Taiwanese cusine has finally arrived in Chinatown. While the dishes are far from perfect, at least Sogo (on Mott, across from Ping's and Sweet N Tart) is now in a position to introduce Manhattanites to Taiwanese food. The owners however, are also playing it safe by including a pretty standard appearing Szechuan section in the menu.
I was only able to get one of my friends to make the trek with me so I am only able to report on 6 dishes.
Fermented Tofu (aka. stinky tofu): this foul smelling fried tofu delight is the definition of acquired taste. It makes tripe and sea cucumbers appear about as adventuresome as kraft mac and cheese. The version at Sogo is actually less pungent than most places. For the uninitiated, this dish is basically a mound of fried tofu wedges that smell faintly of...well...methane. It's repulsive at first, but oddly enough, one starts to crave it after a while. The dish also comes with a flavorful garlic chili sauce and some chinese style kim chee (more vinagery and less spicy).
Squid soup: which is bits of squid mixed with fish paste and cooked in a soup of bamboo, mushrooms, and napa cabbage. This had all the right ingredients but is a shadow of its full potential.
Clams with basil: An excellent dish of manila clams sauteed with ginger, garlic, and basil. The clams are fresh and the flavors wonderful. A clear winner and infinitely more appealing than the standard, drab clams in black bean sauce.
Chicken in casserole: Pieces of chicken (bone included) stewed in a clay pot along with ginger and garlic. The soy-based sauce with a hint of sweetness is barely enough to coat the pieces of chicken but the flavors penetrate deep into the chicken meat itself.
Sauteed hollow vegetable with garlic: A simple enough dish that allows the texture and flavors of the vegetable to speak for itself. One of my favorite vegetable dishes of all time.
Buffalo carp stewed with minced pork and tofu: This came with the label of "one of the restaurant's signature dish". I'm not a huge fan of carp to begin with so I might be biased, but I was not too impressed. Similar versions done with black cod are much tastier.
The total bill came to $52 and the restaurant is featuring a 10% discount for the first month or so.
In case you're wondering, yes, the 2 of us did put away 2 appetizers and 4 entrees and yes, I never felt such pain in my life...however, I was happy that I now had a place to turn to for Taiwanese comfort food.