Unrivaled 'Jiang-Zhe' fine
dining at Yangtse River
By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Angela Cheng
161, SanMin Rd, Sec 3, 2F, North Dist. (Chung Yo Department Store, Building 'C')
Hours: Mon-Fri 11 am-10 pm; Sat-Sun 10:30am-10pm
English menu available.
Credit cards accepted.
10% service charge.
Parking lot available.
On an island renowned for cheap little eateries, it can be tough to think of a classy Chinese fine-dining establishment where exquisite food and ambiance are suitable for entertaining visitors, business dinners or romantic dates. Yangtse River is that place, pairing high-end service and setting with decent prices and an excellent mix of traditional and creative Chinese cooking.
Much of the credit goes to 20-year veteran Chef Brad Ku, who isn't content to stand behind centuries-old traditions of "Jiang-Zhe" style cuisine, an amalgamation of two (Jiangsu and Zhejiang) of the so-called Eight Culinary Traditions of China. Although the long menu includes plenty of traditional favorites, Ku says that he varies ingredients to create lighter versions of traditionally-heavier flavors. One recent example of his award-winning flair is Chicken Soup in Pottery Pot (NT$2,200, serves 10), named the top Chinese New Year dish in Central Taiwan by Apple Daily. Requiring a three-day advance order, this fragrant, rich creation entails cooking a hen for an entire day before adding dried Chinese ham, scallops, bamboo shoots and other ingredients.
Left: Marinated Chicken
in Shaohsing Wine (NT$220)
Medium: Honey Shrimp Balls (NT$480)
Beijing Roast Duck
(NT$1,200, 1-hour advance
The menu begins with classic cold-dish Marinated Chicken in Shaohsing Wine (NT$220), utilizing higher-grade ingredients than commonly found elsewhere, including tender free-range chicken-thigh meat, ginseng and Chinese goji berries. Recent menu additions include Sauteed Prawn with Chili Sauce (NT$180/prawn) is a rich, spicier dish made with big juicy fried prawns, mixed with dried red peppers and eaten shell and all (no peeling required); and Mustard and Honey Shrimp Balls (NT$480), made with pickles, yellow mustard and a honey-based sauce. Another dish that this writer personally enjoyed for the first time here was the Braised Diced Chicken with Mashed Taro (NT$300).
Left: 一Chicken Soup in Pottery Pot (NT$2,200, serves 10)
Right: Red Bean Rice Cake
More classics that Chef Ku has put his personal stamp on include the big Beijing Roast Duck (NT$1,200, 1-hour advance order), marinated in sticky sugar water and air-dried so that the skin becomes crispy, and the Hangzhou-style "dong-po" Braised Belly Pork with Soy Sauce in Traditional Chinese Style (NT$140/person).
There is much more here, from Shanghai Steamed Pork Dumplings (NT$200 for 10) to Red Bean Rice Cake (3-day advance order needed), and a variety of set meals (NT$1,000-3,500) and 10-person table menus (NT$8,800-NT$12,800) can make sampling a bit easier.