Thursday, July 31, 2008

american/sandwiches: GORDON BIERSCH

Shin Kong Mitsukoshi A11, 2F
11 Songren Rd

(02) 8786-7588


hours: 11am- 12midnight


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

Visit reviewed: 6/13/2008

You may or may not have heard about this new addition to the "Western Chain Restaurants" (or now known as "WCR") that have made their mark in the Xin Yi area in Taipei in the recent years. Gordon Biersch is a restaurant that I first heard about because of its garlic fries. So imagine my surprise when I saw its familiar sign on the second floor of Shin Kong Mituskoshi where there used to be random shops.

I went there opening week (it was packed at 1pm) and again the following week (not so packed at 12pm).

Why so long for the review? I wanted to figure out how to fairly describe their opening week kinks (and there were lots). I wanted to think about how GB is different than the other WCRs.

It's got an across the board menu filled with appetizers, salads, burgers, pastas, pizzas, grilled meats similar to TGIF, but has yet to work out its growing pains in training its servers to (1) bring you drinks right away and keeping them filled; (2) understand English requests/questions/orders and (3) bring you bread/soup etc right away to keep you happy/munching.

Service was on the slow and confused sides on both visits- with our first visit experiencing a missing pasta dish that ended up having to be reordered and coming about an half hour after we'd all started our food. And the Linguine Marinara ended up being too acidic for my tastes (though my friend thought it was ok).

Another annoying thing is that on the lunch special menu, it says in English that one of the options is lemonade. But apparently, that isn't an option according to the servers. They have lemonade, it just isn't complimentary as a drink with the lunch special (even though it's printed on the menu). And there is no option to upgrade the lunch special sodas/ice tea/coffee to something like lemonade (which turned out to be VERY sour).

But if you like BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, then you should definitely try the one at Gordon Biersch. I don't think you could get one anywhere else in Taipei (please correct me if I'm wrong).

And if you go at lunch and ask them to switch out the potato chips for garlic fries (it might take a few tries) and get the business set lunch that comes with soup OR dessert and drink, then it's not a bad deal at NT$250. With a sprinkle of coleslaw and tender pulled pork bathed in tangy sweet bbq sauce on a bun, it's better than quite a few pulled pork sandwiches I've had in LA. And the garlic fries-- good, but hopefully you get a batch that is not overfried.

And if you're tired of the same old spinach salads from Mac Grill or Quesadilla Explosion salad from Chili's, then you should try the Grilled Chicken Cashew salad here.

GB also has a selection of award winning beers and even a beer sampler (NT$230) of shot glasses for you to try if you can't decide on which one. Personally, I'm not a beer drinker, so I can't report how it is.

From the lunch special, the various creamy soups (potato? mexican chicken?) go down easy like reheated Campbell soups and the chocolate cake is a good size for lunch (not too big, not too small). Chocolate-y enough though not as rich as the cakes from Mac Grill or Chili's.

But there were a few other things on the menu I might want to try if I go there again.. crabcakes, hummus, a couple of their other salads, fish and chips. BTW- if you end up with a menu with English titles for the foods but the descriptions in Chinese, you can ask for an English menu. Most of the WCRs have separate Chinese/English menus that you need to request if you are NOT an obvious Not Chinese Menu Reader like me (aka Chinese American who went to Chinese School for six years but can still only recognize first grade level characters). har har. Okay, my Chinese comprehension has gotten better than that since I've been here so much, but I'd still like my English menu.

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Anonymous said...

Do you know where to find macaroni & cheese in Taipei? For some reason I've been craving it lately.

Another place for Western-style fare is Tone 56, a live bar & restaurant on 56 Minquan E. Road, Sec. 3 (west of Fuxing N. Road on the south side). I'm plugging it because my friend just opened it. It also has live music from Fri-Sun.

joanh said...

keauxgeigh: hahah. You can get decent mac and cheese at TGIF and even in little fried balls. I'll have to check out your rec soon. What kind of food?

Sera said...

Lol I didn't know what WCR was until now ^^
beer sampler sounds great!

Have you tried the Blue Cheese burger at Chili's? If you don't mind blue cheese this is definately a burger worth trying.

joanh said...

sera: hahah. I just made it up so I didn't have to keep typing the whole phrase over and over. I'm not crazy about Blue Cheese, but I've heard it's great on burgers.

keauxgeigh: i was thinking also Ruth Chris or Lawry's might have good mac and cheese. can't remember!

Anonymous said...

hehe, I feel so immature asking about mac & cheese, what I wouldn't give for a box of velveeta. thanks, I have the Dunhua TGIF and Minsheng Ruth Chris close by.

Tone 56 is standard western fare. I think it's pretty good as the owner went to some lengths to find a decent chef. I've had the burrito and found it palatable. It's a classy looking place. Not necessarily kid friendly, but I've seen kids there, so it's not kid-averse. I'm also plugging it because our band plays there every Saturday night, which might be a reason to go, or not :p

joanh said...

keauxgeigh: btw, chili's has a really good Kraft mac and cheese (on the kids menu).. just like it would be if you made it yourself

Anonymous said...

"Personally, I'm not a beer drinker, so I can't report how it is."

It's too bad you can't report on it. The reason I'm interested in visiting is because of the beer. An issue with beer specifically or don't drink alcohol in general?

I first became familiar with Gordon Biersch in San Francisco. I found their Märzen to be particularly good. We're now able to get their beer in Vancouver. I'm curious if GB has been able to maintain the quality of their beer in Taiwan and if it tastes any different than in the States.

Also, is GB the first brewpub/craft brewery in Taipei or Taiwan? The country seems awash in industrial lager, which is a shame. Other beer styles are suited to hotter climates and can be adapted to local tastes. See the beer from, for example. A friend of mine who just moved his family to Singapore, brought back some Archipelago beers to try last week. The Samui was very interesting -- made with calamansi and pandanus. I could definitely enjoy one of those with some hawker center food.

Anonymous said...

I did manage to pay a visit to Gordon Biersch on my last night in Taiwan -- dropped by for a drink with my guide on the way to dinner. It had the best beer I was able to find during my entire visit, which is not actually saying that, on a global scale, it is that great. The enjoyment of GB is elevated by the fact that the selection of beer that I saw generally available is quite poor.

I didn't try the food, but I would recommend coming here for the beer alone. My guide also liked all six of the beers they had available and said he would come back with his wife.

One thing I found to be quite interesting is that a brewpub is actually illegal in Taiwan. GB has a separate production brewery in Taichung, where they also have another restaurant location. People should try to get this archaic law changed.

World Traveler said...

While I understand your comments, I also want to point out that your negative comments were mostly due to their recent opening - yes, language barriers are difficult, and you also have to keep in mind the serving structure in Asia as opposed to the Western world. From my experience at this restaurant (in multiple locations across the US and the most recent in Taipei), I found GB to be 100% dedicated to their guests - give them a break for taking time to iron out the kinks in a foreign country.

bcbrews:: In regard to your thoughts about the beer, I AM a beer drinker, and I find their vow to follow the German beer purity law extremely appealing. Microbreweries like this are rare, and a little more appreciation, as opposed to your (blogger) "say some negative and say some positive" approach would be nice.

joanh said...

bcbrews: thanks for reporting back on the beer and glad you enjoyed it.

world traveler: thanks for your comment. i think i made pretty clear as well that my visits were during their opening weeks so they were still experiencing opening kinks. i also wanted to include the info about the beer as i know that is one of their specialties, but wanted to share that i don't drink/like beer so readers who were interested in it could try it for themselves. i should go back for a revisit and check out how the food/service is now