Tuesday, May 31, 2011

hungryintaipei restaurant roundup- may 2011: dazzling openings and bittersweet closings

I was sick last week and have been busy this month so haven't spotted a ton of new openings this month. I need you guys to fill me in and feel free to email me or comment or Facebook me if you're a restaurant/chef or have food news! But here's a little bit of what I've gathered/heard...

- Eddy's Cantina in Tianmu is officially open and Eddy and Jo are coming into town from Danshui daily while their longtime staff holds down the original location. Review coming soon!
- Sweet Tooth Club closed its storefront, though the owner Ariel is still baking from home. Follow their facebook page for updates
- Couldn't believe that longtime Chinese restaurant Shanghai Fans was closed after reader Jane L. left a comment on the post, but I saw the emptied location with my own eyes. Sadface.
- A few days after I posted my revisit to Patio Thai, I drove by and also saw construction and an emptied out restaurant (bye bye koi pond). But a different Thai restaurant is set to open in the same location in June 2011. We'll see if it's the same owner/management or new owners- hopefully they'll still have good pad thai.
- Speaking of Thai food, Dazzling Cafe has opened a Dazzling Thai Cafe at Breeze Center...
- Dazzling has also opened another location of its popular honey toast dessert cafe, Dazzling Cafe- Sunshine, at Xinyi Mitsukoshi. Review and pictures coming soon, though I can say their truffle fries are tasty!
- Also recently opened is GooBer, a new American bistro/burger joint, opened by the chef who founded Oola and Fresh Greens, offering up sliders and shoestring french fries

Monday, May 30, 2011

western/revisited: I strongly recommend GORDON BIERSCH




GORDON BIERSCH
at Xinyi Mitsukoshi A11, 2FL
No.11, Songshou Rd.,
(02) 8786-7588

MRT: Taipei City Hall

website: gordonbiersch.com.tw

hours: 11 AM - 11:30 PM/ Fri/Sat until 12midnight

$$

Kid friendliness: high chairs available. crayons. lots finger foods

Visit reviewed: 5/17/2011
Previous visit reviewed: 6/13/2008

For some reason, I've been craving cobb salads lately. Perhaps its the lingering memory of the awesome cobb salads I had at Tender Greens last summer in LA. Or maybe the Taipei weather going from winter directly into the humid summer has me craving cool salads. Whatever reason- I was mentally going over my choices for salads in Taipei when I found that Gordon Biersch had a seafood cobb salad. 

So the next day I headed there for lunch. Squeezed into a table despite not having a reservation. The restaurant filled quickly after 12:30PM, much more full than Chili's on a weekday. They still have a full menu of eats, as well as a lunch menu which includes a drink, soup or dessert and main dish- all for around NT$400. 

The huge cobb salad didn't disappoint (along with two full cups of dressing of your choice- we picked ranch) with lots of cheese, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, bacon, eggs and avocado as well as some shrimp and crab meat. The shrimp were kind of on the small side and we had more dressing than we knew what to do with, but overall everything was fresh and I'd definitely order this again.




I also was extremely happy with the pulled pork sandwich, overflowing with the slightly spicy and sweet meat, and the garlic fries which I requested to sub for the potato chips. I couldn't stop eating the crispy fries.


I was happy that the drinks with the lunch set included the lemonades as an option (or soda), and I got the strawberry lemonade. I opted for the dessert of the day instead of french onion soup, but wasn't crazy about the mushy apple bread pudding, though the vanilla ice cream was good.


Advance reservations are definitely recommended, even for weekdays, and Gordon Biersch is a great option for large groups, families or business meetings, as well as beer lovers. Weekend waits without reservations are typically at least an hour, though you can leave your phone number and shop around the nearby area until they call you.  Since I last reviewed it, they opened another Taipei location in Song Shan district and one in Taichung. 

