The One With 33 Rooms – Japanese Private Kitchen in Taipei

What makes a private kitchen? I pondered over this question as I took in the scene that was 33 Rooms for an elaborate new year celebration dinner in Taipei recently.

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If a private kitchen is defined by its interior design and ambiance, then 33 Rooms do seem to fit the bill. Housed in a nondescript shop lot in Ximending area, the authentically Japanese exterior (complete with a confusing sliding door and obligatory lanterns) give way to a cozy restaurant which has been in existence for more than thirty years.

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The restaurant were sectioned into the way you would like to be seated; be it tatami, stools, benches, or private rooms. Each layout was characterised differently; our tatami seat were comfortable – i.e. never once I complained of backache sitting through the almost 3-hour meal – and appropriately decked with warm lighting, which made me hunker down contentedly to ponder over what food would be ahead of me.

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I pondered; because there was no menu. Apparently you have to eat whatever the chef feel like cooking – a concept previously known to me but never personally experienced – and there is no price tag. You eat as much as you want, and then you pay what you had.

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Which sounded kind of like soft core blackmail to me, and I wasn’t alone. So halfway through the meal we asked how (repeatedly) how much we have ate. The waitresses expertly dodged our queries but eventually our hard stare and increasingly loud questionings worked its charm.

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Do I sound upset with the wait staff? Actually, no. The waitresses were quite an experience to behold. From the moment we sat down, one quickly came to us and informed us that she has been working at 33 Rooms for 19 years. I am not sure how this piece of information would make our food any tastier, but appreciate the loyalty of its entirely-female wait crew.

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Beer was served and the waitress (whose name I didn’t ask for) proudly told us that, lucky us, the beer will be on the house, and would you please have a toast with her? We did just that, not once but thrice. But hey, if this is the way the locals do it, I am happy to oblige. Though after the first chorus of “Happy New Year!” I ran out of well-wishes to cheer about.

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We were also careful to avoid eye contact with the lady boss. Within ten minutes being on the premise we witnessed how she cornered a table into a long-winded chat, and when asked for more beer she beamed up and sang the order loudly into the kitchen, which I assumed was tucked right next door from the volume she thrilled. I thought the kopitiam aunties in Singapore were an art form; the lady boss took it to another level.

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When not terrorising her guests, Her Highness will retreat to her throne at the upper floor, which allows us to literally monitor the progress of her guests at every table. I know because the moment when our beer supply seem to be running low, she was quick to sing out to her staff that we were at risk of being dehydrated, so please can a new bottle of Asahi be served to our table on the double? On the house, of course.

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But enough of the waitresses and their captain; what about the food? Various interesting Japanese dishes were served for the night, from soup to sashimi to barbequed meat. Some combination, like the orange and salmon looked (and tasted) very fusion-like to me, i.e. very unusual but not necessarily awful tasting, requiring a sense of adventure to appropriately enjoy.

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Being in the depth of winter I would appreciate more hot dishes, but for the night the chefs seem determined to serve dishes of varying degrees of coldness, much to my dismay. Okay, so the cod fish sashimi was rather enjoyable, but the amount of sliced abalones was too much even for the glutton me. And that cold soup with a half-boiled egg in it was a really an adventure to finish.

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Despite the various reservations I had about the food, for the night the five of us consumed superhuman quantity of them. I was rather ill during the dinner (no, not by the food) so my intake was sub-normal performance, but even the hungriest among us was struggling to taste the mountains of food placed on our table.

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The host seems terribly concerned that we are unable to eat so much food that various (stern) reminders were issued that we should really have that piping hot, or this while its still fresh. Trust me, we did. But at eleven dishes for the night, it was an effort paramount to a full marathon even for the very dedicated foodie.

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The damage? NT$1,900 (some HK$400) and a very bloated stomach. While I might not sound terribly impressed with my most elaborate dining experience for the recent NYE trip to Taipei, it was certainly an experience that is worth your own judgment. Though you would be best served if you go with an empty stomach (like, seriously) and a whole battalion of your hungriest friends.

Burping can be a chore.

33 Rooms
116 Kanding Rd, Taipei (台北市康定路116號)
(02) 2361-0807/6


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Comments

  1. Felizaong says:

    Hi, can I ask the cost of NTD1,900 Is for per pax or for the whole meal for all in your group? Thanks!

  2. Razlan says:

     That’s the cost for per pax. Pretty decent price.

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