Tuesday, July 22, 2014

western/pizzas: i recommend LMNT (ELEMENT) EAT

at Neo 19
No. 28, Song Shou Rd.
粉絲團 台北市信義區松壽路28號

MRT: XiangShan or Taipei 101 stations

website: LMNT Drink and Eat's FB Page

hours: 11AM- 2AM


Kid friendliness: high chairs available, room for strollers. casual vibe during day

Visit reviewed: 6/12/2014

Neo 19, like the rest of Taipei's restaurant scene, has changed a lot since I first moved back to Taipei almost 10 years ago. Gone are Macaroni GrillJust In BistroDazzling Champagne Lounge BarWatami, Azabu Sabo (that's for you really old school readers), Jogoya buffet, Happy Hong Kong (sad face)-- Now currently replaced by Lighthouse Cafe, Warugaki Ramen, LMNT Drink and Eat, Nike's 2F, Very Thai, Hutong, Shanghai Tea House... So when I saw construction at LMNT Eat, my first thought was damn, I didn't get to write up my post from when I went last year in December and my second thought was another bites the dust. But I was wrong- LMNT was just getting a facelift and remodel. And luckily I was invited to the soft opening event for food bloggers to try out their new menu.

Inside, the front area is more lounge-y to transform from day to night and LMNT Eat can be sectioned off into two areas.

It was definitely more roomy and the tables had more breathing room between groups.

LMNT Eat's new menu is focused on their pizzas and pastas, but still has a selection of tempting appetizers and dishes that reflect a trendy fusion spirit that we saw on their previous menu. So instead of ramen burgers, there are now kimchi fried wontons, peanut butter pineapple burgers, or loco moco. I was happy to see they also kept their red velvet waffles and cake as desserts on their new menu, but bummed to see the huge gooey mac and cheese was gone.

Parma ham with melon and homemade figs (NT$280)

I liked the Kimchi Spam Fried Wontons (NT$280) and found them slightly addicting with the thin crispy wonton skin and the spicy sour filling inside. I didn't get spam in the first one, but I did in the second with chopped up pieces of kimchi cabbage.  There's also pulled pork nachos, chicken wings and fries with truffle sauce on the appetizer menu.

Grapefruit Summer (NT$180) Italian Soda was refreshing and fun. 

I really enjoyed the homemade squid ink spaghetti (NT$320)- the portion was huge, the al dente pasta was surprisingly flavorful for appearing to not have a lot of sauce and the squid was fresh and large enough to cut up and share. I couldn't finish this and took it home and it actually kept well the next day after reheating. I'd definitely order this again.

Always check yourself after eating squid ink pasta though! It's going to be messy.

We got a cool little packet from LMNT to make squid ink risotto at home. Still haven't had a chance to try it though...

The fun thing about going to blogger events is seeing some of the chefs that you usually can't spy on in the kitchen and seeing how they prepare their special dishes. LMNT had one chef prep a pizza from pizza dough scratch and their dessert chef make both desserts we were given to taste.

I liked the Truffle Mushroom Pizza (NT$300) too- the thin crust was not too crispy and the toppings were generous with four kinds of mushrooms- oyster, button, shiitake and porcino. You get a bit of the truffle aroma with the truffle oil and truffle bits, but at this price you aren't going to get shaved truffle atop (and you might not miss it).

And while you have to admire LMNT for being adventurous in trying to make UFO deep dish pizza with Hungarian beef (NT$320) or seafood fillings, it's more a pizza "bowl" than the Chicago style deep dish pizza that I'd love to see make its way to Taipei. I'd say stick to the regular pizzas as I didn't love the cheese atop or the doughier version of the pizza bowl crust.

As for the desserts, they let us sample lychee berry mousse (NT$220)...

and chestnut berry shell eclair (NT$250), I unfortunately am not personally a huge fan of mousse or chestnuts, so I can't say accurately how the desserts were. I would recommend the red velvet waffles or give the caramel banana shell eclair a try next time though.

All in all, LMNT Eat did a great job with their revamp- besides the dishes they highlighted during the event, I saw a number of things that I'd like to come back and try myself (vodka pasta, truffle mushroom risotto). There's also omelette and two egg options for all day breakfast or a weekend brunch menu available. Thanks to LMNT for inviting me to the event!

