Everyone in New York City probably knows what Chinese food looks like, whether in the form of Chinese-American take-outs, dim sums or Sichuan cuisine, but how many people know that there is a distinct category of cuisine from Taiwan located south of the mainland that still claims its own independence after the civil war with the Communists? For various historical backgrounds, other neighboring countries’ influences have permeated through this country’s cuisine, and it shows. When I looked at the menu at Win Son, it definitely looked more intriguing in a way that I didn’t recognize many of the items. Actually, the menu read more like an Asian fusion, which is a bit of an alarm bell for both me and my wife Jun who tend to stick to authenticity when it comes to Asian food and try to avoid all that sweet and sour flavor that caters primarily to the non-Asian American populations. Whatever you call the cuisine at Win Son, Taiwanese, Taiwanese or Asian fusion, the restaurant does seem to have that right balance between creativity and authenticity.
After getting a couple of bites out of fried eggplant accompanied by black vinegar and spiced cashews, Jun said she was not sure if this restaurant is the right place for us, mostly due to the sweet and sour flavor surrounding the eggplant. I, on the other hand, thought the flavor was more moderated than at other cheesy Asian fusion places, and the eggplant was quite aptly cooked. There was certainly no disagreement that the pan-griddled pork buns with herbs and chili vinaigrette were some delicious bites to start off the meal. One classic Taiwanese dish is called lu rou fan, a rice bowl with minced pork belly, fermented Chinese broccoli and soy egg. Again, our opinions slightly differed (which doesn’t happen too often), as Jun thought this was a more or less predictable mash-up of ingredients that couldn’t possibly go wrong, and I gave a little bit more credit by remarking that there was more complexity in flavor that I had anticipated that turned out to be quite addictive (and Jun did have no problem continuing to dig in).
Another signature dish at the restaurant is called “flys head” consisting of pork shoulder, garlic chives and fermented black beans with bird eye chili. Another simple-looking dish, but I still liked the fact that the ingredients somehow worked together quite well and the chili’s spicy kick certainly added a positive element to the dish. For dessert, there was only one menu, the Instagram-able fried mantou (a type of Chinese steamed bun) with vanilla ice cream and sweetened condensed milk. It looks unhealthy, but that didn’t dissuade us from finishing the whole thing as we needed some sweetness to our palate after all the spicy and sour sensations.
The restaurant doesn’t take reservations for parties small than five people and quickly fills up with a good mix of Asian and non-Asian diners so I would highly recommend coming early to avoid wait time; we showed up just when it opened around 5:30 so had no problem getting seated right away. There is a full bar with some Asian-inspired cocktails that you can complement your meal with. The décor of the dining space is very minimalistic, but somehow the casual and intimate neighborhood feel to it is there. I think Win Son is a good place for an initiation if you are interested to further explore the diversity and versatility of Taiwanese cuisine. The restaurant is located on a quite corner in East Williamsburg, but may well be worth a trip if you feel adventurous.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 159 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11206
Telephone: (347) 457-6010