Anzu Japanese Pork Chop
Fried pork chop, miso with cockels, brown rice, pickles, shave cabbage salad, and seseame sauce not to mention unlimited tea.
I didn't have as many opportunities to eat real meals on my last trip to Taiwan. There was a ton of cold breakfasts followed by days and nights of tasting food I was prepping. After an afternoon of treading between Taipei markets, grocers, and our kitchen with my 2 friends Faith and Catherine we needed a full on meal. It was late afternoon and we were near Taipei 101. Faith recognizing the value of the opportunity steering us to Anzu the very popular Japanese restaurant. Japan occupied Taiwan from the 30's to the 60's and its influence lingers. Japanese food is very highly regarded as it should be! Its more than just food its an experience of beauty and balance.
Anzu is in the basement of several fancy department stores in Taipei. I can't read the locations because they are listed in Chinese but go for it on their site: www.anzu.com.tw The location we visit it still pretty busy as it approaches 3 pm. There are 2 small groups ahead of us and we wait about 25 minutes. On a normal day visitors wait up to 3 hours for a lunch. If you think New Yorkers enjoy waiting in line, you should see the patience of the Taiwanese. We are seated in a booth which is absolutely the right amount of roomy, comfortable, lite by warm natural lights all at the perfect temperature. Already I know we are somewhere special. My friends have been before, and we order right away. Catherine and I both have pork chops which come with salad, miso (with or without cockels) rice (brown or white) and pickles. I'm not sure what Faith orders, but comes with most of the same sides. I was not hungry but not prepared for the pampered treatment of the meal that followed.
Cabage salad and dressing
The salad is just greens. Crisp, cold, cabbage shaved threadlike fine with some lettuce. Its exquisitely refreshing, and brilliantly simple. I can't imagine how its created. Surely not by hand, its a millimeter or less thick. Perhaps they have a teeny tiny narrow mandolin, or some motorized shaving device. Thick creamy dressing goes on top. As our salad bowl empties more is abruptly brought. I could eat just this salad.
Soon our meal are brought on trays. The miso is good. The pickles are light and crunchy. Salty and garlicky. I could be misremembering garlic. The rice, like much of the rice I've had in Asia, is like nothing you see in America. Its rice amplified. Soft, fluffy, and round. I've read online that it is soaked in broth. It has something in it making it magically delicious.
Seseame seeds ground, and sauce goo.
The pork chop is good of course. It is the star, despite my love of that cabbage salad. Its better than most restaurant pork chops. Moist, not too thin. Large chunks of fat surround the meat. Its breaded in thick panko bread crumbs. I'm glad to see the Japanese really eat those bread crumbs and its not just some made up marketing scheme to sell more expensive bread crumbs to Americans. It comes on a little wire rack, presumably to keep the bottom crispy, and a cute drop of hot mustard. Not only does the mustard offer an acid contrast that fried food likes for balance but it makes for a subtle attractive contrast on the blue striped plate. Nothing is unconsidered.
Catherine, on the right, shows me how to grind sesame seeds. Notice the beauty of all the dishes. too. Its a great meal experience. The whole meal is $390 New Taiwan, roughly $13 American.