Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CLOSED! revisited/japanese: i recommend TENPURA SANUKI UDON



TENZEN- TENPURA SANUKI UDON
Bistro 98
No. 98, Zhong Xiao E Road, Sec 4

(02)8772-6769

$$

Kid friendliness: no high chairs available

Visit reviewed: 12/24/2008
Previous review: 3/2008

First off, please note that Tenzen Tenpura Sanuki Udon has MOVED! It was lunch and I had a craving for tempura udon, so I headed to my favorite place for udon, near Vieshow Theaters/Neo 19- but it was closed! I was nearly traumatized, but my friend noticed the sign that they had relocated- to the Bistro 98 building. So rather than eating nearby, we hopped into a taxi to Bistro 98. Crazy right?



So I was pretty hungry when I got to the new location. I don't think I had high expectations- I just wanted what I grown accustomed to. The new location was empty. The menu was different- they had added sashimi, yakitori and dishes like unagi don to the menu, as well as taken off some udon samplers that I had always had my eye on. The focus was no longer on udon noodles, but rather offering a wider menu (although still in just Japanese and Chinese, with lots of pictures), perhaps to compete with restaurants like Watami.



And the service was sloooow. Sure, they were in a new location. But we were the only ones there (before another customer trickled in). I can't imagine how much slower it would have been if it was even halfway full. Did they totally fire everyone from the old location? Or was it opening week?



The sashimi (NT$420) and shrimp tempura roll was not bad, but probably not something I'd order again. With the extended menu, Tenpura had diluted itself... instead of being awesome at one thing, it was good or just fine at a bunch of things.



What disappointed me the most was the the tempura cold udon set (NT$220) had 1 shrimp instead of 2, and they didn't have any options for people who wanted more. You can clearly see from the last review the robust pile of tempura with 2 golden fried shrimp.

When I asked if I could order another shrimp, they said it wasn't possible. What about ordering another tempura ala carte? Again, they refused- if I wanted another shrimp, I had to order a whole tempura udon set. If this was my first time to their restaurant, I might have been none the wiser. But I was the only customer in their new location, and they didn't have the ability to adjust and appease a loyal customer. Sometimes the rigidness of Taipei restaurants frustrates me to no end, but I know that there are plenty of other places with amazing customer service to balance it out. I ended up ordering the fried shrimp roll instead- which I figured out on my own and not from the suggestion of the waitress.

The udon was still good- served cold and chewy- the way I liked it, unlike some places that offer soggy noodles that tasted like they came from a NT$40 frozen pack. That's why I still recommend Tenzen Tenpura Sanuki Udon, although I no longer "strongly recommend" it. Hopefully they found their legs in the time after they opened- I haven't had the heart to go back. I wonder how they'll do with the fierce competition in the Bistro 98 building.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

CLOSED/chinese: i strongly recommend SHIN YEH TABLE



Closed a/o 2012- now the new location of Sweet Dynasty

SHIN YEH TABLE
No. 201, Zhong Xiao East Road, Sec. 4, 2nd Fl.
(02) 2778 - 8712

website: shinyeh.com.tw

hours:11:30 am-1 am

$$

Kid friendliness: loud music and bar like atmosphere

Visit reviewed: 12/2007



If you've been wanting to eat Taiwanese foods, but don't know if your stomach can handle the night markets or you can't get a table at Shin Yeh- then you should head to Shin Yeh Table. Shin Yeh Table is twenty something hipster compared to the elegant Taiwanese family establishment Shin Yeh. It's not that Shin Yeh is stuffy- it isn't. It's just that going to Shin Yeh Table is a bit like dining in a lounge bar with its trendy decor, lighting and atmosphere.

But luckily the trendiness doesn't overshadow the food as the food is still great. Dinner with friends is a bit like sharing Taiwanese tapas, if there is such a thing, because the menu has a huge array of appetizers and smaller sized of main dishes and Shin Yeh favorites, as well as lots of desserts including the chewy mochi almond tofu that so many people like at Shin Yeh. Shin Yeh Table has lots and lots of alcoholic drinks to choose from and if you come during its Happy Hours (before and after dinner), you can get a discount off the menu which is in English and Chinese.




It was a great first meeting place for my friends at haochr before they moved back to the US. We shared a love for good food and gua bao and figuring out new ways of writing it up. You just have to pretend you aren't eating fatty pork when you bite into the fluffy bun of the gua bao (NT$80 for one, cut into two halves). The cilantro and ground peanuts give it the needed extra layer of flavor.



gua bao or braised fatty pork in buns


It's hard to declare my favorites from the night because everything was surprisingly good. The fried foods were exceptionally crispy and hot, including the yummy soft shell crab and the stuffed shitake mushrooms.



plenty of soft shell crab to go around


The fried rice (NT$160) and tofu pots were smaller than expected, but still very filling and bursting with flavor.






