Saturday, August 09, 2008
japanese/tonkatsu: i recommend AUBERGINE
aka EGGPLANT CURRY
at Bistro 98, 3 FL
No. 98, Zhong Xiao E Road, Sec. 4,
hours: 11:30AM - 9:30PM
Kid friendliness: kids meal offered; high chairs available.
Visit reviewed: 7/10/2008 & 7/21/2008
My girlfriends had been telling me about Aubergine for awhile and finally we all got together to have lunch there. In Chinese, the name is "Eggplant Curry" which is kind of funny since there isn't any eggplant on the menu.
Aubergine is a chain restaurant that offers variations of two of the most popular Japanese dishes- curry and omelette rice. If you've never had Japanese curry before, it's slightly sweet and savory, but not as sweet as Thai or Indian curry. Also, you can have the curry with stewed meats inside the curry, or separate on top of fried pork, chicken or seafood. Omelette rice is basically a delicate layer of egg enveloping stir fried rice, shaped like an omelette.
Once we got the menus, everyone gasped, "you have to order the Cordon Bleu curry (NT$250)," "it's my favorite," "I always order this". All but one, who said she usually always got the chicken curry, but even she was converted by everyone's enthusiasm.
The picture in the menu looked promising, even though I'm not that crazy about cheese and ham stuffed inside my katsu. It's the one with the cheese stringing between the pieces of fried pork cutlet on the bottom.
I wonder if the waiter thought we were funny that all five of us ordered the same thing.
The menu has a picture for everything with English, Chinese and Japanese for each item, making it very easy to order. There's also a complex series of diagrams on the bottom, which is essentially the add-on options for your meal. You can add a drink, salad or soup (or two or three options) for varying prices, and you can choose from their options (caesar or mixed salad w/ thousand island or japanese dressing; onion or cream of mushroom soup).
The drinks are quite sweet, even the ice tea, and they have options like mango, lychee or passion fruit juice. Maybe it's to balance the spiciness of the curry?
As for the spiciness of the curry, there is a scale of 1-5 for how spicy you'd like your curry. I ordered a 2, but it was still a bit too spicy for me. It's definitely got a kick, but a few of my friends ordered 5 (the spiciest). So if you like heat, you should try it out.
The starters come fast and the service is pretty efficient. The salads are simple, the soups are better.
The curry comes separately in a silver pouring bowl. I like to pour mine on top of my rice and the cutlet. Somehow I always eat a lot of rice when I'm eating curry.
The Cordon Bleu was not as cheesy as I thought it would be, but overall it was a pretty decent katsu curry. I liked it enough to take my mom over a week later when I couldn't figure out where to eat. My mom is a vegetarian so that eliminates a lot of places I like to eat that use solely beef or chicken broth in their soups (such as Pho Hoa or Dubu House).
This time I wanted to try out their omelette rice with fried oysters (NT$260). I think this is the first time I've actually ordered it. I've lots of bites of friend's plates, but I've never felt the urge to order it in the food courts, where it seems to be everywhere.
The kakifry (fried oysters) was good, but two were not enough for me. If I ordered it again, I'd probably get it with pork cutlet. I admired how the chef got the thin layer of egg around the rice and onto the plate without breaking the delicate skin. The egg is well done on the outside, but still silky on the inside.
I requested a level 1 spiciness curry to go with it, though I think they have a tomato/ketchup based sauce with the omelette rice usually. The rice is a bit sweet, as if stir fried with ketchup or something similar, with diced onions, ham and corn. I think the onion flavor was a bit too strong.
My mom liked her Curry with Mushroom Bonanza (NT$190). Haha, that's the official name. You can't tell from the picture, but there's different kinds of mushroom in the mushroom curry.
The kid's meal is also fun-served in a combo plate shaped like a car, it's definitely a kid pleaser. It had fried rice, some fried pork, french fries, hamburger and broccoli. And a dessert! Which is dangerous to have it all on the same plate, since the kid will probably want to just eat the dessert first.
I wasn't in awe of the food as I was with Saboten's tonkatsu, but at least here, you don't have to wait and there are more options, especially for vegetarians. Another good (and cheap!) tonkatsu option is Kitaro.
The Bistro 98 space is great for people watching if you get a seat near the window. The first time we went, it wasn't crowded at all and my friends said that Aubergine used to be more popular when it first opened. The second time we went, it was almost full, with lots of large groups and families, making for a lively atmosphere.
No. 50, Zhong Xiao W. Road, Sec 1, 5FL
No. 85, Roosevelt Road, Sec 4, 2nd FL
Eslite Mall, B1
No. 188, Zhongcheng Road