Wednesday, September 29, 2010

snapshot: new stuff spotted at COSTCO

Spotted on my Costco run today! A megapack of Korean ramen noodles with curry including the diced potato, carrots etc. I was super tempted by this, and will try it on my next trip.

Jalapeno muenster and chipotle jack cheese slices. If you've ever bought cheese in Taipei, you know how expensive it can be. A small chunk of smoked cheese at Breeze's supermarket is about NT$100. So that makes this a bargain at NT$285, even though I'd probably rarely pay US$10 for cheese in the states. I really like Finlandia's Colby, Jack, Cheddar and Swiss pack so I bought a pack of this to try.

And...Tigreat premade crepes, coming in butter and sugar or chocolate fillings. I was tempted by this too, but I resisted. Has anyone tried this or bought premade crepes before?

Stuff picked up on this trip- Kirkland pesto, grapes, apple strudels and a giant jar of Korean citron tea.

Friday, September 24, 2010

snapshot/revisited: i strongly recommend the chocolate marshmallow cake at VVG BISTRO

20, Alley 40, Lane 181, Zhongxiao E. Rd, Sec. 4
(02) 8773-3533

MRT: ZhongXiao/DunHua


Visit reviewed: 9/22/2010

It's been awhile since I've been to VVG Bistro and written about it (FOUR years!). It's kind of fun to look at old reviews and old photos- not only is it a snapshot of the blog at the time, but also of the restaurant. My visit this time was a lot better than the last- the service, the portions and the overall experience.

Usually I end up at VVG Table for their brunch set on the weekends, but I'm glad I got a chance to revisit the OG VVG.

They still have some of my favorites there- the roasted chicken dome, the pesto and bread and various linguine pastas- but what I want to talk about is the chocolate and marshmallow cake (NT$220)!

Those of you who live in Taipei know that a good chocolate cake is hard to find here. Of course, everyone has a different idea of what makes a good chocolate cake good, but if you are a chocoholic then you shouldn't be disappointed.

The top part is rich and dense like eating a huge oversized truffle with the airy marshmallows for contrast, but since dark chocolate was used, it wasn't overkill sweet. The bottom part is a moist cake that you can eat separately or together with the top. I scooped a bit of each along with the vanilla ice cream to make the perfect bite. The slice is big enough that I shared it with three other people and still had enough satisfaction.

Monday, September 13, 2010

western/chinese: SUGAR CAFE

No. 4, Alley 27, Lane 216, Zhong Xiao E. Road, Sec. 4  (moved a/o 10/2011)
No. 406-1, Ren Ai Rd, Sec. 4
(02) 8771-4210

hours:11:30 am - 9:30


Kid friendliness: no high chairs spotted

Visit reviewed: 5/4/2010

When my friend picked Sugar Cafe as the lunch spot for our girls' lunch, I thought she chose it because she had been before and wanted us to try it- after all that was the regular M.O. for our lunch dates. But when we got there at 11:15AM to a closed location, we questioned her choice- 'Is this place open? Haven't you been before?' We then found out not only that it doesn't open until 11:30AM (as many places in Taipei can't seem to open before noon), but that she chose the place because she thought the pictures of the food looked good from its Facebook page. Good one, VC.

Once the door lifted, I had a slight sense of dejavu and it wasn't until I got inside and checked out the menu that I realized that this was formerly the location of Yogurt Me. It turns out the owners totally revamped from the inside out- basically reinventing and reutilizing the space and using the Yogurt Me yogurt as a dessert or side for afternoon tea. I think it was a smart move- no one wants to go to a froyo place for sandwiches and breakfast, but people will go to a cafe for froyo. Plus it was just a better designed space, post revamp, moving around the previous "kitchen/yogurt counter" to the back and making way for more seats.

Anyways, if you had never been to the previous incarnation, you'd just see it as a cozy space with warm colored walls and seating areas.

But unfortunately, Sugar Cafe didn't serve any of the desserts or waffles my friend had spotted- instead during lunch hours (before 1:30PM), only the lunch menu is served. Back in May, it was only in Chinese, but it looks like a new English/Chinese menu was introduced over the summer as well as a menu change. The old menu had pastas and rice dishes, but the new menu includes burgers, sandwiches and fried rice.