Monday, June 30, 2014

drinks/american: i recommend BEER & CHEESE SOCIAL HOUSE


No. 169, Jianguo S. Rd, Sec. 2
+886 916 549 373

MRT: DaAn Park Station or Technology Building Station

website: Beer and Cheese's FB

hours: 6PM - 1AM

$$-$$$ (about NT$500-700 per person)

Kid friendliness: it wouldn't surprise me as I've seen people with their kids at hotpot at midnight, but I'd say no kids at the bar please.

Visit reviewed: 4/9/2014

Does anyone else crave melty grilled cheese sandwiches late at night? Apparently it's not just me, as the genius founders of Beer and Cheese offer just that, along with a huge selection of craft beers from around the world. Just a few blocks away from the Taipei Main Library sits this small bar that's already become a buzzed about place to chill with friends, especially for those of us who don't "lounge bar" anymore.

Sitting inside Beer and Cheese, my friends from LA and I all agreed that we were transported away from Taipei to Silverlake (or fill in the blank of the hipster area in your city from the States). All the neighboring conversations were in English, the bartenders/servers spoke English and the decor was very cool. I was surprised to find it fairly crowded on a weeknight, but luckily there were a few open tables in the back to grab. I think there's a second floor as well, but it wasn't opened up that night. 

Inside, the menu is scribbled on black chalkboards along the walls and seats can be found along the bar or corner tables. Beer and Cheese sticks to its focus for munchies- a handful of grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos or I strongly recommend the spicy beer pretzel. 

And I'd heard of wine and cheese pairings but never before with beer. But it's worth a try, especially if you want to get a hand picked sampler with the Flight or the Mill St. Flight. I don't even really like beer and I enjoyed it. I went with a couple of guys and we all shared two flights and ended up ordering a third. I probably ate most of the cheese.

Mill St. Flight  (NT$390) had Lemon Tea Beer with pepper jack, Tankhouse Ale with Danish Blue and Coffee Porter with Gouda. All the beers had distinctive flavors and it was fun to take a sip and eat the cheese to see if the matches enhanced each others flavors.

Flight  (NT$290) had Estrella paired with pepper jack cheese, Red Point with english sharp and Asam Bock with Gouda.

I loved the spicy beer pretzel (NT$180). Thinking about this pretzel while I'm typing up this post at 1AM.  With a spicy jalapeño cheese dip, the beer pretzel was soft, hot and I could have eaten the whole thing by myself.

Skillet nachos (NT$220) were generous with lots of salsa and cheese. 

Running out of room for all our food and beer.

I liked the Dutch Blue grilled cheese (NT$270), but the blue cheese taste was very faint, if at all. The bread was a tad on the dry side for me especially on the surfaces, compared to buttery grilled cheese sandwiches I've had in the past. The sandwiches are definitely on the expensive side, ranging from NT$250-280, making Toasteria look like a deal, or for those of us who make grilled cheese at home. But they are big enough to share, and I could only eat half.

My friend's jalapeño grilled cheese (N$260)

So if you find yourself craving a hot pretzel and a cold beer at 11PM, now you know where to go. 

It's exciting to have new additions to the growing scene of gastropub/wine bars have opened in Taipei in the past few years, including Whinos, Diary, EIEIO, Lobster Bar. Write ups coming soon someday, I swear!

PS. Proof of the hipster vibe, the total and bill is tallied on the iPad. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

happy 9 years to hungryintaipei!

Sometimes I meet new people who reveal that they are fans of Hungry In Taipei after I say "well, I have a food blog..." when I'm taking pictures of our meal. And their excitement in meeting me and enthusiasm about the blog ("What?? Are you Hungry Girl?!") makes me excited again. It reminds me of why I started the blog, why I keep it going- not only as a journal for myself, but also for people who have a mutual love of good food and sharing a good find. It's always flattering to have your time and efforts be acknowledged and helps a lot since it can be hard to stay motivated to write posts with real information and translations when it's easier and faster to just post pics and hashtags when you have so many other things in real life to do and some people say mean things about you on the internets. THANK YOU to those of you who have been following my adventures for the past nine years.

These days, everyone is a food blogger, or at least takes pictures of their food like they are, since it's easier and faster to share with Instagram, Foursquare, FacebookTwitter, Chowhound, Yelp, What's App/WeChat/Line and actual blogs. It's hard to believe when I first started my little Taipei food blog nine years ago, there was none of that, and no iPhones or Google translate or google maps to help us out. So it's great to see a number of new Taipei food blogs in English and a million blogs in Chinese the past few years.

