Thursday, November 19, 2015

revisited/korean: I recommend HONEY PIG

No. 415-3 XinYi Road, Sec. 4
(02) 2725-5757

MRT: Taipei 101

website: Honey Pig Taiwan's FB page

hours: 24 hours! (although I feel like sometimes when I drive by it doesn't look open 24 hours)

$$ (about NT$600/person)

Kid friendliness: high chairs available, as well as scissors to cut meat for kids

Visit reviewed:  11/12/2015
Last Visit reviewed: 1/9/2015

Round 1- kalbi, beef brisket, sliced pork belly, fresh pork belly

Round 2-spicy pork belly, spicy sliced pork belly, bulgogi, fresh pork belly, kimchi 

Revisited Honey Pig with some friends last week and was happy to find that I could make reservations over the phone fairly easily. The only thing is that they told me that the 12noon reservations for that day were full, so I had to choose 11AM or 12PM. It seems they stagger their seating so that the servers can cook for the tables at different times, as when we sat down there were only a couple other tables seated at 11AM.

The menu is slightly expanded from my last visit, with more soups and cooked foods available, as well as fresh romaine lettuce to wrap your bbq'd meats in.

There are also combos now that they didn't have at my last visit, during their opening weeks. They are a good deal if you have more people, but I wanted more kalbi and less thick cut pork belly slices. So if you're choosier about what you want, you should stick to ordering ala carte. We ended up with the Pork and Beef combo NT$2332 which saves you a few hundred NT and was two rounds on the grill and enough for 6 people. 

Fresh romaine (NT$100) 

Japchae Korean Stir fried noodles (NT$219)
This was good, with sizeable strips of meat and vegetables with the noodles. We wanted to get the kimchi fried rice, but they make it on the grill and the servers insist on making it after they cook your meat, so of course by the end of the meal we were too full to order it.

The servers are still a bit hard to wave down and the music was a bit too loud for some of my friends (especially if you sit near the speakers), but they are not as crazed and chaotic and overwhelmed as my previous visits when they first opened. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

modern/gastronomy: i strongly recommend MUME

No. 28, Siwei Rd
(02) 2700-0901

MRT: DaAn or XinYi/AnHe

website: Mume's FB page

Hours: 6PM -12AM (last order at 10PM). Closed Mondays

Visit reviewed: 8/2015

Seeing that I am playing a never ending game of catch up on my blog, I'm going to work backwards with Mume. By the time I've posted this, Mume already has a bevy of new menu items to drool over and try, but I still would like to post the previous meals to compare and contrast. For those of you who haven't heard of Mume yet, it's a "modern European restaurant" for casual fine dining, founded by Hong Kong born chef Richie Lin, Australian chef Kai Ward and Asian American chef Long Xiong, opened almost a year ago in December 2014. They bring to Taipei their experiences from Noma in Denmark, Per Se in New York and Quay in Sydney, and sometimes their colleagues, such as when they let Per Se's Chef Frederico Ribeiro take over the kitchen and do essentially a pop up menu of collaborative creations. 

I luckily got some last minute seats at Mume for Chinese Valentine's Day back in August (yes, that's a thing), and you can't have a Valentines day without a "special menu" (translation- more expensive than usual. Half joking!). It's kind of cool that each of my visits has been quite different- my first visit was in the first few opening months when they still did a set menu (memorably with duck hearts and beets). My second visit was when they first started doing their a la carte menu. My third visit was during Per Se's Chef Frederico's take over, and now hearts and champagne and delicious oysters and shrimp brains and chocolate cookies.

The Valentines day tasting menu started off with Gillardeau oyster, cauliflower couscous, Taiwanese bacon and celery. Yum.

Shrimp toast using fresh prawns, baby avocado, pickled peppers and salsa verde. 

I liked this a lot, but wished the toast was more like toasted bread rather than a crouton (if I had to nitpick that would be one of the only things I could say about the meal). Despite the description it wasn't spicy at all so you could taste the sweetness of the prawn. Got a sneak peek at the baby seedless Taiwan avocado which was long like an small eggplant, but cut into miniature circular slices, perfect for finger food. It was creamy and not stringy like typical Taiwan avocados and so it made for a perfect pairing. So fascinating! Will have to look for it at the market Chefs Richie Lin and Kai Ward found it. Served with the prawn heads so we ate the shrimp brains.

Mume's delicious hot out of the oven country bread served with beer butter, sea salt and smoked beef fat butter

Drunken chicken - zucchini / chicken consomme gelee / ginger cream. Delicious. 

Loved this next dish, could have licked the bowl clean. Instead used my last bite of seared scallop to mop up all the sweet caramelized carrot purée underneath. With crispy kale, crunchy watermelonradish and edamame

Hard to pick a favorite dish of the night but might have been this one- crispy amadai / charred cucumber and brussel sprouts / smoked ricotta. Wanted more of everything, especially the brussel sprouts. This version was for last night's special set menu, but thankfully they have amadai on their regular a la carte menu.

Short rib with black garlic sauce, lily bulb stem and Tokyo turnip. 

I've had variations of this short rib before and the sauce was a bit oily for me for the already marbled short rib. I liked the black garlic sauce though that had a smoky sweetness.

Refreshing dessert with jasmine ganache, fig leaves ice cream and apple granita. Gently tap the shell to reveal the ice cream inside.

Ended the amazing dinner with brownie like warm triple chocolate freshly baked cookies. The perfect ending to an awesome dinner.

