最被低估的一家餐廳 – 美觀園
The Most Under-valued Restaurant – Mei Guang Yuan.
|What else would you look for from a restaurant besides its tangible offerings?|
|二次大戰結束後的台北中華路，還是一片低矮房舍，中華商場都還沒起建；一切都是黑白，生活充滿疑惑。在中華路西門圓環的鐵道旁，有人開設了一個路邊攤，販賣當時充滿日本飲食影響的台式料理。在物資嚴重缺乏的那個時代，這個路邊攤已經是相當高檔的飲食場所了。||Jhonghua Road, Taipei, Taiwan, right after World War II. Along this main street were rows of shabby houses that had survived the bombing by US NAVY Task Force 38, and the Jhonghua Shopping Plaza, which later became the essence of Taipei, was not yet built. Somewhere next to the railway near the Ximen Circle on Jhonghua Road, someone opened a streetfood stall, selling colonial Japanese influenced Taiwanese peasant dishes. Back in those humble days, this stall was considered as a dream place to dine at.|
上圖: 光復前的西門町。中後建築就是今天的真善美戲院，後方就是美觀園現址。 / Ximen Circle before the end of WW II. This photo corresponds to the next. Behind the building in the center is now the location of Mei Guang Yuan.
Above: Ximen Circle during the 1960s. The building upfront is now a movie theater in front of a MRT station.
Above: Ximen Circle today. Not many know they are walking on a once bomb crater.
|Business at the stall florished gradually, and the owner got himself a place and moved his streetside operation indoor; it then became a restaurant, and the name was Mei Guang Yuan (a garden with a nice view).
In the end of the chaotic 1950s , the enjoyment of a meal at Mei Guan Yuan was something serious enough to qualify as a story that one would brag about to his/her grandson.
In the 1980s Taiwan’s economy began to thrive. The sub-culture of the youth found its root in Ximen Circle. Mei Guan Yuan became an unofficial middle home for those run-away drop-out kids seeking for livelihood in the big city. They had to let go of their rebellion and pride and learn and adopt friendly hospitality that the owner taught them as F&B business required.
|1990年代台灣股市上萬點.台北人迷的是亞都飯店的下午茶,凱悅飯店的Ziga Zaga, 兄弟飯店的港飲, 法樂琪的松露鵝肝. 至於美觀園這類本土型的餐廳,卻被視為時尚的一顆痣, 都是些糟老頭歐吉桑去的餐廳. 然而,這個時期的美觀園,是我的最愛. 這並不是我有什麼意識型態, 而是美觀園在這個時期最桀驁不馴. 老台北人,特別是本省籍(我不是在炒作省籍議題…別打我)六七十歲上下的食客,都愛到美觀園來尋找失落的青春. 美觀園是他們在快速變遷忘本的台北水泥叢林裡的心靈庇護所. 壽司吧台還保留了少數座位給獨自前來的老食客. 三教九流的西門町,大小新聞都被帶到這裡交換. 在這裡吃飯, 可以感受到濃濃的鄉愁與被解脫的渴望. 他們大口喝著超大杯生啤, 大口咬著年少時屬於奢侈品的生魚片, 痛快地跟朋友聊著曾經狂浪的青春, 卻在吞雲吐霧之中,找不到屬於自己的未來.禁菸令一下,你要這些年紀一大把老菸槍上哪去找精神寄託?||Taiwan stock market hit 10,000 points in the 1990s. What the citizens indulged were the teatime at the Astor Hotel, Italian cuisine at Ziga Zaga of Grand Hyatt Taipei, Hong Kong style tea restaurant at the Brothers Hotel, truffle and foie Gras at the Les Sens. The seemingly outdated Mei Guang Yuan, on the contrary, in the eyes of the insatiable, fashion-minded gourmands, was a mole on the face of a model-wannabe. It was a joint for the elderlies who unlikely recognize Cloe or Frank Muller. Yet it was the time I mostly adore Mei Guang Yuan for its stubborn resistance to the tacky and air-headed freeriders of the economy boom. Only the authentic local folks who had had seen it all in Taipei would go to Mei Guang Yuan. They were there to find their lost and underprivileged youth. It was their mind shelter amidst the concrete jungle. A handful seats at the sushi bar were still retained for the frequent loner customers. All the good guys and the bad guys making livings in Ximen Circle gathered here to exchange every bit of unspeakable tales over their meals. You could feel the remote homesickness and the craving for redemption in the air. They drank from barrel size draft beer mugs, they chewed in big satisfaction the sashimi that was once unaffordable to many, they bragged and laughed with friends about the craziest things they had done in the old days. But behind the misty smoke of their cigarettes (now smoking is banned) they couldn’t hide their feelings of insecurity about their legacy and the future .|
Above: The little sushi bar is where the soul of thie restaurant. The gray haired gentleman came along in suit, which scene is rare in Taiwan. That’s how serious old Taipei folks are about dining at Mei Guang Yuan.
