I love the name of this place; so contrived. In fact, everything about Addictive Aquatic Development seems deliberate and purpose-driven. Its location, for example, is brilliantly chosen. It’s located behind a commercial fruit marketplace and a commercial vegetable market. It is surrounded by butchers and fishmongers and loads of other traditional open-air meat and produce vendors. It is boxed between a highway and the the runway of the second-busiest airport in the city. It is physically located in a building that housed a wholesale seafood marketplace.
Addictive Aquatic Development itself serves as a stylized seafood market with tanks and pools of fresh seafood; freezers full of exotic and ordinary packaged seafood; rows of refrigerated cases of prepared seafood, sashimi, and sushi; an always crowded stand-up, standing-room-only sushi bar; and a robata bar outside that grills on-demand. The interior of the marketplace is clean, modern, and fit to be visited by the hoards of urban-dwellers looking for the ambiance of the marketplace in a sanitized setting. High prices come part and parcel with the (semi) high style and (near) high cleanliness, and judging by the throng of locals and tourists in the place on each of my visits, more than a few are willing to pay.
The place also seems to have become a sort of tourist attraction. There were at least as many people speaking Cantonese in the place as there were people speaking Mandarin. Lots of tourists may be all well and good for the profitability of Addictive Aquatic Development, but it says almost nothing about the quality of the food the place sells. After all, most tourists barely have the time to visit the marketplace once during their visit to Taipei, much less a second time. Since the number of repeat visitors is generally a reliable metric when it pertains to the measure of the quality of food a place serves, seeing the place filled with mostly first-time visitors actually gave me doubts as to the quality of the food they sell.
The proof would have to be in the pudding…or rather, in this case, the raw fish. I enlisted the help of my wife in my effort to determine whether or not their stuff was up to snuff.
I chose seven ready-to-eat items from their refrigerated section for my (rather narrow-in-scope) review:
There were two pieces of aburi nigiri, two pieces of regular nigiri, and a salmon-cucumber maki. The raw salmon from the regular nigiri tasted fresh and neither too fatty nor too lean. The pieces of aburi salmon did not have any charred flavours at all. They felt like unnaturally-cold, half-cooked pieces of fish. As unappealing as the aburi pieces were, the sushi rice was even more of a letdown. They were super-cold, stiff, and almost un-chewable. It was easy to pick off the pieces of salmon from the nigiri and have them as sashimi slices, but it was impossible to not eat the rice in the pieces of maki. After my first bite into the plastic-resembling texture of the maki, I was physically unable to ingest another bite of the roll.
Like the pieces of raw salmon on the nigiri, the slices of salmon tasted fresh. But the sashimi slices were significantly more fatty. The higher fat content presented themselves to my mouth as flavours that were sweeter and textures that were more delicate. I liked that the pieces of sashimi were thinly sliced. If they were sliced any thicker, the higher fat content of the fish would’ve made the chunks taste unbearably greasy.
The shrimp tempura was crispy-snappy, the tamago was squishy, the unagi was delicately sweet, and the asparagus had an almost-juicy semi-crispiness. The thin layer of egg skin enveloping the rice could’ve completed a really tasty maki…if only the sushi rice wasn’t so stiff and terrible-tasting. The sushi rice ruined everything. It nullified the great textural interplay between the eel, the asparagus, the omelette, and the deep-fried shrimp.
There was lean red tuna, lean salmon, botan-ebi, and lean some-other-type-of fish. All three species of fish tasted super lean, super clean super fresh, and super delicious. The botan-ebi was also fresh, firm, snappy, semi-sweet, and super tasty. The rice below sucked balls. The good thing about the don is that you can just pick the raw items off of the top and dump the rice.
Item five: chirashi
I won’t mention the rice again, it sucked crap. It was crap; it was worse than little grains of crap. On the bright side: the tamago was sweet and spongy; the salmon eggs were ocean-sweet instead of the usual refrigerated-salty; the anago was delicate and had beautiful hints of charred flavours; the white fish was firm and not-fishy-tasting; the amaebi did not taste like it was previously-frozen; the red tuna had the slightest hint of iron flavours; the ika was smooth and snappy and not gooey at all. The raw seafood was impeccable.
Item six: Abalone
The abalone was chewy and flavourless. It does not hold a candle to dehydrated-and-then-rehydrated abalone (or even some of the better versions of canned abalone).
Item seven: uni
Quali Uni. High quality uni. Sweet. Ocean sweet. Briny. Briny-licious. Briny in the best way. Creamy. Umami. Bite after bite of perfection.
Too much perfection. Kinda overwhelming. Kinda too creamy and too sweet and too umami and too briny. Never overdo it. Moderation next time. Remember I will.
Addictive Aquatic Development. True. But…not addictive grain development. And certainly not addictive refrigeration development. Shame.