May 14, 2011

Onion Flower 蔥花- OUT OF BUSINESS

Profile

Address: 台灣台北大安忠孝東路四段201號2F
                 No. 201 2F, Section 4, ZhōngXiào East Rd, Daan District
Phone #: 02-2778-8712
Business Hours: 11:30-15:00, 17:00-23:00
Website: http://www.shinyeh.com.tw/taiwan_f.asp
                https://www.facebook.com/shinyeh.table#!/shinyeh.table
Price Range:   $$$
Accepts Credit Cards: yes
Attire: casual
Good for kids: yes
Take out: yes
Waiter Service: yes
Outdoor seating:  no
Alcohol: yes

Rating

Food Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Decor:  4 out of 5
Service: 4.5 out of 5
Overall: 4.3 out of 5
Recommendation: Youthful Taiwanese Cuisine with Excellent Service
Review

Shin Yeh is a very well known restaurant that started out as an 11 table restaurant in northern Taipei, which then branched out into several locations and opened other types of restaurants such as Curry Champ and a Japanese Buffet. Onion Flower is a restaurant opened under the Shin Yeh brand that brings Taiwanese Cuisine to the public in a very vibrant and youthful way. Their food owns the well known quality and taste Shin Yeh has to offer, but also is given a more modern twist and eccentric naming. What impressed me the most about this place is that their service staff was very attentive to us and detail oriented. The price is around 500 a person for a extremely filling meal. Great Taiwanese food combined with modern Chinese dining space and excellent service is a recipe for a satisfying and enjoyable meal.
They really did a interesting work for the interior design for the restaurant. Also the space seems cramped sharing a floor with kampai, they isolate their dining space well from their neighbor's romp and roar.  The interior uses the deep black and grey tones contrasted with deep red. The color theme is very classically Chinese and their use of paper lantern looking lighting fixtures and faux wood carving dividers show that they were purposeful in their design of a modern Chinese dining space. It is sleek and carries the weight of tradition. Their service here was excellent. Even being the table in the far corner of the restaurant, we could flag servers down, and they periodically checked on our needs. Their staff was prompt, helpful, and polite. The only thing they did horribly was not offer us napkins and wetnaps on their own volition. Besides that, they served us well. I give extra points to restaurants in Taiwan that can clear the check at the table and bring you your umbrella that you left at the table. On to the meal:
This dish is called garlic cow eats grass 蒜牛吃草. This plate goes for $380 and is portioned for around 4 people. I really enjoyed the fun naming of the dishes. Basically, it's tender beef cubes stir fried in a garlicky black pepper sauce plated on top of red onions with a mound of green onions (the grass) on the side. The beef is probably tenderloin, it was extremely tendered and well flavored. The sauce was not overpowering and the fried garlic and onions paired well with it. This is a garlic twist to the traditional stir fry black pepper tenderloin / french style tenderloin dishes (黑胡椒/法式牛柳) .
 Next up is this cold plate appetizer called Spy Eggplants 臥底茄子. They don't look so good on my camera but they did a better job photographing it on their facebook page album. They are priced at 120, and is a cheaper way to get vegetables in your meal here. This dish is rather heavy and over soy saucy, but that is also why it is very rice friendly. I do not recommend getting this dish, and you should get your vegetables through some other dish.
 This is the Oyster Ginger Bath 蚵仔薑絲浴. It is 80 NT per bowl and they use fresh oysters, tender tofu, and ginger to make this classic Taiwanese soup that you can get at a lot of bistros or stalls. To me, this is second to the clam soup, and I would rather have the clam soup. They taste about the same in flavor, but I feel cooked oysters have a mushiness and gunkiness to their insides that I do not like so much. I would definitely recommend getting a soup, either this or the clam one.
This next dish is the "Snow White Will Sleep" 會睡著白鱈公主 for 260 NT. English speakers won't get the pun, but the word for Snow and this type of fish (chilean sea bass? Atlantic Cod?) are homonyms. The fish was very soft and melty. it isn't so flakey, but the preparation is definitely traditional Taiwanese. There are two preparations for this dish, spicy or "tree seeds" 樹籽. I recommend the tree seeds because it doesn't overpower the flavor of the fish, and it is more representative of the traditional preparation. The light soy sauce based sauce provides most of the flavor, and it is infused with this olive/plum essence which is due to the tree seeds. I am not sure how to describe the flavor of the tree seeds, but its kind of like an olive, but more sweet and less sour.
 This next dish is two servings of the fried oyster cakes. This is a traditional snack found in taiwan, which is kind of like a crab cake, but filled with oysters instead. They put a twist to this by using a mushroom as a plate to hold the oysters and frying the whole thing. So this ends up being like a fried oyster stuffed mushroom. Since this is fried, it is oily and kind of dense. I recommend 4 people sharing 1 serving and not getting one per person.
Finally, they top off the meal by serving us these mochi balls. This is also very Taiwanese in that they use the ground peanuts as the main condiment to the mochi balls. They were chewy and the crunchy, sweet, and peanut oily powder paired well with the mashed rice.

