Monday, April 30, 2007

snack/chinese: i recommend ROASTED DRIED SQUID

ROASTED DRIED SQUID place
Breeze Center, Food Court, B1
39, Fu Hsing South Rd, Sec. 2
(02) 6600-8888

Hours: 11am-9:30pm Sun-Thur; 11am-10pm Fri-Sat

$

Visit reviewed: 4/26/2007



Okay, I admit it looks kind of gross in this picture, kind of leg-like and rubbery, but it actually tastes really good! Admittedly, I also think thousand year old egg and stinky tofu taste good, so go with that as your palate base.

You'll spot (or smell) this local snack favorite in night markets and all around Taipei, but this mall version should offer a clean variety for those of you afraid to buy off the street vendors. Just follow your nose towards the bbq roasting smell- one bag goes for about NT$100 and comes in original and spicy flavors.

japanese/mall food: i strongly recommend ROMANKAN YOKOHAMA KATSU SANDWICHES

Romankan Yokohama
Breeze Center, Food Court, B1
39, Fu Hsing South Rd, Sec. 2
(02) 6600-8888

Hours: 11am-9:30pm Sun-Thur; 11am-10pm Fri-Sat

$-$$

Visit reviewed: 4/26/2007


THIS IS THE BEST PORK KATSU SANDWICH I'VE EVER HAD.


Granted, I am not a katsu sandwich expert, but days after eating the katsu sandwich from Romakan Yokohama (NT$75), I can't stop thinking about eating another one. The perfectly toasted bread folded in half over a fried katsu is dressed with sweet and salty sauce, completed with pungent sliced onions, lettuce and tomato. The sauce totally makes the sandwich addicting. They have chicken and pork, and maybe some others. Not entirely sure, since their menu is only in Japanese and Chinese along with little displays of similar looking sandwiches.

They could work on the line process, but it doesn't seem to hamper their business. People scattered waiting for their sandwiches in front of the cashier, you don't know if the rope is for the front or the back of the queue. Just go Taiwanese style and tell the cashier what you want, if you don't see a Mr. Donut size line.



This lunch, I waited for about 10 minutes after ordering, about five minutes trying to order. The cashier writes my "number" on a bag, takes my money and tells us it will be about 10 minutes. I see a mysterious back room where people are assembly-lining my little half sandwich, which is only a snack today, otherwise, you would need to eat 2 to make a full sandwich and be really full.



I use the time to wander downstairs and get suckered by buying more stuff to eat at Maison Kayser and go back up to have my sandwich waiting for me. The katsu sandwich comes warm, cocooned in a little plastic bag which helps keeps your hands sauce-free in case you want to eat on the run. If you're going to wait in the line, just be sure to order one for the road so you don't have to wait twice.

Friday, April 27, 2007

desserts/afternoon tea: i strongly recommend 85°C CAFE

85° C Cafe
No. 2, Lane 16, Da An Road, Sec 1
(02) 2776-6350

more addresses TBA (help! if you have one near you)

website: 85cafe.com in Chinese or English
official blog: cafeshop85 w/ lots of pictures

hours: 8AM- 12midnight

$

Visit reviewed: 3/10/2007 and 4/24/2007


caramel coffee pudding: savor every bite


Have you ever walked into Starbucks and thought- "Man, US$4 bucks for a coffee? What has the world come to?"- then you should definitely look for 85 degrees C cafe. You can get a drink and two cakes for the price of one Frappucino, and trust me the desserts are MUCH better than the ones at Starbucks.

I can't believe that I've been here for so long and have only discovered 85°C cafe now... after having been introduced to it by a friend who offered me a slice of blueberry cheesecake she had at her house, I have been seeing the shops EVERYWHERE. Maybe it's because they have slowly expanded since opening stores the past three years all over Taiwan. Maybe it's because they are located mostly on cornershops on the street rather than in malls. Maybe it's because even now, it's hard to find information about the cafe in English besides its official website and a few blogs.


so many cakes, so little time!


