Monday, July 29, 2013

CLOSED/brunch/american: i recommend PIG & PEPPER

No. 15, Lane 295, FuXing S. Rd.
(02) 2708-7899

MRT: ZhongXiao/FuXing

hours: 11AM - 10PM


Kid friendliness: high chairs available

Visit reviewed: 11/24/2012 & 1/2/2013

One doesn't have to look far for American or Western restaurants in Taipei-- there's the ubiquitous brunch and burger type, the pizza and pasta type, the familiar chain restaurant (sit down or fast food) type, the fancy upscale type... the list could go on and on. So where does "New American cuisine" Pig and Pepper fit in?

Located not too far from the DaAn station, Pig and Pepper greets you with a bright yellow door to let us know we're at the right place.

Inside is inviting with seating areas broken off into different areas, with large groups sitting near the front window section.

For my first visit, I was surprised that my aunt chose Pig and Pepper for a family brunch especially since I had been meaning to try it out (which she didn't know). She had seen it featured in one of the popular Taiwan weeklys, so it's encouraging that the menu is appealing to locals as well. For my second visit, I rounded up a group of friends to try out a new place, lured by the promise of truffled mac and cheese.

You could do a scavenger hunt of the pigs decorating the restaurant in paintings along the walls.

So back to my question... where does Pig and Pepper fit in? While there is brunch, and there is pasta, Pig and Pepper is a bit out of the box, offering New American cuisine to Taipei tastebuds. Opened by two sisters who moved back from Los Angeles to Taipei, Pig and Pepper is a bright spot in Taipei's restaurants featuring American fare. The menu boasts a range of crowd pleasing dishes that is a "contemporary, upscale" take of both American comfort foods and "melting pot" dishes. There is no where else I can think of in Taipei that offers truffled mac and cheese, or polenta.

Brunch menu offers dishes like green frittata or corn beef hash, while lunch menu includes salads, pastas and an open faced burger with fried egg and fries. The dinner menu features tapas and different things altogether like steak with fried oysters, shrimp and grits and duck confit sandwich. 

Some of my favorite things from Pig and Pepper were the salads- though they were all different, I loved them all. Good size for the price and plentiful fresh ingredients topping the greens.

Warm mushroom salad with pecorino and hazelnut (NT$280) - I loved that the sauteed mushrooms were served warm and the large slivers of pecorino cheese gives the salad a nice sharp accent.

I also really enjoyed the Sirloin Steak Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette (NT$350). I think the portion is generous for the price and this could be a meal on its own. The tender steak, crispy onions and spicy horseradish dressing complement each other. Reminds a little of the salad from Lawry's Carvery. My pet peeve is a salad where you can't find the ingredients especially when you pay extra for them (take note, Dressed)

Can't go wrong with proscuitto and candied walnuts in the Chef House Salad (NT$250)

We couldn't resist ordering some of the sides to share, like the truffled parmesan tots (NT$180), a grown up version of the tater tots I used to get from the school cafeteria. I splurged on them on repeat visits, though be warned they are on the small side for the price.

And both versions of the mac cheese- Bacon mac and cheese (NT$180) and Truffle mac and cheese (NT$180). If you could only pick one, skip the bacon version, go with the truffles. 

Thanks to all my girlfriends who wait to dig in until I get my beauty shots at each lunch and love to eat as much as I do, so that I can try different dishes like I did at this lunch. Luckily we had ordered things to share family style as things came out rather slowly from the kitchen, one dish by one- but note this was over six months ago since my last visit when they were still fairly new, so perhaps they've sped it up since then.

One of my favorite brunch dishes at Pig and Pepper was the Braised Beef Hash with Poached Egg and Toasted Bread (NT$360). I can never resist a poached egg and the fork tender potatoes and beef were addicting.

The French Toast with Berry Compote and Whipped Mascarpone (NT$260) was good, though I wish they'd serve it with some honey or maple syrup or even berry sauce on the side. When we asked about it, the server replied we were to just use the mascarpone and berries. 