So I left it up to my friends to order- the menu has both Western and Chinese offerings- so we got a sampling of both.

Complimentary shredded cabbage while we wait for our mains.

When Spaghetti with tomato meat sauce (NT$160) arrived to the table, a few of my friends complained about the pungent smell that accompanied it. When we inquired, they said it was the cheese, but I must admit, it was quite strong smelling for parmesan. I tried a few bites and there was nothing wrong with it- it had the familiar slightly sweet tomato sauce, but one of my friends was so turned off by the smell, she didn't dare take one bite.

The other dishes we ordered were the fried pork chop with rice and the fried chicken with rice which looked the same, with the crispy slices of meat, neat side of rice and trio of vegetables, egg and sprouts. While I enjoyed the bites of pork chop, it was weird for me to eat this along with the spaghetti and it felt sort of like bian dang food served up on a nice plate.

Some fresh oranges to complete the meal- but just makes me wish I had some frozen yogurt!

I would have liked to try the dessert/afternoon tea menu, as the lunch menu wasn't unique enough to call me back, but it could probably be a decent place to eat for people who work or live nearby and want a quick bite to eat. It's too bad that Sugar Cafe doesn't serve breakfast and desserts all day long (that are featured on the sign outside)- it might bring it a wider audience if it did.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

snapshot/not taipei: HSINCHU SHAVED ICE

Sometimes I get emails asking where to eat in cities other than Taipei, and I'm sad to say that I'm pretty unhelpful in those areas. I don't often venture outside the city and when I do, it's with relatives that know where they are going and I don't get a chance to look at street signs or understand where we are going. I'm sure that experience is familiar to many of you- when you travel with relatives, sometimes you don't even get to see the menu (or if you do, I'm not understanding it because it's all in Chinese) or pay the bill.

Anyways- I didn't want to let that stop me from sharing some of the places I've eaten at outside of Taipei and also use it as a chance to ask those of you reading who live in these cities/areas to share some of your favorite places (and addresses/phone numbers) for people who might be looking for information online in English for those cities!

So in this case- Hsinchu!

Didn't have much time to explore since we were coming after a meal, but of course if I see shaved ice, we're going to eat shaved ice! This place had a huge sign near a busy area of food stalls and on a hot day, a lot of customers. Mango shaved ice (NT$120) is always one of the more expensive things on the menu, but the serving was big. The ice melted quickly in the early summer heat and it tasted a bit like the mango was soaked in a syrup which made it overly sweet.

So any readers from Hsinchu or visited there before- where should I go the next time I'm hungry in Hsinchu?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

news: CLOSED restaurant updates & A8 Shin Kong Mituskoshi revamp

Walked around the A8 Xinyi Shin Kong Mitsukoshi food court today for the first time since its revamp in July. It's a bit fancier now, with a glossier look and some new additions- Subway, Hielo frozen yogurt, Richard Blanc bakery, Coldstone ice cream and what seems to be new sushi and teppanyaki places. Also an interesting addition- a pizza place called Skinny Taj Pizza with some traditional pizzas as well as some fusion. Noticeably gone is Good Day, which seemed a little lost previously on the opposite side of the food court near all the Japanese snacks. But now the food court extends and circles around the whole B2 floor. When I get back from LA, I'll explore it some more and do a full post.

After catching GOING THE DISTANCE last night, I thought I'd wander over for crepes at Suzette forgetting that NYNY is pretty much emptied out and being redone (rumor has it- for a new H&M in Taipei?!?). So the whole row of Starbucks, Mister Donut, McDonalds and around the corner, Suzette, are all gone (not to mention the NYNY food court). The website hasn't been updated, so don't know if it's moved elsewhere or if it's gone for good. Does anyone know?

What else has closed this year?
-Citizen Cain which is now a place called Cubano, which I heard has quite good Cuban sandwiches!
-La Casita
-California Grill at the Dun Hua location
-Famous Larry's NY Pizza
-Blue Spice Thai (we barely knew you!)

Any other updates that I should add to this list?

There's quite a bit of change in the 101/Taipei City Hall MRT area- the addition of the Taipei City Hall bus station center and addition/extension of the MRT station there has another food court-looking space to explore. Later this year (or next?) will also add the Le Meridien and W Hotel to this busy Taipei area. Looking forward to seeing what restaurants open up in those hotels.