Since I don't get to update here as often as I like, for the newest eats, follow me on Instagram (@hungryintaipei)- I share (almost daily) real time sneak peeks at the latest sushi bars, lobster rolls, gastropubs, teppanyaki, desserts, night markets, french dips, cronuts, fusion and shaved ice in Taipei before I have time to write it up here (and go before the places get too crowded).

So HAPPY 9 years to Hungry In Taipei! N-I-N-E years and 700 posts and counting!! Never thought I would move back to Taipei and live here this long, but it's become my home. To many more years of deliciousness, to discovering new and old restaurants, and to memorable meals shared with those you love. Thanks so much for reading, following, sharing, commenting, appreciating what I do and being hungry with me in Taipei.

Monday, June 16, 2014

burgers/american: BLT BURGER

at Vieshow Cinemas
No. 18, Song Shou Rd.
(02) 8786-5668

MRT: Taipei City Hall or Taipei 101

Hours: 11 AM - 11:30PM

visit reviewed: 12/4/2013

BLT Burger has made its way to Taipei with a trendy outlet at Xinyi Vieshow Cinemas, right next to the also newly opened Krispy Kreme and Mazendo. BLT Burger is part of the BLT food empire, with branches in Hong Kong, New York, Las Vegas   I had a chance to check it out last November during its soft opening. 

The inside is spacious, perfect for group lunches or booths for couples, or a private room in the back for parties. While there are quite a few places nearby to grab a burger- the Diner, Gordon Biersch, Chili's- there hasn't been a dedicated burger spot in this area until now (unless you count Burger King or McDonalds. Lol). Does anyone else vaguely remember when there was another burger place in this same area back when it was Warner Village? Ruby Tuesdays? Haha, haven't thought about that place in ages, until this moment.

The menu features lots of different types of burgers, including Wagyu, Tex-Mex, Buffalo Chicken or even a Salmon burger. BLT Taipei's menu is missing a few things from what's offered at the Vegas branch (Lamb Tandoori, Wagyu truffle, Pimento cheese), instead it's more similar to the Hong Kong BLT. 

Sides include onion rings or fries (which were incredibly small portions the day we went) or starters include bbq nachos, wings, mozzarella sticks, chili bowl or savory waffle fries bites. I eyed the milkshakes, and there are also spiked milkshakes and cocktails/beer. I really wanted to try a milkshake, but I wasn't about to pay NT$238-300 (US$7-9) for one!

Burgers don't automatically come with fries, unless you order the lunch set. Everyone in our party missed the small type for the lunch set underneath the burgers except for one person who order the classic burger set (NT$398), so be sure to look for that and order it since the fries come on the plate and looked like more than what was given ala carte (and you can switch out the regular fries for waffle fries etc). So that being said the burgers are pretty expensive, paying about NT$400 for just a burger especially if you want to order one of the more creative ones.

My favorite burger, taste wise, was the signature BLT Burger (NT$368) though I wished the bacon was crispy and there was less sauce. It was kind of a mess to eat, but we cut it into fourths to share. Came with a tiny coleslaw that no one ate. 

My next favorite was the St. Agur Blue burger (NT$428) although the balsamic grilled onions dominated the flavor and the melted cheese did not taste like blue cheese at all. 

One friend was adventurous by trying the Shumai Burger (NT$388) which had ground shrimp and pork patty, but actually tasted Vietnamese (banh mi) -inspired with the finely julienned pickled carrots, radish, cilantro and cucumbers.

 I also wasn't crazy about the Pulled Pork (NT$368)- it was slightly greasy and the strips of pork were too long to eat in neat bites. It didn't taste like the usual bbq pulled pork- you could find better versions at Gordon Biersch, Burger and Co. or Ed's Diner. I regretted ordering this and was glad my friends shared their burgers with me.


Again, let me say how disappointing the size of the ala carte sides were- sweet potato fries (NT$90) and onion rings (NT$120).

Also probably wouldn't order the salad or nachos again. Wasn't enough cheese on the nachos (NT$268) and chips were surprisingly a bit stale. More cheese please!!

So while BLT Burger seemed so enticing when I first spied the menu, I haven't been back since my first visit as there are so many burger options in town that are just as good (if not better) for more affordable prices.


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