Monday, May 12, 2014

japanese/sashimi: i recommend CAFE DE RIZ

No. 34 Lane 78, AnHe Road, Sec. 1
(02) 2755-6587

MRT: Xinyi/Anhe

website: Cafe De Riz's FB

hours: 11:30AM- 10PM

$$$ (about NT$800-NT$1200/person)

Kid friendliness: mostly raw sashimi available, though spotted one grilled salmon consommé rice option. no high chairs spotted

Visit reviewed: 3/5/2014

I never had a chance to try Nomura, a Taipei sushi bar that garnered fame while it was open. When it closed in March 2013 due to Chef Nomura leaving, the partners reinvented the space into Cafe de Riz. Instead of a typical sushi bar, the specialty was seafood donburis and consommés. Donburi is Japanese for rice bowl and Riz is French for rice, so Cafe de Riz is a restaurant for serious sashimi donburi lovers as the limited menu presents only a few options.

You can opt to sit at the counter for a prime spot to watch the sushi chefs, or if you have a bigger group at one of the tables. 

A glance at the menu shows three options for those wanting something hot and four for those wanting  sashimi donburis. Prices are on the higher side, especially for lunch, compared to other chirashi spots in Taipei, but then again you are getting whole pieces of nigiri sized sashimi rather than chopped up bits in a bowl. 

Cabbage served with a speck of yuzu pepper paste, to share with six people. It's pretty potent, but for six people, might need more than that.

We quizzed the waiter on the differences between the various menu options and had no idea about the sizes. I had previously spied uni on instagram at Cafe de Riz, so of course I asked which don would have it. The server said that the Fabulous Seafood Don would have uni while the Seafood Don did not. I thought if I was gonna splurge, I might as well go for it for an extra NT$300. 

At NT$1200, the Fabulous Seafood Don rivals the price of an omakase lunch at a number of sushi bars.  But instead of waiting for the chef to delicately present each piece of nigiri, you get to choose your own pace as you dig into the huge wooden bucket for sashimi treasures. 

I think those of us who ordered the Fabulous Seafood Don yelped in excitement when we saw the huge wooden bucket and how much stuff was inside.

It's a pretty massive bowl, and honestly, you could probably split this with another person. There's 2-3 pieces of most of the fish and a layer of rice underneath. 

I loved the delicate soy sauce "teapot" and the presentation of everything. 

Let's go fishing...

beautiful piece of tuna


ebi shrimp

Seafood Don (NT$900) - my friend who ordered this was happy with it. I should have taken a photo of the seafood don and fabulous seafood don side by side to show the size difference, but hers came a lot later and I already started mine.  

Salmon and Roe Don (NT$800)

Bubbles of salty fishy goodness

Salmon and Roe Consomme (NT$600) is interesting- you get a pot of hot broth to pour into your bowl to essentially make your own soupy rice. Even though the consommé sets got extra side dishes (one cold one and one hot), I didn't feel like it was as good a value as the sashimi dons. Especially if you compare the salmon ikura bowls.

Genmatcha tea comes with the set and at the end of the meal. If you want to upgrade to a different drink, then you can add the price difference.

Maru Waffle (NT$220) looked different than I expected (not waffle shaped at all), but was tasty with red bean mochi and banana flavors.

All in all, Cafe de Riz is a lovely addition to the amazing Japanese eats in Taipei. It brings fresh sashimi to a relaxed cafe environment, great for a family meal or business lunch. Second location just opened featuring more desserts.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

where can you find cinco de mayo (aka mexican food) in taipei?

As I was munching on my carnitas nachos and fish tacos last night from Macho Tacos (Yay, Cinco de Mayo), I was thinking about how this meal would have not been possible ten years ago in Taipei.

Those of us who have been here long enough, know that we've had our ups and downs with Mexican food in Taipei, and can appreciate the options and type of stuff that's offered now compared to 5-10 years ago. Before, I would just shake my head and sigh at things like gross guacamole made with Taiwan avocados and count the days until a trip back to LA. Nowadays, I'm pretty happy with the carnitas and chimichanga options around town.  I can even find some supplies at the fancy supermarkets and corn tortillas (at Florida Bakery) to make enchiladas at home!

Just for fun, here's a rough list of the evolution of Mexican food and restaurants in Taipei (not a strict timeline but in the order that I discovered it). Not all of these are Mexican restaurants, but some are restaurants that featured dishes that I tried during the dearth of Mexican food in Taipei. There are a few more I have to try, like Libre and King Burrito, but I've linked to those that I've reviewed for info and addresses. As you can see from the number of places that opened and then closed, it's not easy to educate, market to and serve consistently good, affordable Mexican food to locals and picky expats in Asia.

  • Amigos (Taiwanese Mex)
  • Tequila Sunrise (Taiwanese Mex)
  • Chili's (American chain Tex Mex dishes)
  • TGIF (American chain Tex Mex dishes)
  • La Casita (Closed! Had good enchiladas)
  • Good Day
  • Jake's Country Kitchen
  • Bongos (Moved)
  • Eddy's Cantina- Danshui (Closed! Moved to Tianmu)
  • Mexico Sabroso (Is this place in Taoyuan still open?)
  • Yuma Southwestern Grill (Tex Mex/ Closed!)
  • El Gallo  (Closed!)
  • Oola Mexican (Closed! First to introduce Chipotlesque fast casual burritos to Taipei)
  • Macho Tacos - DaAn (Fresh mex. First to have baja style fish tacos, California fries and California burrito)
  • Taco Bar - Shida (Closed!)
  • Taco2Go
  • Macho Tacos- Shida (Fresh mex) 
  • Mayan Grill (Moved to Xinyi)
  • Cactus Mexican Restaurant (Closed!)
  • Eddy's Cantina Tianmu (possibly the only one to have Mexican owner/chef at helm)
  • Juanita (Fresh mex. Most blatantly inspired by Chipotle)
  • Barrito (Closed!)
  • Dos Chinos (Closed! Ultra popular made to order tacos until it closed)
  • Pig and Pepper (serves Cinco de Mayo specials annually in late April/early May)
  • Libre Burrito (a branch of a Japanese chain of California Mexican?)
  • King Burrito (Organic Mexican)
  • Churro K (serving lots of, yup, you guessed it, churros)
Seriously, I would have never believed you if you had told me when I first started this blog there would be so many places to get burrito bowls, soft tacos and a whole restaurant serving churros! Lol.