 I also enjoyed the creamy Parmesan Polenta Cake with Grilled Vegetables and Poached Egg (NT$360), though I think this is more a side dish than a main. You also pay a premium for this rare-for-Taipei dish. 

The Open Faced Burger with Fried Egg and Fries (NT$390) is definitely meant to be eaten with a fork and knife and is a cheesy mess. A good guy's dish and you can steal the waffle fries.

Personally, I'd skip the tacos since I can get my fix elsewhere for less, but my friends wanted to try them. Three grilled chicken soft tacos (NT$360) come with a side of yellow rice and lettuce and some tomato and green chili condiments. I don't really care for yellow rice- I have never seen them at any taco shops or Mexican restaurants that I've eaten in the states and I don't know why it's so pervasive in Taipei- at both the localized Mexican and Indian spots.

The Carnitas Soft Tacos (NT$360) have a bit more meat in them.

The Pulled Pork Sandwich (NT$360) looked like nothing that I imagined that it would, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the pulled pork tasted very similar to the pork in the tacos (if not the exact same thing but repurposed). It might remind some of a Vietnamese sandwich with the french bread roll and julienned carrots and radishes and cilantro, which is kind of an interesting take. Not a bad order, just don't expect a Southern pulled pork sandwich topped with slaw.

The Pork Bolognese Spaghetti with Poached Egg and Parmesean (NT$360) was a good rendition of the classic and the poached egg atop reminded me of Bellini's spaghetti (though Bellini's version is sweeter and saucier with the soft boiled egg less well done).

I wasn't crazy about the braised beef with butter garlic noodles (NT$390)- I found the dish to be too heavily seasoned for me.

I also wasn't a huge fan of the New York Street Style Spiced Chicken and Rice (NT$390) since I haven't eaten the real thing (and again am not a huge fan of yellow rice which was a main component of the dish), but a lot of my friends at the table dug it up, especially with the hot sauce mixed in.

Onto desserts! On my second visit, we had to try the new Funnel Cake which is probably my favorite dessert of the bunch since it's not something you'd find in Taipei. Though I appreciate the gourmet, glamour version with ice cream and layers of custard in between, I felt like the funnel cake had cooled down while it was being primped.  I'd love to see an option to order a plain funnel cake, just simply dusted with powdered sugar, so that I could eat it piping hot. 

I thought I'd love the Zepolli with dipping sauce and vanilla ice cream (NT$260), but I found the fried donuts a tad oily for my tastes.

Homemade cheesecake with seasonal fruit (NT$220)

Sticky fig toffee cake with peanut ice cream (NT$220)

So the next time you're craving a steak salad or tater tots or truffled mac and cheese or funnel cake, you know where to go (and where to say you heard about it when you make your reservations!) I may have to head back there soon to have some myself.

Monday, July 22, 2013

japanese/sushi: i strongly recommend ADDICTION AQUATIC DEVELOPMENT

No. 18, Alley 2, Ln 410, Minzu E Rd
(02) 2508-1268

MRT: Zhongshan Jr. High School Station or XingTian Temple Station

hours:  11AM - 5PM

$$- $$$ (cash only)

Kid friendliness: no high chairs available. outdoor seating for seafood bbq area, room for strollers

Visits reviewed: 3/3/2012, 5/25/2012 and 10/9/2012


After Mitsui revamped the old Taipei fish market near the Songshan Airport into a sleek, modern space that looked more like their upscale Japanese restaurants than what one would envision as a fish market, Addiction Aquatic Development was THE place to go, earlier last year, when it first opened. 

The first few visits had customers entering directly into the supermarket section, but now the entrance is to the left into the fish market section where you might spy an array of flowers and plants for sale. It's not scary and smelly as I'd envisioned- it's very open, clean and organized with large tanks for different fish, shellfish and crabs. Reminds me when I'd look into the crab tanks at Redondo Beach Pier as a kid.