Either way, you are about to thank me for telling you about this awesome little coffee shop and cake chain that offers delicious and "5 star" products at ultra affordable prices (if you haven't discovered it yourself already). I think that the desserts here give Starbucks and all the other coffee shop and cake chains, as well as many afternoon tea places a run for their money. Why? Their cheesecake is creamy, melt in your mouth happiness without being too heavy, sweet or powdery, and only NT$35! The same with their coffees, smoothies and teas- from NT$20-$60, but tasting just as good as Starbucks and I think way above the taste of local chains like Barista and IS Coffee.






You could have an afternoon tea for two, with two drinks and three cakes for only US$5, which is a bargain compared to many of my previous afternoon tea experiences in Taipei.

The shops are bright, open and clean- most of the seating, half outdoors on a patio and counter next to a large window display of a varied assortment of cakes, panna cotta and sweets to drool over. The desserts only have signage in Chinese with prices, but their coffee/drinks have English posted on the menu above the cashier. The seating is limited, so it's hard to get a spot during their busy hours. But they are fairly quick and package the cakes so they stay intact if you want to take it home or on the road.



The blueberry cheesecake (NT$35) may be one of the BEST cheesecakes I've ever had, Taipei, LA or anywhere else. I think it's also better than the original plain cheesecake which I found to be a little less moist. I also could eat five of the caramel coffee puddings (NT$35) if I didn't think about how many calories they are. The sweet and aromatic syrup on top has more depth than most flans because of the slight cappucino flavor. They also have tiramisu, chocolate, strawberry and hundred layer cakes, as well as panna cottas in different flavors and more unusual offerings like this snowball. Sometimes popular items will run out, even while you are waiting in line!



As for their more unique fare as the one above, I thought it was a mochi outside w/ cream inside, but it turned out to be more creamy outside with a crunchy center. I didn't really like this at all- I would stick to the cheesecake! If you want to take some home to share, the 8' round is only NT$240, or about US$7- which is about how much one slice at Cheesecake Factory costs these days!

As for the drinks, I liked the Grapefruit green tea (NT$35) and the Korean Citron green tea (NT$35) I had on different occassions. A nice blend of citrus, sweet and sour, it wasn't overly sugary or too sour like drinks I've had in other places. I had a taste of the Iced Coffee and it was good- strong coffee flavor without being bitter and sweetened.

So the next time you pass by 85 degrees C cafe, give it a try. Just make sure it's not a knockoff that I've heard have also been sprouting up- 85.1 degrees C or 80 degrees cafe, both of which are packaged very similarly. So if you have one near you, please let us know where it is, so I can collect all the locations!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

japanese: i recommend NOODLE SHOP & revisited: DEAN AND DELUCA

NOODLE SHOP
at Breeze Shopping Center, Foodcourt, B1

DEAN AND DELUCA
at Breeze Shopping Center, B2

39, Fuxing South Rd, Sec. 2
(02) 6600-8888

Hours: 11am-9:30pm Sun-Thur; 11am-10pm Fri-Sat

$

visit reviewed: 4/20/2007




As far as ramen goes, this is a pretty good tasting bowl of ramen. Especially for mall food! The menu is only in Chinese, but with lots of pictures. I think this was a shoyu broth- the broth was so flavorful I couldn't stop drinking it, the pork was very tender and the noodles were quite "Q" - just right amount of chewiness.

I stole more than a few bites of ramen from my friend, while I had ordered the set lunch (NT$250) from Dean and Deluca along with a quiche. Not as in love with the scallop noodles and roasted vegetables this time around- though I did finish it all- and I liked the refreshing truffle asparagus. Wouldn't get the pesto penne again- it tasted undercooked. Still don't really care for the bread or the soup in the set menu, though the bread was served warm this time. The quiche (NT$180) was cold, but they will heat it up for you. The egg in the quiche was the right amount of firmness and the elements all blended together nicely. I especially liked the broccoli.


new to me: D.S. MUSIC RESTAURANT

D.S. MUSIC RESTAURANT
7, XinSheng N Rd, Sec 3
(02) 2587-3226

website: drs.com.tw (Was down when I visited)

Hours: Sun-Thu 6 pm-2:30 am; Fri/Sat 6 pm-4 am

$$

Have not yet visited



Interesting.... anybody been here?? Aside from the nurses outfits, I don't know what the appeal would be. The reviewer at Taipei Times seems to agree with me about the nurse fetish, and also notes that it's not really English friendly.

