Monday, March 18, 2013

chinese: i recommend ZHU JI

No. 106, Ren Ai Rd., Sec 3 台北市仁愛路三段106號
(02) 2702-9411

MRT: Zhongxiao/Fuxing or DaAn (both a 15-20 minute walk from MRT)

hours: $-$$ (NT$200/person)

Kid friendliness:  high chairs available, additional seating on second floor- stairs only

Visit reviewed: 2/1/2011 & 1/24/2013

Zhu Ji was one of the first places my family friend took me to when I visited Taipei when I first started spending more time here, probably 9 years ago- it was near her office, it had vegetarian options for her and my mom and it had great prices. The red and golden storefront made for a memorable and lasting impression, so on my repeat visits, I recognized it even before I knew where RenAi Rd was or a "xian bing" was. In fact, a version of a post for this restaurant has been sitting in my blog posts folder for at least 8 years. 

The two story restaurant is busy at lunchtime, but not touristy enough yet that you can't grab a table by walking in. It also helps that they have many locations across Taipei. Upstairs has more tables to seat larger groups, while the main floor has peek into the dumpling wrapping open kitchen. 

Small plates of cold dishes (NT$40/each) are available in the back, perfect for sharing until your food arrives. Find the decked out shelves and help yourself to your choice of pickled vegetables, spicy eggplant or choice of tofu/soy. My favorites include bamboo, eggplant and thousand year old egg with tofu.  They have a pretty large selection compared to most places, which works for my mom who is vegetarian.

Hey, I just noticed the plates have gotten slightly (considerably) smaller since my last visit two years ago. 

Ordering is off a check off sheet in Chinese, but if you ask for an English menu, they have one. It's funny to also see how the English menu has evolved from a greasy, one page laminated sheet to a full fledged fancy book, with pictures next to each item for easy identification.

So what to order? You have to order the house specialty- xian bing (NT$40)- which comes filled with beef, pork, vegetables or leek. In English, it's listed as a "beef pastry," in the past as a "beef meat pie," I've also heard it called a "beef pancake." Tastewise, it's probably can be described as a pan fried, flattened dumpling. The dough  is thinner than a bao, but breadier than a regular dumpling, while the patty-like meat inside is juicy seasoned ground beef with spring onions. Like a burger, it's a bit hard to eat without making a mess, as you can't eat it in one bite without having juices dribbling down your chin.

Another one of my favorites is the beef roll which is a spring onion pancake rolled up with beef and spring onions and hoisin sauce. The chewy yet flaky wrap makes for a surprisingly satisfying compact appetizer and is not as messy as the xian bing. Everytime I see this, I have to order it and I think Zhu Ji makes some of the best ones.

I usually pull out the spring onions and just keep the cucumber inside, since I don't really like raw spring onions. 

There's also quite a few noodle soups to choose from- beef noodle soup, won ton noodle soup, hot and sour soup, cold noodles with shredded chicken or to name some. The great thing about Zhu Ji at this location is the knife cut noodles, which come in long wavy strips and have a fresh chewy bite. The soup was a tad salty for me on this visit, but I've enjoyed it on other occasions at their Mitsukoshi location (which doesn't have the knife cut noodles). For my favorite knife cut beef noodle place, check out Shan Xi Dao Xiao Mian- it's not as nice of an atmosphere, but the food is great.

Skip the wonton noodles, a bit mushy and bland.

And of course there's no shortage of dumplings to choose from- steamed pork dumplings (NT$110), veggie dumplings (NT$110), shrimp pork or pork wontons, pan fried dumplings.. the best thing about eating with family or a large group is that you can share to sample them all! 

I quite like the veggie dumplings which come with finely chopped chives, glass noodles and mini cubes of tofu.

Shrimp pork wontons with chili oil on the side (NT$120) 

I probably wouldn't order the pan fried dumplings (NT$100) again as they were not crispy as I've had at other places (for perfectly pan fried dumplings try Ma Shan Tang or Zhang Ji Fried dumplings or the local chain Ba Fang Yun Ji).

Come hungry since you will leave full.. Order a table full of food for less than two baskets of Din Tai Fung XLB and use your savings on dessert.


    No.32-B1, Baoqing Rd., Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei City
      遠東百貨寶慶店 台北市寶慶路32號B1 

    No.12-B2, Nanjing W. Rd., Zhongshan Dist., Taipei City(Hall 1) 
      新光三越南西店 台北市南京西路12號B2(1館) 

    No.152-12, Sec. 1, Zhongshan Rd., Banqiao Dist., New Taipei City
      遠東百貨板橋店 新北市板橋區中山路一段152號12F
    (02) 8953-8858 

    No.203-B2, Sec. 2, Dunhua S. Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei City 
      遠企購物中心敦南店 台北市敦化南路二段203號B2 
    (02) 2739-4175 

    No.11-B2, Songshou Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei City(Hall A11)
    新光三越信義店 台北市松壽路11號B2(A11館) 
    (02) 2723-7292 

    No.7, Zhongshan S. Rd., Zhongzheng Dist.
    誠品台大醫院店 台北市中山南路7號B1 
    (02) 2322-5465#626 
    No.202-3, Sec. 2, Zhongcheng Rd., Shilin Dist.
    新光三越天母店 台北市忠誠路二段202號3F 
    (02) 2874-6669

    No.77-8, Sec. 6, Zhongshan N. Rd., Shilin Dist
    SOGO百貨天母店 台北市中山北路六段77號8F 
    (02) 2835-3619 

    No.323-9, Xida Rd., East Dist., Hsinchu City 
    遠東百貨新竹店 新竹市西大路323號9F 03-5238120
    (03) 5238120


iceprinxess said...

Looks great! Make me want to try it out when I am in Taiwan. Hopefully soon! ^^

Pauline said...

not sure if you know of/have tried this place, but I just recently tried 綠逗薏人 (Mung Bean & Pearl Barley). their 綠逗薏人 is pretty good :)

joanh said...

@pauline- are you talking about this place?

Iceprinxess- thanks! Hope you get to try it soon.

Josh said...

One of my favorite places during my 13 years here in Taiwan. The Ren Ai store is definitly the best of them.

Nicole said...

Oh my god, I used to live in Taipei and miss beef noodle soup every single day. I live in Singapore now and have a food blog, but the food is no where near as interesting as Taiwan! Check it out if you're free! It's