OTHER LOCATION

No.102, Dun Hua N. Rd.
(02) 2713-5288
11:30AM-11PM

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

mexican/new in town: MAYAN GRILL



MAYAN GRILL
No. 6, Lane 65, Zhongshan N. Rd, Sec. 2
(02) 2511-6292

MRT Shuanglian

website: mayangrill.com

hours: 11:30AM - 11PM (Closed Mondays)

$$

Kid friendliness: high chairs available

Visit reviewed: 3/29/2011


How can you not be excited that another Mexican restaurant has opened in Taipei? Opened in late March 2011, Mayan Grill offers a range of Mexican eats beyond tacos and burritos in a beautiful, two story restaurant near the Ambassador Hotel. Brunch is also available on weekends and I heard chorizo was going to be on the menu!



Mayan Grill's all day dining menu includes crispy and soft tacos, burritos, salads and rice bowls in varying lunch sets including soup, salad and rice, while a slow set would also include chips and salsa, coffee/tea and daily dessert (NT$249-499). They also have a dinner menu with other entrees that we didn't get to check out since their menus hadn't come in from the printers yet! 


It's always hard to judge a restaurant during its soft opening- service and food is still getting worked out, staff is getting trained and it's a time for the restaurant to get feedback and adjust, so keep that in mind that things might be different since I've eaten there a few months ago. I was also an invited guest, and the things I ate were mostly items that the owner thought we should try from their lunch menu and the dishes were plated to be shared with a large group. (Disclosure- I received this meal for free from Mayan Grill, but the opinions expressed are my own. No compensation was received.)

My favorites were the hot, crispy flautas and baked enchiladas, which would make a good meal by themselves. I'd definitely order these again and these are hard to find items around Taipei. A long time ago in 2004/2005, I used to order the taquitos from Cheers at the Grand Hyatt, but they've long disappeared from the menu there.


The enchiladas weren't as "wet" as I was used to with extra sauce on the plate, but I dug the baked in flavors of the cheese, sauce and meat. You can choose between red sauce or green.


There were three salsas that we sampled with our basket of chips, and the consensus on the favorite was a red pepper salsa which had an addictive sweetness, while the three chile salsa was way too spicy for me.


The taco rice bowl is topped with shredded lettuce and sauces and the green rice can be topped with chicken, pork, ground beef or steak.


I liked the tortilla soup, but had to fish out the soggy tortilla strips out of the soup and the soup needed to be served hotter. I prefer it when the tortilla strips are sprinkled on top so that they retain a semi-crunch.


I was disappointed by Mayans' burritos and tacos, especially in contrast to my experiences with Macho Tacos (for half the price) or what I'd get in LA. The burrito seemed more like a wrap with not enough meat and fillings and each bite seemed like mostly tortilla. It needed a lot more meat. Some might be disappointed that there are also no beans available on the menu yet.


The hard shell crispy tacos were better than the soft fish tacos... 



I was not a fan of the fish soft tacos as they were made that day. At first, when we looked at it, we were unsure if it was fish or chicken, as the meat was flaky/shredded and overwhelmed by the cabbage. It would have been great if there were good sized strips of grilled fish so you could taste and see it. Again, I think I was definitely comparing it with the fish tacos from Macho where the primary focus is the fish.


The housemade Diablo sauce is try at your own risk, or if you want to "sweat, cry or both." I was too chicken to try this, but you can request that your meal come Diablo style if you're looking for some heat.


The chocolate cake dessert was sinfully good- with a moist, dense chocolate flavor that was a great way to end the meal.


With other Taipei sit down Mexican joints La Casita El Gallo and Yuma having closed down this past year, Mayan Grill will vie with the also newly opened Eddy's Cantina in Tianmu to be numero uno "sit down" Mexican in town. (Is it kind of sad that I've just written off Amigo and Tequila Sunrise?) The owner, Erik, brings his love for food and experiences from Southern California and seems passionate about making it work. I could imagine that Mayan Grill could be a great place for happy hour with some margaritas and finger foods, or for accommodating large groups or parties.  I spied fresh avocados/guacamole, as well as steak and sopes on their Facebook page which looked tempting and maybe worth another visit to try. Has anyone been- what did you think? Where is your favorite Mexican restaurant in town so far?