When I read what the owner said, I thought, Why not compete with... good food?

The review from Taiwanfun.com said the food was good.

Another example of life in Taipei... hahah

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

from Reuter's

Taipei bar lets diners tipple from IV tubes
Mon Apr 23, 2007 11:51AM EDT

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - A Taipei restaurant-bar is letting visitors order "medicine" from a menu and dripping it into their glasses from a transparent ceiling-suspended vat, becoming the latest oddball themed restaurant in Taiwan's capital.

As many as 10 visitors can sit around each bed at the D.S. Music Restaurant, a hospital-themed eatery, and watch showgirls dance on weekend nights or chat up "nurses" whose rabbit-ears complement their starched white uniforms.

The 130-seat restaurant, which features crutches hung from the walls and a wheelchair parked in the lobby, is the only one with a hospital theme in Taiwan.

Other touches include a sign marked "emergency room" leading to the toilets.

"Food is hard to compete on with other restaurants, so the part we emphasise is service," says assistant manager Ou Chia-hao, brother of the 29-year-old owner.

"In Taipei, pressure on people is high, and they want a place near home where they can feel relaxed."

Ou's brother opened D.S. last year with T$5 million ($150,760) to express his enthusiasm for the care he got at a hospital when he was treated for a liver disorder.

Two more D.S. branches are in the works, with plans to open by the end of next year, Ou said.

The spot is the latest in a string of strange-themed eateries in Taipei, as local entrepreneurs cater to people with a taste for the quirky and offbeat.

The Jail puts some of its restaurant tables behind bars, while another serves full-course meals in toilet bowls.

Years ago, a Taipei bistro tried a Holocaust theme, but eventually removed items and photos reminiscent of Nazi Germany brutality under pressure from Jewish groups.

Monday, April 23, 2007

bakery/dessert: SUGAR AND SPICE

SUGAR AND SPICE
158, Dun Hua S Road, Sec 1
(02) 2752-2188

website: sugar.com.tw (in Chinese only)

hours: 10AM - 10PM

$$

Visit reviewed: 3/9/2007



I was delightfully surprised to walk into a store like Sugar and Spice in Taipei. With only one location here and a few more in Taichung, it was walking into a little girl's fantasy of a bakery. Sweets, cookies, chocolate and cakes everywhere with pink and brown boxes and walls to match the sweetness. I ended up choosing just a small cheesecake and organic brown sugar pudding to go, although I was very tempted to get some of the other cookies.






Funny enough, a few days later, I realized someone gifted our family with cheese pineapple pastries from Sugar and Spice, and yesterday, I received a beautiful little box with six tins of cookies inside (for the 2 month celebration of a new baby). They are the crispy type of crumbly snack cookies that are popular in Taipei.. For presentation, they get high marks in my books, since it's so cute and original. But the packaging comes at a premium price and the tastes of what I've sampled are just "okay."

As for the sweets I purchased, I enjoyed the cheesecake, but it was quite dense and sweet- a bit heavy to finish in one sitting. Having had both the caramel pudding and the cheesecake from 85 degrees C that same week, I realized how much more I enjoyed the 85 Degrees C sweets, even though they looked similar.

You can buy gift packages wrapped in cute pink and brown packaging such as Cookies (NT$350 for 3 tins, NT$780 for 6), Cheese Pineapple Pastry (NT$180-$360), Organic Brown Sugar Pudding (NT$336 for 8), Nougats, Macaroons (NT$360-600) or Chocolate. In their bright takehome brochure, there are also lots of cakes, including Mousse cakes that come in Macadamia nut, chocolate, vanilla chocolate or passion fruit flavors, as well as cheesecakes, tiramisu, roll cake, puff pastry cream cake and cakes topped with fruit (NT$380-1200 for smaller cakes, up to NT$3500 for 18 inch rounds).

