Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Karuisawa

2 story high ceiling (the floor is a gorgeous fountain)
In Lost in Translation, Charlotte and Bob went to a hot pot restaurant and hated it.  They didn't get why they had to cook the food themselves.  Hot Pot is traditionally a New Year fair; it's warm and delicious. I love it.  Now, there are hot pot restaurants everywhere in Taiwan and Japan. I suppose it's a nostalgia thing, but now people can have it every day and very cheaply.  There is trend in Taiwan for restaurants to spend millions on decoré even though their food ordinary.  People love it, maybe the ambience made the food taste better.

Karuisawa 輕井澤 is a Japanese hot pot chain in Taiwan. The restaurant is gorgeous inside out, and yet the price is still competitive.  My parents made a reservation for this place a week before I arrived in Taiwan, yet there was a 20 minute wait to get seated.  You would think that waiting time like this would be unacceptable for restaurant of this caliber.  No, my parents felt their choice of restaurant was validated by its popularity (in the form of long line up and bad service).
That's the pound under the ceiling
The sauce and condiment were at an elegant buffet table (self serve).  The waitress (with poker face) quickly took our order and set up or table with pots and broth (on high heat).  The food, pre-cut or sliced, vegetables and meat slowly filled our table.  Now you cook it yourself!  For the broth, mine was kombu soy, seafood for my mother, and chinese medicine booster for my dad added subtle flavour for whatever food you cook inside of it.  The main flavour came from the dips and sauces they provide on the side.  My childhood favourite was satay sauce. However, chili, peanut butter, vinaigrette, raw eggs, and miso were equally popular choices.
Again, the food wasn't anything fantastic.  It was the ambience of the restaurant that is the major celling point.  Now, would you eat at a restaurant with ordinary food with extraordinary ambience for a couple dollars more?  People seemed to say yes.

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