Wednesday, January 29, 2014

CLOSED/snapshot/japanese: i still strongly recommend SUMI SUSHI

CLOSED 12/2014 -- new version at IZUMI BY SUMI

No. 17, Lane 248, ZhongXiao E. Rd, Sec. 4
(02) 8771-9986

MOVED April 2014 to Ximending

No. 17 lane 53, Hankou St. Sec 2
(02) 2361-5550

MRT: SYS Memorial Hall

website: Sumi Sushi's FB page

hours: 12PM- 2:30PM / 5:30PM - 9:30PM Closed Mondays

$$ Cash Only

Visits reviewed: 1/22/2014 & 12/2013 & 5/2013
Previous review: 2/2011

I have been getting my fix for Americanized sushi rolls at Sumi Sushi every so often the past few months. I love fancy omakase "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" sashimi as much as everyone else, but I hold a special place in my heart for monster rolls topped with scoops of orange roe and special sauces. While it can get quite pricey if you order a lot of rolls (expect to pay around NT$300/roll and order 2-3 rolls per person), I've tried to find the ones that are bigger and more filling like Spider or Sumi rolls to get more for my money.

Besides my go-to spider roll, dynamite and crunchy roll (with scallops atop and mysterious crunchy bits. Favorite!), I tried some new rolls that were equally delicious- Blue Gordon with tempura shrimp, avocado, Philly cream cheese (taken out on request) topped with tuna and fish roe (pictured above), guilty pleasure Sumi Sushi roll (smoked salmon, cream cheese and eel and the entire thing is deep fried). Also try the seared salmon belly as well for some melt in your mouth bites. 

Deep fried signature Sumi Sushi roll- unagi, philly cream cheese and salmon with the entire roll deep fried and topped with tobiko and special sauce- has become one of my favorites as it's served hot and is still warm even in a to go order.

Philly roll with salmon, cream cheese, tempura shrimp and avocado- not one of my personal favorites but my friend ordered it. I also wasn't crazy about the lobster roll as I had hoped.

Order of rolls to go! 

Dynamite, crispy and Philly rolls.

Bummed that Sumi Sushi will move to Ximending sometime later this spring (May 2014) since it's farther for me, but I will make the trek to fulfill my cravings.

Friday, January 24, 2014

CLOSED/korean: I recommend MAJOR K

MAJOR K 主修韓坊
No. 116, AnHe Road, Sec. 2
(02) 2736-3737

MRT: LiuZhangLi


hours: 11:30AM- 2:30PM; 6PM - 10PM


Kid friendliness: high chairs available, room for strollers; lots of kid friendly items

Visit reviewed: 12/14/2013

Is it just me or have a ton of exciting new restaurants opened up in Taipei in the last year- gastropubs, wine bars, salad cafes, sourdough chowder bowls and lobster rolls... Major K brings modern, trendy Korean to Taipei with a menu of both classic and dishes that have a new take on the familiar. The interior is sleek with black and wood accents with a bar in the center for soju and shots.

Major K's menu is full of soups and stews, along with some appetizers, meats and rice/noodle dishes ranging from NT$280-NT$1300. Major K worked with CJ Group, Korea's largest food conglomerate (Founder of Bibigo which some of you might have seen in LA or Bejing), to help train their chefs in Korea and advise on the menu, so you know the menu and food's foundation is legit.

The Major K Sweet and Spicy Rice Cake (NT$320) was one of my favorite dishes and one I would recommend as a must order. Instead of the typical slices of fish cake you usually get mixed in with the rice cakes, there are long strips of sweet potato. Both have a caramelized outside from being grilled and is coated with a honey and chili sauce that is addictive. It's carb heavy to order as a main dish, but perfect for sharing.

SO good!

Another must order dish is the Mandoo Soup (NT$380) which comes with a robust, eggy chicken broth with accents of scallions and seaweed. I loved the broth as much as I did the dumplings which were large and plentiful. While I haven't been a fan of the mandoo dumplings I've had in the past in LA/OC which came with more watered down broths, but this I would order again and again.

The Ginseng chicken soup (NT$780) was also a hit at the table with the therapuetic broth and fork tender chicken.

Royal Glass Noodles (NT$280) aka japchae comes topped with lots of bell peppers and spinach.

Fried White Chicken NT$260

The assorted pancake delicacies (NT$580) comes with 9 small pancakes that are seafood, kimchi and fishcake (?) flavored. I wouldn't order this again despite liking the kimchi pancakes because the pancakes are so small for the the price- almost US$3 each if you do the math.

Instead you could try the regular seafood pancake (NT$400) which offers up eight thick shrimp and squid filled pieces for less.

Hot Stone Bimbimbap (NT$430) with fresh cucumbers, soy beans, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, egg and beef to mix together with the rice and gojuchang sauce I asked for on the side. The rice didn't get very crispy in the bowl, but the veggies were bright and fresh.

