Wednesday, March 26, 2008

chinese/dim sum: i strongly recommend CANTONESE at BROTHER HOTEL



CANTONESE RESTAURANT at
BROTHER HOTEL, 2-3 FL
255 Nanjing East Road, Sec. 3

(02)2712-3456

website: brotherhotel.com.tw/eDining.htm English, Chinese and Japanese available

hours: 9 AM - 9:30 PM

$$

Kid friendliness: high chairs and toddler plates/utensils avail. lots of finger foods!

Visit reviewed: 2/18/2008



Yum, yum dim sum!! Finally, some awesome and tasty dim sum in Taipei. I've had many disappointing and expensive experiences. Brother Hotel's Cantonese restaurant just makes it look easy by doing the basics (har gow, siu mai, cha sau bao, shrimp chang fun) well and presenting a large variety of other choices. They also offer non-dim sum Cantonese dishes if you are looking for other vegetables or dishes to round out your meal.



For those of you not familiar with dim sum, it's basically lots of small dishes of bite sized eats to share- in all sorts of ways- wrapped, steamed, fried with little sauces to dip in at your choice. Consider it as tapas done Hong Kong style or the perfect snack foods any time of day. It's popular to go weekends brunch in LA with your family, where you'll wait in endless lines at the more popular spots- but Brother Hotel offers dim sum all day through the night (NT$80 - $180) and makes it easy with menus with pictures in English, Chinese and Japanese as well as the carts rolling by the tables (which quite a few of the dim sum places don't even have anymore).



Everything tasted fresh, crispy, meaty, shrimpy, tasty and just right- a place that I would take my relatives, friends, business meetings or even a date- especially in contrast to eating at another popular dim sum place just yesterday (which was packed but had very AVERAGE dim sum). The flavors and textures were just spot on to what each thing was supposed to taste like.






I like to try the almond tofu/jello where ever I see it on the menu, and this place served it nice and cold and firm with a bit of canned fruit. It was a sweet and refreshing end to the meal.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

vietnamese: i recommend VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT



VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT
No. 1, Lane 380, Keelung Road
(02) 2720-9777

hours: lunch: 11 am- 2 pm; dinner: 5 pm - 8:30 pm

$

Kid friendliness: no high chairs/only tables, small space, but very friendly service.

Visit reviewed: 2/28/2008 and 3/5/2008



I passed by this place about a month ago and then ended up going back twice. Once for take out and once for sit down. I've been seeing more and more hole in the wall type Vietnamese places, all in little alleys with hard to find locations if you haven't been before. Location-wise, it's not too far from Omelete to Go or the alleys across from the Grand Hyatt hotel and it's across from a Korean restaurant I also have my eye on.

You'll know you're there when you see red and black sign that simply says "Vietnamese Restaurant" in Chinese (or Yue Nan Fan Dien) and spot the front window filled with lots of blown up pictures of their spring/summer rolls, pho, rice dishes and sandwiches. This one is worth searching out if you've been craving Vietnamese because its mom and pop styled food offers a varied menu, friendly and efficient service and cheap eats in a clean, enclosed setting quickly fills up during lunch with lots of business types.



Plus they gots the sauces! Fish sauce, hoisin sauce and chili sauce.



Okay.. my first visit I was in a bit of rush and ordered pho (NT$80) and summer rolls (NT$50) to go. I had an upset stomach a few days before, so the owner recommended chicken pho instead of the rare beef. The smell of the broth in the car was a bit fishy and overwhelming on the way home, but after pouring it all in the bowl and tasting it, it was fine. They put in all the sliced chili peppers and cilantro and I didn't spot any fresh basil or lime or hoisin on the side (though I didn't request any either).



I don't remember the pho being this fat/wide in the states.. so I don't know if it's an adjustment for Taiwanese customers or US customers.. how is it really in Vietnam? I think I still like the noodles on the thin side.



The summer rolls were also decent- 3 for NT$50- on the smallish medium size.



Waiting for my food, it was funny seeing an older Taiwanese couple trying out a bowl of pho and a pork plate and commenting about it while they were sharing. The owner/guy said that they had been open for about 8 months or so and business was best during lunch.

