Thursday, August 30, 2012

not taipei/snapshot: HELLO KITTY LADUREE MACARONS



Who doesn't love receiving surprises? Especially when they come wrapped in ribbon and Hello Kitty?


I was surprised, but delighted to find that my friend hand carried a box of Hello Kitty Laduree macarons from Paris for me, back in May. How cute is this mint green box dotted with hand drawn macarons and matching colored mini Hello Kittys? 


Inside the box was a rainbow of the sweet, vibrantly colored confections- I took one picture and then began tasting. Decadence and joy and gluttony. My friend was bummed that some were a bit cracked during the transatlantic flight, but I assured him that they still tasted the same. 


Big thanks to my friend J for generously thinking of me and for my first bites of a Laduree macaron. Make a stop at the Laduree shop in NYC if you get a chance, as it is the first and only location in the states.


And props to this blogger who actually MADE Hello Kitty macarons, tiny ears and red bowtie and all, who I found when I was googling "Hello Kitty macarons." They were adorable and looked amazing with the right shape and eyes perfectly spaced apart! 

from i-heart-baking.blogspot.com
I Heart Baking gives a little photo tutorial for those with the patience and skill to make their own, as well as has lots of other Hello Kitty baking posts. Whoever could figure out how to make and sell these in Taipei would make a killing!

Monday, August 27, 2012

singaporean/french: i strongly recommend AU JARDIN (BISTRO DU VIN)



AU JARDIN (BISTRO DU VIN)
No. 222, XingAn St. 松山區興安街222號 
(02) 2719-6863

MRT:  Zhongshan Jr. High School or Nanjing E. Rd


hours: 11:30AM - 2:30 PM; 6PM - 10:30 PM

$$ 

Kid friendliness: high chairs available

Visits reviewed: 5/25/2012, 5/26/2012 and 6/26/2012


Opened for a few months now, Au Jardin is a bright, cheery bistro in the Songshan District that serves up Asian meets Italian/French fusion fare. Fans of Just In Bistro or the shuttered Le Petite Cuisine might find some Sino French flavors or faces familiar, but newcomers should feel just as welcome.


Also tucked on this alley is Fresh Cafe, which I've been hearing about and meaning to try.




At first glance, the menu seems a bit disjointed with both items like Spaghetti Alla Carbonara and Singapore Laksa on it, but there are gems to be found. On my first visit, I was a guest of my friend D and the restaurant, so they brought out their signature dishes for us to try. The English and Chinese menu has a range of pastas, main dishes, appetizers and desserts, as well a wine list selection. This post is a collection of three different visits so there's a lot of food to drool over! 



I like to treat my grandma to lunch sometimes and if the place is too pricey, sometimes she will feel guilty or be too polite about eating together, but I think she had a good time at Au Jardin and enjoyed the food even more when I pointed out the reasonable prices to her.


The Tofu Spring Salad with Light Soy Bean Dressing (NT$180) sounds deceptively simple, but it's refreshing. With both fried and silken tofu atop dressed greens, the soybean dressing is more like a sweet vinegrette. I've ordered this salad again on every visit afterwards.




The Tempura of Soft shell crab salad with Green Chili Sauce (NT$360) has a strong kick with the spicy green chili sauce that gives the crispy soft shell crab an acidity and fire that is addictive. It also works as a salad since there's some lettuce and greens to spread the sauce around.


On my last visit, on the seasonal menu was the Parma ham with grilled peaches salad (NT $360). Sweet and savory, perfect for summer.




For the more traditional options, the Caesar Salad (NT$200).


I loved the spicy soup from the Sauteed clam "Tom Yam" (NT$120), but I had a few gritty clams that turned me off.


The Grilled Confit Pork Neck with Honey Mustard Dressing (NT$140) is not a bad appetizer to share, but the confit pork neck is used in quite a few of the dishes I ordered, so it's not necessary to repeat order unless you really love it.


Calamari Fritter with Lemon Aioli (NT$180)


Grilled Oyster Mushroom with Potato Salt (NT$100) is a hearty choice for vegetarians.


Soup of the day- Seafood Chowder 


A must order is the Roasted Duck Confit with Seasonal Vegetables, Chicken Jus (NT$400). It's a great portion for the price and is roasted perfectly so that the skin is crispy and the meat is juicy and tender. 




Depending on your mood, there are two pastas I really recommend- the Tagliatelle Confit Pork Neck (NT$380) is a crowd pleaser with noodles tossed in olive oil and garlic that brings out the flavors of the pasta and the pork. The pasta is cooked perfectly al dente, chewy but not too hard.



And the spicier Tagliatelle Confit Sweet Shrimp Pork Neck Laksa (NT$420) bursts with Southeast Asian flavors of spiciness, sweetness and sourness that somehow works perfectly with the Italian noodle. Again there's the melt in your mouth pork neck meat along with some seafood flavors and shrimp. There's traditional Laksa as well, but I also ended up getting this dish.



My friend was craving red meat, so she ordered the Grilled rib eye lunch set (NT$980) to share. Pricey for lunch, but not a bad price for a nicely grilled steak.





