[Taipei] Many hotpot restaurants in Taipei take the dining experience to another level, by providing exception service, intricate soup bases, and for this case particularly instagrammable ingredients.
Quan Alley 寬巷子 is known to present its ingredients in creative and beautiful forms, pleasing to the eyes and photos.
Expect pork neck slices arranged to look like roses, seafood sticks in shape of popsicles, and many other items prettily plated like works of art.
The hotpot restaurant which continues to enjoy popularity since its opening in 2012, has 3 branches in Taipei – Xinsheng South Road, Shilin, Zhongxiao East Road; and an overseas outlet at Hong Kong’s Harbour City.
When it came to deciding the hotpot place for annual dinner with friends, our eyes made the decision. ”I want that meat-flower! So pretty.”
I have never seen so many photos taken of hotpot items before the actual meal.
Reservation IS A MUST. Upon entering, the interior certainly looked grand enough, with large wooden doors and furnishing.
With brick walls and thick wooden partitions separating tables, you could be assured of certain level of privacy.
Some warning first, prices are expectedly not cheap.
There are 4 type of soup bases to choose from – Sichuan-style Spicy Soup, Light Spicy Soup, Pork Bone Soup, and Bonito Kombu Soup. Priced at TWD250 (SGD11.16, USD8.10) per person.
The numbing spicy soup broth is said to feature 15 Sichuanese herbs and would take seven days to ferment, with mala soup that could set tongues tickling.
It didn’t feel that potent when I first took initial sips, but it was tastily layered and had a slight numbing effect.
However, I was not that blown away by the soup bases overall – it was decently delicious, but there were better ones around.
As for the food, it is all about the quality and plating.
I wasn’t that keen to order the Wagyu Beef (TWD3480 or TWD6980) due to its price, and the Boneless Short Rib (TWD950, 480) and Ribeye Cap (TWD580, 1380) didn’t make me feel that huge a pinch.
Every table would order the signature Pork Neck (TWD460, TWD1280 for 3 roses).
Come to think of it, it was about SGD57 for some pieces of meat neatly arranged, which would have been half the price somewhere else. But we are suckers for ‘beauty’.
Before the rose was dropped into the broth, the service staff would pour egg white over the meat, in a systematic rhythm that was almost like a ‘performance’ on its own.
The thinly-sliced rose actually stayed its shape within the boiling broth, and the serving staff would artfully divide the pieces to make sure they were cooked more evenly.
The pork neck was fresh and tender, though I am sure we were more impressed by the gimmickry than the actual quality (in proportion to its price).
There were other interesting items of Smoked Beancurd (TWD320, TWD520) with sliced almonds on top and chopped shrimp in the middle; Shrimp “Popsicles” (TWD350, 560) with pork neck, cuttlefish, candy kumquat and dough; Calamari mixed with Chicken Soft Bone (TWD230, 420); Wrapped Beancurd with Sesame Paste Boiled Spinach Wrapped Outside (TWD230, 420); Tiger Prawn with Cheese (TWD450, 720), soft chicken bone, celery, seaweed and wrapped with noodles, then deep-fried.
The Shrimp Popsicles resembled the street food sold in many night markets, with the black coming from the squid ink and crunch within from soft pork bone.
What I appreciated was that there were not run-on-the-mills items, and could mostly be found only in Quan Alley.
Be mentally ready for the bill.
Quan Alley 寬巷子鍋品美食
126 6 Xinsheng South Road, Section 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City
Phone: +886 2 2393 5252
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30am – 3pm, Dinner 5pm – 10:30pm (Mon – Sun)
Google Maps – Quan Alley (Xinsheng South)
No. 22, Lane 505, Section 5, Zhongshan North Road, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111
Tel: +886 2 2883 1599
Opening Hours: Lunch 12pm – 3pm (Mon – Fri), Dinner 6pm – 10:30pm (Mon – Fri), 5:30pm – 10:00pm (Sat- Sun)
No. 68, Section 5, Zhongxiao East Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
Tel: +886 2 8780 6617
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30am – 3pm (Sun – Wed), 11:30am – 2:30pm (Thurs – Sat)
Dinner 5:30pm – 9:30pm (Sun – Wed), 5:30pm – 10:00pm (Thurs – Sat)