The second time I went for lunch, they had a menu in English (instead of the picture menu that they have with Chinese and Vietnamese).. I used both to try and figure out what I wanted and decided to try the Vietnamese pork plate(NT$70) since it was too hot that day to eat pho. I also wanted to try the spring rolls (NT$50) along with the summer rolls (NT$50).

The spring rolls were piping hot and stuffed with ground pork and veggies. I wasn't sure what they were wrapped in, but it was very crispy and bite sized with lettuce on the side to wrap them in.



The Vietnamese pork dish came with homemade side veggies- I liked the bamboo but didn't really care for the lukewarm tomato egg and greens. The pork was flavorful, but had a weird texture on the surface on the meat- hard to describe, that made it sort of rough/grassy to eat? I don't know if the marinade could do that or the way they grill it? It seemed to be a popular dish, or maybe the other customers who followed me saw it and wanted to try it. On the other hand, the rice was really good. You know sometimes rice is over or undercooked? This was perfectly cooked rice.



Spotted in the corner: Made in Vietnam, that's a good sign right? :)



Seriously, the prices here are so low, you could just got a bowl of pho or rice plate for under NT$100 and be full, but you should try the rolls too. (My rice plate plus 2 dishes of rolls was under NT$200 since they charged a 10% service fee or NT$15 (Or 50 cents), so I had to let them keep the NT$20 change to which I think they were pleasantly surprised). I also want to come back and try the curry or the sandwiches which they also have. Plus gotta keep them in business especially it's much better than the faux chain Pho (which is now closed at Warner/Vie Show Village, but still spotted at Breeze Taipei Main Station and Eslite) and since my previous tasty Vietnamese hole in the wall discovery is apparently closed.

Friday, March 21, 2008

revisited/pizza: i strongly recommend ALLEYCATS at Zhong Xiao



ALLEYCATS
2, Lane 248, Zhong Xiao E. Road, Sec. 4
(02) 2731-5225

website: Alleycatspizza.com

hours: 12noon - 10 PM

$ - $$

Kid friendliness: to-go location with only 1 table.

Visit reviewed:3/18/2008
Original visit: 5/3/2006 at Li Shui location. Read review here

Lately I've been craving deep dish pizza. Specifically, the spinach and mushroom stuffed pizza from Zachary's in Berkeley/Oakland. Chunky tomatoes, lots of spinach and mushrooms, crispy crust to hold everything together and CHEESE. It's quite painful to crave something you can't have since it's impossible to find anything like that here- I crave it even when I'm in LA since I haven't found a good deep dish pizza place there either that can compare.



So to fufilll my tomato sauce crust-cheese-fix, I decided to get 2 small pizzas from the new-ish location of Alleycats. They've expanded from their original Li Shui location to four other places, each with their own unique menus. This location in a little alley off of Zhong Xiao is tiny, basically the kitchen with the stone ovens and one patio table to sit down, so most of the customers order their pizzas to go. Sometimes they sell pizza by the slice, but I recommend calling ahead and ordering so you can pick up the pizza and eat it hot at home (or on the way home). You can check out their online menu, but the pricing is slightly different at the Zhong Xiao location for smaller pizzas and they only offer pizzas and calzones. The prices range NT$85 for a small 8" Marghertia pizza to NT$200-$400+ range for 10"-12" pizzas.

I ended up trying the Napoletana (NT$150) which has fresh tomatoes, goat cheese, anchovies, olives and spinach (and successfully requested to have the anchovies swapped for mushrooms) and the Maialona (NT$150) which has Italian sausage, pepperoni, chorizo and salami (I think they are 8 inch). This Alleycats is right across from Chili House and actually not too far from Pizza Hut. They said the pizzas would be ready in 15 minutes to pick up.



It hit the spot.. though it was more CPK (the Neopolitan versions) than Zachary's, it was full of flavor, had the amount right cheese and mix of toppings and the crust balanced everything perfectly. You can also customize your pizza with the number of toppings such as anchovies, artichokes, fresh tomatoes, goat cheese or pineapple, though it might be cheaper to get their pre-set combos since each topping would add up at NT$15-50 each.



My last visit to Alleycats was quite awhile ago, before they expanded and I discovered this location. I'm happy to have this quick and closer location to get my pizza fixes. Much faster than trying to make pizza myself and much closer than to pizza in the states than practically any other pizza place in Taipei. As much as I like the occasional personal pan pizza from the nearby Pizza Hut, Alleycats is much fresher, healthier and, yes, yummier - although you wish they'd deliver!