They have an extensive menu and there are a couple other items that I would like to come back and try. I think this is a good place for 4 people to enjoy a Taiwanese lunch or dinner. Although the items are nto purely traditional, you can tell that it is rooted in the original idea of the dishes and given a playful twist. The way they named their items show that kiddish attitude this restaurant conveys. It is playful yet also classy due to the decor and the superb service the waiters provide. Onion Flower is a restaurant worth taking your friends to. 

Update 6/02/2011

Went to Onion Flower again and tried a slew of other dishes. I think I still would prefer Onion Flower over Shin Yeh for personal dining due to my bias toward their dining space, the ease of availability, and the heavier oilier dishes that they provide.
 This is their cold platter that consists of Drunken Chicken, blanched squid, marinated Abalone Mushrooms, and Pig Gelatin Cubes. I originally wanted just to try the drunken chicken, but opted for this dish instead for more variety. The Druken Chicken here is sliced really thick and has only a mild hint of drunkenesss. I like my Chicken DRANK, so I don't think this item was prepared that well. Also, I favor more thinly sliced pieces of chicken as well, so the Shanghai Shanghai version of drunken chicken is a lot more to my liking. The blanched squid was ok, its more for the subtle squiddiness and texture paired with their wasabi based squid sauce. The sauce dominated the squid, but I wouldn't eat the squid by itself anyway. The marinated abalone mushrooms were a bit tough and flavored with light soy sauce and red pepper. The pig gelatins were these gelatinous cubes made probably from the pig bones and the cubes enclosed a piece of pork. They were ok appetizers. They were not much to wow about.
This next dish is their Tofu Pot. It filled with cubes of fried tofu, mustrooms, and bell peppers. They are united by this thicker hoison sauce tasting sauce drizzled all over. This goes well with rice, and a very good way to get your vegetables in without feeling ripped off for paying 180 NT for "heartless vegetables".
 If you really really want to eat "heartless vegetables" and don't want to pay 180 NT for them, then I suggest that you order the Sa Cha Lamb (沙茶羊美眉). Not only do you get a wad of scrumptious stir fried lamb slices, you also get your greens. This is a better value that just getting a straight up vegetable place, which is a waste of money in my opinion.
This next dish is their 3 Cup Abalone Mushrooms. I am sure replacing the mushroom will yield dishses with similar taste, but with much different texture and subtler hints of the different ingredient. I did not really enjoy this dish because the Abalone mushroom was too tough and didn't really contribute to the flavor of the dish. It was more for texture, and I guess this is an option for the vegetarians in the crowd.


This next dish had more bells and whistles attached to it. Click on the video to see the preparation for the stone steamed shrimp:
video

After 3 minutes, they remove the cap of the pot and you are offered this pot ful of just steamed shrimp. They have a bunch of hot stones on the bottom, and they add their own mixture of water, oil, and rice wine to steam/flavor the shrimp. It was very fragrant went the pot was steaming out the gaseous mixture. Although the dryness of the preparation method made the shrimp a little hard to peel, the flavor was there, and if it wasn't, they provided a soysauce based red pepper sauce or wasabi sauce for you to dip them into. Overall, I think this is an interesting restaurant to dine in, with excellent atmosphere and service. They have a service button, which they seem to respond to quite promptly. Although other places may provide the same dishes for cheaper or tastier, this restaurant excels in quality control, ambience, and service. My ratings still stand.

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