New Palace is a well-known and well-established seafood restaurant in Taichung. I went to the original restaurant, near the Taichung harbour in Wuqi, Taichung County. At least I think that is where our generous hosts took us to! The restaurant has become so popular that it has spawned a series of chain restaurants, and according to the New Palace website, many of them are quite ritzy. But the restaurant that we went to was less impressive. Once we stepped through the impressive main entryway we were shown to an upper level room with something of a view out over Taichung county. The room itself was unimpressive, which was odd for a private room. It had the air of a well-loved family lounge room rather than a stately dining room, but it was comfortable enough.
My first impression of New Palace centered on the coconut milk. It was the first thing served: icy cold and slushy, neither overly sweet nor overly rich, it was deliciously moreish in a decadent kind of way. Luckily I liked the coconut milk, because the attentive service staff had a way of quietly filling up my glass when I wasn’t looking. The coconut milk was delicious, and it was obviously a feature of the restaurant, but it would have been tempting to fill up on this to the detriment of the main courses.
But the real draw-card for the restaurant is the food, especially the seafood. New Palace is renowned as a seafood restaurant, and in that regard it did not disappoint. Its sashimi plate was beautiful to behold, and so fresh that I felt as if I could almost smell the sea. Generous slices of cooked lobster was a tasty touch to the sashimi plate: who says that everything on a sashimi plate has to be raw.
The sashimi was closely followed by an odd seafood dish. One was a squid salad, served cold and marinated simply with and orange juice flavoured marinade. One of my colleagues nearly swooned over this dish, and I had to concur that it was perfect for a balmy summer evening. Next to it was a scallop dish served with something that looked strangely familiar. Could it be? Yes, it really was pringles. I had to try this dish a few times to decide whether or not I liked it. The artificial cheese flavour of the pringles nearly overpowered the subtlety of the (albeit deep-fried) fresh scallops. And yet there was an interesting, crispy texture that was quite addictive, like pringles themselves. It took me a while to decide, yet in the end my verdict is that this was one fusion dish that almost made it, but not quite.
Another seafood dish of note (and there were several) was the entrée of pippies served on glass noodles. The pippies were fresh and sweet, and blended nicely with the glass noodles. I like eating glass noodles in summer because they are not as rich or filling as wheat noodles. And I liked this combination: the flavours blended well, and the quantity in the serve was just right.
The meal finished on a predictable note, with the appearance of Taichung style pineapple cakes. But these were not ordinary pineapple cakes as I had incorrectly surmised. They were apparently prepared in a traditional manner with candied pineapple. My vegetarian friends were offered a separate desert as it became apparent that the cakes were not entirely made from non-animal products. The mystery ingredient, which I would never have guessed, was in fact dried shrimp! Despite the odd combination of ingredients, the pineapple cake was a winner. I greedily took a few leftovers home to Sam as I hurried out with the delegation, but if I dine at New Palace again I will definitely buy a gift box to take home.