Food: Dinner At The Grace Restaurant

Food junkies know that we just couldn’t go for very much longer without another food post! Now that we’ve integrated the old Bushman’s Asian Food Blog! into you can expect to find regular food posts here.

Last night Hui-chen and I had dinner in a restaurant that isn’t far from our home. We’d driven by it many times saying “we should try that sometime” – you know how that goes. Last night became that time. Unfortunately, until I can get Chinese language support (it doesn’t work out of the box in WordPress) I can only use the English name. On the sign outside it says “Grace Restaurant” in English. So, Grace Restaurant it is!

Right off it was kinda weird, because we had to park in the lot behind the place. The parking lot is quite large, I’d say probably 50 cars big, but absolutely no lighting! I had to use my pocket flashlight that I carry with me so we could safely navigate to the rear entrance (Bushmen always carry flashlights, knives and flints for lighting fires). Once we got inside, things really took on a surreal feeling. There was a huge dark room, obviously a wedding reception hall. Dark, no one there, but sounds emanating from a distance, leading us to, hopefully, the restaurant. A couple of turns down a short corrider, and we found ourself navigating one of the most bizarre entrances ever: through the middle of the men’s restroom, I kid you not! Now, if you are like us and find that especially weird, then imagine how we felt when we stepped into the dining room and saw these colors:



Once we arrived at our table, the waitress tossed a handwritten menu book down in front of Hui-chen. It was a clear cover binder type with one of those extruded clips going down the spine. No big deal but Hui-chen reminded her that there were 2 people at the table, not one. The waitress gave Hui-chen that “deer in the headlights” look of the variety that you can only get in Taiwan and had to process what she said for a couple of seconds before producing a second menu and placing it in on the table in front of me. I’m not fluent in written Chinese but I take every opportunity to increase my knowledge and I’m not totally illiterate either. But that’s not the point, really. The point is that right off the bat we ran into the usual stereotypes. Anyway, the next thing Hui-chen said was that we needed time to read the menu and of course the waitress said “mei wen ti.” Sure, it’s no problem for her, but we just didn’t want someone standing over us. In Taiwan (other places too), if you even look at something, the sales person feels compelled to launch into a diatribe about whatever it is, in an attempt to hard sell you. Recently we talked about how the sales people do this at the various fish markets and how frigging annoying it is. We’ve come to to the point where we just remove those annoyances by removing the salesperson from the scene whenever possible. In this case, immediately after the waitress said “no problem” Hui-chen told her that it would be some time because we had to read the menu and had never been there before. Again, “no problem.” At that point I broke in and spoke Chinese to her, saying that it is a problem because we didn’t want her there looking at us. I of course, smiled and thanked her. Yeah, I’m the Big Asshole Foreigner™. She took it well actually.

This kind of thing happens all the time though. Once a few years back, I went to a karaoke place with a Taiwanese friend of mine. A hostess brought some peanuts, in-shell. I love peanuts! I was happily shelling and eating them by myself when one of the other hostesses came and sat down beside me. She grabbed a handful and began shelling peanuts and putting them into a bowl. I wasn’t really paying attention to her as my friend was singing, and he’s such a bad singer it was just too funny. After a few minutes the hostess pushed this bowl of shelled peanuts in front of me offering them to me. I told her that I didn’t want them; I had my own, thanks. “Mei wen ti” was her answer (meant that it was no problem for her to serve me, not “no problem” as in “I understand“). In this case, just like at the Grace Restaurant, because the person saying “no problem” isn’t really listening to what you are saying, I was forced to get my point across and it resulted in embarrassment for that person. I replied with a question: “Did you wash your hands? The reason this happens is mostly because of Chinese social customs. In order to appear polite, people “protest” by mentioning inconvenience. The waitress who stands there thinks you are saying that you need to read the menu because its inconvenient for her to be standing there so you are politely giving her a reason to leave. The hostess who shelled my peanuts thought I was being polite because her shelling peanuts for me to eat was inconvenient for her. In either case, it never occurred to the persons in question that they were being told to stop doing what they were doing because of a genuine desire for them to stop doing so. OK, back to our story….

