Traditional Rural Japanese Feast in Taipei: Yamaharu Japanese Restaurant(山治 日本郷土料理店)

On August 13, 2012 by admin

Yamaharu Japanese Restaurant

“All the good traditional Japanese restaurants have disappeared from the major cities in Japan and have been replaced by new modern fusion restaurants.  You won’t find real local food in Tokyo and more, and it’s no longer available in Osaka either.  If you want real Japanese food, you now have to travel deep into the rural areas, into places like Hokkaido!” exclaims Mr. Mori, head chef and owner of Yamaharu Japanese Restaurant.  If it weren’t for the slight accent in Mr. Mori’s otherwise fluent Japanese and the lack of salarymen eating at the counter, you could have sworn you were in rural Tohoku.

But this isn’t even Japan.  This is Taipei, Taiwan.

Mr. Mori grilling the meat course right in front of your eyes.

Du Mingxian, or Mr. Mori as he likes to be called, is Taiwanese, but he spent years in Japan learning the language, and then later undertaking extensive chef training during Japan’s bubble era.  Mr. Mori’s Japan is not the Japan of today, he is accustomed to the Japan of 20 years ago.  However, he still makes weekly trips to the country to secure the best seafood and ingredients available for use in his restaurant, as well as to supply other Japanese restaurants in Taiwan.

“I don’t go to Tsukiji, that’s where the tourists go.  I only go to the authentic local fish markets, like those in Osaka.”

Mr. Mori is only too keen to talk about his outlook on Japan as well as his love for traditional Japanese food.  Even without going into details about each dish, his passion for Japanese food is obvious in the attention to detail he puts into every single dish that is served as his restaurant.

 

Some Japanese food lovers may be hesitant to visit a lot of Japanese restaurants in Taiwan, as the menus are often only in Chinese, or Chinese and Japanese at best.  But you don’t have to worry about the menu here, because there is no menu.  There are only 4 price categories.  And all you need to communicate is your budget per person for the meal:

NTS1000

NT$2000

NT$3000

or NT$4000

 

The NT$1000 meal starts off with three types of “otoshi”, which are small appetizers that generally accompany your first drink.  On this particular night, ours were shrimp and two types of pickled vegetables.

“Otoshi”

The drink menu is a little more limited than you may find in Japan, as most Taiwanese do not indulge in alcoholic beverages during dinner.  Drinks usually wait until after dinner.  Although the restaurant is beautifully decorated with sake bottles from around Japan, most of the bottles are just that, decoration.  Some sake is available, however, only by the bottle, not by the cup as is common in Japan.

That said, Mr Mori has gone to great lengths to create an authentic traditional Japanese environment for his diners.  The atmosphere is something that is even hard to find in Japan these days.  You really have to search the backstreets or rural towns and villages to find restaurants like this that have survived numerous generations.

Sake bottles are for display, not for pouring drinks.

Once guests have made it through the otoshi and had some time to admire the interior, Mr. Mori brings out freezer chilled marble sashimi boards and lays one in front of each guest. The sashimi course has begun.

Mr. Mori delicately slices a number of different types of raw fish and carefully delivers them with his own serving chopsticks to each guests own sashimi board.

Sashimi Course

After serving the sashimi course, Mr Mori rushes off to check on the skewered fish that he has already started grilling, again one for each guest.

 

Mr Mori, grilling the fish to perfection.

The salted fish is grilled to perfection, and comes with a small lemon for squeezing over top of the fish.  A sweet dipping sauce is also provided, however, the natural flavor of the fish is so delicious that the sauce is only really needed if you have a bit of a sweet tooth.

 

Grilled Fish course

The grilled fish is quickly followed up with a steamed fish, tofu, and vegetable dish that comes with a spicy miso dipping sauce which is a nice accompaniment.

Vegetable, fish and tofu dish with spicy miso sauce

 

Next, Mr Mori brings out hearty portions of Kama Meshi or flavored “kettle rice” which is made by cooking the rice in an iron pot with seasoning.

This rice is to be eaten with the meat dish that is soon to follow.

Once your rice bowl is in hand, a hot plate with steaming meat will arrive.  On my previous visit, the meat dish was chicken breast neatly wrapped around green vegetables, this time it was beef with some garnishing on top.

Grilled meat course

 

After the hot plate grilled meat is devoured, and you think there is no way you could possibly eat anymore, Mr Mori brings out the hot pot dish.

Again the contents of the hot pot will change each night, but it will generally consist of seafood, tofu, and vegetables.  Tonight ours included some nice fresh crab and white fish.

Hot Pot course with fresh fish, crab and vegetables.

 

Don’t worry if you can’t finish everything, you can take your leftovers with you and have a extravagant lunch the next day at home.

Yamaharu offers a unique rural Japanese experience right here in Taipei, and will surely prove to be a memorable night.

 

Vital Stats

Name: Yamaharu Japanese Restaurant(山治 日本郷土料理店)

Address: No. 5, Alley 18, Lane 130, Section 3, Mínshēng East Rd, Songshan District, Taipei City (台北市松山區民生東路三段130巷18弄5號)

Telephone: (02) 2716-3755

Budget: NT$1000, $2000, $3000, or $4000 plus 10% service charge

Hours: Monday to Saturday 12:00pm – 2:00pm, and 6:00pm – 10:00pm

Closed Sundays

Details: Cash only, no menu – just 4 price options.


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