Mitsui has been one of my favourite Japanese restaurant anywhere in the world. And you would be surprised to know that it is actually in Taipei.
Mitsui is one of the premium Japanese restaurant in Taipei. From a humble 10 seater to the current 7 restaurants serving the fines Japanese food, Mitsui has excelled to be better than some of the restaurants I have tried in Tokyo.
I started going to this restaurant since 2002, and over the last 18 over years, it has lost some of the kimochi, but gained a regimental consistency that made me return every time I am back in Taipei. I am just surprised it has not got the Michelin star. Maybe because it specialises in Omakase, maybe because the owner was not really into this Michelin stuff as they are already overbooked all the time. Maybe….
How you order
Mitsui serves both a la carte as well as omakase (Chef’s menu, like a degustation restaurant). You can get a very good variety starting at NT2500 for lunch and a really extravagant selection at NT4600 upwards. You can go crazy by letting the manager decides for you, but it will still hover around NT5000-6000 per person excluding drinks. A manager will come when you decided the budget and then asked your likes and dislikes, any allergies, etc.
I picked a NT3600 (USD 100) course for tonight (with a few additional a la carte items) – an eight-course bonanza featuring some of the best seafood Mitsui offers.
1/ Sashimi Course
They have their own import business, bringing the freshest produce from all around the world so that they have a constant supply in the kitchen for all price range.
Tonight for the Omakase course, we were given a generous selection of 8 types of sashimi that included a plump and creamy oyster from Hokkaido, expertly dressed with minced ginger, ponzu and spicy radish dressing. This was paired with Bufun uni, chutoro (fatty tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), botan ebi, ikura, sea whelk and a slice of abalone. Everything was top notch in terms of quality and taste.
On top of that, we ordered akagai (cockle) and salmon belly as a la carte order. The akagai was crunchy and well presented, without all the blood and gut. I was slightly disappointed by the salmon as it was not as fatty as I expected from Mitsui.
2/ Salad Course
The salad course has not been altered as far as I can remember, you have a choice of boiled rock lobster or abalone. It is usually paired with Fuji apple, Japanese corn, yamaimo, lettuce, wakame, dragon fruit and fruit tomato dressed with a sesame yuzu dressing.
3/ Grill Course
You have two choices for the grill course as well – either abalone or snow crab legs.
If you are having abalone for the salad, I would suggest you go for snow crab legs as it was the same abalone that was grilled in its shell with the minimalist approach. All the umami came from the abalone and its own juices, while the guts were used as a base for the miso paste.
You get one leg of the snow crab, perfectly grilled with a couple of gingko nuts thrown in for measure. I suggest you taste it as is for that sweet sweet crab meat. Then with the sea salt and then with the lime for three different flavour profiles.
4/ Fish Course
Known as the king of the fish, tai enjoy a special place in Japanese folklore due to their sparkling red color, which is considered a lucky, life-giving color. Tai no shioyaki, or Japanese salt-grilled sea bream, is a traditional part of osechi-ryori, or traditional Japanese New Year foods, and one of my personal favourites.
In Japan, the tai fish (or red sea bream) is considered a symbol of good luck because its name is associated with the Japanese word medetai, which means ‘auspicious’ or ‘congratulatory.’ During the Edo period (1603-1868), tai was one of the most highly regarded seafoods and was often presented as a gift to the shogun.
Here in Taiwan, it is the most commonly eaten fish. It has been halved and each guest got one half of the superbly salted and grilled, fatty, tender and moist tai.
5/ Cook Course
And moving along, we came to the cook course, where Mitsui fell flat on its face again. Two grilled tiger prawns served with a savoury sauce made from the prawn heads. Not exciting.
6/ Nabe Course
The piece de resistance of the omakase was the nabe (hotpot). It is a generously loaded hotpot of Hokkaido snow crab, Taiwanese rock oysters, red grouper, filled with Beijing cabbage, konnyaki, mushrooms and topped with a savoury konbu dashi.
And if you are not full from the nabe, you can choose to have the stock used to cook a porridge or have udon as the mains.
I was not a big fan of the nabe because the ingredients are often overcooked and its sweetness imparted into the stock. I didn’t want udon or porridge for that evening, the manager graciously changed that to a sushi course for me.
*/ Sushi course
5 pieces of nigiri sushi – mainly white fish and a conger eel. Delicious.
8/ Dessert Course
The weakest link of the omakase – usually just cut fruits with mocha ice cream or red bean paste with coconut cream.
When you walk into the restaurant (which is quite dark for privacy), you are greeted by tanks of live snow crabs surrounding a sushi counter. Every table was inconspicuously lighted by its own lights. The service is very attentive, and you have many private rooms for even more intimate dinners if required.
That is why this place has been a favourite among businessmen and politicians for such a long time despite the high price. The owners have shunned the Michelin guide since its inauguration because it’s not worth the publicity as the exclusive clientele would not like the place to become a circus.
Highly recommended, reservations a must.
Mitsui Japanese Cuisine 三井懷石料理
No.30, Nong-an Street, Taipei City
Date Visited : Oct 2017