Monday, June 22, 2015

CLOSED! new in town/dessert: i recommend VOODOO DOUGHNUT TAIWAN's maple baconbar

CLOSED! a/o 1/2017

No. 28, Lane 553, ZhongXiao S. Rd, Sec. 4
(02) 2763-5593

MRT: SYS Memorial Hall or Taipei City Hall 

hours: 9:30AM - 10PM, closed Monday and Tuesday

website: Voodoo Doughnut Taiwan's FB page

$-$$ (Cash only)

Kid friendliness: lots of room for seating and strollers and kids likely to want their own donuts! 

Visit reviewed: 6/18/2015

Look what's popped into Taipei?! This past week saw the openings of Dominique Ansel Bakery in Tokyo and now we have Voodoo Doughnut from Portland, Oregon  in Taipei (and our own cronuts at @dripcafe). Is Taipei ready for "weird" American style sugary donuts (now that their Krispy Kreme #sugarhigh has faded?) 

Thanks to instagram, I found out about Voodoo Doughnut's arrival last Thursday night and I was obsessing all afternoon and night long about being able to eat a maple bacon doughnut the next day. 

So bright and early on Friday, I headed over to the little alley near Songshan Cultural Park and Songyan Eslite. Early meaning 11AM since in Taipei, people don't eat donuts for breakfast and many restaurants open at noon. I wasn't even sure if they would be open, but luckily they were. Their FB page updated and states they open at 9:30AM, but are closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

It's easy to spot, with a bright pink neon sign and its voodoo doll character.

Once inside, behind the counter there was a wall of pink donut boxes over racks of doughnuts ready to go, a familiar sight to those who grew up in the US. The colorful chalkboard menu listed over 35 doughnuts in English and Chinese, organizing them into cake doughnuts and raised doughnuts. Doughnuts twirled around on tiered glass displays on each side of the counter, giving a glimpse of what to order. There's also considerable room for sitting and snacking and enjoying a cup of coffee with your doughnut.

Since I had never been to Portland and wasn't that familiar with Voodoo's doughnuts (being mostly in Taipei for the last 11 years), I had to quiz the server what some of the specialties were, such as Old Dirty Bastard, No Name, Portland Cream, Triple Chocolate Penetration and Tex-Ass. (I wonder how these are translated into Chinese?! Haha) Mainly, I looked at the doughnuts in the display and asked what the ones I didn't know were and glanced back and forth from the menu and display. 

Cake doughnuts and Old Fashioned cake doughnuts are the cheapest (NT35-50), while the Devil's Food cake chocolate doughnuts and crullers are NT$45-70. The raised doughnuts are the yeasted donuts- raised bars, rings and filled doughnuts are NT$30-95 and the fritters and specialty doughnuts are bigger and most expensive from NT$115-175. There are plain, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, vanilla with sprinkles, maple, glazed and doughnuts topped with coconut, cereal and bacon. They also made a special Taipei Cream donut that's available only in Taipei.

Even though I am familiar with doughnuts and know what I generally like (old fashioned, fritters, maple bacon doughnuts), I asked a ton of questions because the doughnuts in the display aren't labeled and the names on the chalkboard didn't have descriptions. I guess in the future, they could print a few photo menus to have on the counter with mini descriptions to help first timers get familiar with what they want to order and prevent a bottleneck at the counter. Luckily Voodoo Doughnuts had just been open for a few days and was still in their soft opening so I had the store to myself to figure out what I wanted. I think also they should figure out some sampler pack of their bestsellers so that people can just choose a Voodoo dozen, which they had written on the chalkboard but was not available yet. 

So I made my own sampler box! I thought they would have smaller sized boxes, but the boxes are large enough to fit two layers of doughnuts, in which they'll put the "dry" doughnuts on the bottom, and layer a wax paper layer of more delicate doughnuts on the top layer. I wanted to try different doughnuts with my friends and family so I was ambitious and tried to get a variety, but I think it's best not to get more than you can eat the same day since most of the doughnuts got softer and greasier the next day, especially the cereals on top of the doughnuts which should be crunchy but were soggy since they surprisingly didn't get eaten that day. Especially knowing how humid Taiwan is. I also think I've been in Taiwan too long, the cake donuts were a bit greasy and heavy to me.