A few orders were not as strong and distinctive- the Cheeseburger, Salad and Fries (NT$380) was gourmet enough, but not as exciting as laksa.



I also felt the Seafood Risotto (NT$400) was not my idea of a risotto- it was quite watery and the rice was too soft. It tasted more like a seafood stew with rice.


One of the things that I think also makes Au Jardin stand out is the service. The dirty plates and utensils were whisked away and replaced with new ones between courses (salads, mains, desserts) without asking. This usually only happens at fine dining restaurants with higher entree prices, but it's nice when you get that quality of service in a casual ambience. It was nice having to have clean forks to enjoy the different flavors and not have to wave the waiter down for water, and is a noticeable gesture in the land of self serve eateries.



There's lots of delicious desserts to choose from- if you want a souffle, be sure to order it before you want to it since it will take time to cook. The first day, they had a Peach Souffle for us to try, but it was a tad underdone for me.




But I loved the decadent warm Baked chocolate cake (NT$220) with the gooey chocolate center.




And the flaky Apple tart (NT $180) that is served as one long strip and easy to share. Meticulous thin slices of apple are sweetened with caramel sauce and the crispy phyllo dough underneath makes it a dessert that is satisfying, but not heavy.



Although it's a bit out of the way for me, it's worth the trip. Au Jardin is also in that sweet spot where not too many people know about it yet so it wasn't crowded, but that might change when word of mouth spreads. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

snapshot/pizza: i recommend VAPIANO's prosciutto arugula pizza

Arugula and prosciutto pizza with a view. 


VAPIANO
at ATT4Fun
No. 12 SongShou Rd, 10F 台北市松壽路12號10樓
(02) 2722-7111 



MRT: Taipei City Hall

Tried to have lunch with friends at the Diner the other day, but it had a ridiculous 40 minute wait on a weekday. So we hopped up a little higher at ATT4Fun to Vapiano, which I've reviewed before.

Vapiano had Rucola (arugula) pizzas and Crudo (prosciutto) pizzas, but nothing with them together. So I ordered the Crudo pizza (NT$360) and added arugula (aka rocket) for an extra NT$30 with a lot of pointing at the menu. The fresh parmesan gives it an extra layer of flavor and I liked how they put one piece of prosciutto per slice so there was no skimping.


Make sure to not confuse (like I did before with the pasta) the pizza named Prosciutto for the prosciutto pizza since it actually only has regular ham. Confusing I know. But it's a decent price for the size and the window view of 101. We didn't have to wait to be seated for a table, but the self serve policy will have someone in your group making multiple trips back and forth to the table for forks, napkins, cups, plates, water and seasonings, since they are all located in different areas of the restaurant like scavenger hunt.

I've also found delish prosciutto pizzas at Fifteen (the crust is chewier, but the size is smaller for the price),  and I also adore the spinach pizza with arugula and ricotta from Woolloomoolloo XY.
 

Monday, August 20, 2012

chinese: i recommend SHANGHAI KITCHEN


SHANGHAI KITCHEN 上海鄉村
No. 17, Renai Rd, Sec. 1, B1 台北市仁愛路一段17號B1 
(02) 2396-5154 

MRT: Shandao Temple or CKS Memorial Hall


hours: 11:30AM - 2PM and 5:30PM - 9PM 

$$ 

Kid friendliness: high chairs and kids dinnerware available 

Visit reviewed: 6/5/2012


Looking for another Chinese restaurant to add to the list to take the relatives or coworkers for good food at good prices? Then consider trying Shanghai Kitchen next. I had low expectations because of the random location, in the basement of a family activities center, and the generic setting of an open dining room, but I found myself pleasantly surprised.


There are two menus, both with English. One has photos for many of their trademark dishes and the other is a bit sprawling with lots of choices of seafood, vegetables and appetizers. There's also set menus for larger groups that makes ordering easy.

Of course we had to get the Dong Po Pork (NT$420), which was generous portion of thickly sliced, tender pork belly, glistening in sweet soy sauce. All this pork belly for US$13 was the steal of the day.


Use the steamed buns to soak up the fat. So good. I think I could have eaten three of these.


Another must order dish is the Lion's Head Stewed Meatballs, which were giant meatballs bathed in chinese cabbage (though it's expensive for the portion relative to the dongpo pork). The flavor and texture of the meatballs paired perfectly with a bowl of white rice.



Let's pretend to be healthy with some broccoli.


The stirfried shrimp and peas were fine, but I've had tastier versions at Shanghai Shanghai or Celestial Restaurant, with sweeter peas and bouncier shrimp.


I wouldn't order the Braised Crab Eggs with Tofu (NT$320) again as it was too watery for me and didn't have the sweet richness that I've tasted, like from Xiao Nan Men


There's a lot more to explore from Shanghai Kitchen's menu, so someday I'll be back. Especially if I'm craving some fatty pork belly.

OTHER LOCATION

No. 67, RenAi Rd, Sec. 2, B1
北市仁愛路 2段 67號 B1
MRT: Zhongxiao/Xinsheng
(02)2322–3333


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