Once you head into the main part of Addiction Acquatic Development, you should head straight to the sushi bar area and grab a number since there might be a wait. When it first opened, wait times were up to an hour or more, but when I went it was only about a half hour wait, which is perfect for exploring the rows and rows of sashimi, alcohol, fruits and vegetables and Japanese ceramics. There's even desserts and macarons for sale.

Fruit smoothies available outside. 

There's also a seafood and raw bar in the back, charcoal grilled bbq outside (which I'll write up in more detail in the next post) and hotpot (which is the only restaurant that takes reservations) upstairs if you want to try something else, and those usually don't have a wait.

Of course, you could just grab and go- imagine your local Japanese market's sushi section times 100, filled with trays of fresh sweet shrimp, tuna, salmon, uni and even mixed nigiris and rolls. The selection varies by day and I personally feel like it's fresher in the morning than later in the afternoon so that the rice isn't as hard and cold.

And the prices are super reasonable and a lot better than the NT$20 sushi available at the local Taipei supermarkets. 

I was SO tempted to get this and go home and make some uni pasta and stuff my face with uni until I felt sick, but it was just TOO much. Maybe if you have a big family or could split it with friends.

Pretty and expensive...

There are a few areas and tables to sit down if you decide to pick up a to-go tray, but seating is limited. Note also you can't bring it into the grill restaurant if you decide to eat there and you have to pay an extra NT$2 for the disposable chopsticks.. 

The hot food area seemed the least tempting to me, but quite a few people were grabbing bentos to go.

We check every so often to see if our number has come and we finally get to go inside.

It doesn't bother me that it's a standing only sushi bar, but it is slightly cramped and not a place you're going to linger for a long time. Also they won't seat you unless everyone in your party is there.

The menu is Chinese only with no photos so it's hard for non-readers to order. If you want to order one thing, get the NT$600 mixed nigiris set. You get about 12 pieces plus uni and tamago egg. It's a pretty amazing deal, so this was the photo I was seeing on all my foodie friends' facebook for the weeks after Acquatic opened. With this kind of simplicity, you can taste everything, so everything is ultra fresh, if not just from the tanks or ocean.

The waitress takes the order with an iPad and you have to pay right after you order, before you get your food, cash only. So if you want to order a drink or some additional food to your order, you'll see the ipad and have to bring your wallet again.

They also have lunch sets that include nigiris, salad, soup and grilled seafood item that range from NT$580-980, but overall I liked the NT$600 assortment the best.

Scallop/clam nigiris

Seared fish set- 4 pieces- I felt this was a bit bland and dry, both times I ordered it. 

Between the NT$780 and NT$990 sets, I actually liked the NT$780 lunch set better because you got more pieces of sashimi and grilled shrimp, which I prefer to grilled fish that has a lot of bones in it. If you're not sure about what the set includes that day, you can quiz the waitress.

Tuna roll starter is same for both sets. Yum.

NT$990 set

NT$780 set

If you're looking to eat more grilled items, you're better off sticking to the bbq area outside.

My hungry girl friends and I ordered a NT$600 to share along with the lunch sets. While this is a good value and quite fresh, it really is just fish slapped onto the rice with dabs of wasabi. It's not as delicately presented as I've seen it at other restaurants, but then again, deal seekers won't care as long as it tastes good in the tummy.

I've taken quite a few friends there and all of them have been wowed by the size and selection of what's available there. Addiction Aquatic Development is a very cool addition to the Taipei and I'd definitely recommend sushi loving visitors and locals alike to check it out at least once. Japan has Tsukiji Fish Market (which is relocating to a bigger space this year) and now Taipei has our own version in  Addiction Aquatic Development.

CHECK OUT MY UPDATED REVIEW Addiction Acquatic for 2015 HERE :)