Monday, April 29, 2013

CLOSED! cajun/western: FIREBITE

No. 15, Lane 86, XinSheng S. Rd, Sec. 3
(02) 2362-2468

(CLOSED a/o 2014)

MRT: Gongguan

hours: 12PM - 12 AM


Kid friendliness: non spicy seafood and appetizers available

Visit reviewed: 3/18/2013

Cajun in Taipei? I always thought it was a concept that would be a hit in Taiwan, the land of seafood and spicy loving eaters, as long as the flavors and concept were right. I spotted and heard about a few restaurants that came and went before I got a chance to try them (Spicy Alley and  The Boiling Seafood in Urban 1 Mall), so when I heard about Fire-Bite from thethousandthgirl Stephanie (thanks Steph!), I was sure to be quick about it.

Like quite a few Western restaurants in Taipei, Fire-Bite expands its menu beyond what's unfamiliar to the Taipei locals in order to attract more business, so instead of just Cajun food, there's also Tex Mex appetizers like quesadillas, nachos, sliders and honey wings. I'm here for the main attraction, the "fire seafood" or your choice of shrimp, mussels, clams or all three tossed up in your level of fire spiciness. You can also add corn, sausages, or potatoes to the mix. 

Along the walls are amusing photos of various customers (friends?) that look like they have tried something extremely spicy. 

Quesadillas (NT$160) with some salsa. We actually ordered the chicken quesadillas, but got plain cheese. We were hungry so didn't bother sending it back.

Now those of you who are Boiling Crab fans in LA will make the obvious comparisons as will I, as I heard about the popular chain for the past year and finally gave it a try a few months ago. Because the memory is relatively fresh, I will end up comparing this experience and taste to Boiling Crab.

Not too long after we order, our bucket of combo seafood in mild spiciness (NT$900) comes in a plastic bag to dump into the bowl and a big roll of paper napkins to use.  The cajun spices coat the seafood, but there isn't any extra liquid to dip in (unlike Boiling Crab). The mild flavor is quite spicy, with strong chili and paprika notes, but I miss the stronger lemon pepper and garlic butter mix that evened out the spiciness at Boiling Crab. For me, I think that would make it more finger licking and saucy. It would have been nice to have some fresh lemons or limes too.

I liked the shrimp the best, though the sauce doesn't really permeate the shell, so a pool of extra liquid for them to sit in or to use to dip the shrimp in would have been nice. The clams are smaller than I expected and the mussels are a bit tough. If I ordered this again, I'd order only shrimp. For lunch, they have NT$199 plate specials that feature fire shrimp with rice or pasta that is quite affordable.

Bring your own wetnaps. 

Of course it's important to note that with seafood places, turnover is important. If there isn't a lot of turnover, then you don't know how fresh the seafood is as it is definitely an expensive inventory.

Otherwise, you could go with the sliders - my friend's Lucky 4 sliders (NT$280 ) came with bacon and cheese, salsa and cheese, jalapeno and cheese and fire sauce and cheese and cajun fries, which were quite addicting. 

The honey wings were also good and provided a sweetness to soften some of the heat. 

I wasn't crazy about the nachos (NT$200) as there wasn't enough cheese and the chips were a bit stale but made better by being toasted, but the guys at the table finished them.

It's worth a try if you love seafood and spiciness, or you're looking for something different to try. It probably won't satiate picky Boiling Crab fans, but you gotta admit that it's pretty cool that there's something even close in Taipei. And afterwards, you can cool off with some shaved ice at Tai Yi Milk King that's right down the street.

Monday, April 22, 2013

CLOSED/western/italian: i recommend LONGTABLE

No. 91 SongRen Rd. 
(02) 2345-3670

updating in 2019. CLOSED. It was then a Hooters (very shortlived) and now Buckskin Beerhouse. 

MRT: Taipei City Hall 

hours: 11AM- 11:30PM


Kid friendliness: lot of high chairs available

Visit reviewed: 9/16/2012 & 10/10/2012

Longtable is a little off the radar with its Xinyi location in an office building across the street from the Le Meridien Hotel, but is worth seeking out. The menu includes brunch, pizza, pasta, salads, sandwiches and other western fare and the spacious dining space perfect for large groups.

The first few times I went in September, the restaurant was relatively quiet, maybe too much so for such a large space. But on my last visit on 10/10, word of mouth seemed to spread and lots of families were taking advantage of the roomy space and long tables.

Like most restaurants, there are some dishes that I liked more than others, so here's what I would order again:  

(1) The Fish and Chips (NT $440) - a monster huge piece and the batter was fried perfectly crispy with flaky white fish. Would totally order this again, as this is not always easy to find in Taipei. A splash of worcestershire or tartar sauce to dip in. My uncle, who passed away last year, used to always love eating at Long John Silver when he visited us in LA, but if he was still around, I would totally order him this.

(2) The grilled veggie sandwich (NT$380)another thing that is hard to find in Taipei.. so I was quite happy with this on my first visit. Grilled red and green peppers, thin slices of eggplant and layers of creamy goat cheese to bring it all together, with a side of fries to munch on.