Where do you guys get your pizza cravings satisfied and does Alleycats serve one of the best pizzas in town?

PS- Right to the right of this Alleycats, there seems to be a new place (competitor for your cheese fixes) called Toasteria serving all sorts of grilled cheese sandwiches, panini style.

Mmm.. will have to go back and try it sometime, although I will probably default to making my own. Anyone tried it yet?


OTHER LOCATIONS:

LI SHUI STREET near YONG KANG ST
B1, No. 6, Li Shui Street
(02) 2321-8948
Sunday-Thur: 5pm-11pm
Fri-Sat: 5pm to 2am

SONGREN - NEW!
285 SONGREN RD
(02) 8780-5421
Mon- Thu 5 pm- 11 PM
Fri/Sat 12 pm- Late
Sun 12 pm - 11 PM

TIANMU
31, Lane 35, Zhongshan N. Rd Sec. 6
(02) 2835-6491
near ZhiShan MRT Station
Mo ~ Fr 5pm- 11pm
Sa/Su 12noon ~ late

NEIHU/DONGHU
67-1 Cheng Gong Road, Sec 5
(02)2630-6278
Mon-Fri: 12pm - 2pm, 5pm - 11pm
Weekends: 12pm - 11pm

Thursday, March 20, 2008

mall food/foodcourt: i recommend KOREAN at FUXING SOGO



KOREAN at FOODCOURT
green Fuxing Sogo, B2 FL
No.300, Zhong Xiao E. Rd., Sec. 3

$

Visit reviewed: 2/14/2008

One flaw in a lot of the Korean restaurants here is Taipei that there is not enough side dishes, or banchan, like we are used to in LA or Korea, where it can almost cover the table before your meal comes. But, if you are willing to head to the foodcourt of the various malls, especially if you just want a quick and cheap bite to eat, they offer up a lot more choices.

At this Korean foodcourt place at Fuxing Sogo (which I believe also has a branch at 101 Mall foodcourt), if you choose the bim bim bap (NT$150), you can choose 3 sides to go ontop of your rice, egg and beef. (But if you pick the stone bowl, you have to go with the preset kimchee/offerings), or you can pick three alacarte for NT$80 to go with your meal.

Personally, I really like the jap chae (or rice noodles), tempura and cucumber slices. I guess all three are slightly sweet and the tempura is slightly spicy and the cucumber adds the vinegar, pickled flavor to the mix. I also like their potato offerings- potato salad or slightly spicy and sweet potato chunks, or soybean sprouts. They have spicy and non-spicy offerings as well as a lot of vegetarian options.



There's no English available, but they have their menu offerings (such as little hot pots or seafood pancake) shown in the case to the side as well as all the offerings in trays on the counter for you to point to. The foodcourt can get crowded during peak hours, but otherwise it's one of the nicer and newer food courts.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

american/burgers: FORKERS



FORKERS
No. 8, Alley 10, Lane 223, Zhong Xiao E Road, Sec 4
(02) 2771-9285

website: forkers.com.tw English only

hours: Sun- Thurs 12noon to 11pm; Fri- Sat 12noon- 12am


$$

Kid friendliness: no high chairs or boosters, booth seating

Visit reviewed: 3/11/2008

You may or may not have heard of Forkers- the new burger place that opened up a few months ago that features over 40 (yup FORTY) kinds of burgers, along with fries, chicken wraps, spinach/artichoke dip and pie of the day, along with an assortment of other things. I was pretty excited to try it since I always like a good burger and fries and there is a lot to choose from.

The place is lots of wooden seating, some booths, a patio outside. The owner pops around the different tables- on this day, we didn't have to wait as there were about 4 other tables occupied when we were seated on a weekday lunch. I can't imagine if it was fully packed, it might be quite slow as the service was fairly casual. There are separate English and Chinese menus (with some pictures) that you can find on their website as well.

They have the classic burger variations, as well as regional-inspired burgers (Greek, French, Canadian, Mexican, Californian, Alpine, Italian, Australian), Asian burgers, and the "Forkers"- open faced burgers so huge or messy you have to eat them with a fork (all NT$190- NT$290) since they are topped with gravy, chili or spaghetti sauce.