As haochr recalls, we ordered a lot of food- about 7 dishes and it was well worth the NT$1000 we paid (about US$30) for the three of us.






So lounge away as it's open late or come earlier with your grandma (as I did once, and she liked it!) when you can't get a table at Shin Yeh, but you might be too busy eating and listening to the loud music to have any deep conversations. Located right next to Starbucks on Zhong Xiao East Road, you can peruse the menu at the bottom of the stairs before you climb to the second floor.

I finally, finally got a chance to write this up from my archived drafts. Hello to my friends from haochr who have retired from the world of food blogging. :)


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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

not taipei: Hong Kong



Here are some notes from my trip to Hong Kong last December. I'm headed there again this week, so hopefully I'll get to find more yummy places to eat!

RICE PAPER



Whether you trust food guides or not, you gotta trust your instincts. So when we thought we'd be adventurous and try modern Vietnamese food our first night in Hong Kong, I knew it could go either way, although maybe somewhere deep inside I knew the picture in the food guide looked a little too fancy for good Asian food.



Walking in, the modern decor and lighting might make it a romantic setting for a date, especially if you can grab a window seat for the view. But decor is rarely more important than food and service.



Perhaps we should have ordered their "make your own rolls" rather than trying an their curry, fish and appetizers, but it seemed a bit overpriced and pretty rather than hearty and fulfilling. If you get the seabass, expect it to be fried and under a mysterious sweet sauce.



The curry with french bread and spring rolls were the best thing about the dinner.





The sugarcane shrimp were interesting- but the shrimp was more processed than fresh, and the foie gras summer roll did not have melt-in-your-mouth foie gras, but rather something akin to dried liver.



While most of the dishes were decent, unfortunately, the service was worse than bad (they were asked for things more than three times before responding (bowl of rice, more water, etc) and they sprayed cleaner on the table next to us while we were still eating (the restaurant was far from closed or empty) and they abruptly cleared our dishes while we were standing up getting ready to leave (they could have waited a few seconds for us to actually gather our things and exit the table).


BRUNCH CLUB



Had a meeting here, chosen by the person I was meeting. A cute little cafe serving Western style breakfasts- I wish I had taken advantage of reading all the gossip magazines that they had available to read. I thought you couldn't read them until you bought them, until I saw a lady at another table with a stack, Barnes and Nobles style. Free wifi password upon request too!

Get the huge mix grilled combo plate over the others. I eyed the desserts too, but it was too early in the day.




CAFFÈ VERGNANO 1882



Best for a quick bite to eat- Italian food on couches and low tables. The pizza topped with prosciutto was more memorable than the pastas.



Instead of eating at a restaurant patio, you're eating facing the mall and escalators. We got the lasagna for an additional HKD$7 or something crazy like that, but it tasted as if it could have been from a frozen dinner. I think they are more well known for their coffees than food.





LEI GARDENS- strongly recommend



One of the more well known and popular dim sum joints in town, luckily our local friend made a reservation. Otherwise we would have joined the masses waiting in line for over an hour or so.



Everything came by steaming hot on carts- be sure to get the siu mai, the sticky rice with sausage and stir fried greens (I think it was spinach or yam leaves?)




HONEYMOON DESSERTS- recommend



It's pretty amazing to see this dessert shop all over town- fancy ones like the one near Lei Garden, or to-go ones in the food courts. I don't remember them being around during my last trip to Hong Kong in 2006, but this time they were everywhere. Serving dessert soups, puddings and drinks, the huge menu should be able to please everyone. My favorite is the almond tofu with mango soup and tapioca. (If you're looking for something less local, there's also Ben and Jerry's ice cream here!)



TRIPLE O's- recommend



When my Taipei friend heard I was going to Hong Kong, she said, you HAVE to try the burger place in Pacific Place. So I did. Canada's answer to Fuddruckers, Triple O's had burgers, shakes and fries and a lot of people eating them at their food court. I devoured my Mushroom Cheese burger and thick strawberry shake.



YE SHANGHAI- recommend



A bit of last minute indecisiveness and long wait at led us to eat at Ye Shanghai. It's a elegant spacious restaurant hidden in the back of Pacific Place serving Shanghainese favorites like river shrimp and chili wontons.



I couldn't stop eating the cold appetizer dishes and the crispy rice doused with seafood sauce, but I'd probably pass on the crab xiao long bao and sticky rice dumplings next time.





Like Taipei, it's amazing how every other mall is filled with name brands like Chanel, LV or Gucci, where even in LA, you have to drive to Beverly Hills or South Coast Plaza to shop there. In Hong Kong, it feels like every other major block. But you have to appreciate that the city and stores are open late and so many of the restaurants are regularly open until 11pm.

Lastly, the menu from Curry in a Hurry- Indian food at Times Square City Super food court. I always forget that you have to turn in your order to the main cashier, pay, bring back your proof of payment to the vendor and then get your food. It seems a bit like you're always lining up for something, but I guess it's easier for the cash to be collected in one place for the big bosses!



