May 10, 2018

Taiwan Travels: Atomo Arifowang Canglah @ Hualien

An Amis Fisherman’s Seafood Restaurant

It was quite a distance to travel to Atomo Arifowang Canglah Restaurant in Hualien from Taipei but it was truly worth it. After a 2-hour train followed by nearly an hour by bus, we arrived in Fengbin Township, a rural township bordering Taitung County.

As the township is set by sea, the locals enjoy abundance of fresh seafood in their daily meals. We were told that there is a very unique small restaurant owned by an aboriginal fisherman and his family that has been enticing many foodies there. Named after him and his two children, Atomo Arifowang Canglah serves lunch and dinner set course meal from local caught seafood and foraged greens.

The humble restaurant is set overlooking the sea. The restaurant has a lovely sea theme. Lots of wood crafts to seashell collections and painted wall murals, the ambiance is fresh and vibrant. Diners are mostly encouraged to sit on the upper level to enjoy the view of the sea while dining.

Gorgeous wood tables set with hand painted clay canister filled with water and clay cups to green leaves, there’s a lovely charm in dining at Atomo.

Since there is no menu, the curiosity intensifies the excitement of what’s to come. As with all the meals served, Atomo served at 10-course omakase for a price of NTD800 per person. They are generous with their courses so make sure to go on an empty stomach.

The starter came and a pretty one too! Chinese Yam Egg Roll was so colorful at sight. The roll was delicately light with a creamy sweetness from the yam. A vinegary sauce lifted the roll along with some wild ferns and cabbage.

Sweet Potato Ball is a classic dish that is popular in Taiwan. Atomo’s version was damn good. The natural sweetness of the sweet potato was utterly divine and creamy. Crispy balls filled with a beautiful soft and powdery mash sweet potato was the best sweet potato balls I have ever savored.

By the third dish, I was beginning to understand why many traveled so far for this eatery. Atomo takes the freshest ingredients and seasoned them with minimal seasoning or sauces. This allows the natural flavours and the freshness to shine.

The Steamed Egg with Wild Vegetables and Clam was light and very tasty. Thick broth with wild greens, enoki mushrooms, goji berry and clam provided a beautiful sauce for soft steamed egg custard.

Three Flavour Platter is another course that highlights freshness. Three bites of wild vegetable leaves with bamboo shoot, pickled green papaya and homemade scallop sauce on wild fern proved that we should all enjoy the natural flavours of our ingredients more often.

For a palate cleanser, the homemade Passionfruit Millet Wine is perfect. In fact, Taiwan is famous for their millet wine, which to me tasted similar to Korean makgeolli. This one is perked up with tangy and fruity passionfruit. I sure could drink up a few more of these millet wine…

Even the roasted fish are grilled with only some herbs and sea salt. A side of seasoning salt and pepper is artistically shaped on the plate to resemble a fish. We had three different fishes that day as we had a big party at our table.

Depending on the catch of the day, Atomo serves them the same way, paying homage to natural flavours of the ocean. Out of the three fishes of Marlin (黄旗尾), Subnose Pompano (红杉) and Farm Mullet (乌鱼), the pompano was the sweetest. The mullet had very smooth and fine flesh while the marlin had firmer flesh which yield towards a meaty texture but the flavours are pretty good. Simple preparation of the finest catch…. super yum!

The fishes go well with the Purple Glutinous Rice with Yam. I adored the presentation of the rice balls.

Taiwan’s local glutinous grain, the purple rice are quite fluffy and lightly sticky. Coated with shredded crispy yam, I enjoyed this very much, so much so I wanted to grab another one…

The next dish of Bacon with Eryingi with Scallion Roll was very much well-received. Quite expected as bacon does make everything taste yummy, at least in my books.

A large board holding the freshest thick cuts of Marlin Sashimi, Marlin Tataki, Areola Babylon Snail, Bottle Squid with Ebiko & Wasabi Mayo, Squid with Onion Mignonette and Seaweed with Prawn made an impressive sight. This oceanic platter captures the essence of seafood caught in the surrounding waters of Hualien.

The marlin taste pretty good raw as well as seared tataki style. What elevated the sashimi is the side of fresh grated wasabi and soy sauce. The gastropod snails were chewy and briny while the bottle squid has a crunchy texture topped with a zingy creamy wasabi sauce with a pop of fish roes. The squid with onion mignonette and seaweed with prawn were also decent. It’s a seafood paradise of oceanic flavours.

By this round, we are pretty much stuffed. Glad to see a soup course of Wild Vegetable with Fish Bone Soup, the soup eased our tummy with much comfort notes. Brimming with lots of wild greens, soft radish chunks, tomatoes, pumpkin and fried fish bones, the broth was robust and delicious. Although I could barely eat anymore, I still couldn’t resist enjoying the broth long with the soft vegetables.

By now, our tummies were literally bursting. Then this luscious plate of Poached Prawns was placed on our table. Simply irresistible, the prawns were superbly sweet and succulent. A light dip in soy sauce enhanced the crustacean with more moreish flavours.

Our amazing aboriginal Amis lunch ended with this pretty dessert of Roselle Jelly with Passionfruit & Persimmon and fresh local fruits.

Pick up some house made fresh baked bread by the owner on your way out!

It was truly a beautiful lunch at Atomo Arifowang Canglah. The omakase is a wonderful and unique journey of local Amis tribe flavours in highlighting the natural goodness of land and sea. Despite us being very full from the omakase, we didn’t feel heavy as all the dishes have a delicate balance of savory, sweet and sour. Truly value-for-money, one is guaranteed to leave this place fully satiated. Reservations required.

Atomo Arifowang Canglah is a dining experience that warrants a return!

No. 138, Jingpu Village,
Fengbin Township,
Hualien County
Tel: 03-8781479

Business Hours:
Lunch           11.30am to 2.30pm
Dinner         5.30pm to 8.30pm

*This trip was made possible by Taiwan Tourism together with First Class Magazine and Eva Air. However, all stories and comments in my posts are purely derived from my own experiences through the trip.

Taiwan Travel Series
Atomo Arifowang Canglah Restaurant

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