Monday, October 29, 2012

western/drinks: i recommend LOVE LOVELY

No. 3, Lane 345, Alley 4, RenAi Rd., Sec. 4
(02) 2771-3800

MRT: Zhongxiao/Dunhua

website: Love Lovely's FB page

hours: 12PM - 10PM

$$ (about NT$300-600/person)

Kid friendliness: high chairs and kids meals available

Visit reviewed: 6/19/2012 & 9/7/2012

Part Alice in Wonderland, part vintage shop, part cafe makes up the whole of Love Lovely, another new cafe making its mark in Taipei's East District.

Opened earlier this summer, Love Lovely's lovely decor has already landed it on a new book about, what else, Taipei cafes. I was invited to check it out by my friend before they soft opened, but the menu has since been revamped, so I'll be writing about my most recent visit.

The store section of Love Lovely serves as a living room counterpart to the restaurant's roomy dining area, with a large white bookcase and long tables filled with treasures to Instagram about. All of the items are handpicked by the owner and brought over from Europe. There are no price tags or obvious way of knowing that things are for sale, so if something catches your eye, just ask (though some pieces are actually just for decor as part of the owner's collection and not for sale).

The vintage pieces feel quite classic and modern, or is it that what's old becomes new again? Love Lovely's vibe is more Anthropologie than Antique Roadshow. I haven't really seen the hybrid shop/cafe model in the states, but in Taipei, the eclectic VVG restaurants and Whiple House come to mind.

Lots of charm in the small detail in everything, from the menus covered with vintage newspaper articles to the napkins and letterpress paper coasters bearing the hand drawn illustrations that seemed to have escaped a tea party from Lewis Carroll.

The English and Chinese menu features mostly Western fare, with salads, pastas, chef specials and desserts. Lunch and dinner sets are available, that include choice of sparkling water, glass of red or white wine, coffee or tea with an additional NT$70.

There's also Little Princess Mermaid or Little Price Ranger meals for the kids (with the sets costing more than the adult fare. Haha!)

The Dutch baby definitely caught my eye and I made sure to order the oven pancake with carmelized apple before my meal was over.

I had to start off with the truffle fries (NT$180) which I devoured on my first visit.

I wanted to try the quiche, but it had unfortunately been reserved by another big group to serve the whole pie with a candle atop instead of birthday cake, so I had to pick something else. The Nicoise salad (NT$230) had big chunks of potato, hardboiled eggs, and sprinklings of tuna, olives and baby corn.

The set menus came with a cup of soup- it was a broth of something or another.

I really enjoyed the black and white fried calamari (NT$210), which had some pieces breaded in squid ink batter to give an eye catching appearance. The serving basket for this and the truffle fries are fun.

We all also talked ourselves into getting the Frozen coconut mojito, which was inspired by the signature drink from The Modern Honolulu hotel. I had no idea what it was until it arrived to the table, but food je t'aime was quite excited, having had the real thing before in Hawaii.

Coconut rum + lime juice + fresh mint + ice = mojito smoothie- Now this is definitely the way to have a lunch.

I wasn't as crazy about the sauteed mushrooms and shrimp (NT$150) as I was about the other appetizers.

Bolognese Tomato Meat Sauce Spaghetti (NT$280/set)

My cousin is a VIP customer at Love Lovely, so she was able to talk them into making her favorite dish from the dinner menu, the shortrib steak for us. I would definitely order this again, it was nicely grilled and tender with that shortrib chewiness.

Before we were done eating, I wanted to make sure to order the dessert so we weren't waiting too long while it was baking and made to order. The oven pancake with apples is definitely a must try and is quite large. It probably can be shared with at least 4-6 people- we had three and barely made a dent. The pancake was fluffy and slightly crispy on the edges and is basically a dessert yorkshire pudding (if you've had that at Lawry's). It's more eggy than sweet and tastes more like a fluffy cream puff shell than an American pancake, and serves as a crust to the carmelized apples. I'd definitely order this again, and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream next time.

I think I'm going to have to try making this at home sometime.

So whether you're browsing for random pieces from Paris to put on your bookshelf or a place to linger for afternoon tea (for scones, cupcakes, whoopie pies or tea), wander over to the alley near Lane 216/Yanji St to find Love Lovely.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

snapshot/bakery: FLORIDA BAKERY's Halloween cookies

Only one more week until Halloween! There might not be candied carmel apples or candy corn in Taipei, but you can get a little into the Halloween mood with some of these cute cookies spotted at Florida Bakery.

