Monday, January 15, 2007

chinese: i strongly recommend HUNDRED MUSHROOM GARDEN (BAI GU YUAN)

17, Lane 71, Ren Ai Rd., Section 4
(02) 8773-3160

$-$$ website in Chinese only

kid friendly?: high chairs available, though no room to put them in some booths. a lot of things on the table including hot pot so not for antsy kids who can't keep their fingers off the table.

date visited: 12/16/2006

Sorry for the lack of posts. I wanted to try and put up posts more often in 2007, but traveling back to LA, jetlag, getting sick and work has put a dent in those new year's resolutions! Plus I don't have all the business cards/addresses translated - but I know you just want to see pictures! So I will do my best to catch up on my backlog of half-written posts and update with the other information later.

The winter weather is the perfect excuse to go out and eat hotpot, not that you really need an excuse to eat hotpot. Maybe known to some as "shabu shabu," if it's not all-you-can-eat buffet style, then you basically order your options from the menu, and cook it yourself in a pot of hot boiling water (or broth) on the table. The options can range from spicy hot "ma-la" hot pot to a place like this- with over a hundred of types of mushrooms! We had mixed up our reservations for a busy Saturday night (the restaurants named "Orange" (the fruit) is not the same as "Orange" (the color)- a subtle but distinct difference in Chinese- left us without reservations at the trendy Orange hotpot restaurant) so we ended up finding space at the Mushroom hotpot place.

They start you off with a pot of broth with some herbs and then bring over a tray full of various vegetables and more mushrooms than you could imagined existed. There are fat, skinny, long, short, spidery, stubby, crunchy, chewy- all sorts of mushrooms that go into the mushroom broth.

so lonely and empty, just waiting for its mushroom friends

The different set menus offer different choices. I love mushrooms, so it was very exciting for me. The servers put all the mushrooms and vegetables in for you and then set the timer, which will let you know when the hotpot goodness is ready to eat.

They also gave us mini dishes of dried mushroom and mushroom floss, both which were really addictive.The floss was chewy and salty and the dried mushroom had a good crunch with an intense flavor. Both of these are also available for sale to take home. I ended up buying both and eating the dried mushroom as a snack- perfect for when I wanted something to munch on, while being relatively healthy!

In the meanwhile, we chowed down on our abalone mushroom, which was a giant long (and yes, very phallic looking) mushroom that did have a meaty texture like abalone.

It was like a duo, as they seed the same mushroom boiled and chopped, served on ice. They paired with soysauce and wasabi to dip in, so I guess it was like mushroom sashimi.

Our set menu included these two appetizers, while our friends set menu included mini mantoh or steamed buns with a sweet condensed milk dipping sauce. They came in assorted flavors and were soft and warm. I wasn't really used to the condensed milk eaten with mantoh- it belongs on shaved ice!

While the mushroom hotpot is perfect for vegetarians, they also do serve meat, so we had some sliced pork for our hotpot! They came in perfect frozen curls, like the kind you see at Mongolian bbq places that don't want you to pile a lot of meat into your bowl before it's stirfried.

They also had a little pot of meat mixture that we could scoop up into little balls and drop into the soup. This was one of their signature dishes- they were like chewy meatballs with the starchy fishcake texture. We also had dumplings, but they were not as tasty as all the other dishes.

At the end of your meal, you have a perfect broth to sip from to keep you warm to go back out into the cold winter air and all the mushrooms don't get mushy, but just get more flavorful. If you don't finish, you can even take it home- they will give you a sturdy plastic bag to put it in.

The restaurant is very clean with separated areas for seating. It's perfect for families or friends- it's not as trendy with dark decor/lighting as Orange or even Buffalo Yakiniku, but it's good. Their menu is only in Chinese, so you might have to go with the pictures or bring someone who speaks Chinese to help order. You're going to get mushrooms, any way you order! They do talk a bit about the mushrooms and their benefits which I missed out on.

If you have room, they serve a little panna cotta with some strawberry sauce on top for dessert. It's not the best panna cotta I've had, but at least it wasn't mushroom flavored!

This mushroom hot pot restaurant is actually a part of a chain, so there are quite a few locations around Taiwan. It's been very cold in LA, so I imagine it's been cold in Taipei still- the hearty hot broth and mushrooms will definitely help.

others who recommend eating 100 Mushroom Garden
-Jim Standard from Food and Wine Magazine
- Bayside Village Diary

More locations (in Chinese) on website here

Tien Mu location
No. 91, Chung Cheng Road, Sec 1
(02) 2832-2146

No. 60, Ming Sheng E Road, Sec 5
(02) 2753-0625

No. 16, Jin Shan S Road, Sec 2
(02) 3322-2648

MuZha location
No. 67, Mushin Road, Sec 3
(02) 2937-7333


Lisa Wang said...

that hot pot looks great, especially in this weird weather. JR Seafood on Santa Monica used to have the best seafood hot pot (even my parents loved it) but they've closed now and it's become Hop Li which is not nearly as good. :( Feel better!

Melting Wok said...

Oh I found one hot pot buffet very similar to this one in San Gabriel Valley, the broth is filled with chinese herbs & spices, very rich & intoxicating. Thx for the reminder, will have to get some hot-pot-fix now, cheers :)

Chubbypanda said...

OMG, I love mushrooms. I have got to go to this place when I visit my family.

BTW, you've been tagged for my Save Our Faves 2007 food blogger meme. Check out my post for the meme here. Hope you can join the fun. =)

joanh said...

ffc: yeah, i don't really know where i would hotpot in west LA.. i guess i usually just do it at home with some udon and lots of veggies and some meat.

melting wok: cool.. i wonder if it's similar

chubbypanda: awesome! looking forward to doing it, though i will have to wait til feb for a taipei edition!

Mar said...

Your blog is just awesome!! I've been dying to try Bai gu yuan, and after seeing your pics, i'll definetly go there!

joanh said...

mar: cool! thanks for the comment- hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Judy said...

I went to this place when it was located on Fu Sing S. Rd. we were in Taipei 2 weeks ago and was actually looking for this place. I need to write down the new address and go next time. The food was great. We had gotten some dried mushroom in a can (like dried pork song) it was so good.

joanh said...

judy: yes, i LOVED the dried mushroom (like veggie pork song) as well as the dehydrated mushrooms!!! i think i might go and get some!

Selvinas said...

Hey there!
I'm going to visti Taiwan very soon and I'm making a list of how much money I'll need.
How much will it cost me if I have dinner of lunch here?