An izakaya is a casual Japanese restaurant and bar, similar to that of pubs and tapas bars. They’re usually fairly small and crowded with an informal, bustling atmosphere – making them an ideal place to hang out with friends or colleagues after work.
However, if you’re looking to enjoy a Japanese izakaya in a comfortable and spacious setting, then we’ve got good news for you. – Just outside Taipei’s greatest cluster of izakayas on Linsen North Road, there’s a captivatingly beautiful izakaya that’ll give the strong illusion of being in Japan.
The restaurant is called Ginpu Sumiyaki Shabu, and getting there is about a 7-minute walk from Zhongshan MRT station.
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1. About the Restaurant
There are two floors to this fairly large restaurant. The first floor is where they serve charcoal grill-based food. On this floor, there are options to have your own table, sit up at the side table, or have your own private booth area for extra privacy.
We went on a Sunday evening, so it was quieter than usual. However, we were told that it can get busy on most evenings of the week. This is because, like any other typical Japanese izakaya, there’s also a big focus on drinking here which brings in the crowds.
We chose to sit in the semi-closed area to feel super relaxed and comfortable.
On the topic of drinking, they have a wide selection of sake that literally covered a wall!
As for their beers, they have a variety of bottled beers in the fridge, as well as their on-tap craft beer selections.
We really like how this Japanese restaurant keeps up with the innovative trend on tech. – This little device is on each table, which sends a notification to the staff smartwatches of whatever service you need.
You just need to have the icon representing the service you need facing up as you lay it down in the glass slot. – It did limit interruptions, however, they still came a few times just to take away our finished plates and bowls.
Second Floor Hot Pot Area
The second floor is dedicated to serving hot pot food for small to large groups.
It was good to see this place also has disabled access – the Japanese decoration on the elevator is so elegant.
We did pop up there to have a look. – We took a few photos while we looked around upstairs.
We ordered a set menu (shown below) which the staff recommends as some of their best of the season.
The set also appeared to be slightly cheaper after glancing over the individual items on the main menu.
Steamed Abalone with Abalone’s Liver Miso
The steamed Abalone was super fresh and tender. – It’s no wonder as we spotted them living in a large aquarium upstairs on the 2nd floor.
Sashimi is served as different selections of thinly sliced raw fish. – It’s one of the most famous dishes in Japanese cuisine.
The fish was tuna, salmon, scallops, and, (we think), Japanese amberjack.
Chawanmushi is a bowl of savory egg custard, which is typically served as an appetizer in Japanese restaurants.
The shrimp was pretty tender, and the egg custard was extremely flavourful. We appreciated enjoying this small bowl near the beginning of the set.
Chicken Wings with Scallops Skewers
The portion sizes are quite generous, and the chicken skin was only slightly crispy.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the chicken wings had no bones in them at all. Instead, they were stuffed with scallops – it’s an unusual combination, but it actually worked fantastically well.
Chicken Neck Skewers
The chicken meat on these skewers was slightly salty and a bit chewy. – They went amazingly well with the beer!
Grilled Iberico Pork Rib Skewers
These pork rib skewers are our favorite. Iberico pork meat is known to be special (and expensive) for its distinct flavors. As in this case, we felt it made a perfect balance with the spring onions.
Grilled Shrimp Skewers
As for the shrimp skewers, they were massive, we guess them to be giant tiger prawns.
It didn’t take much to take off the shells and find that the meat was tenderly chewy and also slightly salted.
Pot Eel Vegetable Rice
The vegetable rice was cooked in a broth rather than just water which really enhanced the taste of this pot.
On top of that, we could taste the freshness of the eel really well as they didn’t go heavy with the seasoning.
Fish Miso Soup
The set finishes off with a miso soup, which is another popular dish at Japanese restaurants.
This Fish Miso Soup is rather special as they add wine lees which give the soup an interesting wine flavor.
This little treat wasn’t on our set menu. – We ordered it separately as we wanted to try one of their desserts. The mochi was soft, sweet, and coated in Japanese Soy Flour.
Since their menu changes by the season, it’s best to view it on their official Facebook page to see their individual prices.
Some food items seemed to be exclusive to the set menu – we couldn’t find everything listed individually on their main menu.
We loved this authentic izakaya while feeling super relaxed and comfortable. The price was actually pretty standard for an izakaya, yet the quality of the Japanese food and restaurant environment was the best we’ve experienced so far.
Will we go back?
We intend on coming back to try out their hotpot menu on the 2nd floor soon.
Telephone: 0225 636 692
English address: No. 35, Lane 135, Section 1, Zhongshan North Road, Zhongshan District
Chinese address: 10491台灣台北市中山區 中山北路一段135巷35號
Closest MRT: Zhongshan MRT (approx 7 mins walk).
🗓️ Updated: March 2021 – Taipei.Expats