When it comes to living life, the golden rule used to be
"work hard, play hard.".
Well that's fine and dandy, but when it comes to delivering, it had better well be:
"GO HARDCORE, OR GO HOME"
because nobody likes the soft, half-assed limpy BS failed fusion wannabe attempt$. Unfortunately we get a lot of that these days in everyday life, from the ground and around, all the way up to the government. Hardcore doesn't have to mean extremism, but just staying true to the roots, using wits, skill, and passion, maximizing available resources, to win the hearts and minds.
Luckily I got hardcore everyday while on vacation in Taipei. Sock It To Me Baby was like a request given every night without even asking. And the sock was a swift kick up the you know where, to remind everyone that one should not need to settle for less.
With that in mind, let's focus on this place, 安里和辛, Anri Wako (JPN), Anli Hirshin (Mandarin) that is one major hot spot in the Zhongsan District of Taipei City, known for a concentration of Japanese expats who flock to numerous authentic restaurants, like the one here after hours on business.
A small almost tiny space that seated maybe 24 people tops (with overflowing space separately next door), for a brief moment, turned into a full house right past 6 pm w/o reservations.
Before 6 pm:
And after 6:30 pm...
And holy smokes, even more stellar than Ishin Nihon Ryori Taipei (一心日本料理)
Japanese ownership and chefs, Taiwanese/Mandarin speaking waitstaff. The menu is practically in Japanese (like wall specials) and ditto for regular menu (but w/pictures). However any basic knowledge of J-food and kanji, and you're set.
We ordered an Okinawan special "tofu with fishlings" but it never came! :-/
Not terribly different in menu variety from a J-restaurant in America, this izakaya, like Ishin, categorizes the food by appetizers (including sashimi, NO SUSHI OR BIG ASS STUPID NAME ROLLS), agemono (fried stuff), yakimono, stir fry dishes, nabemono (hot pots), a few noodle dishes (zaru soba). The only difference is that, it's practically a clone out of somewhere in Japan.
It is said that the chef/owners are from Okinawa, but without a working knowledge of its fine food, it was tough deciding what to get that might give us a feel for the place. However to our surprise, EVERYTHING was executed flawlessly. The only setback was that one Okinawan dish was ordered but it never came (xiao yu doufu, aka little fishlings with tofu, how it is prepared I will never know until I go back)
The hardcore performance went like this
Freebie appetizer: A small bowl of "salad" consisting of wakame, fried fish and fried octopus (served lukewarm), strips of squid, scallions, spices, in a delectable vinegar sauce (like a nanbanzuke 南蠻漬). So good.
Combination sashimi: ika (light surface cuts to enable better chewing), ama ebi (green brains, yum), local whitefish hamachi/buri looking, local salmon (supreme), and aji with scallions and ginger. My guess is most or all the seafood are sourced within Taiwan.
Tonsoku Yaki (豚足焼)- I suppose this is one of the Okinawan dishes. Almost missed it off the menu. This is grilled pig foot (likely from a Taiwanese black pig), so it isn't foreign to Taiwanese (who partake in the stewed version a lot). Served with something that tasted like doubanjiang (spicy bean paste) on the side. The collagen overload was superb, and the meat near the bone? Oink oink!
Yaki ika-mentai moyashi - for lack of better word, squid and spicy cod roe (a classic combo) with bean sprouts, stir fried. Hard to beat.
Saba shio(yaki) - when you get insanely fresh saba that's smooth, juicy, fatty, oily and is not fishy and is met with a chef who knows how to grill it perfectly, the results are stupendous. A squeeze of local green lemon, the daikon oroshi pairing, is like Batman and Robin, a dream team. So simple, so good. A shame we can't get pristine saba here (it's either Taiwanese saba or the kind imported from Japan).
Una-kimo - grilled unagi liver skewers. This one was plastered with a sauce (tare) versus the lighter salted (shio) version at Hizen Ya (肥前屋), then some sort of peppery spice on top (sansho?). Zugoi!
This was not on the menu, but we requested Ku Gwa Tsao Daan or Goya Chanpuru (bitter melon stir fry with egg and pork) which they complied without batting an eye. Amazing to say the least.
Seafood zosui (nabe) - this was a very complicated hot pot dish, like a porridge of epic proportions. White fish, salmon, shitake,mushrooms, cabbage, seaweed, egg, in a wonderful broth that's virtually indescribeable. When your nipples are full erect from insanely cold weather, a nabe like this softens em up. Za-zing!
Kimuchi stir fry - kim chi stir fried with black pork and bean sprouts. It sounded like a weird idea, but this was actually great. The pork was on the chewy side but a really wonderful heartwarming thing to have.
What a feast it was!
Zhongsan District, Lin Shin N. Road, Alley 119 #84