With each burger, you get the choice of two sides such as salad, fries (cajun, curry, garlic, plain), hawaiian pasta or potato salad, or upgrade to chili cheese, tex mex or poutine fries for extra NT$40. You can choose the burger patty as beef, chicken, Kobe beef or vegetarian.

We chose the warm spinach artichoke dip (NT$140) over the hummus (NT$120)- and it was VERY cheesy with a sprinkle of fries, pita bread and celery/carrot sticks. I would have liked to have eaten some chunks of artichoke or spinach, but we didn't find any swimming in the cheese unless it was pureed in. It was still tasty, but we could have used a few more chips to dip.



I was torn between a lot of the different burgers (Mexican, Greek, Californian) and ended up choosing the Alpine Burger, which comes with mushrooms, swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing.


the Alpine Burger with garlic fries. are there shiitake mushrooms in Switzerland?



My friends got the Hack Burger (topped with chicken fingers(!), cheese, bacon, honey mustard) and the Mushroom Cheese burger (which comes with cheddar instead of swiss).


the Hack Burger with Hawaiian Pasta Salad



I don't know if I ate too many chips, but the burger was just okay. There were certain things that I personally didn't like- the bun was slightly sweet (and not toasted) which did not mesh with the flavors of the Alpine. I didn't expect shiitake mushrooms which tasted a little weird with the swiss cheese- I would have preferred regular white mushrooms especially since the menu doesn't say "shiitake," it says "sauteed mushrooms". The burger's texture was a bit soft- I don't know how to describe it other than its was more like a meatloaf burger than a grilled burger. My tomato was tiny since I like tomatoes on my burgers. Were my tastebuds being nitpicky that day? I ate about two thirds of the burger.

Both my friends finished their burgers and said their burgers were fine, and I had a bite of the chicken finger which was quite good.

I guess I wanted to be blown away and I should have ordered one of their more unique burgers?

As for the sides, the garlic fries were soft rather than crispy and seemed to be a lot of short ends. The salad was basic. The Hawaiian Pasta has a kick to it, but we weren't crazy about it.

I wanted to try the peach almond pie, but again, it just wasn't to my liking. There is a layer of peaches on top and then some weird paste in the center. I thought it would be more like a peach pie with almond flavor or slivers, but I didn't get what was going on with the pie. The owner says that he usually eats it ala mode and warmed up and we opted it without ice cream- don't know if that makes a difference. Maybe their upside down apple tart would have been more up my alley.



I really wanted to love Forkers and I will probably give it another try, especially to try the chili cheese fries/poutine and other things on the menu. It's in the lane behind California Fitness on Zhong Xiao (near Yan Ji Jie) and there was a popular Chinese dessert place on the corner I want to check out. How would those of you that have eaten at Forkers compare it to other burger places like California Grill, Mary's Hamburgers (which I haven't been) or the Diner, Bongos or even Chili's/TGIF?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

new in town/desserts: HELLO KITTY SWEETS



updated 3/2011

Hello Kitty Sweets
No. 90, Da An Road, Sec. 1
(near intersection of Da An Road and Zhong Xiao E Road, Sec 4)

MRT: Zhong Xiao/FuXing

(02) 2711-1132

website: sanrio.com.tw Chinese only

hours: Sun- Thurs 11:30 AM - 10 PM; Fri- Sat 11:30 AM - 11 PM

$-$$



I forgot how I first stumbled upon hellokittyhell.com ages ago, but its writer constantly makes me laugh with the hatred/overload/humor of Hello Kitty related products that his wife (and most of his site's fans), but he cannot stand. From the crazy Hello Kitty shaped gold fillings or shaped hard boiled eggs, to weird Hello Kitty masked clad lingerie women and tattoos, he shares things that he finds out about (though not from where with great determination) that scare him or more usually that his wife MUST HAVE that makes his life a Hello Kitty Hell.



Anyways, I remembered reading about this Hello Kitty Sweets shop opening a few months ago and have recently been getting a lot of hits from people looking for it.