|半個世紀過去了,隨著西門商圈的沒落,美觀園也逐漸變成一家供應平價日本料理的大眾食堂. 現在的美觀園,店內客層演變為一半是看雜誌與網路報導跑來到此一遊的上班族,四分之一是驚世駭俗的飄沛少年仔,與四分之一白髮蒼蒼的念舊老食客, 混雜在一起享受美食. 這種年齡層與文化層的超級跨距現象,全台灣沒幾家餐廳做得到.||Half a century has passed; as Ximen Circle has slipped and went over its peak, Mei Guang Yuan has now turned into a common restaurant serving budget Japanese dishes. Its clientele now consists half of ignorant salary men and office ladies whose taste sense and central nervous system have become so vestigial that they can’t tell the difference between vacuum packed fish fillet and open grilled salmon; a quarter of hip hop imitating kids; and a quarter of gray haired old friends of the restaurant. No other restaurant in Taipei has such a wide stratified clientele in terms of age and culture.|
|美觀園是台北本土活文化的最後碉堡. 駐紮在此的士兵一個個隨著歲月而離開隊伍. 故鄉人瀟灑的獨酌與豪邁的敘舊,也逐漸成絕響.||Mei Guang Yuan is the last stronghold standing in Taipei as a living local culture identity. Soldiers who have had stationed here retired as they age. Soon the lovely old timers, who are the part of the spirit of this historic restaurant, and the city, will be gone for good.|
Above: How often have you seen such heoric-spirited and friendly smiling faces in any restautant?
|我不想去評論美觀園的菜色,因為台式日本料理本來就自成一格, 很難用日本料理的標準去評論,而且現在一大堆百元熱炒的台式菜色都跟美觀園重疊, 而且還更便宜. 要評論, 缺點可以列上一大堆,但那就偏於先入為主的狹隘. 想要吃高檔的, 可以不用來了, 請轉往林森北路. 但如果你想要在飛逝的時光裡,為活在台灣的你自己，留下一頁活的歷史記憶, 那麼就來吧! 來了,就不要開車來. 請點一杯生啤, 點一份還保有早期台式風格的生魚片醋飯(其實就是握壽司, nigiri, 作法讓人感到困惑的握壽司), 兩盤珍味小菜, 吃一頓早期台北人的夢.||I will not comment on the culinary performance of this restaurant because Taiwanese Japanese cuisine is one of its own kind; it may be unfair to compare it with Japanese cuisine standard. Most of the 3-dollar-dish Taiwanese restaurants offer menus very much similar to Mei Guang Yuan; perhaps with more competitive in prices. There are indeed many shortfalls at this restaurants and I can run a long list. That’s not what I’m gonna do here. I’m sincerely telling you that this very restaurant is itself a piece of valuable, unrecoverable history and culture that is still standing but underlooked by all. You must do yourself a favor by paying a visit and sitting down in this restaurant to re-live a page of modern history of Taiwan, not just for the food, but for a higher calling. Get yourself a draft beer, order some raw fish on vinegar rice (nigiri in Japanese term but made in a confusing way here), and order two snackable dishes. It’s a good way to start to fulfill a dream in a snap that once upon a time was common to all old Taipei residents in the black and white photo era.|
Please visit Evan’s Google Map to view the exact location.
As an usual reminder from Evan, a few dishes sold here are made with internationally protected endangered species. Please try not to order any dish suspicious of whales and sharks ingredient.