Friday, October 31, 2008

bakery/new in town: i recommend PAUL

No. 107, Ren Ai Rd, Sec. 4

website: (doesn't seem to be working yet)

hours: 7:30AM- 10PM


Kid friendliness: no high chairs, but some booth-ish seating

Visit reviewed: 10/7/2008

It seems like a lot can change in seven weeks. When I came back from LA in October after being gone since late August, there were new restaurants spotted everywhere. Even Eslite bookstore on Dun Hua had gone through a renovation.

That's a lot of eating to catch up on.

Some I had heard about from friends raving on Facebook, like the nicer French/Western restaurant L'Idiot (to be reviewed) on Min Sheng East Road where Tony Roma's used to be. Some maybe I just hadn't spotted before, like Lugar Home Bread Bar (to be reviewed) behind the new NY Pizza Kitchen behind the old NY Bagel (on Renai). Some were picked to meet for lunch by a friend from out of town, like the new Dun Hua branch of California Grill(to be reviewed).

And some were unmistakeably new- like the bright white capital letters on a black sign for PAUL, next to Swensen's on Ren Ai Circle where Miss Sixty's used to be.

At first glance, it's definitely different than most of the Japanese/Chinese bakeries in town, maybe an Au Bon Pain on steroids and a pretty dress. A lot of the breads here on the sweeter side, cushy and soft, or covered in pork floss. But Paul has dough delivered from France and is a popular French chain that has branches in Shanghai and Japan. Maybe that's why there's an overflowing line at lunch, where the wait can be 10-30 minutes long.

There's an attractive array of breads, baguettes and pastries that can be spotted from the window and waiters in white coats running around delivering orders. The space is not huge, but they pack in a lot of seating in the modern, classic with various antique looking chairs, tables and seating areas at dark wood tables without making it feel too crowded. The franchise details are covered, including the black and white checkered floors, baby chandeliers and windows dressed with curtains.

My first trip to Paul was for breakfast- we just walked in, sat down and ordered from the menu (where there's 4 choices of brunch type meals from NT$235-$285 which gets you various combos of breads or 1/2 sandwich, egg, fresh fruit, yogurt, salad, tea/coffee. My friend got the Rive Gauche(NT$265) which was a 1/2 Ham and Cheese Sandwich, small salad, hard boiled egg and coffee.

I thought I'd get more value by choosing ala carte from the bakery- so I got a mini chocolate pastry, an olive bread and apple tart. I'd probably only get the apple tart again.

That same day, I was in the area with a couple of girlfriends for lunch and couldn't decide on where to eat, so I asked them if they had eaten at Paul. They wanted to try it out so back I went. This time, I was surprised to discover a line of people waiting. We didn't want to wait 30 minutes, so we just got our food to go. They have a to-go set that includes a sandwich and choice of soup/drink for NT$265.

The sandwiches were good. The tuna sandwich had sliced tomatoes and wasn't overloaded with mayo, and the swiss in the ham and cheese stood out. The bread was also really good- crusty and soft at the same time. They also have smoked salmon sandwiches and proscuitto sandwiches. The chef salad was ok.

The mushroom soup wasn't too creamy and I could see the various diced mushrooms as I slurped it down.

But we were most excited about the desserts.

I remember when I first saw a PAUL was in Shanghai near XinTianDi and drooled over their selection of pastries and bought a few in a box to-go for a friend. I remember the first time I ever had a fancy fruit tart at a fancy cafe- which was my freshman year at Cal at the San Francisco shopping center. It seemed so decadent to be paying US$2-3 just for a little fruit tart with some glossed sugar on it. But I savored every bite.

Eating the raspberry tart (NT$155) and napoleon reminded me of that. It was gone too soon.

Flaky, sweet and not really big enough to share between three dessert loving girls, so it was gone in minutes. They also have chocolate and strawberry napoleons, as well as different flavored tarts and macarons.

Whatever way you plate it, PAUL is not cheap. They even have a loaf of bread that is NT$600. It feels like I'm back in Europe, wondering how everything seems so expensive. Is it worth it? Maybe for the occasional splurge on the French pastries that you won't likely find elsewhere, unless you stop by Maison Kayser.

Yesterday, I was in a hurry and thought I'd grab a tuna sandwich to go. But they seemed to have shrunk by a third, but remained the same price. Even asking the girl behind the counter didn't really help. She said they had always been that size, but I have photographic evidence otherwise. I was a bit annoyed that the sandwiches before were maybe 10 inches long, but the ones I spotted yesterday looked to be 6-7 inches long for NT$185 or so. I couldn't bear to pay that much for just a tuna sandwich so ended up getting curry noodles from the Eslite food court.