The place did have kind of a cool look to it, and I was optimistic about the food. The menu was extensive as you can see: 3 columns on each page. In the meantime, I began to look around:

Besides the really loud music coming from a speaker right behind me, there were 2 TVs going. Somewhere there is always a TV on, and always people glued to it. At least it wasn’t the news.

To the left of the TV is an entrance to a VIP room. On several occasions people stepped out of the room, saw me and froze. Then they ran back into the room. I have an astounding affect on people, apparently.

Hui-chen picked some excellent dishes, which you will see in a moment. This photo has no value for the story, though. I just love how she looks….

The waitress brought us Taiwan Beer. One minute later she came running over because she was sure we wanted the Gold Label brand. Nope, this old style Taiwan Beer is just fine!

While waiting on the dishes to arrive, I contemplated the decor. These UFO lamps were interesting. In the meantime a few lookie-loos peered out of the VIP room, and while drinking my Taiwan Beer, the food began to arrive!

First out is grilled duck. The crispy skin and hoisin flavor reminded me of Peking Duck. This dish had tons of meat on it. I’d say it was an excellent value for NT$220.

Next out of the kitchen is one of my favorite Taiwanese vegetables: Dragon Mustache. The raw egg on the top is cooked by the heat of the vegetables. The dish comes with a clean pair of chopsticks to be used for the purpose of mixing the egg into the vegetables. It was impeccably prepared. NT$120.

A free dish of “pao tzai” pickled vegetables that normally comes with a meal of this type. Not bad.

This was a great dish! Spicy tofu skin, one of my favorites. I would order this dish again for sure. NT$120.

This last dish was a bit of a disappointment. These are fish “chins” sometimes referred to as fish “collars” because they are the jaw and neck portion of the fish. There is a lot of flavorful fatty meat in these pieces. They were prepared well, but I felt that the flavor of the fish wasn’t all that great. It tasted rather “earthy” almost like dirt. Sometimes farmed fish tastes like that because the water isn’t fresh like a running stream or a big lake. I think it was just that particular individual fish and not a problem with the kitchen or how the chef prepared it. So, I would probably order it again. NT$120.

This post is geotagged, so if you want to check out the Grace Restaurant you can easily find it on our Geotagged Articles Map!

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  1. The hovering waitstaff is a big pet peeve of mine too. I prefer to read a menu on my own, if I want further information or recommendations I will ask for it.

    It’s funny how they can hover over you for however long it takes to decide on an order but they can’t come back to your table during the middle of your dining experience and clear any OBVIOUSLY finished dishes from the table.

    Todd’s last blog post..Kyoto – Kiyomizu Temple

  2. oh man, you hit the nail on the head with that comment Todd! the staff are usually so quick to take your order but once you get what you ordered you are on your own.

    hey that’s a lot like parts suppliers here! they all want the order but they don’t want to hear about any problems!

    FWIW, i think that Thai waiters are the worst. HC and i have had as many as 6 people do the Instant Order Expectation Hover at one time!

    Todd, do you also find that if you appear to be interested in something, it’s a cue for the staff to begin their relentless hard sell?

  3. Yes, it occurs across the board in several industries here… I never takes long for someone to tell you the country of origin/ available colors/ suitable weather/ care instructions/ ease of use/ deliciousness/ reliability/ popularity/ innovativeness/ and susceptibility to disease for any product you happen to get caught looking at for more than 5 seconds.

    Todd’s last blog post..Kyoto Imperial Palace

  4. i find that i have to go into most places with my finger to my mouth, making the “shush” sign. Hui-chen also dislikes the hard sell even though she is used to it.

  5. I laugh when I read your story.

    Being now in SoCal after having lived in Taiwan for 10 years, I kind of miss all these quirks that you guys complain about: the “attentive” service [no service here, have you ever met a pro waiter in SoCal???], the hard sell [they could care less here], the “special attention” to the gwailo [you are transparent here unless you have lots of $$$$], the good food [you can get it in San Gabriel Valley of course, still it is not the same as there…]

    You guys enjoy it when you have it , you might miss it one day!

  6. Pierre » welcome, and thanks so much for your comment! i’ve been to SoCal just once and to be honest i have already forgotten pretty much everything about the place, except that i wasn’t impressed. but yes, i guess you could say that we are all complaining about nothing…. we really are fortunate to be living in Taiwan and i am very happy to have emigrated here. hope to see you here again soon, Pierre!

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