Tuesday, February 13, 2007

italian: i don't recommend VINO VINO CAFE

2, Lane 80, ShiDa Rd.
(02) 2362-1167


Visit reviewed: 12-12-2006

I had been hearing so much about Bongos... but after a winding taxi ride around the lanes and alleys near Shi Da, we simply could not find it. The telephone number we had was not being answered. The address we had seemed to lead to a dead end. So hungry and lost, we directed the taxi to take us out to the nearest main street and spotted a charming looking Spanish looking cafe with people lingering on the patio with a little park in front of it, and that is how we ended up at Vino Vino Cafe.

However, maybe we should have tried harder to find Bongos? Despite the appetizing sounding choices of pasta and main dishes on their English and Chinese menu, we ended up with some not so savory plates (NT$960 for 3 set menu lunches). Well, at least my friend did- her penne pasta was so salty it was inedible.

My risotto was not bad with bits of mushroom and chicken mixed into the creamy, soft rice, but the other parts of my set menu were nothing to brag about and I felt bad that my friend didn't enjoy her food.

A very plain lettuce salad and a watery soup under a not flaky puff pastry. I think the most places I have seen so many puff pastry soups is only in Taipei- it's not a phenomenon that I've seen as much elsewhere. But it doesn't mean that it tastes as good as it looks.

And then a sad watered down gelatin dessert- the pale lemon yellow looked slightly like "ai-yu" or yellow jello, but tasted like someone had forgotten to add the flavor packet.

Watered down seemed to be the theme- the watered down soup, the watered down dessert, the watered down ice tea, the watered down service.

With so many great little Italian spots in Taipei to discover and eat at, this was a big disappointment- so don't be lured in by the good looking facade unless you just want to hang out on the patio.

Monday, February 12, 2007

chinese/late night: i recommend NO NAME CONGEE & DELICATESSEN

No. 130, Fu-Hsia Fu Xing S. Road, Sec 2
(02) 2784-6735


no-name.com.tw (Chinese only)

date visited: 12/14/2006

This place is actually called NO NAME CONGEE-- it's such a weird name, it makes it stand out even more and easy to remember its name. And it's important to stand out since this place is one of many little shops on the same street that serve porridge and side dishes into the wee hours of the morning on Fu-Hsia S. Road open 24 hours a day. I was amazed to discover this "shi-fan" or congee street and that I had never heard of it before- turns out it is a popular local spot for people looking for affordable eats for large groups, before or after clubbing/Cashbox karaoke singing/late night movie/activities, somewhere to go after you land at 5 am into Taipei airport. We had about sixteen people at 11pm and most places that are open that late cannot accomodate so many people on a whim- but we found lots of room at No Name.

The way it works is that you basically pick out the side dishes you want and they supply the porridge/congee for free- if you are a party of one, you can just choose a few and get a free pot of porridge for however much your side dishes cost.

If you are a huge group like we were, then make sure you coordinate who gets what, so you don' t have a ton of overlap and leftover side dishes from too many hungry people grabbing dishes for each other.

The side dishes range from NT$50-$100, depending on the color of the plate/size of the plate and what it is. If in doubt, ask. There's no menu- instead at a buffet-style self serve area, you can just pick out what looks good since nothing is really labeled. You can either pick from the plates above the glass, or ask them to dish you up a fresh plate.

The sides were relatively fresh and there is a wide assortment including lots of traditional sides- including thousand year old egg, bamboo, mushrooms, various green veggies such as braised asparagus, egg omelette, cucumber, fried sweet gluten... The porridge is Taiwanese style, with large cubes of sweet potato mixed into the not too soupy, not too thick porridge.

It's a pretty spartan space, but clean and open seating with upstairs and downstairs areas. It's not too crowded that you can't find an area to sit, and you can linger in conversation over your food if you want. This is the only one I've tried-- I've heard they are all about the same-- but if anyone else recommends another one instead, I think I'll definitely be back eventually one late night (or early morning!) when everything else is closed.

all our empty dishes

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

not taipei/dessert: AUNTIE EM's KITCHEN

So I'm headed back to Taipei after lots of great food and travels in the states- so don't worry back to your regularly scheduled programming soon. But I had to share a picture of the adorable and delicious cupcakes I love from Auntie Em's Kitchen. I would much rather eat these than the overrated cupcakes from Sprinkles- even though I have to trek to Eagle Rock to get them.

The picture is of their mini cupcakes which go for $1+ - and their regular sized giant cupcakes ($3+) are almost as big as a pint of ice cream with a helmet of frosting and the dense yet moist cupcake underneath- definitely enough to share, but only if you felt like it. Personally, I love the red velvet and the coconut. These may be the best red velvet cupcakes I've ever had- and yes, better than the ones at Doughboys (a bit heavy) and Sprinkles (not as moist)! The cream cheese frosting of the red velvet is a bit more sugary than smooth cream cheese, but works with the less sweet taste of the moist red velvet. The coconut shavings mesh with the slightly lemony cake. There's also chocolate (which is on the dark chocolate side to me) and carrot.

There also a ton of other freshly baked pastries- and oh yeah, they serve food. Delicious homestyle food, sandwiches and salads and a mean strawberry lemonade. Eat it in their cozy cafe style restaurant after ordering at the counter, or get it to go.

Either way, I am going to be drooling and daydreaming about these cupcakes on the plane all the way to Taipei.

4616 Eagle Rock Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 255-0800

website: http://www.auntieemskitchen.com

hours: mon-fri 8am to 7pm
sat-sun 8am to 4pm