So I decided to do some research and do a little news post. Though I haven't had the chance to go there yet, I've passed by it (it's near the Zhong Xiao/Da An Road intersection) in the alley around the corner from Bistro 98 and not too far from Sogo. It is seriously hardcore from the decor to the jewel encrusted napkin holders to the desserts and table settings. Don't know if it even tastes good, but I suppose it's a must-see for Hello Kitty fans who are in Taipei. The last time I had Hello Kitty desserts was at (and now closed) Hello Kitty dessert place in the Xinyi Eslite building.



So if you've been looking for it, here is the address and phone number! Let me know if you've gone or how it was and if you have to wait to eat there! I'll try to make my way there eventually.

pics from hellokittysweets.com.tw website

Monday, March 17, 2008

chinese: TSUI JIAN BAO



TSUI JIAN BAO
at corner of Xin Yi Road and Yen Ji Jie
(02) 2704-8142

$

Kid friendliness: take away only. kids may like to eat, but very hot at first.

Visit reviewed: 3/12/2008

Tsui Jian Bao or Sheng Jian Bao or pan fried dumplings were my favorite thing to eat when I first came back to Taipei for a visit in 1997 after not having been here for over 13 years. After all, NT$10 for 1 seemed like such a bargain for a fresh steaming hot filling bun that was definitely a rarity in the states, much less LA.

The best tsui jian bao place that I've eaten at is probably still at Shih Lin Night market , but I don't go to the night market as much these days (getting old. ha ha), so I had to give it a try when I saw the crowded stand on the busy corner of Xin Yi and Yen Ji Jie. (The little cart near Dun Hua Eslite is not bad either).

There were three separate stands (Heard afterwards from some people that only 1 is good). Have any of you eaten at all three and know which one is the best?



This particular one (the one on the farthest left, red sign) offers 6 different fillings for the bao (NT$12) and spring onion cake (NT$35 for 1/2). They also have a squash variety (which wasn't available that day).





I got three different kinds- one with cabbage, one with pork and one with jiou tsai or chives. My favorite was the pork, then chives- I didn't really like the cabbage one.



Overall, the buns were okay. Don't know if they sat too long in the plastic bag, but the the bottoms were not as crispy as I'd like and the dough overall was too thick, especially at the top.



The spring onion pancake, on the other hand, was really good. Thin, crispy and flaky, and not greasy at all.



This day was SO HOT- a rarity in the week of grayness- and I bought a drink from 7-11 which I thought was lemonade-ish, but turned out to be ai-yu is, which is more like a jelly consistency. My friend later told me that the bottle says that it's "filling like a meal" or something like that.



It was lemon-limey, but would have been better if it had some juice in it too. Ah well.



One day I'll have to do a review on 7-11 and all the random things you can eat there. hahaha. Happy St. Patty's day.

Friday, March 14, 2008

dessert/bakery: i strongly recommend cake donuts at COSTCO



COSTCO
No. 268 Jiu Zong, Sec 1
Nei-Hu, Taipei
(02) 8791-0110

website: costco.com

hours: 10:00 am - 9:30 pm

$

Visit reviewed: 3/13/2008

Who would have thought the perfect American style cake donut would be at Costco? I spotted it on my trip today and couldn't resist- after all- you get 8 for NT$119 which is basically the price of 4 Mr. Donut donuts.

The tray comes with half chocolate donuts and half plain (4 each)- they are a good size with vanilla frosting.

I practically inhaled mine- it was moist, sweet and dangerous! It's so simple, yet so satisfying especially in contrast to the dry bricks of cake-style donuts that I've had at Mr. Donut or Dunkin Donuts. It was dense, but not heavy.



I don't know if it's a staple like their muffins, croissants, cheesecakes, or seasonal like their pumpkin pies, but I was happy to find it! I totally love their cheesecake and birthday cakes too. They also have freshly made cream puffs and cookies, which I haven't tried here, not to mention their churros and frozen yogurt in the food court.

Oh, and good beef hotdogs (not like the nasty hot dogs at Ikea).

I also spotted some ice cream sandwiches today there, I guess, an organic brand called Julie's. I didn't feel like paying a premium NT$300 plus for 12 ice cream sandwiches so I bought the blackberry sorbet bars which I haven't tried yet.

If only they made lemon meringue pies, then Costco would be even more awesome.