All in all, for me, the packaging almost sets up too high of an expectation for the taste- I'd rather have an unwrapped delicious tasting gift than one that is beautifully wrapped, but average tasting. But some people eat with their eyes- so you can still walk around the store and see for yourself.

other locations
in Taichung

Friday, April 20, 2007

bakery: i recommend MAISON KAYSER

MAISON KAYSER
at Breeze Shopping Center, B2
39, Fuxing South Rd, Sec. 2
(at the intersection of Civic Boulevard and Fu Hsing South Road)
(02) 6600-8888

Hours: 11am-9:30pm Sun-Thur; 11am-10pm Fri-Sat

website: maison-kayser.com in french

$-$$

visits reviewed: 3/7/2007 and 4/20/2007


say it three times fast: olive it


Today was my third time wandering by Maison Kayser, a very frou frou bakery with the price tag to match near the equally frou frou Dean and Deluca at Breeze. The first time, I bought an assortment of pastries, some that I had sampled, some that I had not. I wasn't particularly impressed with the bun-sized Brioche or the flaky Apple type Danishes (it tasted a lot sweeter as a sample, or maybe I chose the wrong one), but the wide selection and hearty compliments by the picks my friend made were encouraging.



With both English and Chinese signs for most of the bread and sweets, it's easier to figure out what you want. Also, with all the Chinese and Japanese style bakeries in town, this one is more unique in that it offers more European style breads and treats from an actual French chain- from huge loaves to pizza to fruit tarts.




Today I wandered around again, sampled and ended up falling in love with this Olive Twist Bread (NT$90). I almost mistakenly bought the denser olive bread loaf (on the shelves), but comparing the sample with the loaf didn't match. Glancing around again, I spotted (right next to the samples!) a tree of hanging pretzel-like breads. It's very addicting as I've been snacking on it all afternoon, despite my vow to cut down carbs. The tough crust, tender interior bread and sprinkling of distinct olive bits tastes as if olive tapenade and pretzel bread got married and had a baby.

So for this alone, I will probably go back to Maison Kayser and buy more bread. And give another try at some of the other tempting sweets on the counter- if I can bear to pay NT$150 for it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

not taipei/brunch/american: i strongly recommend CAMPANILE

CAMPANILE
624 South La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
USA
(323) 948-1447

website: campanilerestaurant.com

brunch: 9:30 AM - 1:30 PM Sat/Sun only
lunch: 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM M-F
dinner: 5:30/6 PM - 10/11 PM M-W/Th-Sat

$$

Visit reviewed: 4/1/2007



Someone needs to find the recipe to the Belgian Waffle ($10) that Campanile makes and deliver it to me ASAP. It was the most wonderfully light, crispy, airy delicious waffle I've had in a long time and it melted in my mouth while I quickly devoured it before anyone else was even halfway done with their dish. AND tell me if they use a special waffle maker.

It's not that hard to make a decent waffle- I do it when I can, when I have the craving and I'm not too lazy to drag my cheap-o Target waffle maker off the kitchen shelf. It's perfectly delicious to me (and many others that I've made brunch for), especially with bananas and honey on top. But to make a DIVINE waffle like the one at Campanile that day, that is hard. Especially after all the cold and botched hotel waffles I had in Korea and China. Ugh. It's not that hard to make a decent waffle, but apparently it is harder than you'd think. So sometimes I don't feel like my brunch dollars are worth it on a waffle, especially when it usually doesn't come w/ any sides, but today it was.

But back to Campanile- it's a pretty infamous brunch place in LA and gets very packed, so reservations are highly recommended. It's on La Brea and near a lot of touristy spots, so you can do your thing afterwards. There is also a little bakery adjacent to it so you can take home some fresh bread or a panini for later. The space is open and bright, with white tables and white paper with proper service without being overly formal.



Other people in our party had Cast Iron Spanish Eggs ($15) and Steak and Eggs ($18) (choose the way your want your eggs) which were also good, but I was pretty happy with my choice. Other things that tempted me on the brunch menu- the Eggs Benedict, and the Quiche Lorraine. I also liked the dinner menu more than the lunch menu (you can check it out on their website) since grilled meat and desserts always make me happy.




So brunch places in Taipei, take note... and try and find the recipe!

