This review of a Taiwan restaurant is a break from The Picky Glutton’s usual London-based coverage
Chain restaurants have a poor reputation in the UK for limp, poor-quality food and soulless atmospheres. Most dedicated London restaurant lovers try to avoid chain outlets whenever possible, although there are a few that are worth seeking out. Different rules apply in Taiwan though – not only are chains respected and sought after dining destinations, independent restaurants often aspire to become chains themselves.
Shin Yeh is a small chain of Taiwanese restaurants and I paid a dinnertime visit to the original branch in Taipei’s Zhongshan district. The rather soulless corporate decor won’t win any awards, but the friendly and attentive English-speaking service can’t be faulted. The menu is rather lengthy, but it does have photos and English descriptions.
I started off with a whole single abalone braised in oyster sauce. The plump mollusc is firm and meaty, but it wasn’t quite as rich as I was expecting and it’s the tangy taste of the oyster sauce that’s dominate here.
I’m a big fan of pork intestines and here they’ve been boiled in a soya sauce that gives the soft and wrinkly bits of offal a gentle sweetness that’s very pleasing. The offal goes very well with the tart sauerkraut-like preserved vegetables.
Chicken testicles features on the menu quite frequently and are available either on their own or with various other bits of animal. Although I was more than willing to try them, my enthusiasm was tempered by the possibility that I might find them gut wrenchingly revolting. I therefore hedged my bets by ordering a half portion of wok seared chicken testicles served alongside pork kidneys with ginger and dressed in sesame oil. The kidneys had absorbed most of the strong, almost booze-like flavours of the sauce.
The testicles themselves had a thin, taut membrane-like exterior that gave way to a liquid interior that occasionally had a semi-firm, jelly-like texture to it. It’s weirder than a bag full of manatee-riding badgers and is mildly unpleasant to say the least.
Simple and less interesting, but more pleasing, was the crisp and fresh seasonal greens topped with shallots.
I don’t often eat fried rice since the stuff is little more than kitty litter masquerading as peasant fodder. Shin Yeh’s mullet roe fried rice did little to change my opinion. Apart from an occasional hit of salty oiliness, it’s not that different from any other fried rice.
All of the desserts were tempting, but I eventually plumped for a bowl of warm, strongly flavoured almond milk. The deep fried dough stick supplied for dunking wasn’t very good though – the hard, oily pastry was almost indigestible.
I wasn’t expecting petit fours in a Taiwanese restaurant, although I doubt they’re actually called that locally. Soft, fluffy, slightly chewy mochi covered in a fine dusting of strongly flavoured peanut. Nice.
If I get the chance to return to Taipei then I’ll definitely try and find the time to return to Shin Yeh. It’s pricy by Taiwanese standards, especially if you order any abalone, and the large menu could be winnowed down although I doubt that will happen any time soon. I’d give the chicken testicles a wide berth though.
Name: Shin Yeh
Branch tried: No. 34-1, Shuangcheng Street, Zhongshan District, Taipei City
Phone: 00 886 (2) 2596 3255
Opening Hours: seven days a week 11.00-midnight.
Reservations: probably a good idea
Total cost for one person including soft drinks but excluding tips: NT$2261 (approx. £48 at time of writing)