川味麵典

Far from paltry

 Had Jason, following his epic voyage, and having finally landed on the Black Sea shore at Colchis, staggered determinedly onward, Argonauts faithfully following, disposed of the Hydra, and Harryhausen’s funky stop-motion skellingtons; I say, had he gone through all these trials and tribulations, to discover, on entering the oak grove to lay claim to his bounty, that, far from being the divine ovine robe he had supposed, the fleece was actually a scruffy yellow chicken-feather rag, he would have been pretty pissed off.  

And so, gentle reader (all right, mum), forgive me for this installment of the Quest for the Golden Horns – my unrelenting mission to find Taiwan’s perfect beef noodle – which is only slightly less off-topic than Roger Irrelevant.  This beef noodle was nothing of the sort, being – as it was – poultry.  

I should be forgiven. I’d had an overload of beef the week before, having visited Lao Deng on Yanji St and my old fave in the middle of nowhere (actually Sanwan, Miaoli) with my father-in-law.  

Don’t think I’d actually come across a spicy chicken noodle soup before, at least not of this variety.  It was  pretty good. The noodles themselves didn’t have that homemade, hand-rolled feel that sorts the men from the boys, but the lemon crunch of the Sichuan peppers, the dried chillis and the spicy yellow broth made for a lighter and markedly different flavour broth from your average bowl of braised meat noodles. The whole cloves of garlic, swollen, turgid from the soup, melted in the mouth and liberal tranches of ginger added to zesty taste.   

The thing that doesn’t quite work is the chicken which, as that old fallback of unimaginative meat description has it, tastes like chicken. This is no throwaway jibe: imporous, these hunks of chicken just don’t soak up the flavour like beef and partially undo all the broth’s good work. Another letdown is the lack of side-dish options, with unappealing, bog-standard green beans in place of the vinegary cow-peas.  Oh, and they also don’t have beer. Those Asahis in the pic were procured from the nearest 7-11. 

The chef and proprietor is Chen You-nian, a 30-something Kaohsiung native with a culinary arts qualification. He set up shop here 11 months ago and was joined by his classmate who was working at a clothing store round the corner. 

Despite the scrawl of satisfied customers adorning the walls, there hardly ever seems to be anyone in the restuarant when I walk past. Set against the domineering flyover on Civic Boulevard, I can’t help feeling, and Chen ruefully agrees, that the location is the problem.  It’s a shame as the food is definitely good enough to make this place worth a visit. 

I didn’t completely cheat – Chen was kind enough to give me a small bowl of the beef to sample. The broth and meat were above average and at NT$120, a full bowl sets you back NT$10 more than the chicken.  

川味麵典, 市民大道四段136號  (136 Civic Boulevard Sec. 4)

Tel: (02) 8772 8712

Opening hrs: 11:30-1400, 18:00-21:00

Note: Since I wrote this a while back, I’ve since been back and had a bowl of the beef. The meat is excellent, melt-in-your-mouth goodness but, while the broth is nice, it is certainly doesn’t fulfill its Chuan Lawei (川辣味) designation. If you want some numbing hotness, you’ll need to dump in a couple of spoons of the hotsauce, which contains the obligatory Sichuan peppercorns (花椒), whole.    

 

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