"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gu-Shine Taiwanese Restaurant - October 17, 2010

Sautéed Stinky Tofu

 My dining experience in Taiwan has been somewhat curtailed by none less than my own insatiable and uncontrollable appetite for street food; thus, I cannot claim much knowledge in Taiwanese dishes served in restaurants.  While I am in Taiwan, I am continuously attracted, distracted and tempted by the aroma and sights from the numerous, ubiquitous and inventive street vendors that I never manage to get myself into a four-walled establishment with an air conditioner; furthermore, I am hampered by the fact that my mouth and stomach are constantly filled and re-filled without interruption from old favorites and new finds on the street. 

Sautéed Stinky Tofu
For example, take stinky tofu:  I had had them fried - most common and undeniably the best - and stewed in a hot pot with duck blood and sour cabbage at night markets, but I had not known that they could be sautéed.  Is this common practice? I had no idea, and yet having seen it on Gu-Shine's menu, my heart was immediately set on this sautéed stinky tofu. The unfamiliar sight of the stinky tofu cut into sticks instead of cubes or squares were satisfactorily disconcerting, confirming that I was indeed broadening my horizon in the arena of stinky tofu, akin to that sense of adventure upon landing in a foreign city. The soy-sauce based sauce was salty and slightly sweet, and it complemented the sourness and the aroma of the fermented tofu more adequately than I could have imagined; furthermore, the sauce was just thickened enough to coat each stick evenly.  Topped with crunchy scallions, the delicious softness of the tofu and the sauce blended in my mouth to create an intricate medley of delights.  Having savored the sautéed tofu alone, I took another mouthful of the tofu sticks into my mouth, followed by a mouthful of their surprisingly good rice (understanding, of course, that this was not koshihikari*); the mildness of the rice mellowed out the saltiness and the stink of the tofu, and it was even better than the tofu by itself.
*One of the best in Japan - more common than other brands.

Three-Cup Chicken
Tangy with soy sauce, rice wine and sugar and fragrant with basil, the chicken was nicely seasoned, but overly seasoned; after all, less seasoning does not equal to less flavor.  Notwithstanding, I could have forgiven the over-seasoning, if the chicken was not too dry and tough.  Dry and tough chicken can be attributed to one or two things:  the poor quality of the chicken and/or the poor cooking technique.  In this case, it was maddeningly the latter; a piece of chicken with air-dried edges hardened like shrapnel was a sign that the chicken had sat around too long before arriving on my table, in fact, so long as enough to dry out like a jerky.  While a dish like this can be pre-made and re-heated before serving - not a bad thing as it gives the chicken more time to absorb the flavor, letting the customers feel like they are eating a leftover carelessly forgotten from last week is not acceptable.  

Oyster Pancake
One of my favorite street food, I ordered the oyster pancake from their limited snack menu.  As an omelet, it was well-made with plump and good-sized oysters in a lot of eggs. However, as the famous Taiwanese street food, it was wrong, all wrong.  An oyster pancake consists of three components: (1) the eggs, (2) the lettuce, and (3) the starch.  First of all, Gu-Shine's pancake was missing the lettuce leaves.  How can you leave out the lettuce? The lettuce is an integral part of an oyster pancake and it adds a nice juicy crunch to the omelet. Second offense, what happened to that distinct layer of gooey and sticky starch that binds the eggs and the lettuce together?  It is this sticky starch that makes the oyster pancake what it is, instead of oyster omelet.  Further adding on, the sauce was wrong as well:  It should have been the mild, sweet pink sauce and not this soy-sauce glue that was slathered all over.  Again, had I wanted an oyster omelet, I could have made it; what I could not have made was the street oyster pancake - eggs hiding plump oysters sitting on crunchy lettuce leaves and all bound together in the opaque, sticky and starchy goo, fragrant with cilantro and sweet and tangy from the pink sauce.  This is what I wanted; and this I did not get.

Salt & Pepper Shrimp
Despite its well-execution, the shrimp version of the salt & pepper chicken - another one of the famous Taiwanese street snacks, it failed to earn a special place on the dinner table.  What was missing was the crispy fried basil leaves, which is what makes the whole recipe stand out.
Sautéed Bean Sprouts with Chinese Chives
Crispy and lightly salted, the bean sprouts were a decent accompaniment to fulfill your daily vegetables intake - if nothing more than to please your mother.

Seafood Soup
Bland, blander and blandest:  Is there a way to further emphasize its blandness? It was bland as hot water is bland; it was bland as when you forgot to salt; well, it never happens to me because I taste my dishes, but the chef obviously neglected this important step.  The result: The soup lacked any flavor whatsoever.  All the same, this soup would not have been anywhere near passable even if it had been seasoned due to the utter lack of care exercised in this dish - as if the chef thoughtlessly took out the expiring items and just chopped and dumped them into a soup pot.  It is alarming to note that this dish is in fact a permanent item on the menu.

To sum it up, Gu-Shine had had the potential of becoming a good restaurant; however, the chef seems to have given up and has settled to cooking as a 9-to-5 job (or noon-whatever closing time).

Gu-Shine Taiwanese RestaurantAddress:  135-38 39th Ave., Flushing, NY 11355
Phone:  (718) 939-5468

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