Monday, May 23, 2011

desserts/delivery: i recommend LA CUISINE DE MAMAN



La Cuisine de Maman
0980-392-160 Miss Peng
0988-513-551 Judy

website: La Cuisine de Maman's Facebook page

$-$$

Kid friendliness: large enough to share, if you want to.

Visit reviewed: 3/29/2011


Nothing like surprises for your birthday, wrapped in pretty pink packages and a satin bow. 


The surprise is made even sweeter when it has desserts inside! Thanks to my friend and fellow food lover, I got to enjoy homemade desserts without doing any baking. La Cuisine de Maman doesn't have a storefront, but a gander at their Facebook page shows that they sell homemade 6 or 8 inch apple or strawberry pies (NT$220-380) with various shipping costs. When my friend told me I was getting an apple pie, the words conjured up American style pie topped with pie crust- but instead it was an intricately made, open faced apple tart.


I admired the methodical cutting of the apple slices and placement to make a beautiful flower-like pie. I found the apples crisper rather than soft, and less sweet than I'd usually like, but probably perfectly suited for lighter Taiwanese tastebuds.



The strawberry tart was also emphasizing the fruit's natural sweetness rather than overloading it with sugary syrup. 

Pull it out with the waxy tissue paper. 


This would be awesome with a scoop of ice cream. 


I could see this as an "ooh and aah" alternative for cake for birthdays, Mother's Day, anniversaries, or baby showers.

A slice of each is the perfect accompaniment to catching up on the Good Wife, Grey's Anatomy or Gossip Girl. What a perfect way to welcome summer.




Friday, May 20, 2011

american/burgers: i recommend CHEESE DAVID



CHEESE DAVID
or CHI SU DA WEI
No. 102, Kun Ming St.
(02)2311-1800

MRT: Ximen

website: ximen.com.tw mostly Chinese

hours: 11:30AM-10PM; closes 10:30PM on Friday/Sat

$-$$

Kid friendliness: no high chairs spotted. fast casual seating on 2nd and 3rd floors, stairs only

Visit reviewed: 4/14/2011


After moving back to Taipei, I found myself craving all sorts of things that I never gave a second thought to in the states. Fajitas. Subway cookies. Meatballs. And philly cheesesteaks.

So when I heard about a philly cheesesteak place opened in Taipei, I knew I had to give it shot, especially after hearing that it was opened by a Taiwanese American who lived in Philly and had moved back to Taiwan.

There's probably a good portion of Taiwanese people who have never been to Philadelphia, so this would be their first exposure to a philly cheesesteak. I've never had a cheesesteak in Philly either, so I can only imagine how awesome they might be. My memories of the smell and sizzle of philly cheesesteaks are from Steak Escape at the Galleria Mall in LA (but I think I usually ended up with Chick-A-Fil or the orange chicken from Panda Express).

Cheese David is located in Ximending, closer to the theaters than to the MRT stop. Once you get onto E Mei St., it's easy to spot with its red and white three stories.




The plastic menus have English and Chinese as well as pictures. Besides cheesesteaks, there are burgers, chicken sub sandwiches and tuna salad sandwiches. I was also surprised to see waffles and desserts on the menu, though the desserts looked slightly Costco-ish.


Once we placed our order at the counter, we had to wait for the food to take it upstairs where the seating is. So I wandered over to the window where they were grilling up the beef and spotted the tub of cheese sauce. Scoops of cheese sauce going on fries, going on cheesesteaks.


It looks pretty promising...



I have to admit that the packaging and concept is pretty well thought out. The bright orange logo is on all the wrappers and cups and the cheesesteak even has a sticker with the cartoon image of Cheese David.


Upstairs, we can't wait to dig in. I asked them to cut the cheesesteak (NT$185 set meal) and burger in half so my friend and I can each try half. 


