Wednesday, August 25, 2010

[TAIWAN] Really Good Seafood: What the Name Says

On Tata’s (aka the Taiwan food expert) recommendation, we booked ourselves a table for Really Good Seafood on our last evening in Taipei. And no joke – that really is the restaurant’s name.

When we arrived, we were quickly ushered to our table by a crew of unsmiling ladies. Intimidating. They seemed more like prison wardens than professionals in the hospitality business. “Have you ordered already?” unsmiling lady #1 asked as she handed us the menus. Uhmm… you’re handing us the menu. Meaning, we haven’t even looked at the menu yet. How the eff could we have ordered already? Well, apparently, she’s assuming we’re regulars who know how the complicated ordering system at Really Good Seafood works (we do not know how it works). Basically, you can:

1. Order from the multi-fish tanks out front and have the kitchen cook the seafood to order.
2. Order one of the many set meals in the menu
3. Order one of the “Chef’s Recommended” set meals

We went with option 3, going with the NT$2000 option. Head Chef Li was very kind. Realizing that we looked like lost lambs and finding out that we were first-timers from Hong Kong (which is also where he hails from, explaining his fluent tongue of Cantonese), he came up with a long list of suggested courses, running it by us to make sure we approved before he fired up the grill.

(Seafood salad: ocean-fresh and delectable)

(Deep-fried baby oyster rolls)

First up was the chilled seafood salad which mixed together crab leg meat, scallops and some uber fresh octopus. Western influenced but not in tired way and, most importantly, it was absolutely delicious. Everything stood out – even the simple mound of lettuce, which was particularly crisp. Everything was shrouded under a light drizzle of creamy, yolky dressing. So simple and elegant.

Next was the Tainan style deep-fried baby oyster roll. Designed to be wrapped and eaten in a lettuce leaf. A little on the greasy end, even with the lettuce and personally, I’ve never really been a big fan of deep-frying oysters. I prefer them au natural so this wasn’t a course I could fully enjoy. What I did enjoy was the next dish – two whole, succulent slipper lobsters. Again – so simple but executed so that the freshness of the seafood itself becomes the main focal point. All it needed was a slight drizzle of lime juice to bring out its sea-freshness. Same goes for the following course of steamed crabs. Being the good man that he is, Chef Li chose a variety of crabs favored particularly for their rich, sweet roe. I love Chef Li.

(Slipper lobsters: a whole loada' meat)

(Steamed crabs: a whole loada' roe)

Taking a break from the seafood extravaganza, unsmiling lady number something served us a dish of sponge gourd – a famed local produce from Penghu Dao in Taiwan. The jade green gourd was again simplicity done well. After the brief healthy interlude came a French style beef tenderloin. A smoky cracked pepper sauce blanketed the beef, which was, of course, perfectly pinked and juicy on the inside. Delish, but definitely not as good as the preceding seafood dishes.

(Sponge gourd)

(Beef tenderloin)

(Tainan noodles: too much carbs)

(Pudding: sad)

To round off the savory courses, we were presented with individual bowls of Tainan Tan Tsai noodles topped in traditional fashion with a single prawn. The heavy carbs probably wasn’t such a good idea after the giant seafood feast but I did lap up the beautiful broth like nobody’s business. Everything up to this point had been fantastic, which is why it was such a shame that they served dessert. The bland and uninspired cold pudding seemed so out of place in this restaurant that churned out stellar salads and perfectly prepared lobsters and crabs. I took one bite and left the rest. But that one small glitch wasn’t about to ruin the great dining experience Chef Li had created for us. The food really is topnotch and Chef Li has a knack for drawing out the natural essence of every ingredient. That’s real talent. And as lame as the name is, it truly is Really Good Seafood.

FOOD: 4.5/5
SERVICE: 2/5 (4/5 for Chef Li)

No. 222, Fushing Road South Sec. 1
Taipei City, Taiwan
(886) 2 2771-3000

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