This review of a Taiwan restaurant is a break from The Picky Glutton’s usual London-based coverage
Most Western tourists visiting Taiwan will probably never visit the city of Taichung in the western half of the island. Even if they do then it’s likely that they’ll be passing through on their way to one of Taiwan’s more scenic pleasures. I found myself in Taichung for a day before setting off on a brief tour of the southern half of Taiwan and found myself in need of a hearty dinner. I eventually settled on the oddly named Taiwan New Paradise Banana if only because of its eclectic decor. The interior has been made up to look like a street with elements of both the Japanese colonial era and the post war period, while a vintage train carriage sits outside and makes the place unmistakable and hard to miss. It’s apparently officially recognised as a local museum, but it’s of questionable educational/informative value given the lack of any information or context. It’s more like a kitsch theme park than a museum.
Although the extensive menu is available in English, the staff don’t speak much of it. They are friendly enough but not terribly efficient. Payment is taken at the till near the front door though – I spent several fruitless minutes waving my credit card at the oblivious waiters, before being told about the till by a fellow customer. My frustration was compounded further by the fact that credit cards aren’t accepted. Unimpressive customer service to say the least.
Sea cucumbers aren’t vegetables but marine invertebrates. It might trip up the unknowing vegetarian in a hurry, but probably not here where it’s served with pork tendons and squid. Despite the very different types of meat, the three all taste very bland and have a uniformly soft, uninteresting texture. If it wasn’t for the crisp green beans, it would be easy to mistake this dish for a plate of baby food.
Although billed as a salty dish, the Hakka-style pork is mildly sweet rather than salty. The fatty slices of pork appear to have been cooked in a sweet soy sauce and are pleasing enough if not especially remarkable.
Another dish which didn’t quite live up to its billing was the large bowl of Hunan-style fried tofu. Hunanese food is renowed for its spiciness, but this dish had clearly been toned down as the black bean-dominated sauce was not spicy in the slightest. The tofu may have allegedly been fried, but it’s hard to tell from its soft, squidgy texture which isn’t bad in its own right but isn’t really any different from a million other tofu dishes I’ve had before.
I couldn’t resist ordering the simply but evocatively named lard rice. The relatively large grains of rice were clumped together and were a little more viscous than normal, but it’s not nearly as lusciously decadent as the ‘lard’ name would suggest.
The dessert menu was in many ways more interesting than the main savoury menu. I eventually decided on the steamed green tea cake. The soft sponge cupcakes had a pleasingly fluffy texture, but only tasted mildly of green tea.
I washed it all down with a tall glass of cool and creamy yet refreshing coconut-flavoured iced tea.
Taiwan New Paradise Banana may have eye-catching decor, both externally and internally, but the food is, at best, merely satisfactory, and an embarrassment at worst. I should’ve gone to Taichung’s night market or the local branch of Din Tai Fung instead.
Name: Taiwan New Paradise Banana
Branch tried: No. 111 Shuangshi Road Section 2, Taichung, Taiwan
Phone: 00 886 (4) 2231 7890
Web: http://www.vernaldew.com.tw (traditional Chinese only)
Opening Hours: seven days a week 11.00-02.00.
Reservations: yeah if you want
Total cost for one person including soft drinks: NT$800 (approx. £17 at time of writing)