Mon, Dec 31, 2012 - Page 11 News List

YEAR IN REVIEW: Restaurants

Top restaurants of 2012

By Ian Bartholomew and Ho Yi  /  Staff reporters

Fine Japanese food in an old-style wooden Japanese house at Fireweeds.

Photo: Ian Bartholomew, Taipei Times

Fireweeds 野草居食屋

Address: 1, Lane 28, Tongan Rd, Taipei City (台北市同安街28巷1號)

Telephone: (02) 2366-0618

Open: 5pm to 12am daily

Average meal: From NT$600

Details: Chinese menu; credit cards accepted

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Old-style wooden Japanese houses have had a rough time over the last few decades, many left to moulder away, neglected or abandoned, if they have not been utterly demolished to make way for soulless modern apartments. The Japanese restaurant Fireweeds (野草居食屋), which opened in June just off Tongan Street in Taipei’s Zhongzheng District (中正區), is a splendid example of what can be achieved when the restoration project is approached with the right balance of ambition and humility.

With its emphasis on strongly flavored foods that go well with alcoholic beverages, Fireweeds resembles an izakaya, a traditional Japanese style drinking shop, except that it offers a wider range of food.

The menu is elegant both in design and content, with the usual standards mixed in with some unexpected items to tempt the tastebuds. A mixed sashimi platter (綜合生魚片, NT$350) came with a bowl of marinated salmon that put a totally new spin on this rather weary standard. It was notable particularly due to the careful balancing of the marinade, that was quite spicy, but which did not overwhelm the flavor of the fish. Fireweeds has a good selection of high quality sakes, bottled Kirin beer (NT$150 for 630ml) and draft Asahi beer (NT$100 for 340ml). These are ideally suited to washing down the vast array of good things that come from the semi open kitchen located behind a dining counter.

Addiction Aquatic Development 上引水產

Address: 18, Alley 2, Lane 410, Minzhu E Rd, Taipei City (台北市民族東路410巷2弄18號)

Telephone: (02) 2508-1268

Open: 10am to 5pm

Average meal: NT$600 and up

Details: cash only; Chinese menu

The fish market located on Minzhu East Road (民族東路) close to the intersection with Jianguo North Road (建國北路) has long been popular with foodies seeking quality ocean produce. A cooked food section was attached to the market, but it was a rather grubby, haphazard affair that did not particularly recommend itself for either the quality of either the cooking or the ambiance. This has change since it was taken over by the Mitsui Food and Beverage Enterprise Group (三井餐飲事業集團), which operates a number of top Japanese restaurants around town. They have recently established Addiction Aquatic Development, a sophisticated sushi, grill and hotpot restaurant at this venerable venue that mixes up high-end stylings with an edgy marketplace atmosphere.

In a section offering sushi, and another specializing in crustaceans, there is not much seating, and the standing area up at the bar where customers can watch the chefs work are the most coveted spots.

For anyone not familiar with the arcana of raw fish cuisine or with a good working knowledge of the Taiwanese fishery industry, the selection of fish available could easily feel overwhelming. If ordering your own nigiri (raw fish on rice) platter is too much of an ordeal, the special nigiri selection (特選握壽司, NT$600) is highly recommended, providing a selection of around 14 pieces that is a perfect introduction to what Addiction Aquatic Development has to offer on any particular day. It is also a perfect springboard for subsequent a la carte orders.

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