I didn't get to try any of the meats as we already had a table full of food, but I definitely want to try some next time. There's a lot to choose from- from braised bbq short ribs and kimchi pork to bulgogi, grilled LA galbi and ribeye. Meats are grilled in the kitchen rather than on the table so those looking for Kbbq will still have to look elsewhere.  

Some dishes also took awhile to come out of the kitchen, as we went during the soft opening, so the kitchen was still figuring itself out. But Major K feels and tastes different than any other Korean restaurant in Taipei (which are mostly soondubu tofu stew or korean bbq or local takes on Korean), so it's worth a try, but be sure to make sure to order one of my must order dishes. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

burgers/american: I strongly recommend BURGER AND CO.

No. 49, Tong An St.
(02) 2784-0182

MRT: XinYi/AnHe (new MRT line!)

hours: 11AM- 10PM

$-$$ Cash only

Kid friendliness: limited seating but some room for strollers; kid friendly burgers and fries

Delivery: Available with minimum NT$250 order and NT$50 delivery fee

Visit reviewed: 12/16/2013 and 12/26/2013 (returned twice in 1/2014 and upgraded my review to strongly recommend)

Opened a few months ago by a New Yorker, Burger and Co. serves a limited, but tasty menu of handmade burgers, wings and fries. Some readers have compared it to  Shake Shack or In N Out when telling me about it. I found myself comparing it to the also new-in-Taipei BLT Burger which I had also recently tried. I liked Burger and Co's food better, at half the price of trendier BLT, but of course BLT has foot traffic and visibility at their Vieshow location and BLT name, which some may recognize from Hong Kong, NYC or Vegas.

Burger and Co.'s space is tiny, but cozy with pops of ketchup red and mustard yellow. There are only three tables inside and a row of counter bar seating so groups bigger than four would have to split up, and there are a few tables outside open for seating when the weather is nice out. Look for happy hour specials for beer and free wifi. 

After two visits and trying a few things on the menu, my favorite things were the bacon cheeseburger, the BBQ pulled pork sandwich, the buffalo wings and truffle cheese fries. The menu keeps it simple- burger, wings or fries.  Choices include burger, cheeseburger, double stacker (two patties), veggie burger or bbq pulled pork sandwich; three types of wings, classic fries, cheesy or with truffle cheese. At lunch, if you order a burger with fries, you can get a soft drink for free. I wouldn't mind seeing milkshakes on the menu too.

Burgers are made to order and you can see the patties sizzling away. Burger and Co. makes everything in house (except their buns which are made for them), so their wings and fries are never frozen.

While waiting for my friends, I ordered the truffle cheese fries (NT$150). The truffle flavor isn't dominant, but enough to give the handcut fries the extra layer of savoryness. The fries are mostly soft with a touch of crispness since they are made from fresh russet potatoes unlike the golden fries (previously frozen) prevalent at most Taipei eateries. 

Burgers come playfully branded with a mustache atop each bun and are served with a wrapper you can wrap around to help minimize the mess. Our bacon cheeseburger  (NT$170) was a good size and the proportion of meat and veggies to bun are nice and even. They don't have a lot of add ons (I asked if there was avocado and the answer was no), but you can opt for a fried egg topper.

A bit spicy, a bit sweet, I really enjoyed the BBQ pulled pork sandwich (NT$150) with the red cabbage slaw, though I noticed the sweetness of the bun more with this sandwich than the burger.

Both of the Buffalo Wild Wings (NT$140/6 wings) and Wild West Wings (NT$140/6 wings) are tangy and spicy, with the buffalo wings having more of the tabasco spiciness and the wild west wings had more smoky bbq flavor. The wings are fried then lathered in sauce so bring your wet naps. My friend who had come before our lunch said she ate a set of six wings by herself. I could definitely see why.

The second time I got my order to go and I felt that the patty on my burger was softer than I remembered from the first visit, but the wings were still excellent. The key for Burger and Co. will be consistency and word of mouth (with their location being a little off the beaten path, but near the Tonghua night market). Thanks to readers Paul, Sean and others for the heads up.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Happy new year!

Happy new year! Even though sometimes it doesn't feel very "Christmassy" in Taipei (people have to go to work and school that day, generally don't exchange Christmas cards and we get gray rain instead of snow), Taipei does know how to pull off New Year's Eve. 

Even though I've been lucky enough to see 101 exploding with fireworks in person the past few years, it never gets old. It's best watched when squeezed with the crowds, hearing everyone ooh and aah and feeling that electric anticipation and collective hope that the next year will be better than the last. 

So wishing all of you a happy healthy and delicious year ahead. I'm grateful to still be having food adventures everyday and having all of you discover Taipei's eats with me. Happy 2014!