When a gourmet writer and onsen/SPA culture expert with a rich background in Japanese food and culture recommends a Japanese restaurant, you know it will be something special. So when Spa Lady Windy posted about So Miso Jap Fusion (風尚料亭) on her Facebook page, I knew it had to be good. And So Miso did not disappoint.
From the moment we walked into the cool, zen-like interior of So Miso I could tell we would enjoy the experience. Our table was set with complimentary ginger pickles and sea snails. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sea snails, but I liked the way that they paired visually with the faux wooden paper placemats. Certainly a bit more inventive the more usual dinner rolls served in Western restaurants.
The rectangular restaurant features tables along one side and long benches on the other, where you can watch the chefs prepare some of the meals. I didn’t realise this until nearly the end of the meal as I was sitting the wrong way, which was probably a good thing as being a food lover I doubt I would have given my dining companions the attention they deserved. But I did enjoy inspecting the neatly arranged bowls of condiments set along the bench, which were almost an artwork in themself.
We chose to add an extra NT$250 to upgrade to a set lunch meal. This allowed us each to have a salad, tempura, soup, choice of tea/coffee/juice and dessert. A main meal without the upgrade would have been enough (just), but the upgrade allowed us to make it into a more substantial business lunch.
Far from being a tasteless token, the simple salad of fresh bamboo, lettuce, tomato and corn was a refreshing combination. There is something about fresh bamboo in summer that tastes so luxurious. The salad was paired with a simple Japanese style sauce, described as ‘he feng’ in Chinese (和風).
You know when a dish of tempura is good when you find yourself unconsciously hunting for remaining batter crumbs, wishing for more. And so it was with this surprisingly light version of So Miso’s tempura. I am not sure what I liked the best: the bright orange eggplant dusted with sesame, soft mushroom, golden tofu or the thin and yet still slightly firm sweet potato (and this from someone who usually eschews all orange vegetables). It also paired well with the sweet-soy broth with a generous serving of grated daikon.
Being curious to try So Miso’s sushi, I ordered a serving of six assorted pieces (精選握壽司, NT$680). It was more aesthetically beautiful, and interesting, than my photography does justice. For me, it had that ‘wow’ effect. And as to the taste, while I am not supposed to eat raw fish at the moment I did indulge in the partially cooked cuttlefish and thought it was a subtle blend of fresh flavours. The sushi came served with a half slice of lime and a small dipping sauce of light soy sauce — but no wasabi. Presumably the sushi was designed to be enjoyed for its own sake without too much interference.
For main dish, I ordered Kyoto-style grilled eel (京都風蒲燒鰻魚, NT$580). It was a generous fillet of eel, well-grilled to the point of being slightly charcoaled in one corner which added a slightly nutty taste to the full-bodied fish. The underside of the eel revealed a glob of fatty flesh; presumably this is a good thing as it must have helped the fish retain its tenderness and flavour. The eel was served simply with a bowl of rice, some seaweed and two small nuggets of candied baby carrots. I nearly overlooked the carrots thinking they were cherry tomatoes, until persuaded by the wait staff to try one (once again, I don’t usually like orange vegetables but this was good).
One of my dining companions was vegetarian, and was surprised to find that there was only one item recommended for her on the menu as a main dish — mushrooms on rice (野菇山椒丼, NT$380). She told me that while the mushroom ‘dong’ looked fantastic, she was a little disappointed: it was slightly too rich and the miso flavour was not as fully brought to the fore as it could have been.
After indulging in several dishes, including more eel than I had expected (not that I was complaining — it was very good), I enjoyed the light serve of clam soup. The baby clams were sweet and tender, albeit slightly hard to remove from their shells gracefully.
Desserts are not usually a big thing in Japanese restaurants, so I did not expect to enjoy the final dish as much as I did. The simple dish of tofu pudding with a black-sugar syrup topping was cloud-creamy, with just the right proportion of sweetness to it. Once again, I found myself wistfully spooning through the syrup looking for more curd — even though I had already eaten to elegant sufficiency.
So Miso Jap Fusion (風尚料亭) is situated near the Dunhua South Road/Ren’ai Road round-about in a laneway near Zhongshan Hospital at No 2, Ally 3, Lane 112, Ren’ai Road Section 4 (北市仁愛路四段112巷3弄2號). For reservations phone 02-2325-5812.