Tanuki Go Den (狸御殿)
17-1, Lane 121, Chungshan N Rd., Sec. 1 (北市中山北路1段121巷17-1號); Tel: 2521-9402, 2511-8172. 5:30pm to midnight. Average meal: NT$600. No English menu. Credit cards accepted.
Tanuki Go Den was set up by Mikami San 15 years ago to provide a little bit of his home town Hokkaido in Taipei. Now it is something of an institution in the area of Little Tokyo, not least for its huge iroli - a huge open stove built into a tree trunk - where the chefs preside over the red-hot coals. Hoke - partially smoked fish - is one of Tanuki?specialties. It is slightly reminiscent of mackerel, though its flavor is subtler, and is ideal to nibble at while downing a small jar of sake.
The dark wood paneling, the heavy furnishings and the discreet, efficient service give Tanuki a cozy atmosphere equally suitable for a relaxed evening with the boys over a few beers or a more intimate rendezvous.
Shiokara, a kind of salted squid only for adventurous diners, is one of those home dishes that Lai Hsiu-lan (賴秀蘭), Mikami San's wife, says, "Japanese customers always ask for. "Other special dishes from the grill include karubi - ribs done the Japanese way, basted in a source unique to Tanuki Go Den. Also available is a whole range of grilled meats and vegetables, with the mushrooms and bacon asparagus rolls coming highly recommended.
To help fill you up, there are grilled rice cakes stuffed with salmon. Chewy on the outside, soft and flavorsome on the inside, they make an ideal snack or an accompaniment to a larger meal.
565 Linsen N Rd. (北市林森北路565號); Tel: 2595-7569, 2595-7571. 5pm to 5am. Average meal: NT$500. No English menu. Credit cards accepted.
Feeding the Taipei that never sleeps, Bu-Ah-Kui has been doing a roaring trade for the last four years. Located along the main drag of the Linsen North Road entertainment district, it has never been short of people looking to party. According to Bu-Ah-Kui's chatelaine, Hsiao Shu-hua, the place is bopping until three or four in the morning, serving up a stunning variety of conventional and exotic foods.
Most of the usual Taiwanese dishes are on the menu, with some, such as the fried udon noodles, given a slight Japanese slant, a nod to Little Tokyo nearby. But for something a little different, check out the whole grilled salmon head. This makes a spectacular centerpiece for any meal and is ideal for picking over, washed down by copious quantities of beer or whiskey. This is a place to party, and the sounds of laughter and drinking games fill the air. Don't be surprised if a perfect stranger comes over to drink your health - it's just that kind of place.
For something both crispy and succulent, try the grilled lower jaw of bream. While the meat is juicy and tender, the spines and bones are deliciously crisp. "A special mix of spices give it its flavor," said Hsiao. ? like food with a strong flavor to go with beer."
Live lobster and crab also feature, and these can be either steamed or grilled. Prawns, done au gratin and with a fine mix of buttery flavors, are also highly recommended. Lots of Japanese and local celebrities pop in to enjoy the exuberant atmosphere where the food is on tap and almost anything can be whisked up by the chefs. To keep the good things rolling, Hsiao said the restaurant is preparing to be open 24 hours a day in the next few months.
Eight Immortals Charcoal Grill (八仙碳烤)
30 Hsinsheng S. Rd., Sec. 2 (北市新生南路2段30號); Tel:2321-4507, 2391-4619. 4:30pm to 3:30am. Average meal per head: NT$500. No English menu. Credit cards accepted.
The days when Da-an Park was a warren of shanties is long gone, but a few reminders of its popular eating street remain. One of these is the Eight Immortals Charcoal Grill, run by Luo Chien-chung (羅建中), a former auto mechanic turned restaurateur whose unpretentious establishment has been providing an authentic Taiwan grill experience for the past 11 years.
You can choose from street-side dinning, an air-conditioned interior or a rooftop seat under the stars. The menu is extensive, offering fried and stewed dishes and even hotpots for winter, but the house specialties are from the charcoal grill that stands exposed to the street.
Luo offers a range of kebabs and grilled meat that come to the table with that inimitable charcoal taste. While most keep to a conventional Taiwanese preparation, Luo offers lamb kebabs seasoned with herbs from Xinkiang in China? northwest. A whole range of seafood can also be served from the grill, including shrimps, crab, cod and salmon.
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