With Japan in the news for all the wrong reasons, I would like to celebrate instead the beauty of Japanese cuisine in Taiwan. Taiwan, through its fifty years of Japanese colonization, has inherited a deep reverence for Japanese food and Taiwan chefs pride themselves in recreating authentic Japanese cuisine. And one of the best examples in Taiwan of Japanese culinary artistry is Mitsui (三井 – san jing).
There are seven different restaurants in the Mitsui chain, all of them subtly different but equally beautiful. The Mitsui ‘brand’ is a well-known hangout for politicians and celebrities who can easily hide from paparazzi within Mitsui’s stylishly discreet interiors. For example, Mitsui Japanese Cuisine has a muted zen theme, featuring natural wood and green/grey colors with private rooms for parties of all sizes. Meanwhile Mitsui Cuisine is decadently Gothic, with dark walls and mirrors reflecting candlelight and chandeliers.
But the food is Mitsui’s real draw-card. It first opened as a simple Japanese eatery in 1992 as a reaction to limited menu choices featuring ubiquitous menu items such as chawan and tempura. And while authentic in other respects it dishes up almost hearty servings. I guarantee you will leave Mitsui feeling full and very satisfied.
Mitsui’s cuisine is innovative, artistic, fresh and tantalizingly tasty. The sashimi is picture perfect and impossibly fresh. Likewise the sushi is simple understated perfection: the grilled eel sushi was silky smooth and amongst the best I have eaten (my only regret is I was already full by the time it arrived). I also highly recommend the abalone salad, simply presented on a shimmering mother-of-pearl shell. And I really loved the barbequed Hokkaido king crab, which was sweet, fragrant and easy to eat. Mitsui desserts are also sublime, and I delighted over Mitsui’s thick Japanese pikelets with red bean and rich chestnut cream, served with a simply carved nashi pear.
Mitsui is a good place to take a senior visitor or important client to impress, to celebrate an important event like an anniversary, engagement or important business deal – actually any excuse would do. Having eaten at Mitsui twice (both times as a guest, half my luck) I have never viewed a menu or a pricelist, but an online review suggests prices range between NTD1,800 to NTD2,500 per person. While expensive, you would savor every exquisite morsel: life is short and it doesn’t hurt to indulge once in a while.
Mitsui’s venues include Mitsui Japanese Cuisine (No. 34 Nong-an St ph: 25943394), and Mitsui Japanese Cuisine (No. 108, Dunhua South Rd Section 1, ph: 2741-3394).