Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Trip To Taiwan 台湾: Cingjing 清境 - Inako Scenic View Cafe Restaurant 伊拿谷景观咖啡餐坊

Photo By: Elin Chow
Address: No. 36-1, Xingyi Lane, Renhe Rd. Renai Township, Nantou, Taiwan 546南投县仁爱乡大同村仁和路信义巷36之1附1号

After checking into our room at Cingjing Brilliant Twins of Seattle 清境西雅图璀璨双城 in Cingjing 清境, Mr Tsai, our driver cum tour guide, drove us out to have dinner at Inako Scenic View Cafe Restaurant 伊拿谷景观咖啡餐坊.

Inako Scenic View Cafe Restaurant 伊拿谷景观咖啡餐坊

Perched on the cliff side of the mountain, the open concept restaurant boost a lovely view of the surrounding greenery and mountain ranges. The view is absolutely beautiful, the air is fresh and the weather is cooling - just perfect to relax and enjoy a meal with your loved ones while taking in the surrounding scenery.

But sadly, we arrived around late evening for dinner. Everywhere we look, it was dark and foggy due to a heavy rain. We could not see much around us, which was a little disappointing. But luckily, the good food did not disappoint us.

Upon stepping into the restaurant, we were greeted and seated promptly with menu to scan. We ordered a 8-course meal for 7-8 pax at TWD 2600, which includes free flow of rice and Chinese tea, one whole Urn Roasted Chicken 甕缸鸡, one stir-fried Guo Mao Fern  清炒过猫, one stir-fried Highland Cabbages 高山高丽菜, one Braised Bamboo Shoot 鸡汤滷桂竹笋, one Crispy Seafood Roll 酥脆海鲜蔬菜卷, one Vanilla Bean Curd 香草豆腐, one steamed Trout 清蒸鳟鱼 and one Fish Head Hot Pot 砂锅鱼头火锅.

After making our order, we were immediately asked to pay for our meal at the counter before the food were served to our table. Do take note that the restaurant only accept cash payment. So please make sure you have enough cash with you before you make your order.

Urn Chicken / Earthen Jar Roasted Chicken 甕缸鸡

Urn Chicken (or Earthen Jar Roasted Chicken) is the signature dish of the restaurant. According to Mr Tsai, this is one of the must-try dish in Cingjing.

The chicken is marinated and well-seasoned with garlic and spices and roasted in a large earthen jar on the flames over Longan woods. A whole chicken is served with a dipping sauce and two pairs of gloves -  one is made of thin plastic and the other is a pair of cotton knitted work gloves. To eat the chicken, you will have to tear it apart to smaller pieces with your own hand.

In order to rip the piping hot chicken apart with your own hands, you will have to put on the pair of plastic gloves first before the work gloves. The plastic gloves will keep your hand from getting greasy and the work gloves will keep your hand from being burned by the freshly roasted chicken.

Roasted to perfection, the meat was crispy on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside. The taste was just right, savory, but not too salty or greasy. Even without any garnishing, the meat was wonderfully flavorful on its own. It was surprisingly tender and come off from the bones easily. So, eating it was not a hassle.

The meat is prefectly roasted and it was not too dry to eat. For those who prefer some extra flavour, the chicken also comes with a special dipping sauce and a spiced salt. Dipping into one of these extra condiments would help to enhance the flavour of the chicken greatly.

There are plenty of other dishes to accompany the Inako's signature roasted chicken.

Stir-fried Guo Mao / Vegetable Fern  清炒过猫

Guo Mao (or Vegetable Fern) is a type of wild vegetable fern and a mountain delicacy unique to Taiwan. It can be prepared in a variety of different ways, either stir-fry it or marinate it for cold appetizer.

Reluctantly, I took a small bite and I did not like it. The texture of the vegetable is very slimy with a very icky and grassy flavor.

Breaded Seafood Roll with Vegetables 酥脆海鲜蔬菜卷

Served with a dipping sauce, the breaded seafood roll with vegetables was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. A very simple dish but incredibly delicious to eat. I believe this is the only dish that we managed to finish on that night.

Fried Crystal Red Shrimp 碧湖水晶虾

The crystal red shrimps are deep-fried with its shells on until they become transparent, crispy and edible. Its shells can be eaten and they are super crunchy and soft to chew on. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of shrimps or any seafood, so I did not eat much of it.

However, we barely finished half of it as the taste was not to our liking. In fact, Mr Tsai was the one who ate the most of the shrimps. Perhaps only Taiwanese will know how to appreciate these shrimps.

Braised Bamboo Shoot 鸡汤滷桂竹笋 & Stir Fried Highland Cabbages 高山高丽菜

The bamboo shoot are cooked with chicken soup to enhance its taste and flavor. Its texture was very crispy and crunchy with a natural sweet taste. I could not stop eating these delicious braised fresh bamboo shoot after just one bite. It was surprisingly tasty!

Grown and freshly plucked from the nearby mountains, the highland cabbages were very sweet and crunchy. No extra condiments were needed to enhance the natural sweetness of the cabbages. The highland cabbages is definitely another must-try dish in Cingjing.

Rice is served pipping hot in a large wooden bucket where we have to scoop it out on our own into a smaller bowl. We ate as much as we could, but still, we could not finish all the rice provided to us.

Vanilla Bean Curd 香草豆腐

Stir-fried together with mushroom, carrots and snow peas, the vanilla bean curd was perfectly cooked. The texture of the bean curd was smooth and silky and the taste was rich and flavorful.

Steamed Trout 清蒸鳟鱼

Fresh from the tank, the Trout is steamed with a simple mix of  shredded ginger, chili and garlic mixed with little soy sauce. The meat was fresh, sweet and delicious, with no unpleasant fishy smell. Steaming the Trout will help to bring out the full flavor of the fresh-caught fish.

Fish Head Hot Pot 砂锅鱼头火锅

The Fish Head Hot Pot is one of the main highlight in Inako Scenic View Cafe Restaurant. This is basically a stew consisting of a huge fried fish head, a variety of fresh vegetables, fish balls, tofu and many other ingredients all cooked at the table in a shimmering hot pot of broth.

I took a sip of the soup and I was not impressed. The soup is a little too thick, oily and heavy for my liking. I usually prefer my soup to be light and simple. It was not as delicious as I have expected, but my father-in law love it.

It is great to enjoy this on a cold rainy day. However, the serving size was massive and we could not finish even half of it. If you are visiting the restaurant in a small group, I would suggest you to give the Fish Head Hot Pot a miss.

Overall, we had a truly enjoyable dining experience at Inako Scenic View Cafe Restaurant. The service was excellent, food was tasty, atmosphere was relaxing and staffs were attentive and helpful. Most of our needs and requests were promptly attended to and food were served piping hot to our table.

However, please note that the serving sizes were huge, so make sure you order sparingly. If we had known about that earlier, we would not have ordered so much and ended up wasting so much good food. The staff should have advised us, but they did not. Perhaps they thought we were huge eaters.

As for the price, it was a little expensive, but still reasonable and worthwhile, especially given the large portions served. We took some of the leftover food back to our hotel to enjoy as a late night snack just to minimize the wastage.

Even so, I would still recommend this restaurant to anyone who is looking for a good place to eat in Cingjing. But do visit earlier before the sky turns dark if you wish to catch a glimpse and take a few photos of the wonderful scenery.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 11D10N round island tour itinerary for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 11 days in Taiwan. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 11 days adventures in Taiwan!

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