Monday, April 09, 2007

chinese: i recommend JENDOW VEGETARIAN BUFFET

JEN DOW VEGETARIAN BUFFET
(Lien Shiang Zhai)
No. 353, Chang Chiung Rd
(02) 2547-4788

lunch:11:15 AM - 1:45 PM (NT$600)
afternoon tea weekdays: 2:15PM-4:30PM (NT$560)
dinner: 5:30PM - 9:00 PM (NT$660)

$$

website: jendow.com.tw Chinese only

kid friendliness: high chairs and lots of finger foods and desserts

visit reviewed: 11/19/2006



Who knew there were so MANY options for vegetarians? Well, apprarently, the owners of this vegetarian buffet did. Featuring many, MANY different stations of vegetables, tofu, dim sum, sushi, soups, fried options, fresh baked puff pastry soup, noodles cooked to order, desserts, fruits, salads, ice cream, and not one, but two chocolate fountains, there's much to eat even if you aren't a vegetarian.



And knowing quite a few vegetarians, I've been to quite a few vegetarian places, even buffets, and I've never seen a place that was a large or diverse, with a lot of little touches that both non-vegetarians and vegetarians can enjoy. They even had a fridge with complimentary Coca-cola in glass coke bottles!



I know a lot of people who make fun of faux meat- "why style and make your food taste like meat if you are a vegetarian"- but it's quite amazing what is available now... even fake sashimi, chicken nuggets and bbq pork buns!








There are plenty of signs in both English and Chinese to help you identify everything, including some of the more mysterious broths and offerings, as well as to point out what desserts include and exclude egg (in case you don't eat any animal products). Unintentionally, some of the wordings are quite funny and native English speakers will probably get a kick out of them. Honestly, I do laugh when I see them, and occasionally, when I even mention the mistake or correction to the servers (not here, but at other places) sometimes I don't think they even know what to do with it.


does this make any sense to anyone?


This in particular cracked me up- instead of calling it "stinky tofu" - they politely called it "beancurd of strong odor."


can you smell it from the picture?





There is so much food to try that you probably could not taste everything if you wanted, so I will just let you see for yourself some of the types of things that they had.











For a buffet, they have a lot of fresh/made to order type options that make it stand out from other buffets. Also, they have a cool system I haven't seen yet at other places. Each table has mini clips that are clipped onto a plastic stand at your table.. if you take them with you when you browse/order your noodles or veggies, they will clip it to your dish and know where to deliver it to you when it's done.



Although they don't do this for everything- you have to wait for your puff pastry soup (in line!) and for your handrolls- it's pretty cool that you're not glued to the veggie station while they steam it up for you.




One thing to keep in mind is that you should totally stock up on any desserts you have your eye on right away, especially if you are hitting the end of the meal time since they seemed to disappear fast as everyone was finishing their meals. And it seemed like once the buffet was out, they were out, and they didn't restock.

Although the chocolate fountains were quite impressive to look at, unfortunately, the white chocolate fountain was too oily.. it slid off the banana and other things I dipped into it and it was pretty nasty. Maybe it was just that day though. Also, they had things like grape tomatoes, melons and bananas that may have been previously frozen then defrosted (slightly brown) so it wasn't as appealing as I've seen chocolate fountains in the states with marshmallows and crackers and berries. I also noticed (probably a bit too late) a crepe machine in the same section, but a lot of the nutella was hardened and I was unsure if you were supposed to do it yourself or not.



I ended up getting some Movenpick ice cream and some creme brulee/panna cotta desserts. They offer the standard little cakes, creme brulee and fruit (with or without egg) as well as some almond soup, red bean and other Chinese type desserty soups.




I wasn't sure what this was, but someone at our table was eating it.. it seemed like aloe or the grapefruit jelly like stuff they put in the drinks, and he dipped it into a sweet syrupy type of mixture.



I was quite overwhelemed by trying to write about this place- there were too many pictures, too many things to talk about! But just like eating at this buffet, I just had to dive in, pace myself and not worry to much about it. I don't know if you can tell from this how large the buffet was, but hopefully you'll get a chance to discover it for yourself. If you do, reservations strongly recommended- the place was packed especially on weekends and I heard sometimes you have to find out when they have availability.


Other locations in
Kaohsiung
(03) 317-8000
Taoyuan
(07)386-1234
Shanghai
(21) 6457-2299

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