I picked some cake and old fashioned on purpose knowing they were cheaper, but my order of 15 doughnuts was still NT$947. I was originally going to get a few boxes for friends, but I didn't since there wasn't a price break and I didn't want to get too many doughnuts if they weren't going to eat them. A dozen of assorted doughnuts at Krispy Kreme Taipei is NT$350 and I mostly like the glazed original doughnuts (NT$300/dozen). 

After paying the bill of almost US$30 for doughnuts (for this review but never again!), I had to wonder if will Taipei pay a premium for American donuts after the retreats of Dunkin Donuts and Mister Donut the past few years. Dunkin Donuts lasted six years after struggling after a promising opening (tried too hard to localize donuts and sometimes served stale donuts, probably because of lack of turnover) and Mister Donuts closed a number of stand alone shops after expanding too quickly. 

I asked if I could get a price break if I bought a dozen or if they were doing any soft opening promotions (like checking in on instagram and Facebook and getting a free doughnut or something along those lines) and they said no. Krispy Kreme had an intense marketing push giving away tons of free doughnuts and garnering social media word of mouth when they opened, so much that they had people waiting up to four hours in line around the block for almost three months after their launch. Despite people saying for years that Krispy Kreme was too sweet for Taiwanese people, they got people to show up out of curiosity who wanted to post photos with their box of doughnuts.  

Can Voodoo Doughnut succeed by doing a slow launch when it doesn't have the same brand recognition yet in Asia and the culture here just isn't that obsessed with doughnuts? Especially when you are competing not only with other doughnut shops, but with a multitude of bakeries, sweets, street eats and cafes on every corner in Taipei. I think it would help to do some promotions for your early customers and start the Voodoo Dozen pricing since we are the ones who are obsessed and more likely to return. 

So the first one I tried was the maple bacon donut (NT$95), since that was the one I had fallen in love with a few years earlier from DK Donuts in LA. It's like a plate of pancakes, maple syrup butter and bacon on the go. I actually love the flavor combination so much I tried to convince the guys at Drip Cafe to do a maple bacon cronut when I was taking all my friends there before it got crazy. The maple bacon was definitely my favorite out of the bunch with the thick sweet maple glaze and a layer of salty bacon. Devoured it before I got home and it's the doughnut I would go back to Voodoo for and spend my precious calories on. 

There's a good guide to doughnuts on Serious Eats, but I'll post some close ups of the doughnuts with their names so hopefully it'll be a bit faster next time to figure out what to order. I shared most of the other doughnuts with others so I didn't get to try all of them, but I liked the old fashioned and the peanut chocolate cake doughnut that I got a bite of. 

Old Fashioned - Maple (NT$50)

Voodoo Doll  (NT$90) 
Raised yeast doughnut with chocolate icing and raspberry jelly filling

Dirty Snowball (NT$70) 
Devil Food's chocolate cake donut with strawberry icing, topped with shredded coconut and peanut butter in the middle 

The Loop (NT$52) 
Raised doughnut with vanilla frosting covered in fruit loop cereal (Anyone else find it amusing that this is NT$52 instead of NT$50 or NT$55? You'd think it's easier for change to keep all the prices even since they are cash only.)

Triple Chocolate Penetration Doughnut (NT$55) 
Chocolate cake doughnut covered in chocolate frosting and chocolate puff cereal

Old Dirty Bastard (NT$75) 
Raised yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, crushed Oreos and peanut butter

Chocolate french cruller (NT$45)

Cinnamon Sugar Cake doughnut (NT$45) 

Droolworthy? Let me know if you try Voodoo Doughnuts in Taiwan in the comments and what you thought! I'm constantly fascinated by what foreign/American eats ends up in Taipei and always hope it succeeds and translates and tastes good. I hope Voodoo can find its niche market and be affordable while not adjusting to local tastes, but offer doughnuts that taste like they did back at home. 


