the sea palace

Last night was our school Chinese New Year dinner. This is a tradition here, the one time that the boss is supposed to lay out for the employees. Really, it’s the equivalent of a Christmas party – good food, bonuses, the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle. Ours was held at The Sea Palace, a place, we were told by a friend, that was known as a fancy place to get drunk, eat seafood, and sing karaoke (there’s one in each of the private rooms).

There were no pictures, as I thought of that too late. We had to wait forever for the food and I was hungry. I’ll still share the menu (with commentary):

  • Watermelon Juice and Coconut Milk – these were the beverages. Yum. I drank a lot of coconut milk.
  • Sashimi – Mmmm. Not enough of this. Served on a big fancy metal boat-like plate on lots of ice.
  • Shrimp – Done the Taiwanese way – head still on.
  • Soup with Gills? – A thick, viscous broth with mushrooms and a part of a fish a friend told us is very expensive to put in soups. She thought it was the fin, but it looked like the gills. It was alright, but nothing to write home about (just on a blog).
  • Fried Shrimp – These resembled corn dogs – lots of breading around some shrimp. Served with lettuce to act as a bun and some funky-tasting mustard and ketchup.
  • Boiled (?) Fish – They do fish in a kind of way here that’s terrific – I believe it’s boiled. The whole fish is served (the eldest at the table gets the privilege of the eyes…) and people just carve hunks off of it. It’s delicious and it disappeared really quickly. This is a very common dish at group functions.
  • Honey Pork Strips – the only non-fish dish. Tasty.
  • Baked Cream with Crab and Cabbage – A lumpy white sauce on top of cabbage and crab at the bottom. I enjoyed it, Chris was so-so on it.
  • Scallop and Mushroom and Ginseng soup – Loved the scallops, but the rest of the soup didn’t do anything for me. Ginseng makes appearances in a lot of dishes here, and I haven’t liked it yet. It’s a bitter taste that I just don’t go in for.
  • Crab & Noodles – A big pot of noodles with crab came next. It was all parts of the crab. I got some of the main body, which is supposedly revered, but it didn’t have any meat except for a few scraps of brain. The noodles were good, though.
  • Rice in a Banana leaf – There was also some kind of sweet paste in it. The wrapped-rice snack is very popular around Dragon Boat Festival and I like those, but I kind of picked at this one. It was OK, I was also quite full by this point. I don’t know what the sweet paste was made from, but the rice was quite sticky and had peanuts and small pieces of shrimp in it.
  • Fruit & Flan – Typical desserts. Watermelon and honeydew melon.

And that was the night. Instead of cash bonuses, everyone had their name drawn for something. I got a rose-scented bath set from Evelyn and Crabtree and Chris won one of the big prizes, a purse from Louis Vuitton. I believe it is authentic – quite the bonus! They made her sing a karaoke song to earn it.

As a side note, we were discussing the fact that, at least for our pallettes, the more expensive and special something is touted to be here in Taiwan, the less actually enjoyable it generally is. I’ve had some terrific night market or road-side restaurant food here for cheap, but generally, the really expensive stuff, while good, has been far from the best of what I’ve eaten. It’s like shark fin soup: highly treasured, tastes like nothing. This night was kind of like that: some tasty dishes (though the ones we enjoyed the most we’ve had before for presumably less), but overall something that probably cost much more than the enjoyment we got out of it. We were in the minority, though – I think the group as a whole enjoyed it. And hey, free food. 🙂

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