What's your favorite thing from Costco or what do you wish Costco Taipei would import in?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

korean: i strongly recommend DUBU HOUSE



DUBU HOUSE
No. 9, Lane 233, Dun Hua S. Road, Sec 1
(02) 2781-1119

website: dubuhouse.com.tw Chinese only

hours: 11:30AM - 11PM

$$

Kid friendliness: high chairs and kid bowls/cutlery. can order tofu without spiciness to go with rice.

Visit reviewed: 3/4/2008 & 3/10/2008




What is "dubu"? It's Korean for tofu and something you might be hearing more and more about. Soondubu or korean tofu stew is already a popular staple in LA and I wouldn't be surprised if it gained a following in Taipei. A friend of mine mentioned that we should try it out (as well as being a big fan of soondubu in NY) and we went for lunch.



Dubu House is apparently a Korean chain that's opened last month on the lane near Dun Nan Eslite to packed lunchtime crowds. The menu is a paper menu with English and Chinese and a few pictures- with tofu stew available with beef, lamb, oyster, seafood or combo options (around NT$260-300), as well as kimchee variation. There's limited other things such as seafood pancakes (not available at lunch), bbq beef and eggrolls. They have table seating as well as tatami style seating where you sit on the floor with a lower table (which seems available to bigger groups).



What's good about it? Like any comfort food, it's just soothing to eat and hits the spot, warming you up, especially in the rainy and cold weather.

After you are seated (there might be a short wait), a few dishes or panchan and hot tea get delivered to you after you order. I wish they had more than the 4-5 small dishes they give you, but at least it's complimentary. It seems to vary each visit, which the staples of nori or seaweed and kimchee.



Next they'll bring out the tofu stew and purple rice, stacked on top of each other and uncover everything for you. BTW- the first time I had purple rice (in a tofu stew place in Gardena) I was a bit freaked out, but it doesn't taste that different and is supposed to be better for you.

Then they'll crack a raw egg into the super hot soup which you can stir up or let poach. Also, you can scoop up your rice into the bowl and eat the crispier parts closer to the stone bowl, or they may scoop it up for you and pour tea into the rest to make a congee.

Personally, I like the semi-burnt crackly rice and didn't like the tea flavor of the rice that we did try- I think it makes it easier for them to clean the bowl. haha. So don't let them do it if you don't want that option. Don't let the rice sit too long though, otherwise, it might burn.



We shared a beef soondubu (NT$260) and a kimchee beef soondubu (NT$280)- the beef one is not spicy, but still flavorful made with beef stock. The kimchee one was spicy and you can request it to be more or less spicy, depending on how much heat you like. If you want to try, you can order the non-kimchee version and put in some of the panchan kimchee into your stew yourself to adjust it to your own liking. Don't expect a lot of meat in the stew, the main feature is the tofu, but I wish there were some mushrooms or something in too. Also, the stew stock is beef meat-based, so there is no vegetarian options available here.



They seem to be slowly working out the kinks in their service when they are busy. On our first trip, we drooled at the sight of seafood pancakes coming out to other tables so we ordered one. The waitress replied it would take about 20-25 minutes to which we said ok. Then she came out and said that they 'ran out of ingredients' and weren't making any more, though we saw two more come out, presumably from previous orders. On my second trip, they just said, no seafood pancakes at lunch were available (which seems more fair- all or nothing), though we were again bummed not to be able to snack on any. They can also be slow to refill your panchan if you are eating a lot of it.

I also really recommend the kalbi or bbq beef (NT$220)- it's deboned making it less messy to eat, deliciously marinated and grilled to the right tenderness. It comes in small or large plate (NT$420) on a bed of raw sliced onions.



To finish off your 'tofu' experience, they bring out some complimentary do-hwa or dessert soy tofu. Lightly sweetened with what tastes like a brown sugar syrup and a bit of grapefruit peel, it's a refreshing end to the meal.



Dubu House is a welcome addition to the Taipei food scene in my book and I'll probably go there a few times a month, especially when the weather is cold. I've mentioned it to a few of my friends who are from LA living here, and they are excited to try it out. The menu is not as extensive as Mindong, but their specialty is the tofu stew and Mindong isn't open for lunch. I guess I'll have to try and make it to dinner one time to see what the seafood pancake tastes like!

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