Sunday, August 14, 2005
japanese: i strongly recommend SUMIE
4th Floor, 172 Chung Hsiao East Road, Sec 4
(In San Won Hotel)
kid friendliness: high chairs available, friendly service, ambience is on quieter side, but private rooms available
When I want to eat Japanese food in Taipei, we usually head over to Sumie which is a upscale, sit down Japanese-fusion restaurant with good service and super fresh sashimi. The best bet to order if you have never been or are pretty hungry is the set course. They offer 3 different levels of the set course, as well as a vegetarian set course, which includes over 6 small courses and ranges from $1500 NT and up. Sometimes if you order different things off the menu separately, it ends up being around that much anyways. The menu has a wide array of sushi/sashimi, appetizers, hot dishes and hot pot- you can even try asking for requests off the menu if you don't see what you want.
It's fun to see how they plate their sashimi and sushi- the portions aren't huge, but they make it look like artwork. The ambiance is modern with dim lighting and a lot of reflective surfaces. The mood is pretty quiet and can be romantic, with 3 private rooms in the back, but lots of families come with kids. It's not a huge restaurant and they close the kitchen at 9PM, so you should call and make a reservation if you want to make sure you get a table. The service can be a little slow sometimes if they are busy, but they aim to please.
I often get the seafood and fruit salad, which is a refreshing light salad with lettuce, crab, shrimp and fruits (but ask them to hold the raisins), but this week I was really craving California Rolls for some reason. As we got to the restaurant pretty late, our server apologized and said that they ran out of sushi rice and the sushi chef would try and figure out an alternative. At first, I was thinking ran out of sushi rice? Crazy! And they wouldn't use "regular" rice. But they were accomodating and the result was pretty appetizing and low-carb for all the dieters out there- it was a roll of crab, shrimp, asparagus, cucumber, avocado and masago wrapped in seaweed and thin egg layer. Mmm- masago!
For our eel/unagi and deep fried soft shell crab roll, they just plated it ala carte without rice, and the three of us shared. I also ordered a fish chin/jaw- which I am surprised I like because I don't love fish. Fish chin has the most tasty, moist part of the fish, and the way that they grill it leaves the skin crispy and the meat flaky and not fishy at all. They include a lime with it which I usually squeeze to give it an added tart twist.
To make up for my missing carbs, I also ordered a tempura udon which included a good assortment of vegetables with a pair of shrimp and a hot bowl of udon with perfectly seasoned soup, with additional chili powder and chopped green onions on the side. In general, my favorite vegetable tempura are yam and mushroom, which they had, and my least favorite are eggplant and taro, which were also included. (In this picture, I already ate some of the tempura- sorry I couldn't wait!)
Of course, I eyed the set course dishes that my friends got and sampled a little bit here and there. We usually get the set menu with the lamb chops, which are some of the best lamb I have eaten. It's tender, flavorful and grilled to perfection. You can pick up the chops since they wrap the bone with foil and devour it. The set course starts off with a custom appetizer, today it was crab with tomato sauce, and includes sashimi, salad, lamb chops, sushi, fish, soup, fruit and dessert.
I've gone to Sumie as a couple as well as with larger groups, and usually everyone is pretty satisfied. It's a little pricey for the portion sizes, but every bite is worth it, especially if you are looking for fresh sashimi to hit the spot, you must try Sumie out.