A Japanese (and Korean) hot pot
twist at Nabe Suzuya
By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Angela Cheng
112-3, ZhongMing S Rd, West Dist.; (04) 2326-8426
Hours: 10:30 am-3 pm (last order 2:30 pm), 5:30 pm-2 am (last order 1 am)
No service charge.
Hot pot is a great, year-round dining option, regardless of the temperature outside. A good way to expand your hot-pot horizons a bit is to check out the Japanese-owned Nabe Suzuya, which has been around about six months and is part of a local restaurant group that includes Sushi Suzuki and Kitchen Bulldog in the Canal District and recently-opened Curry One (see June "What's New").
Popular with both Taiwanese and Japanese diners, Nabe Suzuya has a comfortable, modern setting featuring a glass wall and seating at tables or a dining bar. The menu centers around a dozen numbered, mostly-Japanese individual hot-pot options (add NT$100 if pot is shared with another diner). The most popular choice (option #1) is Sukiyaki, a fragrant mix of veggies and thinly-sliced meat in a salty, soy-based broth that becomes saltier as it cooks--offset by using a raw, beaten egg as a dipping sauce, the traditional way. Pricing is based on meat choice, ranging from the NT$550 Australian Wagyu Beef to NT$300 for chicken or pork. Also popular is similar Japanese favorite Shabu-Shabu (option #2), with similar meat choices/prices joined by a NT$300 mutton option.
However, one of the most interesting choices on the menu is inspired not by Japan, but Korea. The NT$380 Budae Jiigae (#10) hot pot is an invention that arose out of post-Korean War food shortages and utilizes Spam, an all-American canned meat product spread across the Pacific by the U.S. military. Other ingredients that go into the spicy broth include German sausage, Korean "nian gao" sticky rice cake, cheese, and Korean instant ramen noodles, plus kimchi.
Hot pots here are can be enjoyed with options that include rice, handmade ramen, "glass" noodles, or udon. There's also a daily NT$200 Shabu-Shabu set-lunch special, plus a variety of non-hot-pot choices such as Fried Beef (NT$200), served on a bed of onions; NT$100 Pomelo Chicken, featuring very tender chunks of chicken made with a slightly-sour pomelo vinegar-based sauce; and the NT$150 Natto (Japanese fermented soy bean) Omelet; as well as various noodles and a NT$180 Yakodon (chicken, onions and egg over rice).
Finally, there are reasonably-priced beers and other drinks, and even three ice-cream flavors (NT$60) to round out a satisfying meal here.