Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wang Ping Steakhouse

Western-style restaurants are all the rage in Taiwan, especially ones that offer a prix-fixe. When I was a kid, I could not identify with my Chinese-Taiwanese culture and would always bug my parents to take me to Pizza Hut in Taiwan. That's when mom would give me 'tude and say "Pi-ni de tou! (literally: pizza-your-head)." The Western dining establishments then were limited to fast food chains. Nowadays you get the chains, the designer rip-offs like "Subber" and "KLG Fried Chicken," afternoon tea venues, and fancy steakhouses. Unfortunately, Taiwanese notion of Western-style food is rather like American notion of Chinese food. Good thing is, all of us get cravings for these fakes every once and a while.

Subber and KLG

For my 25th birthday, we had lunch at the popular Wang Ping Steakhouse chain. It's a nice change of pace from the bustle of dining at loud, cramped, unpretentious food stalls or mom and pops establishments. A germaphobe, like myself, likes the occasional opportunity to not worry about food stains from preceding diners on his/her utensil, no?


The salads do not taste like salads you get in Western countries. It's strange how something that needs the least preparation can still betray its origins. I believe it's the way the ingredients naturally taste. Mayo in Taiwan is easily the ingredient that fails the true Western taste test. Salad dressing is a close second. Sour condiments are rare in Chinese and Taiwanese cusine, and you can never really get a vinaigrette-base dressing at restaurants. Milk and cream are also rare components, and that pretty much rules out ranch dressing and the like.
The salad is dressed scantily with an unusually sweet mayo. It's refreshing, but for most Americans, it probably takes time for you palate to adjust. It took me, what, about 15 years?

Fruit Salad-with a prawn and yogurt sauce; Seafood Salad
One Western course that the Chinese can successfully manage is soup. I think this is because soup is such an important part of Chinese cusine that they are masters at soup making. There only one ingredient that can ruin that success...cream. Just try a clam chowder in Taiwan...
The soups we tried at Wang Ping had body and layers of flavor. It was a good contrast to the cool and crunchy first course.

Seafood Soup; Oxtail Soup en Croute
The "special cut" of steak is really the meat from the ribs. This steak is awesome. It's smokey and tender. The sweet soy-based coating gives the effect of a caramalized exterior. This is prepared like hong shao niu rou (braised beef). It's really not a steak.

Dessert was prefaced by fruits...

Dragon Fruit, Cantelope, and Watermelon
...and after dinner drinks.

Milk Tea with Cognac; Iced Fruit Tea
Desserts are a complete failure. The mango mousse was completely frozen and had a gigantic piece of fake white chocolate decor (made from icing), and the chocolate cake was dry and made from either poor quality chocolate or imitation chocolate. The waitress found out that it was my birthday, and presented a cake, or what appears like one. Instead of cake, the entire thing was made up of whipped cream. No cake to be found! Just runts and fake white chocolate! If they're going to fake their way through dessert, they may have as well made delicious Chinese-style Western Cake (cake with fresh fruits and whipped cream instead of icing) instead of fumble through imitation-Western desserts with imitation ingredients.

Mango Mousse; Chocolate Lava Cake

Impromptu Birthday Cake

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