Yi Pin Hua Diao Ji or 一品花雕雞 is another one of my favorite places to eat in Taipei. As opposed to the traditional western or Japanese food that I've been posting, 花雕雞 is 100% Taiwan. At least my 100% Taiwan. >< You'll see the purple sign and the little yellow chicken mascot innocuously nestled among the many restaurants that inhabit Shi Min Da Dao road (市民大道).
The decor is utilitarian and simplistic, using lots of dark colors and hardwoods to accentuate the sensual brights and rich brown earthy tones that come naturally in the food. Hua Diao Ji has all the characteristics of a typical "Chinese/Taiwanese" restaurant: extremely loud conversations, lots of laughter, and free flowing alcohol. The waitstaff are numerous and relatively attentive, but I have to say they do a good job in juggling the large number of patrons while cracking jokes, busing cutlery, and refilling glasses.
One thing that my father and I particularly enjoyed were the jovial attitudes of the waitstaff and how interesting they were. For example, my father had ordered a couple of beers and the waiter eagerly demonstrated how to open them without a bottle opener! I know this sounds mundane, but he demonstrated his immense bottle opening skills with some paper, a chair, his arm, another bottle, and the side of a table. Don't ask how many bottles we had to order to get there. >< Their friendly attitudes made up for the occasional forgotten dish or the glasses of water left unfilled.
This is what my family and I come here for, the infamous Hua Diao Ji (花鵰雞). The sweet huang jiu, the sharp acidity of the green onions, and the starchy rice cakes all harmonize and create a flavor unlike anything that I've ever tasted. Usually I’m sensitive to things that have alcohol in them, but the huang jiu in this dish adds such a mild sweetness and a palate covering aftertaste…it’s absolutely lovely. Each little morsel of chicken is covered in decadent chocolate brown sauce. The sauce is somewhat tacky, not thick enough to be a wallpaper adhesive, but rich enough to cover and coat each bit of food placed within the iron pot.
The chicken does require some work to consume. Hua Diao Ji only uses the most flavorful dark meets of the chicken, so there are some bits and bobs of bones that still cling to the chicken meat. Honestly, I enjoy eating everything in the dish. I eat the green onions stalks after they’ve wilted down, the rice cakes suck up all the delicious juices and the rest of the sauce, and if there’s any of the saucy ambrosia left….I pour it over my rice. I strongly encourage you guys to try this dish, on the menu its offered in “portion sizes” for family style eating. From what I remember I think the range is 2 people, 4 people, or 6-8 people.
The third dish that usually finishes off my family's meal is usually light and soupy (if not dessert ;)). We usually find solace in this dish the pork bone soup with large slices of daikon, soft yellow baby corn, and a light thatching of chartreuse celery over the top. The soup, (豬骨保), is refreshing and a good course to have after the thick decadent palate coating hua diao ji (花鵰雞).
Although light, the soup broth is also cloudy with flavor, all deriving from the daikon radish, corn, pork bone and tendon boiling down. However, this dish is decadent in its own right. Because the preferred vehicle to transfer the soup to your mouth isn't a traditional bowl, but instead the hollowed femur of the pig. The large iron pot comes with a special ladle with a narrowed end to help facilitate pouring the hot soup into the narrow bone. The whole point of this is to create a luxurious soup and marrow mixture that you'll drink in one slurp. In order to help you on your culinary mission you'll also be equipped with a plastic glove, in the case you want to man handle the bone, and a straw to suck the soup and marrow mixture out of your unorthodox bowl.
Although Hua Diao Ji offers complimentary ice cream with the end of each meal, I'm usually too full to partake. Their ice cream is a Russian brand and extra creamy, but the staff always has the strangest choice in flavors on hand. I.E. I'm not such a big fan of rum raisin. Anyway thank you for your continued patience with this blog! I encourage you all to try one of my favorite restaurants on Shi Min Da Dao. (巿民大道)
Kid Friendly: I would say yes, but I'm not sure if kids would enjoy the strong taste of the Hua Diao Ji
Price: $$ out of $$$
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