RICE PAPER
P413-418, Podium 4
World Trade Centre
Causeway Bay,Hong Kong
(852) 2890 3975

BRUNCH CLUB and SUPPER
4 Sun Wui Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
(852) 2890 2125
8am - 11pm

CAFFÈ VERGNANO 1882
Lee Gardens, Shop 108,
33 Hysan Avenue
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
(02) 2907 3817

LEI GARDEN
IFC Mall, 3rd FL
Central, Hong Kong
(852) 2295 0238
11:30 AM -3PM; 6PM -11PM

HONEYMOON DESSERT
IFC Mall, 3rd FL
(852) 2868 9799

TRIPLE O's
Pacific Place
Great Food Hall, Level LG1
88 Queensway, Hong Kong, China
(852) 2873 4000

YE SHANGHAI
Pacific Place
332, Level 3
(852) 2918-9833
11:30 AM to 3 PM; 6 PM to 12midnight

Websites and blogs to note that I will be researching on my latest trip to Hong Kong- I'm gonna see Coldplay there!!!

Any more recommendations on where to eat?

eat drink hong kong
hiphongkong
timeout hk

Monday, March 23, 2009

snapshot: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE - Taipei



I also want to see THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, MARLEY AND ME, THE READER, FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN and FAST AND FURIOUS.

Check out upcoming movies in Taipei at Vieshow's website. If you need to book tickets in English like me, use this link.

I never know how they translate films into Chinese.. it's not the most obvious (straight translation) so it makes renting DVDs hard sometimes, especially older ones. But it's fun to see the posters and see if they are similar to the US version.

One thing I do like about watching films in Taipei is that you can book seats in advance, and see it for yourself when booking online or with your credit card. Then you don't have to wait in crazy lines during the blockbuster season (like I think we once waited all night in LA for either LOTR, Star Wars or Matrix. Forget which one).

I also like the popcorn- sweet like kettle corn- though lately it has been kind of nasty. I think it's because they don't pop it fresh anymore.

Did anyone else see Slumdog Millionaire?

snapshot: chicken tikka sandwich at NY BAGEL



NY BAGEL
147 Renai Rd, Sec 4, Taipei
(02) 2752-1669

$-$$

open: usually 24 hours

nybagelscafe.com mostly Chinese

Snapshot visit: 1/19/2009
Last review: 2/2006


Thought I'd try something new for lunch when meeting a new friend at NY Bagel on Ren Ai Road, but the next time I'd probably stick to what they are known for- bagels and breakfasts. What I imagined in my mind as a chicken tikka sandwich (NT$180) was totally different from what I got. Mysteriously brown shredded and spiced chicken that had no place being labeled as "chicken tikka." I guess I should have complained, but I was hungry and it was edible, it just wasn't Indian.



What is your favorite dish at NY Bagel?

Other location

No. 122, Xin Yi Rd, Sec. 5
Xin Yi District
(02) 2723-7977

No. 306, Nei Hu Road, Sec 1
(02) 2627-2886


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Saturday, March 21, 2009

dim sum/chinese: i strongly recommend CHAO PING JI



CHAO PING JI
at San Want Hotel, 2 FL
No. 172, Zhong Xiao East Rd., Sec. 4
(02) 2772-2121 ext. 2200, 2201

website: sanwant.com English, Chinese and Japanese

M-F
Lunch 11:30am - 2:30pm; Dinner 5:30pm - 9:00pm

Saturday~Sunday
Lunch 11:00am - 2:30pm; Dinner 5:30pm - 9:00pm

$$

Kid friendliness: high chairs available and lots of kid pleasing dim sum options

Visit reviewed: 12/22/2008
Previous review: 5/2007


rice noodle sauteed with XO sauce


After a few impromptu visits to Chao Ping Ji without my camera, I finally had it on me, with the battery charged, ready to capture the har gow in all its close-up beauty. Quite a few of my friends declared Chao Ping Ji the best dim sum in town and it seems that the readers of this blog agree- as it won "Best Dim Sum" award in the 2008 Best of Taipei Reader's Choice Poll.



All the dim sum favorites- har gow (shrimp dumpling in translucent wrapper), siu mai and luo bo gao (pan fried radish cake)- quickly got snatched up by chopsticks. If you're looking to try some new things, you should order the you tiao chang fun or rice noodle with fried doughnut in the center and the rice noodle sauteed with XO sauce.


rice noodle with you tiao


Between the goose and the chicken, the goose is moister and more unique.


goose



chicken with potato chips


I probably wouldn't order the oily crispy taro thing- I can't even remember was it taro or mushroom?



Everything tastes fresh and flavorful. Everything you'd expect from a hotel restaurant and more- the extensive menu is in English and Chinese. The decor is elegant and restaurant is family friendly, with private rooms available. It was pretty packed all the times we went, so call ahead for reservations, especially if you have a larger group.

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