I wished there was more steak after my first few bites. At least twice as much, if not more. Is it too American of me to want a huge pile of meat overflowing out of the bun, or is that a reasonable expectation for a philly cheesesteak? Just google "philly cheesesteak" if you want to see what I mean. 
So I can't help but to be a little disappointed, even though the flavors are good, especially if you enjoy gooey cheese whiz-like cheese sauce.


The burger (NT$175 set meal) is decent too, with a better meat to bun ratio, though the bread on the cheesesteak is better than the bun on the burger. It's a good size and I can't really think of other burger places in the Ximending area besides McD's. And I devoured my cup of cheese fries and probably some of my friend's. 


I can imagine how this place is popular with people looking for something different and there seem to be a lot of students hanging out and studying in the seating area. Hard core cheesesteak lovers might want something more, but for some looking for a taste of "home," this might do the trick.


At the end of the meal, most of my friends agreed that we might not come out of our way for a second visit, (especially since I had started experimenting with making my own cheesesteaks at home!) but it is worth trying once to see if you like it or not. I could totally see how if you're really jonesing for cheese fries, and in the area, Cheese David wouldn't be a bad place to hang out for an hour or two.

Monday, May 16, 2011

thai/revisited: i still strongly recommend PATIO THAI




ED NOTE: This location closed a/o 5/2011, but should reopen in 6/2011 as a different Thai restaurant. maybe under different management or owners?

PATIO THAI
No. 12, Alley 247, Dun Hua S. Rd., Sec.1
(02) 2731-5288

website: patiogroup.com (in English, but incomplete menu online)

lunch: 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM
dinner: 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM

$$

Visit reviewed: 2/17/2011
previously reviewed: 11/24/2008 & 3/9/2007





Pleasantly surprised once again by the food at Patio Thai, though I liked the appetizers and thai style fried rice noodles with prawns (NT$300) more than the curry. Having had some bad pad thai recently, Patio Thai's pad thai is clearly on the sweet side which is the way I like it. I know that's not how everyone likes it, but I'd go back for this dish alone. The chewiness of the rice noodles are enhanced by the tofu puffs and crunchy peanuts and we had to order another dish when this one was quickly finished. I might say this is my favorite pad thai in Taipei.



The sizeable menu is easy to browse, in English and Chinese.



Go with a lot of people so you can order a bunch of appetizers to share. The trio of golden fried chicken spring rolls, prawns pouch and vegetable cigar appetizer platter (NT$280) with fried tidbits reminded me of the combo platters we'd get in Chinese restaurants back home...


the duo of chicken, beef and prawns satay (NT$300) with all the peanut sauce poured on already...



the crispy soft shell crab...



prawn cakes (NT$290) with another sweet dipping sauce....



crispy golden fried chicken with chili, garlic and pepper (NT$320)...


Man, I just noticed most of our appetizers were fried. Okay, order some veggies to balance it out... morning glory with shrimp paste.




I end up ordering this grilled beef fillet in green curry with bamboo shoots, aubergines and sweet basil almost every time and not loving it every time. Oh well. It's quite spicy for those of you looking for some fire. Next time I'll have to remember to look for those little chili peppers marking the spicy items on the menu.



I enjoyed our Tom Kha seafood in coconut galangal soup even though it came towards the end of our meal (instead of the beginning). It's sour like Tom Yum soup, but also sweet because it has coconut milk in it. One of my friends was confused by the flavors and said it tasted like slightly sour milk to her. I don't think it tastes like that because I like it, but some may be put off by the combination of the milky, sour and sweet.



The best thing about Patio Thai is it's usually not crowded so I enjoy the tranquil and lovely setting and friendly service.

OTHER LOCATIONS

No.28 Ren-Ai Rd.,Sec 3, 7-3F,
(02) 2700-8618

at Sogo
No. 45, Chung-Hsiao East Rd., Sec. 4, 11F,
(02) 2721-5998

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