This review of a Taiwan restaurant is a break from The Picky Glutton’s usual London-based coverage
Danzi noodles is a dish native to Taiwan and one of the supposedly best places to try it in Taipei is Tu Hsiao Yueh. This small restaurant is located on a small side street not far from the main drag of Zhongxiao East Road. The restaurant is spread over two levels, but most of the seating is located on the mezzanine floor with the charcoal-fired cooking pots dominating the ground floor. The place has an inn-type feel with dark wooden floors and tables as well as sleek modern lamps, but the effect is spoilt by the exposed ventilation ducts in the ceiling.
The menu does have English descriptions as well as photos. To order, simply tick what you want on the supplied carbon copy form and hand it to your waiter. It’s just as well that this system is in place as the staff aren’t terribly friendly or efficient – the chef behind the ground floor cooking pots was more attentive and frequently had to berate the waiting staff into seating me, clearing my table and bringing me my bill.
I ordered the headline danzi noodles in soup, but was mistakenly brought the dry version without soup. Undeterred, I dived in regardless. Unfortunately, I fail to see what all the fuss is about. The noodles were slightly springy, but they were otherwise unremarkable. I’m not sure why there’s just one lone, solitary but fresh prawn sitting on top of it all. Thankfully the minced pork topping was more interesting with a certain tanginess and a starchy flavour that reminded me of taro.
The smoked slices of goose meat tasted like bland duck with a very subtle hint of smokiness at best. The addition of orange slices made it resemble a particularly odd version of duck a l’orange.
My other smoked meat of the evening was shark. The slices of fish had a coarse, slightly bitty texture somewhat reminiscent of tuna, occasionally interspersed with bits of fat. Although surprisingly meaty, the shark slices also tasted bland despite the addition of an oddly limp brown sauce. Things were only livened up with the addition of a second wasabi-based sauce.
I wasn’t expecting to find prawn dumplings on the menu. The rice flour skins were thick but oddly fragile, easily falling apart to reveal the fresh, chunky prawn filling. The dumplings were also topped with a mildly spicy sauce and a mildly tangy pork and taro topping similar to the one on the danzi noodles.
Given the ridiculously humid weather in Taipei, the only dessert of choice that makes sense is ice cream. The pumpkin ice cream here does that boldly sweet and creamy flavour of pumpkin, but the huge ice crystals give the dish an unpleasant icy crispness rather than the cold smoothness I was expecting.
One surprise was the plum juice which had a bizarrely smoky flavour that was very odd. It’s pleasant but not especially refreshing – I was thankful for the free refills of tea.
I was roundly unimpressed with my meal at Tu Hsiao Yueh. None of it was inedibly bad, but none of it was especially remarkable either. Combined with the unhelpful staff, I can’t see a reason to come back the next time I’m Taipei – especially with a branch of Din Tai Fung within spitting distance.
Name: Tu Hsiao Yueh
Branch tried: 12 Alley 8, Lane 216, Zhongxiao East Road Section 4, Taipei, Taiwan
Phone: 00 886 (2) 2773 1244
Web: http://www.iddi.com.tw (minimal English text)
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 11.30-23.00 and Sunday 11.30-21.30.
Reservations: yeah if you want.
Total cost for one person including soft drinks and 10% service charge: NT$700 (approx. £15 at time of writing)