and parents and their children enjoying family gatherings.
The menu is divided into two. One section comprises Wong’s acclaimed Cantonese fare and the other contains Chang’s
To start, we decided to give the proprietor’s signature homemade dishes a whirl.
First up was tongue-swallowing vegetables (吞舌菜, NT$280), composed of black jelly fungus, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, soya beans and vegetarian chicken (素雞), made from a type of bean curd. Though unassuming looking, the dish is so named because it is said to be so yummy that patrons who eat it will swallow their tongues by accident. It was indeed flavorful, but our tongues went nowhere.
The beef and gnocchi-like noodles with clear broth (清燉牛肉手工麵片, NT$580) won approval from our group for its streaky, tendon-rich chunks of beef and thinly sliced noodles, which unlike their thicker cousins allow the flavor of the broth to shine through. The consomme, though, was oversalted.
As for Wong’s acclaimed Hong Kong fare, we ordered the crispy-skinned chicken (脆皮雞, NT$480 for half a bird, NT$960 for a whole one). Encased in a layer of luscious fat, the meat was mostly succulent. The breast meat, however, was too dry.
Address: 1, Ln 219, Fuxing S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市復興南路一段219巷1號)
Telephone: (02) 2781-2518
Open: Daily from 11:30am to 2:30pm and 5:30pm to 9:30pm
Average meal: NT$800
Details: Chinese menu, credit cards accepted
By far the best item was the braised beef and silk noodles curry casserole (咖哩牛肉粉絲煲, NT$520). The dish stood out for its marbled, thin slices of tender beef and the smooth noodles that soaked up the savory gravy. The hearty bowl went well with the equally appetizing Hong Kong-style steamed rice with preserved meats (什錦臘味飯, NT$780), which is enough for a group of four.
Toward the end of our meal, it became apparent that all the endorsements and enthusiastic reviews had raised expectations too high.
Only when I put aside my presumptions, did Ting Chen Fang show its true colors as an old-school restaurant offering traditional, hearty Chinese fare and helpful, friendly service.