A cursory search of “Hoshina Taipei” yields a number of reviews for Hoshina by various bloggers, with the general consensus being that Hoshina makes some freakin’ amazing udon. While I am by no means as eloquent as other writers, I’m hoping that with the plethora of positive feedback on Hoshina’s food that ya’ll will go out and take some good slurps from their udon.
My mom and I discovered Hoshina [穗科 sui ke] while on our unforgiving search for vegetarian ramen in Taiwan–which has ultimately been unsuccessful. It wasn’t until our 3rd time eating at Hoshina that we realized how popular and well-known of a noodle place it is! Beginner’s luck was what we had when we walked into Hoshina the first two times and were seated immediately. The line moves relatively fast, but it is by no means short. There is limited seating in the waiting area: a few wooden benches by the zen garden complete with bubbling brook, bonsai, and koi fish.
The front left of the restaurant is a giant glass enclosure in which udon masters stretch, roll, pound, pull, and slice udon dough like taffy machines. Watching induces salivation, making the wait all the more unbearable. And then you’re finally seated. Prompt and generally attentive service keeps your tea cup filled with Genmaicha [玄米茶 xun mi cha, or brown rice tea] the whole time.
A perfectly-sized menu of Japanese appetizers, entrees, and dessert, but with a modern Taiwanese twist. We start with the steamed kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) with toasted walnuts sprinkled on top, followed with some 龍鬚菜 [long xu cai, “dragon whisker vegetable” or chayote shoots] marinating in Japanese sesame sauce. My mom particularly likes the 白玉腐皮湯卷 [bai yu fu pi tang juan, “white jade tofu roll in soup”]: soft napa cabbage leaves stewed in a light broth, wrapped around delicate layers of tofu skin. A pinch of shichimi togarashi [七味唐辛子, Japanese 7-spiced chili] to give the mellow flavors a kick.
Then the moment of truth: the udon. There truly is no better way to describe it other than saying “太Q了” [so Q!!]! In Taiwanese culture, achieving QQ texture is one of hallmarks of a great food establishment. Call it al dente, “chewy”, bite, or tender…that springiness of perfectly made noodle where the edges stick to your teeth for a fleeting nanosecond before snapping back onto your chopsticks. Perfection.
You must try the 烏龍冷麵 [oo long leng mian, “udon cold noodles”]. I believe this is where you get a strong whiff of the finesse the udon chefs here have. Several whiskers of nori, a dash of sesame seeds, and a drizzle of dashi, but no more. Cold, glassy udon. Ecstasy.
The soup udon 烏龍湯麵 [oo long tang mian] is fantastic as well. There are no obvious weaknesses. Whether light, rich and thick, or spicy, the broth is almost as good as the udon (but a further almost). Toppings are a mix of aburaage [油揚げ, deep-fried tofu pouches], seaweed, and various vegetables. My recommended add-on item: the 溫泉蛋 [wen quan dan], soft-poached egg, to top off your udon. Break the yolk and good heavens–there is nothing more delicious than noodles coated in liquid gold.
Still not full? Try the 黑芝麻豆腐 [hei zi ma dou fu, “black sesame tofu” for dessert. ごま豆腐 Goma tofu in Japanese. Goma tofu is not actually made from tofu; it’s made from kudzu powder, but has the silky texture of tofu when cooked. The kudzu is mixed with water and finely-ground black sesame. Envelope your taste buds in a velvet blanket of nutty and sweet flavors.
You can find Hoshina not too far from the SOGO in Taipei. There are two branches, but I’ve only been to the one on Zhongxiao East Rd. Let me know how the other Hoshina is! :)
Hoshina Zhongxiao East:
Address: 台北市忠孝東路四段216巷27弄3號 // Zhongxiao East Road, Section 4, Lane 216, Alley 27 No. 3
Hours: (Lunch) M-F 11:30 ~ 14:00, (Lunch)Sa-Su 11:30 ~ 15:00, (Dinner) 17:30 ~ 21:00
Address: 台北市復興北路313巷32號 // Fuxing North Road, Lane 313 No. 32
Hours: same as above