Greg said...

holy crap, I don’t even pay $30 for donuts in the US! but I guess food reviewers gotta suffer in silence. :D

having been to voodoo in their home location a small handful of times (not generally a desserts or sweets person) I’ve always thought of it as just being okay if you like this sort of stuff.

still, it is good to see an influx of international “brands” as a rise in profile of our fair city.

joanh said...

@greg- hahah. thanks for feeling my pain! i was a bit too excited. i agree, it's exciting to see more international brands feel want to have a shop in Taipei. i hope they can find their niche customers.

Anonymous said...

Anthony Bourdain visiting the original in Portland.

It was a Portland icon for years. Interesting to see how it does in Taipei. I will viist it soon. It's nostalgic for me.

joanh said...

Thanks for commenting. Let us know how it compares to the original location! I'm interested to see how Voodoo does in Taipeit too

Anonymous said...

I've never been to the original, but was excited to have more doughnut options in Taipei. Sorry, but Mr Doughnut is basically un-edible. Ran throgh Voodoo this afternoon and grabbed the Portland creme. Talk about dissapointment! I don't know if the Portland doughnuts taste like this, but I can't imagine they would be so popular if so. The doughnut was really small and definitely the greasiest doughbut I've ever eaten. The bavarian cream was tasteless; all I could taste was the chocolate icing, which wasn't bad. Such a bummer. Maybe the Portland headquarters will investigate and see what the Taiwan branch is doing wrong?? I can't imagine this is what all the hype is about. I guess it's back to KK.

joanh said...

anonymous: yeah I echo your sentiments. Hopefully Voodoo will read the comments here or get feedback or more people can share their experiences (I got a lot of similar comments on my FB page) since I'm pretty sure there's a Voodoo person from the states on site in Taipei (I saw her walking around kitchen last week) and hopefully they can figure it out.

aad said...

its my favorite, because sweet, and choco

Unknown said...

I've tried Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland. It is just very sweet. I moved back to Taiwan since 2000. So my taste might have changed. If I speak for Taiwanese, I think Voodoo Doughnut is very sweet. However, the location is quite good and people like to try new things especially young generation in Taipei. So, Voodoo Doughnut might find its niche market and survive in Taipei. We will see...

Jon Demps said...

I was kind of excited to see a new place open up in that area, especially since it was donuts! (The location and area is ripe with overpriced places that under deliver, just like the burger place a few businesses down from Voodoo). I can recall the years of my life riding my bike or taking a car down at 2AM to my local donut shop and bringing home a box of goodies. That being said, I went here last week and was much less than impressed with the entire operation and the value for the price. Donuts were OK at best and more than that, I find it amusing that the prices are more expensive than you'd get in the states, and in particular Los Angeles. Having worked in the F&B industry in LA most of my life, I definitely get the boutique/craft market very well. If that's the market you hope to compete in, you need to actually have an overwhelming product and operation. I can't say that for Voodoo Doughnuts. Decor alone doesn't substantiate the pricing, and sadly the majority of F&B operations in Taipei (non-mom and pop shops- because who can ever complain about their prices) only get the decor right and not much else. Then the business decides to pass on the cost of their hefty investment on decor to the guest. Not a good move. With all the bakeries around every corner (like you said), why the hell would I pay these prices? Because you put some cereal on top ain't enough...sorry. I'd take Yum Yum Donuts any day of the week for taste and value. Luckily for Voodoo Doughnuts, Taipei isn't a very discerning foodie market. People eat on the cheap but will splurge on a trendy place with little to no substance but a cool design, so maybe that's the niche to shoot for- the consumer who doesn't know any better.

Anonymous said...

I've been here twice. The first time I went it wasn't bad but I think it was mostly cause I haven't had a doughnut in over 3 years and I ordered 2 dozen donuts to share with friends. Got the Cock n' ball as well. Quite hilarious. Quality was not bad. I do have to say they are not as good as the mom and pop shops in the US. I did enjoy the atmosphere and presentation of the restaurant a lot though. The second time I went I ordered the gaybar and buttermilk bar. They were quite oily. More so than a typical doughnut. I've actually never had a doughnut that oily in my life up until that day. I'm not sure what happened. I may give Voodoo Doughnut another shot here in Taiwan. I do plan on going to Portland for sure to check out the original shop there.