In recent years, it seems like more and more Western style restaurants are popping up in every corner of Taiwan. It may be a mix of settled foreigners taking a stab at sharing some authentic cuisine from their country of origin, combined with a new wave of young Taiwanese chefs trained abroad, or self-taught, motivated to apply their skills at the helm of their own establishment. And while it is exciting to have access to such a variety of foreign food, albeit often localized to the Taiwanese tastebuds, in the meantime, who is carrying the torch to keep traditional Taiwanese food alive and exciting?
I can’t think of many places off the top of my head, maybe because I don’t eat out so much these days, but I’m now glad to add Old New Restaurant 老新台菜 in my address book. The theme of the restaurant, as you can guess, is to offer diners a contemporary version of traditional Taiwanese dishes, but the owner also thought beyond the food to create a novel dining experience, especially when it comes to Taiwanese food.
For indecisive diners or foreigners who can’t read Chinese alike, Old New Restaurant 老新台菜 is just the place. There’s only one menu and it’s the Chef’s menu, which allows for a seasonal cuisine and a guarantee of fresh ingredients. Upon arriving or when reserving, you have to tell them how much you want to spend per person, starting at 500NT (then 600NT, 800NT or 1000NT ), and let them know of any dietary restrictions, if you so have. And though their menu constantly changes, you can also request some of their house specialties in advance. To avoid serving the same dishes to returning customers, they use phone numbers as an ID and keep a history of what people have previously eaten.
After hearing much about this place, I finally went last week. Unfortunately, my camera was acting up, so I only have a few pictures to share, but luckily, I have some catchy videos to make that up . Our group went with the menu at 600NT, and I don’t remember how many dishes were served, but we left full and rather satisfied.
Here’s the first video, a short introduction of the staff, with a glimpse inside the kitchen and some of their dishes.
A simple amuse-bouche first appeared, and after a short wait, dishes started coming out, one after the other, and what at first felt like a service à la russe quickly turned into a service à la française. I was unclear if the intention was to offer a course meal experience, or rather go family style with all the food at once, so it got me puzzled at the time. At the beginning, I managed to keep pace with the flow of incoming food, finishing my plate before the next one arrived, frantically accelerating my eating, until realizing it was madness, and relinquished, letting the waiters fill the table with the remaining dishes. Note to myself for the future, take my time right from the start!
I enjoyed all the dishes that day, but here are some highlights of my favorites. I loved their sashimi and crab meat salad, all the ingredients were fresh and the salad seasoned just right. They served a cashew and steak salad, with the cubes of meat nicely seared and tender, a dish I wouldn’t mind having again next time. A whole steamed fish laid on a slice of winter-melon also made its way on our table, all of it bathing in a light and salty soy sauce, the winter-melon was soaked in it and I kept coming back for it, actually enjoying it more than the fish, which I must say was also very good and fresh. Another memorable dish has to be the fractal romanesco cauliflower, a beauty from nature, steamed and served whole, cut table-side, and later coated with a lightly-flavored thick soup. When they brought out that dish, I thought, what the heck?!, who serves a whole cauliflower like that? But, actually, I love the idea, it’s a great way to honor this wonder of nature, and a reminder that vegetables are still cool .
Food and service aside, I love that the owner took the old-new theme all the way by creating a clean interior including Taiwanese vintage artifacts, actually personal belongings of his, some on display, others cleverly repurposed into dining tables, without making the place feel too convoluted as is often the case with theme restaurants in Taiwan.
Because some dishes are served family style, the place may feel like it is better suited for big groups, but actually portions are accommodated for small parties just fine, so if you want to pretend being an undercover Michelin inspector, going solo should also work without feeling too awkward. They have private rooms, and an upstairs for big celebrations, so all in all, Old New Restaurant 老新台菜 can be a great place for a date, family function, friends gathering, end-of-the year work banquet 尾牙, or wedding ceremony.
Phew, that was quite a lot of blah blah to simply say that I highly recommend Old New Restaurant 老新台菜, and I hope you’ll have as good of a time as I had if you choose to eat there.
And if you’re still not convinced, here’s a mouthwatering video, all about their food and well-thought through concept.
Name: Old New Restaurant 老新台菜
Additional Reviews+Photos: pixnet/nigi33kimo, pixnet/ksdelicacy
Address: No. 227, Jiǔrú 2nd Rd, Sanmin District, Kaohsiung City (高雄市三民區九如二路227號)
Business hours: everyday, 11:30 – 14:00, 17:30 – 22:00