Also if you've ever wondered where to get Halloween costumes in Taipei, after eating at Ippudo, I stumbled upon a whole street of shops selling grown up and kids costumes and Halloween decorations, near Chengdu Road, on Changan Rd (長安路). There's also some rental shops in Ximending for more elaborate costumes, near the Police Station/Ximen MRT exit 6. I remember hearing in years past about Halloween parties at various restaurants, or special menus, like at DN Innovacion, but haven't heard much this year. Anything fun happening this weekend or next week?

Monday, October 22, 2012

japanese/noodles: i strongly recommend FU YU WU SANUKI UDON

富玉屋 讚歧烏龍麵 
No. 14, Lane 83, DaAn Rd, Sec. 1 

MRT: ZhongXiao/DunHua


hours: 11:30AM - 2:30PM / 5:30PM - 10PM

$$ (cash only)

Kid friendliness: lots of options for udon loving kids to eat. no high chairs spotted

Visit reviewed: 9/25/2012

Sanuki udon is made daily at this cute udon shop tucked in the alley between Lao Yo Ji and Rakumenya Ramen. Opened in May 2012, Fu Yu Wu Sanuki Udon takes over the corner that used to be Kitaro

I haven't had good udon since my previous Xinyi District favorites Jika Udon and Tenpura Sanuki Udon had closed down. So I was pretty excited to try this with my cousin.

The open dining room has seating mostly for couples and small groups, and is brightened by the distinctive graphic patterns decorating the columns and walls. Looking over the menu, we kept talking about how we could bring our dads (or my grandma) here. It was also a good sign that the customers behind me were speaking Japanese.

The menu is only in Chinese and Japanese (unfortunately no English menu), but has photos of their prime attractions- the bowls of hot and cold udon. The sets run from NT$280-500 with the options of ordering ala carte or pricier hotpot, as well a business lunch set at NT$180. With each set, you get a choice of appetizer (steamed egg, soft poached egg, tempura or salad), udon and on weekdays, they include dessert. There are some distinct cold udons, including one in a sweet tomato bonito broth, and about four different hot variations to choose from. We were hungry so we decided on sharing two of the NT$500 sets, which allowed us to pick udons from any set and get full sized shrimp or chicken combo tempuras, as well as an appetizer and dessert.

Giant spoon to help you get your noodle on later.

A small bite size starter arrives promptly- the first day was sweet burdock slivers. Another day a small cube of sauced cold tofu.

Set menu appetizer options are steamed egg (chawanmushi), soft boiled egg or side salad. Give me a soft boiled poached egg anyday! I thought about dipping my udon in this and mixing it up, but I ended up just enjoying the lightly sauced slippery egg in a few slurps. 

Runny egg deliciousness!

The cold udon came out first, long strands tangled atop a light woven basket. 

Loved the chewiness of the cold udon at the first bite. Too bad it didn't come on ice like the photo, but it was still very QQ.

The dipping soy sauce comes with chopped green onions and grated radish and tiny dash of ginger. It would have been nice to have a tad of wasabi too as a choice.

The NT$500 set that we ordered came with a choice of shrimp and vegetable tempura or fried chicken with vegetable and we ordered one of each to share. Super crispy and hot, the shrimp had panko crumbs while the vegetables had a sheer coating for the tempura. So good!

I was surprised to see the Japanese beef noodle udon that my cousin ordered was much like a Taiwanese style clear broth beef noodle soup. The flavor was good, but very light and the noodles were quite soft, bordering on mushy, in contrast to the al dente chewiness of the cold noodles. We did eat the cold noodles before touching the hot noodles, so it's possible that the noodles absorbed too much soup while we were busy.

I preferred the cold noodles over the beef noodle soup since the soup noodles were much softer and the beef was a tad tough. I didn't finish my half of the bowl. Next time I'd probably try the curry udon or the pork slices instead for a hot udon or the salad cold udon.

So crispy. Crunch crunch. Devoured. Half a mushroom, plenty of sweet potato and pumpkin and four pieces of fried chicken.

The set dessert was a small panna cotta with what I thought was the typical caramel sauce, but was actually a refreshing peach flavor. 

I came back a week after my first visit and tried the cold tomato broth udon (NT$300) with the vegetable tempura cluster, or yasai kakiage. There was actually a lot of crunchy slivers of vegetables woven into the compact deep fried goodness. And at first bite, my tastebuds didn't know what to do with the sweet, cold, tart flavors of the tomato broth udon, but the bowl was a surprising joy to eat.