2) Both the Chicken Tagliatelle (NT$370) and Rigatoni Bolognese (NT$390) disappeared quickly from the table and had to be reordered (I think I never got a picture of the rigatoni- that's how fast it was gone). Rigatoni pasta is not found as often in Taipei and the fat tubes creates pockets for the sauce which makes it quite flavorful.

I'd pass on the Seafood Linguine ($440) - I think because it was soft opening, they subbed spaghetti for linguine pasta, but the seafood also was frozen, not fresh. After eating the fresh seafood at Thai Made before my first time at Longtable, the texture and flavors of the frozen seafood was noticeably less appealing.

The pepperoni pizza (NT$440) actually comes trimmed with a bit of arugula which makes it a little more worth the pricier cost. I liked the salami over the sausage that's offered in the Toscana pizza (NT$440) which resembles more a hot dog than the ground pork sausage that I like. The size is fairly large and the crust is thin, but pliable. 

There's about 8 salads available at Longtable, including grilled halloumi cheese salad or grilled beef salad. I've tried 3 so far, and each one seems to have hearty toppings and portions. My favorite is probably the Nicoise salad (NT$390) which had lots of hard boiled egg, tuna, potato chunks and green beans to go around.

Caesar salad (NT$360) had some grape tomatoes and fresh parmesan cheese.

The Greek salad (NT$380) had the standard feta cheese, diced tomatoes, cucumbers and black olives, dressed with herbed olive oil vinagrette. It was probably my least favorite that I tried and a bit pricey for  what is basically an appetizer since it was a small size. But those craving something different, you can give it a try.

I'd also pass on the steak sandwich (NT$490) which I felt was too expensive. I also had tried a bite of this sandwich around the time I fell in love with the sandwiches from Dressed, so I preferred the steak, arugula, goat cheese combo from there.

If you're looking to splurge, you could try the Cafe de Paris Tenderloin Steak (NT$890), as was recommended by the waitress to my friend.

Longtable's menu is quite varied, including breakfast/brunch options, but I felt like my favorites were the pastas and pizzas. 

And if you love chocolate, can never go wrong with a chocolate lava cake

So while the menu is hit or miss for me and you pay a premium for dining in the Xinyi district, the convenience of the large space makes it a prime option for large groups or gatherings with your friends and their families, especially when you know what to order and avoid.  Next time you're looking for a last minute spot for brunch for you and your big extended family, you might find yourself appreciating the long tables at Longtable.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

japanese/hotpot: i still recommend BEN SHABU SHABU

No. 4, AnHe Rd, Sec. 1
(02) 2784-8299

MRT:  DaAn 

hours: 11:30AM- 10PM


Kid friendliness: no high chairs spotted 

Visit reviewed: 12/30/2012
Previous visit reviewed : 11/2011

My favorite part about Ben Shabu Shabu that night was surprisingly the sushi- seared salmon, fatty tuna over crispy rice- I wanted to order more, but we already had a full pot of veggies and plates of swirled red meat.

Service was quite slow that night, especially since we were in a room downstairs, the waiter had to run trays up and down the stairs and we'd have to go upstairs to find someone if we needed them. So don't know if the appetizers, like this truffle steamed egg, was supposed to be hot or cold, but this would have tasted better hot.

Yum, I wonder if I could come back just for the nigiri sushis. SO GOOD.

Can't go wrong with wagyu if you can splurge on it-

I also noticed that the pots in the downstairs room were not the copper pots upstairs because the table downstairs had the electric "fire" rather than the regular hotpot fire (if that sort of thing matters to you). Once we got the meats, we were happy to take our time to cook, until it was time for porridge. It was a fun gathering with friends to end last year before New Year's Eve.

Monday, April 15, 2013


(Doh! Just got word from a friend that it really did close down, a year or two ago...CLOSED!)

TAI JUAN 太卷壽司簡食
No. 2-1, Lane 345, Alley 15, Ren Ai Rd, Sec. 4
(02) 2775-1310

MRT: SYS Memorial Hall

$$$ (about NT$1200/person for lunch)

Kid friendliness: mostly sashimi, some grilled fish. some tables non-sushi bar seating

Visit reviewed: 11/3/2010

Catching up, catching up- story of my life. I have over 170 drafts in my backlog of posts, so some of these posts are going to be photo photo photo and just a little bit of my recollection, before some of these places close down before I have a chance to post about them (Ahem- Cubano).

I had high hopes at this omakase lunch, as my friend gathered a group of us and stated that this sushi bar was extremely popular on Japanese blogs. The slick red counter always stuck in my memory, but the rest of the meal unfortunately has faded. My favorite thing was probably the grilled fish (barracuda I believe) and the worst was the uni with a chemical taste. That ruined the whole lunch for me unfortunately, having the most sublime uni experiences in Taipei at other sushi bars. Apologies for the lack of detail for the sashimi- I think my notes are about 3 iphones ago and I was definitely more clueless about sashimi back then, so I'll let the pictures do the talking.

ginger clam soup
This was amazing, and grilled perfectly. Maybe my first time having barracuda!


the offending uni


If the pictures look good, you can give it a try, as omakases will change depending on the chef and what's fresh that day. But for the same price, NT$1200 circa 2010, there are a lot of better sushi bars I'd rather go back to.