So if you're craving some sweets and can afford it, check out Paul. Otherwise, just look through the window and drool.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

where can you find halloween in Taipei?


hello hungry readers!

Just wondering if any of you out there could share information about Halloween events going on this year in Taipei.. restaurant events, costume parties, or kids events? (BTW, Costco has a ton of bulk Halloween candy- snickers, m & m's, etc)

I see some decorations here and there and have heard about kids being able to trick or treat through McD's?? But I thought the best way to find out would be to ask you guys!

Maybe you're not in Taipei, but say hi and let me know what your favorite kind of candy is or what you're going to be for Halloween this year!
Happy haunting!

Monday, October 27, 2008

food court/new in town: DUN HUA ESLITE FOOD COURT

No. 245, Dun Hua S Road, B2


hours: 11 AM - 10 PM (10:30PM on Fri and Sat)


Kid friendliness: crowded during peak hours, but some room for strollers

Visit reviewed: 10/11/2008

Whether you have jetlag in Taipei that has you up at 5am or you're a night owl who likes to stay up until 2am, you can wander over to the Eslite bookstore (Dun Hua flagship branch) that is open 24 hours a day. If you've never been, it's a super deluxe bookstore ala Barnes and Nobles, but like a mini-mall complete with clothing stores, Apple computers and accessories, and a food court. I went last weekend to check out the reopening after their revamp and had to squeeze in between the massive crowds of curious people wanting some free AC on a hot Sunday afternoon.

They opened up the area between the food court and kids floors (see first picture above) that does make the space more airy and perfect for people watching.

If you've been to the bookstore before, they didn't really do much to the bookstore area. I thought I might take a crack at looking for some books that were on my wishlist, and while the associate at the info desk was friendly (as well as spoke English), it took quite a while to find the area where novels/fiction in English were. And once I found it, though some sections were arranged alphabetically by author's last name, it seemed to be inconsistent and in sections-- meaning that one section would have it arranged alphabetically but 2 or 3 separate times which made it very hard to find what I was looking for. There's a reason that Amazon is so successful!

While I was browsing, I spotted this sign that made me laugh out loud.

1- that they would have a category for "chick lit" and group it with movies based on books
2- that it's "chic lit" rather than "chick lit"

But onto the "new and improved" food court...

Adjacent to the food court, there are some posh areas selling wine and teas..

The food court itself doesn't have as many options for "real food" as others in town. There's an omelette rice place, Penang South Asian restaurant, herbal soup place, Minder vegetarian serve yourself plates, a couple of sit down restaurant and then dessert/snack options like ice cream, shaved ice, bakery and almond tofu.

I wasn't hungry enough for a real meal, so I opted for a sampling of sweets. Plus with the grand re-opening, they were offering some good deals, like buy 1 scoop, get one free at the ice cream vendor.

Mmm.. green tea and mint chocolate chip cone (NT$80) make a surprisingly good combo.

The pre-packaged almond tofu (NT$40) came in original, milk, red bean and caramel flavors.. it was softer than the typical jello type that comes with fruit at dim sum restaurants- almost like flan. The red bean gave the silky almond tofu a good mix of textures.

Bonjour bakery was busy with customers. Their signs only had Chinese, but I eyeballed a crispy carmelized round puff pastry (NT$60) that looked like a cinnamon bun on the outside.

Can you spot the typo?

There's also an Awfully Chocolate, which sells fancy (expensive) chocolate cakes and ice cream. But the stores never display them. If you want to know what you are getting, you have to browse through their photos/catalog.

All in all, a place to grab something to nosh on while you take a break browsing the multi-level bookstore, complete with music/dvd, stationary and kids books sections. Sometimes they have some cool events or book signings. For lunch, I'd probably opt for the Xin Yi Eslite food court, but it just depends which area you are hanging out in.

Too bad the food court isn't 24 hours!

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Friday, October 17, 2008

japanese: i strongly recommend DOSANKO LE SAN NIANG RAMEN

No. 5-3, Lane 66, Yi Tung Street
(02) 2506-6770

Hours: 11AM - 2:30PM; 5:30PM - 9:30PM


Kid friendliness: lots of booths but no high chairs

Visit reviewed: 7/19/2008 and 8/16/2008

ED NOTE 9/2010 The menu is back to Chinese/Japanese... no English menus anymore.. Weird!

ED NOTE 11/9/2008: Went back for dinner and the menu now has English with still pictures for every dish. Lots of set menus or stand alone bowls of ramen. Onion Rings have also been added to the menu!

