The One With Da Shan Wu Jia – An Extraordinary Yilan Food Adventure Into The Mountainside of Taipei

I have been debating with myself if I should be writing additional blog posts on my recent trip to Taipei, since I have already blogged daily. While I risk the danger of repeating myself somewhat, I reckon some of my experiences were worth an entire blog post by themselves, lest I would forget about them. At the very least, they will come in handy for those seeking to experience the same joy.

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

Waterlily chicken soup.

Da Shan Wu Jia (大山無價) was certainly one of those priceless experience worth spending the time to write about. Encouraged by fellow food blogger Peter, I made it a point to have dinner at this place, with only a passing warning that Da Shan Wu Jia will be “slightly out of the way“.

Well, that would be the understatement of the year. We took a cab from our hotel at Xinyi Road. Upon knowing our destination, the driver looked puzzled and asked, what could you be possibly looking for at such a remote place? In broken Mandarin I told him there is this restaurant highly recommended by a friend, and he in turn wanted to know if we were after some illegal stuff. Like, you know, some sort of endangered animals which we were not supposed to eat. Language failed me to defend myself, and in my slight panic I did wonder if Da Shan Wu Jia does serve such exotic – albeit illegal – morsels of cruelty?

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

The journey took the better part of an hour, and by the time we reached the suburb of Sindian, night has truly fallen and our cab was swallowed by darkness. We were practically by the mountainside and there wasn’t a street light in sight, never mind a building. My eyes were darting between the road ahead and my Google Map (which told me I am on the right track, but you can never fully trust technology), while the better half slept on peacefully totally clueless about the one-man internal drama I was starring in.

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

Suddenly, a beautifully lit building loomed into sight, and behold! The parking lot was full of cars. From the look of it, Da Shan Wu Jia was having a full house. The cab driver chuckled at the sight of my obviously relieved face, and suggested that I ask for a discount since I traveled very far (from Hong Kong) to this place for a mere dinner. I shove NT500 in his face and politely told him to bugger off.

No, not really. Of course I smiled and told him I will try.

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

Red wine jelly.

Da Shan Wu Jia is a proper sit-down restaurant located within a large house, and the Zen-inspired ambiance was exactly what I needed to calm my racing heart. We took our seats at a too-low, too-large table, drinking in the serenity while listening to the chatter of our fellow diners. There was a whole table of Hong Kong tourists right next to us – how did they get here? – but I didn’t leave things to chance; I told the waitress to order a cab for us for the return journey.

My dinner hadn’t even started and already I was planning for the end of it. That gotta be a first.

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

Peanut tofu topped with wolfberry & pine nuts.

There was no menu to speak of – everyone was having the same set meal at the same price (NT$1,100 per pax, NT$850 for vegetarian option). Even if they did have a menu, chances are it won’t be in English, and not being a foodie the better half wouldn’t be of much help in the translation department. So I had to rely on Peter’s blog post on Da Shan Wu Jia to identify the food we were eating that night, a dinner which lasted some three hours.

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

Assorted sashimi with salad.

To say that I was awed with the dinner would be overstating it, yet for the most part I was suitably happy with what we had. (I like to wriggle my bum when I am happy with my food. I had to demonstrate it to you if you like to know exactly what I was talking about). I particularly like the assorted sashimi with salad. The oversized pieces of salmon and tuna were exquisite. It was my first time having sashimi cut to that size, and I was adequately impressed. The sashimi combination was a delicious contrast to the slightly spicy salad underneath. The better half was singing praises for the combo and, trust me, that’s rare.

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

Mushroom gomoku rice with deep-fried mullet roe.

The grilled tiger prawns also took top marks; the shell came off flawlessly and the meat was tender and juicy with a slight charred taste, which I loved. Also notable for the night was mushroom gomoku rice with deep-fried mullet roe. I particularly like the roe. It was crunchy and creamy at the same time and though at that time I didn’t know what it was, I happily gobbled mine… and took my better half’s too. The buttery richness was more than a perfect sprinkle for the delicious gomoku rice.

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

Yilan gaozha.

However it was the Yilan gaozha (宜蘭高渣) which took the prize for being the most intriguing dish of the night. I chewed and drink, and chewed some more, rolled the pieces around in my mouth, and swallowed slowly, and still I had no clue on what I was having. But it tasted like heaven and I scrapped every last drop from my bowl. Only later I discovered (from Peter’s blog) that it’s “deep-fried chicken soup” and vegetable purée. I wish the photos can do it justice, but the light was just too dim for better shots.

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

Black date vinegar.

I know the vinegar tea served at specific intervals during our meal was meant to cleanse our palate, but I thoroughly enjoyed that too. For one, they were served icy cold. In very pretty tea cups. The tea revived my appetite every time; not that I really needed much help in that department.

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

Grilled tiger prawns.

There must have been at least ten tables that night at Da Shan Wu Jia, and only three staffs serving everyone. I whispered to the better half that despite being somewhat a posh place, the staff could have at smiled at us and explained the food a little slower, knowing that we were foreign and Mandarin-challenged. It was only towards the end of the meal, when everyone sat back rubbing their stomachs and cabs starting to arrive for pickups (we weren’t the only car-less ones), did the waitress chat with us and answered some of my questions.

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價

On the journey back to town (at which the better half promptly fell asleep the moment we took the road), I looked out into the drizzling night trying to commit the wonderful sight, taste and smell of Da Shan Wu Jia to memory. Without a doubt this has been one of the highlights of my trip, and one that I would love to repeat.

See more of my Taipei 2013 posts:

Da Shan Wu Jia 大山無價
62, Beiyi Rd Sec 3, Xindian District of Xinbei City (台北縣新店市北宜路三段62號)
Tel: +855 2 2217 8891
Tuesday to Sunday, from noon to 3 p.m. for lunch, and from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. for dinner. 10% service charge, vegetarian option available. Call ahead for reservation.

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