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Friday October 31, 2014
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Asian Niches

 

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Take the deep-fried scallion pancake roll, a sort of flat-bread dough wrapped around shaved beef, mostly tender, and very well spiced with a peppery star anise mix. It's gorgeous, in an exotic, slightly junk food way. So is the cruller, a savory cousin to the sweet pastry that's stuffed with flavor-popping chopped shrimp and deep fried. The wasabi mayo dipping sauce sounded promising, but I would have preferred more intense wasabi-ness to better offset the fried-ness.

Wanting to stick with the most typically Taiwanese dishes, we asked our server's guidance on the next visit. She pointed out the oyster omelet appetizer as one of her favorites. It combined a slim frittata-like egg base with fat juicy oysters, bok choy, and a layer of gelatinous potato starch, all covered in a faintly sweet red sauce. I'm glad I tried it--it was interesting--but I wouldn't order it again.

The Chinese watercress with garlic was an easier fit for me. With a bigger leaf and a more pungent taste than the petite peppery greens associated with classic British tea sandwiches, it was delicious--like spinach but earthier, quite salty, and speckled liberally with tiny bits of diced garlic. My only problem was the untrimmed, tough stems. It was a little like eating twigs--and without a knife I had a devil of a time getting manageable pieces to my mouth using chopsticks. That applied as well to one of the main-course dishes on the Taiwanese menu--eggplant with basil, pork, and garlic sauce. This one included the whole basil plant above the root--stem and all.

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