I'm not that picky about ramen, I think. But I've run into so many medicore bowls in Taipei. You'd think it wouldn't be that hard to serve a bowl of hot, slurpable broth with fresh ramen and a variety of equally hot, tasty toppings. Even places I thought that were pretty above average ended up being not as good on later visits, such as Noodle Shop (it was work rather than joy to eat the whole bowl and the broth wasn't up to par that day. Maybe watching them put together the bowl assembly line style didn't really help) or Watami where the cold noodles were so tough/chewy they were hard to bite apart and the soup was vinegary but not sweet, so sort of bland actually.

But then you find a little shop like Dosanko Le San Nian Ramen and want to try everything on the menu. Every so often, I visit my grandma and relatives and I ask them to pick a place to eat. They were the ones to take me to Celestial, THE place to go for roast duck in town, and the equally crowded Chinese Restaurant at Brother Hotel where the dim sum is still offered tableside by carts and everything is fresh and good enough to order seconds. Anyways, relatives will always take you to their tried and true favorites, so I've gotten a lot of "strongly recommends" from them, and Dosanko is no different.

A totally non-descript shop with a bright sign outside in a small alleyway, it quickly filled up after we sat down. (But after digging around on their website, they have four other locations around Taipei and even a location in the Bay Area).

The menu is in Chinese and Japanese only, but there are a lot of pictures. And a lot of choices, with all the ramen from NT$145- NT$210. Everything from the stereotypical hot ramen with cha-siu, to vegetarian cold salad noodles, there's ramen in curry, topped with tonkatsu,or with options for pork broth, miso broth, spicy mala style, shoyu broth, or even topped with corn or butter!

On my first visit, I ordered what my grandma ordered, which was the Chiang Pon Ramen which is kind of like Chef's combo with slices of pork, egg, fishcake and some bamboo in a pork broth.

I devoured it. Everything just fit together and made it a complete meal. But I also sampled from the other people at the table and I could not stop eating my mom's cold salad noodles.

With miso dressing that was sweet and vinegary, it was full of sliced cucumber, tomatoes, asparagus, corn and seaweed. These two were my favorite two and what we ordered again the following time I went.

I had a bite of my cousin's tonkatsu ramen (pictured up top), and it was also good.

It made me want to try the curry tonkatsu the following visit, but it was a bit of a let down. The curry was less thick than I like it and filled with too much onions.

Stick to the ramen.

My friend also ordered the cold soba, which was cold green ramen served soba style. The texture was definitely chewy like ramen, not like buckwheat soba. He liked it, it just wasn't I thought it was going to be.

When we were finishing up with our meal, the owner was chatting with my grandma. He had moved here from Japan over 20 years ago after spending awhile in NY. It also amused me that he sat down to eat himself and read the paper, and he had freshly made onion rings!

If you are ramen lover, you will totally have to try out this shop. I hope it won't disappoint and maybe I'll see you there. It's a great place to take the family, yourself or even a date who will be amazed that you found this little shop.

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Other locations:
No. 22, Lane 135, Sec 1, Chung Shan N. Road Taipei

No. 12, Lane 9, Tianmu Rd. Taipei

No. 3, Lane 93, ChungShan N. Rd. Taipei

National University Hospital, B1
No. 7B, Chungshan S. Rd. Taipei
02-23225465 (轉 639)

Taipei Veterans General Hospital
No. 201, Shih-pai Rd., Sec. 2, Taipei
02-28766580 (轉 620)

Monday, October 13, 2008

tea/coffee: i strongly recommend GENKI Q MILK

No. 21, Lane 51, Da An Road, Sec 1
(02) 2777-5200



Visit reviewed: 8/13/2008

Is the boba milk tea craze over? Will it ever be over? While I was in LA, there was a big scare all over Asia of powdered milk from China being toxic and not only affecting a lot of moms who formula feed their babies, but foods that might have been made with the tainted powdered milk and in Taiwan, the boba milk tea business was hit hard as well with business down by as much as 50 percent. I think everyone knows by now that boba milk tea is not that good for you, but can you imagine if it had poisonous milk powder in it too!?

I still feel like drinking one every now and again and I think I might have found a place to knock off my favorite, 50 LAN as my go to spot.

In August, after getting some pho to-go from PHO HOA,I asked the hostess if the boba place across from them was any good. She said, you have to try this place around the corner.. it's really good.

And so I did. And I was soo glad I did.