This was my fourth visit to Mume and definitely not my last. Mume is a worthy replacement for the space on Siwei Road which previously housed one of my favorite restaurants Abu, who was doing French techniques with local ingredients before the craze of RAW and Mume. Mume's dining area is not large, so if you have a bigger group you might have to sit in the private room in the basement or make early arrangements. They are also only open for dinner, so sometimes it can be hard to get reservations.

I often get asked, where should I go RAW vs. Mume? And the answer is, Taipei is lucky to have both and you should go to whichever one you can get seats at. I like going to places that are under the radar and while RAW got a lot of the attention early on, Mume has been building equal footing. I think being able to order dishes ala carte and sharing them with friends helps since you are able to try more dishes, while RAW has been continually a set menu. Mume's menu isn't overwhelming long, so with a few friends (or one hungry one) you could potentially try everything on the menu. Mume's desserts are also consistently wayyy better than RAW's. RAW is notoriously difficult to get reservations for, but their menu lasts a few months before changing to the next one.

Mume was recently voted as one of the top 101 restaurants in Asia by panelists (including me), but as with any review, you should try the restaurants for yourselves to see if it's your thing. And with a wave of new restaurants like Achoi, Savor, Ephernite, and Roots Creative, doing modern casual fine dining and "bistronomy" in Taipei (and Le Mout in Taichung), you don't have to choose between just RAW and Mume for your gastronomic dinner date. Pretty soon, I'm thinking Taipei might have some Michelin stars of its own. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

new in town/mall food: i recommend BREEZE XINYI

No.68, ZhongXiao E. Road, Sec. 5

MRT: Taipei City Hall (exit #3)

Hours: 11AM - 9:30PM / Thurs- Sat 11AM - 10PM

Visit reviewed: 11/12/2015

Opened last week, Breeze XinYi joins the crowded luxury mall space near Taipei 101 (not be confused with the nearby sister shopping centre Breeze Song Gao). With a prime spot on Zhongxiao East Road, it's right at the Taipei City Hall MRT as well as across W Hotel. Like the original Breeze Center, Breeze Xinyi is full of shops that you'd spot in Beverly Hills, such as Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Chiara Ferragni, Max Mara,  Moschino, Red Valentino, Frette, as well as Taiwan's first Crate and Barrel, selling those drool worthy table settings, cheese and cake plates, baking supplies and furniture that feels more grown up than IKEA.

After window shopping and making a wish list at Crate and Barrel, I had to see what eats were available at Breeze Xinyi. Even the "food court" is upscale, instead with a floor full of sit down restaurants on the fourth floor, from casual to fine dining, including Osteria by Angie, Ben Teppanyaki, Anzu, Ramen Champ, Paradise Dynasty, Champion Beef Noodles, Trine and Zen and a lot of other Japanese/Korean eats. Some restaurants will take reservations, but only on weekdays, while others like Paradise Dynasty will only seat first come, first serve.

It's really impressive what they've been able to do with Breeze Songgao and Breeze Xinyi, and make both shopping center's dining options distinct from what already exists in Xinyi area. They'll even open Cova (from Hong Kong) and Morton's Steakhouse on the 45th floor later this year. 

Here's a peek at Breeze Xinyi. 

Kenzo pop up coffee truck

Instead having a basement food court like most Taipei malls, they have a restaurant floor called Master Chef's Kitchen on the fourth floor. 


Japanese fusion barbecue



Originating in Roppongi Hills, Grill Domi Kosugi has western dishes like hamburger and steak served Japanese style. There's also omurice, omelette rice, curry and combinations in a casual setting. This is their first branch outside of Japan. 


Move over Din Tai Fung... there's another more photogenic xiao long bao in town. Paradise Dynasty's rainbow colored dumplings have been flooding my instagram feed for the last week and it was one of the restaurants that was busy even on a weekday afternoon.


Ben Teppanyaki has two private rooms that seat 8 that can be combined into one room, as well as a main open teppanyaki area. For those craving luxe waygu, top cap steak, lamb chops or lobster, served in set menu form.

I thought it was cute how their bathrooms had little signs sticking out to signal that they were bathrooms. Also they are easy to spot and not hidden in a back hallway.


Quan's elaborate entrance is very eye catching and its creative menu displayed a lot of equally elaborately presented dishes, but on instagram it seemed the main draw for Quan was its dual hotpot with slices of blush pink pork origami'ed like roses and vegetables presented as miniature gardens. When the door opened, I got a peek of the inside which looked very moody and private.


02-2722-0657 Unagi bowls and Japanese food




This sushi conveyor belt shop has outlets at Breeze Center and Taipei Main Station as well.




Third location of this popular Italian fine dining eatery. My review for them is long overdue ��


I have been waiting for Crate and Barrel for months ever since I heard they would open at Breeze Xinyi. Located on B1, it's slightly smaller than I expected, but there are still a lot of drool worthy things to imagine in your house. 


This is one of the few restaurants not on the 4th floor, instead it is on B1. In Taipei, people don't seem to eat waffles and pancakes for breakfast- instead they tend to have them for dessert or afternoon tea. So Mokuola was busy in the afternoon, with a display of whip cream and fruit covered topped pancakes for diners to choose from, coming out of the pink neon lit pancake bar. Originated in Tokyo, the Japanese Hawaiian inspired menu also offers curries, loco moco, yakisoba and colourful cocktails. Named after Coconut Island in Hawaii, this is the first branch in Taiwan, they have other branches in Tokyo and Bangkok.


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