August 15, 2005

Restaurant Review: Douniushi (In Sogo, Hsinchu)

Douniushi Fangti*
Hsinchu, Taiwan
Sogo, 13F

Douniushi is an all-you-can-eat barbecue restaurant where you order items from a menu, then barbecue them at your table. The main problem with buffet restaurants is that the food quality usually is not very high and the menu changes very little. I enjoyed my first few trips to barbecue (燒烤) restaurants, but have not returned in over a year because I got tired of the menu. I had the same problem with hot pot. The first time eating hot pot, I thought, "This is great! All you can eat for only $179 NT!" Many Taiwanese are only interested in eating hot pot during the winter, which at first seemed like a terrible waste. But my second time eating hot pot, I realized that my taste buds were in a constant state of déjà vu. Not only is the menu the same with each trip to the restaurant, but each bite is more or less the same. After being poached in the hot pot soup base of weakly flavored water then dipped in the barbecue (沙茶) sauce, beef, pork, and cabbage all taste the same. So, I began to realize the wisdom of eating hot pot only in the winter, once or twice a year. Hot pot is a nice treat if eaten with the correct frequency.

After sitting down to the $399 NT dinner (plus service fee) at Douniushi, we ordered about eight different items from the menu to get started, including three kinds of beef, chicken, salmon, mushrooms, and a couple vegetable dishes. If I had chosen the $569 dinner, the menu would include more seafood choices and better cuts of meat.

As the waiter brought out the thinly sliced beef, which looked suspiciously like the sliced beef from a hot pot buffet, I began to fear that it would be just as tasteless. Where are the sauces? Only ketchup and something that looks like tempura sauce? Suppressed panic! I put the meat on the grill, and within a few minutes we were ready to try it. To my surprise, it was all very tasty, even without sauces. I did not see any sauce on the salmon, but it tasted so good that is must have been marinated.

During the course of the meal I tried about eight different cuts of beef, one cut of pork, a bunch of seafood, and a few vegetables. Of that, only two cuts of beef and the one cut of pork were substandard. Of those things, one was my own fault. In my rush to order ten different things without making the waiter impatient, I ordered the cubed beef. If you have a nice cut of beef, would you cut it into cubes before cooking? It should be obvious that the cubed beef was not fit to be served as a steak. So we were faced with the threat of being fined for taking too much food if we did not finish the chewy pieces of meat. That's where the hot pot comes in handy. Into the hot pot the beef cubes disappear.

I continued barbecuing at a frantic pace. At 9:15 pm, the waiter came to the table and told us that this would be our last chance to order. According to the menu, the last chance to order is 9:30 pm, so I asked the waiter if he could come back in a few minutes because my hands were full tending to the grill. The waiter, who does not make any money from tips, nixed my proposal. So, I ordered a few more things, and as the waiter left the table I returned my attention to the grill, where this batch of meat had all become extra crispy.

When the last order arrived, I had already begun to regret ordering so much. To make matters worse, the portions of meat were perversely much larger than before. I managed to put it all away, and enjoyed the meal enough that I plan to go back. The trick is to find the right frequency.

Note: Douniushi (鬥牛士) means bullfighter/matador and the word fangti (放題) in the name of the restaurant is Japanese for "all you can eat." Its meaning in Japanese can be extended to mean "enjoy as much/many as you like" (movies, etc.). Impress Chinese friends by teaching them a new word!


  • "Impress Chinese friends by teaching them a new word!"

    I don't have any of those. I do have some Taiwanese friends, but.

    By Blogger , at April 11, 2010 4:38 PM  

  • I have Taiwanese friends who self-identify as Chinese. I guess I live in a more complicated world.

    By Blogger Taiwanonymous, at April 14, 2010 12:10 AM  

  • I have never met an Australian who self-identified as English, nor any Pakistanis who self-identified as Indians.

    By Blogger , at April 14, 2010 9:49 PM  

  • Do you know any Americans who say that they are Irish? More to the point, do you know any who say they are Chinese? I thought this was obvious, but I will point out that these words can be used to describe ancestry as well as nationality. But I'm guessing you don't like ambiguity in your English.

    By Blogger Taiwanonymous, at April 16, 2010 11:23 AM  

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