Genki Q Milk or Yuan Chi Q Nai makes their boba milk tea (NT$40) from fresh cow's milk rather than condensed or powdered milk. They also boil their boba or tapioca pearls with brown sugar. The result? The milk tea is not that sweet- you can actually taste the tea. It's the big chewy tapioca pearls that have a carmelized sweetness and it's gratifying to chew each one like candy, rather than because they're there. And it helps me drink the whole thing slower because I'm savoring the boba rather than mindlessly sucking them down.

Their menu is filled with the letter 'Q', denoting boba since the Chinese word for chewy sounds like Q. The menu is in Chinese so I can't tell you everything on it, but there are hot, cold, slushy drinks and teas from NT$20-45. An extra NT$5 will get you extra brown sugar QQ, green beans, red beans, or extra NT$10 for pudding. Like the other milk tea places, you can request less sweetness, ice or boba.

Genki Q Milk is only in a few locations in Taipei, so I don't know if I would have found it if I didn't ask since it's just a tiny shop with no seating or lines or streetfront location. Look for it alleys near Zhong Xiao/Dun Nan intersection (and pick up some pho on the way home) or the other locations below. Maybe you'll rediscover your cravings for boba milk tea if you've given it up.

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No. 4, Lane 152, Ming Chuan Road, Sec 2
(02) 2507-0862

No. 47-3, Shing An Road
(02) 2515-1533

No. 10, Lane 411, Nei Hu Road
(02) 2656-2856

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

dessert/bakery: i strongly recommend the chocolate ganache cake from POZZO

at San Want Hotel
172 Chung Hsiao E Rd, Sec 4
(02) 2772-2121 ext. 2126


hours: 7AM- 10PM

$- $$

Kid friendliness: although not cutesy, the flavors will satisfy any kid

Visit reviewed: 8/5/2008
Last reviewed: 9/28/2006

I've eaten a lot of chocolate cake in my lifetime. Maybe too much. Okay, wait, you can never have too much chocolate cake right?

Most of the chocolate cakes you'll find in Taipei are a light, almost angel cake version of what chocolate cake should be. No fudge-y-ness, no decadence, no love. So if you've been searching for something you can sink your teeth into and use up your calories for the week, then look no further than the chocolate cake with chocolate ganache from Pozzo.

Now before you tell me about the chocolate cake from BLACK AS CHOCOLATE or AWFULLY CHOCOLATE (which I ended up trying a few days after eating this cake), I have to say they have a lot of similarities, but I actually like this cake better (and it's also slightly bigger and quite a bit cheaper). The 8 inch round cake (NT$520) is definitely sweet (but not sickenly so), rich with dark chocolate notes, dusted with cocoa powder, and the ganache makes it decadently equally creamy and chocolate tasting. After eating one slice, you are very tempted to have another. Actually typing up this review and looking at these photos, I almost want to go out and buy another cake to eat.

If you don't pick up a cake from Pozzo, you should browse their bakery selection. I also had a slice of their chestnut cake the other day (NT$500+) and it was pretty good too, one layer with pudding and the other with chestnuts in frosting, but not as awesome as the chocolate ganache.

It's THAT good. Pick one up for the next birthday, mother's day, Valentine's day or chocolate-craving day and let me know what you think!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

not taipei/los angeles: IHOP

Did anyone miss me? I was in LA and again was too busy eating, in meetings, cleaning and working to catch up on my posts. SIGH!

But I'm back in Taipei, discovered some new places that have popped up while I was gone and should have some weekly posts again soon.

Somehow with the jetlag, I always end up at IHOP the first day or two when I return to LA. It's open early, the pancakes are fluffy and it's near my house. But it seems the prices have gone up in the past few years, or maybe everything has slowly creeped up. Can you say $4 gas? Crazy! There are a lot of little cafes that have breakfast/brunch that are cheaper and even tastier, but maybe not open at 6am.

I also ate at some new places that friends recommended that you should try if you are in the LA area- get the carne asada plate at PACO's TACOS on Centinela, the $1.25 tacos or a $5 burrito from TACO AZTECA (so cheap and good) or even better, anything from family friendly LA CABINITA (long wait but worth it!) in Glendale.

Notice any common thread of what I stocked up on while I was not in Taipei? Haha.

Yesterday when I first got back to Taipei, I headed to get some hot shao bing- yo tiao or chinese fried doughnut sticks inside a sesame flatbread, with some fresh sweet soy milk or do jiang. There's a little busy place near the intersection of Song De Road and Xin Yi Road, that has great Chinese breakfast.

So look forward to my catch up posts. Here are some of the places on my to-do list that I'm looking forward to getting done:

- PAUL (French bakery and cafe)
- the chocolate cake from POZZO

See you soon!