Surfer dudes make the best seafood BBQ

After we got off the high-speed train from Taipei and checked in to our Kaohsiung hotel, we took a slow walk to our much anticipated seafood BBQ dinner at 文武伍肆, simply named after its location at 文武三街54號. The Wife had made reservations via Facebook chat a few weeks beforehand, told them our budget and asked the chef to serve whatever was good that day, omakase-style.

Both the exterior and interior were decorated to give the rustic beach hut feel, with many references to the surfer dude lifestyle. Why? Because the owners were surfer dudes from down south in 墾丁 who decided to open a seafood BBQ restaurant in Kaohsiung.

There’s no mistaking the chef who camps out at the charcoal grill beside the main entrance, facing the main road. He’s the one with long hair, neatly tied back in a pony tail, and wearing the surfer dude uniform of a singlet and beach shorts. When it gets really hot, especially during the brutal Taiwanese summers, he simply takes off his singlet and does his cooking topless.

The menu changes daily, depending on what’s fresh that day, and is updated on their large chalkboard, which is warmly illuminated by a downward facing yellow light. I suppose you could order off the menu, but you’ll probably have to take your chances as any item could run out at anytime.

Their signature dishes are actually the slow-cooked crab porridge, monkfish and shellfish hotpot and charcoal-grilled wagyu steak. We first came across this restaurant from the YouTube video below by a popular food show in Taiwan. It doesn’t have English subtitles, but you don’t really need them to see how good the food looks.

We were initially toying with the idea of ordering the monkfish hotpot, but it would have too much for the two of us to finish, plus we really wanted to try their fresh seafood BBQ.

Drinks were self-service from the fridge at the back, with bottles of Taiwan beer and various soft drinks. I spotted bottles of Apple Sidra and quickly grabbed one to share. It’s not common outside of Taiwan, so I always order the sparkling apple soda whenever it’s available. It goes so well with Taiwanese food, especially BBQ and mala hotpots.

The first dish to arrive was a plate of grilled sea snails served with pepper salt. They were served straight off the BBQ so the shells were still incredibly hot. After letting them cool down a bit, we managed to pull out the juicy meat and took our first bites of the night. They were very oishii. Meaty and succulent with the wonderful taste of fresh shellfish.

The grilled prawns came next, and they were bursting with amber roe. Again, the shells were piping hot, but our fingers had acclimatised and we were able to get to the sweet and firm meat fairly quickly.

A simple plate of grilled squid was served just as we were finishing up the first two courses, together with the pepper salt from earlier and a wedge of lemon. The light citrusy sprinkles were a good accompaniment to the crunchy squid.

Thankfully, there was a short pause before our next courses were served, allowing our stomachs to settle down a bit. A big wooden bowl of meaty clams was placed in front of us, and we could still see, and feel, the steam coming out from the fully-opened halves.

If you’ve ever been disappointed with clams that only had tiny pieces inside, these were the complete opposite. Each bite was a flavour explosion of hot clam juice and sweet chewy meat. They served a bit too much though, especially since the melon and ginger soup that followed also contained the same clams.

The Wife noticed that they were serving seasonal bamboo shoots, and even through we were already quite full, she had to order some to try. We polished them off before realising that we had forgotten to take photos.

Our final dish was a red snapper that had been butterflied and dried overnight, hence the name 一夜干, and then grilled over charcoal until it was just cooked. Compared to similar versions in Japanese restaurants that use well-dried fish, these were still succulent and light-tasting. And even though all the dishes were delicious, this final one was definitely the best.

We were glad that the walk back to the hotel was relatively long, as it gave us time to slowly digest the huge meal. The next time we’re back in Kaohsiung, we will definitely return.

Until then, at least we can enjoy the livestreams that they put out regularly on Facebook. Nothing much happens during those sessions, but it’s strangely calming to watch a surfer dude patiently cook seafood over red hot coals for one and a half hours.

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