Cheers (呼搭啦蒜香生蠔串燒屋) is an unlikely place to find fresh oysters. Located on bustling Ruiguang Road (瑞光路) in Neihu, it offers diners an unromantic view of after-work traffic when it opens its doors at 5:30pm.
Yet Cheers can do a basic raw oyster nearly as well as posh raw bars like Bellavita — without going to all the trouble of importing them from faraway seas.
The shellfish here have a humble provenance, arriving from Penghu every two days. They also have a confirmed reputation for being exceptionally fresh: Upon order, they are shucked right there and served two ways: warm or cold.
There is barely a thing done to the cold oysters, which are topped classic-style with a wedge of lemon and delivered to you glistening on a bed of chipped ice. The flavor of this oyster is not complex, but is rather a sustained and intensely briny note reminiscent of the ocean. Eaten with the lemon garnish it is lovely and clean with a bright twang. You could go through a dozen at a fast clip, and it is affordable at NT$300 for six, or NT$110 for two.
The warm ones are the same price. Their fat black half shells are dolloped with some combination of chopped garlic, vinegar and spices and then baked for just a few moments. These are chewier and creamier than their served-cold cousins, but they are the same Penghu oysters with the tasty briny finish.
Cheers offers all the common pours to go with the oysters, plus a big list of Japanese liquors and a few wacky fruit wines made from tomato and yuzu (a type of citrus fruit) and peach. The servers are twenty-somethings who are eager and able to suggest nice pairings.
If you only want a simple palate cleanser, you can request a free shot of pineapple vinegar, a summery non-alcoholic beverage that’s made in-house. Another complimentary item is chili pepper-fried peanuts, which are limited to one plate per customer.
Address: 111 Ruiguang Rd, Taipei City (台北市瑞光路111號)
Telephone: (02) 2793-1239
Open: 5:30pm to 1am (kitchen closes at midnight), closed on Sundays
Average meal: NT$$300 per person
Details: Chinese menu; cash only; no service charge
Over the years, Cheers has gained a name as the subterranean neighborhood oyster shack, and the bar area is covered with Polaroid photographs of convivial late-night gatherings around tables loaded with oysters. But in addition to its marquee item, Cheers also does excellent little hot snacks: seasonal salmon miso soup (NT$40), an assortment of baked fish, soft milk buns with a crispy crust draped with condensed milk (NT$50) and a beautiful baked banana (NT$30).
There is also a basic menu of Japanese-style barbecue kebobs. The lamb, chicken, pork and beef skewers are NT$100 or less for two, while the mushroom and tofu items cost under NT$60. The lamb kabobs are made with a generous portion of lean cut and spicing that gives it a bit of heat. Another popular pick is the grilled beef. Smeared with a bit of melted cheese, it is silky and bursting with juices, almost like a miniature sirloin steak.