Need a place for a quick bite and drinks after your tough work week in the FiDi? Well, if you don’t mind spending a little for some high quality bar food, we found such a place for happy hour. Roka Akor, once Michelin recommended, has been on my list for quite some time. Given that it was Friday afternoon with no plans made and a few friends ready to start the weekend, we decided to check out their happy hour.
The restaurant was huge in comparison to most Japanese restaurants in the city and that was only the upstairs. We headed downstairs to the bar, where I’d like to think we all belong. I mean we, as in us soon to be drunks. Away from the public eye and away from the classier patrons in the dining room. Okay, I may be going overboard. The downstairs was setting was still pretty nice and large. Plenty of small tables surrounded by lounge seatings with one bar stealing the center stage. We found seating easily and had plenty of attention from the wait staff.
Although the full menu was offered, their happy hour selection gave you a good sampling of their menu. We had to order at least one thing off the dinner menu. Not to say the discounted selection was bad, it wasn’t. It’s just their dinner menu looked pretty damn good. I couldn’t pass up trying at least one thing. You won wait staff. Now I have to come back for dinner.
801 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
+1 (415) 362-8887
Verdict: For happy hour food and drinks it’s a great deal. If you’re looking to mingle, you’ll have larger crowds elsewhere.
New Year’s Eve brought a great omakase experience in both the food and the atmosphere. With so much competition in the realm of high end Japanese restaurants in Taipei, what I find rare are those places that add in a bit of character to their restaurant. That’s exactly what we were given at Yoinn Japanese Cuisine.
There are three price points for their omakase $1880 NTD, $2380 NTD and $2880 NTD. We went with the middle $2380 option thinking this would be a good sampling of the foods offered here. What I didn’t expect was the amount of food we got. It was pretty much a feast. And that was even before the chef decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve with us. With what he added to our meal, the price would have been well over what the top price had to offer. I mean, aged otoro, how’s that for an extra!
As for the service and décor, it was versatile and very attentive. Even with our ever changing courses, the servers kept our drinks filled and our area clear of used dishes. This while tending to other tables in this intimately lit restaurant. There are curtains for separators hanging from the ceiling. What’s really cool were the mobility of the curtains. They were made to be moved around according to the size of the party and table configuration. Pretty neat. Then there was the chef who was busy preparing dishes for everyone. However, he took the time to explain to me what fish we were being served. Though we had a language barrier, he was very patient.
After everyone left and only the people at the bar was left, Chef Isao opened up even more. We learned that he was the chef at several Japanese restaurants before opening up this one on his own. Those included a restaurant in Japan and one renowned one in Taipei – one of them acquiring a Michelin star. I forgot the names of them but after having his food, it was obvious we were dealing with an artist. One who doesn’t hold back sharing in his creation and gifts. We sat there through closing sampling his whiskies and scotches while having cured mullet roe “because it goes well with whiskey.” Yeah, this guy is a cool cat in my book. We will be coming back here.
Yoinn Japanese Cuisine (余韻日本料理)
Lane 366, Section 2, Bade Rd, 49號
Taipei City,, Taiwan
+886 2 2740 1088
Verdict: Yes! For quality sushi and a full stomach I recommend coming here.
We were able to get last minute Friday reservations at Moe Yakiniku 3. It’s the third expansion of the restaurant. Known for it’s selection of wagyu and it’s service, we were more than excited to check it out. It’s located in the Da’an district along a street of other restaurants. Inside, the eating area were divided into more intimate sections. Our area had four tables with seating for four. There’s ventilation suction valves at each table and the yakiniku grill was heated with charcoal. Already a lovely sign.
It was all about wagyu here, Australian to be exact. All of our cuts were A5 wagyu with a B.M.S. score of 9. If you want to know more about what that means, read wagyu.org/breed-info/meat-grading/. I sure had to because I’m used to only hearing A5 until our server told me it was “A9”. So much more learning to do with this wonderful cattle. Anyways, as I mentioned, they are serious about the beef here. And even though I insisted on cooking it ourselves (cuz you know, that’s all the fun in yakiniku) they soon took over. I have to say, they did a much better job than I did. The server knew how to cook it just right, to get that small sear without overcooking, or in my case, undercooking the meat.
A serious place for high end yakiniku where they also focus on service. No wonder there are now three of these restaurants. I’m looking forward to trying this place again.
Moe Yakiniku 3
No. 24, Ln. 116, Guangfu S. Rd.
Daan Dist, Taipei, Taiwan
+886 2 2731 1750
Verdict: Yes, check this place out. It’s on the expensive side but for this grade of wagyu, it’s worth it.
Dinner was all about fugu, pufferfish, a delicacy with that deadly reputation of killing people. But really? At this day and age the percentage of people getting a lethal dose of poison is getting rare. There’s rigorous training for chefs to be certified and you can bet restaurants do everything possible to make it safe. One episode, even non-lethal, can close a shop and the reputation of the chef. So no, I don’t think we were in danger having this especially when we went with a nationwide chain, Gempin Fugu.
They are located in the major cities of Japan and have two in Kyoto. We went to the one next to the Yasaka Shrine around Gion. It was a small place that spanned three stories. We got a seat without a reservation because of two things. First, we were there a bit early, around 6pm. The place did get crowded a half hour in. Secondly, according to our ryokan hosts, Winter was the best time to have fugu. Oh well, glad they still serve it.
Note, they don’t speak English here.
Luckily I knew some Japanese but really, it was the fact that there was English on the menu. Yep, the good ‘ol point and nod. We ordered the Tenraku Set for ¥6100 a person which included 7 courses, where one was interchangeable, so we had 8. Oh yeah, 8 courses of fugu prepared eight different ways! Plan for at least an hour of eating and preparation between each course. I’d recommend some beers to help with the transitions. Not to say there were long lulls of nothingness. I’d say there was 5-10 minutes between finishing a course till the next one arrives. We could have cut down that time simply by notifying our waiter. All in all great meal. Every part of the fugu was utilized in various styles of Japanese cuisine.
Gempin Fugu Gion Noseki
Kyoto-shi, Kyoto ru 528-4
Verdict: Although there are other higher priced places, Gempin Fugu is guaranteed good eating.