Friday, March 19, 2010

[台北]- 胡同燒肉夜食 Hutong Yakiniku Taipei

Izakaya's 居酒屋 are the rage everywhere now and you can't avoid them. Taiwan has taken izakaya's to the next level, by mixing in other elements, including yakiniku, as well as top notch service and making the customer experience a top priority (which lots of restaurant in the US fail to do so). They've even redefined izakaya's, the word itself, by removing the "alcohol" character in the word and basically calling it "Ju Ler Wu" 居樂屋or iza-happiness-ya and implementing it!

Hutong  is a very hip and relatively new (less than 2 year old) eatery that mixes the best of izakaya style atmosphere, top notch service with knowledgeabke and energetic/passionate/update staff, with the elements of Japanese style Korean BBQ that the owner claims is a revival of old school Beijing style BBQ. What makes this place different from its surrounding competition is the fact that it is like a grilling school, the staff tries to educate without intruding, the art of charcoal grilling thinly sliced pieces of the finest cuts of meat. To top it off, this place offers a local flavor twist that caters to the pickiest of Taiwanese eaters who want nothing but the best.

We arrived at Hutong at 6 pm and were the first ones there. They provided lockers to store bags and jackets/coats to help alleviate your outer shells smelling like BBQ grill smoke. Such a fine attention to detail and care! Who wants to smell like smoked meat coming out of the restaurant? The counter was the best place to be, as we could see everything that was going on and interact with the staff. The owner hired and trained his staff so well. Superb service and quick to refill on tea, water, drinks, lemon wedges and condiments.

This is not your standard Japanese yakiniku. There's no kim chee/panchan and certainly no dipping sauces except for all you can squeeze lemon wedges. Are they being cocky bastiches? No...all the meats are pre-marinated and seasoned so you don't have to, or they are best enjoyed with lemon juice that you squeeze yourself. It is really that good.

Before the plates of meat arrive, flaming hot grey charcoal with a red firey halo is removed from a storage area that heats them up, placed into a container and placed in front of you, with a grilling net on top. Then the meats arrive and you are ready to go. This is what we had:

thinly sliced beef tongue with tons of green onion on top - what a superb way to start the meal. Very Japanese yakiniku style. Instead of squeezing the lemon over the grilling meat, we did so on our plates. And we had to eat it in one bite. Our waitress/hostess grilled these for us and told us when it was done (it didn't take long). Superb texture and the flavors exploded all over. One of the highlights of the evening.

high end cuts of pork neck meat with sesame seed on top. - Holy cow this was as good as pork belly but without the filling feeling. They recommended that we eat this with lemon juice and minced daikon+onion.

beef belly - thinly sliced marbled beef, it was the highlight of the evening for me. The marination was apparently garlic sesame oil, salt and pepper, but the grilling time was perfect and the fatty oils got pushed out and further enhanced the flavors with the citrus lemon juice.

pork intestine - yep very Taiwanese. And who knew how chewy and smooth this tasted after being charcoal grilled? Turns out the intestines were already cooked and pre-sliced. The grill only served to give it a more smokey flavor, and the inside of the lining tasted like bone marrow of osso bucco. Wow. Even more sublime after the lemon and minced goodness.

baby lobster and butter enoki mushrooms in aluminum foil - first time I've ever seen an entire baby lobster. The meat was all in the tail but after grilling the little guy to pieces, the shell was soft enough to be still crunchy and you could eat the whole thing to get your shot of calcium for the week. The enoki mushroom dish is very izakaya/fusion, something one might get at Tanto in Sunnyvale/San Jose, delicious!

lamb chops - I think they used Australian or New Zealand lamb chops for this. Unbelieveable how this came out. Forget those fancy American or Euro fusion restaurant versions, THIS is how I want to enjoy lamb, over a charcoal grill in Taipei! Came to about US$80 ish for 3 people, which for Taipei is expensive but for us visiting it was a steal. -1 star because while they apparently take credit card, Taiwan is still a cash loving country, sigh. But heck this place rocks so much no earthquake can take it out.

胡同燒肉 Hutong (
北市敦化南路一段161巷17號 Taipei City, Dunghua South Rd 1st portion, Alley 161, #17


  1. I'm drooling just reading this post. Have you been to Yuan Shao yakiniku and how does it compare? I love eating at Yuan Shao and always visit at least once whenever I'm in Taiwan.

  2. Hutong is the only grilled meat joint I've been to in Taipei. Yakiniku is almost as serious in Taiwan as it is in Japan, I love the varieties and styles they offer.

  3. Wow, the pork neck meat is heavily marbled. I'm very interested in the grilled beef tongue.