Friday, October 30, 2015

New in town/drinks: JAMBA JUICE

at Xinyi Vieshow 

Jamba Juice has finally arrived to Taipei! They are going to try to make some noise by creating a line a la Krispy Kreme-  first 200 people in line will get free Jamba for 1 month (though number 1 will get it for 1 year, someone was already waiting for that). If you have time to wait in line this Friday morning at Xinyi Vieshow, it's gonna happen in an hour or two. lol! I'll definitely be giving it a try, but I'm curious to see if Taiwanese girls will drink cold smoothies through the winter when often times they drink warm water and won't touch ice water. Who else has been craving Jamba?

After my screening of THE WALK last night, I spotted them setting up the event and numbered line up. 

Do you think they would notice if I moved this? Haha! 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

drinks/snapshot: HELLO KITTY BUBBLE

NO. 172 DaAn Road, Sec. 1

MRT: ZhongXiao FuXing or DaAn

Kid friendliness: Oreo, banana and banana chocolate smoothies available for non-caffeinated drinks as well as winter melon lemonade 

Visit reviewed: 10/29/2015

Just a peek inside Hello Kitty Bubble, a small tea shop decked out in Hello Kitty and friend that's been open since last year. The red bowed storefront is a magnet for a Hello Kitty lover like me so I had to get a few pictures to post and share. (Although I remember passing it a number of times before when the storefront just had some decals outside and not such an elaborate entrance). Along with Hello Kitty, the Little Twin Stars, My Melody and Badtz Maru are all getting their fat straw drink on. Maybe a place to check out if you've already gotten your photo ops at Hello Kitty Kitchen and Dining (formerly Hello Kitty Sweets) and the Hello Kitty snacks souvenir shop. 

Menu includes hot or cold teas, milk teas, sodas, smoothies and lattes, with drinks ranging from NT$30-60. 

And if you don't want to be seen carrying around a Sanrio cup but need some coffee since your girlfriend dragged you out to take pictures here, there's a Cama coffee right next door. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

japanese/italian: NAGOMI PASTA

No. 20, Lane 50, YiXian Road

MRT: Taipei City Hall

hours: 1130AM-9PM:

Price: $$ (cash only)

website: Nagomi's FB page 

kid friendliness: lots of pasta dishes and some fried calamari/chicken appetizers. 

VIsit reviewed: 10/21/2015

Couldn't get seats at the pasta place I wanted to go to, so we ended up trying Nagomi Pasta, a Japanese Italian restaurant with lots of fusion dishes like duck with yuzu pepper pasta, mentaiko seaweed pasta or fried chicken soy sauce spaghetti. Turns out the owners are the same as Primo Trattoria, which serves more traditional style Italian pastas and pizzas. There are quite a few Japanese Italian pasta places in Taipei, one of the most popular being Bellini Pasta, but Nagomi has a larger variety of pastas with over 20 pastas on its menu, but doesn't offer up any pizza. 

The menu is in Chinese, Japanese and English (thankfully) sprinkled with a few photos. There are daily specials in Chinese on the board and you can make your lunch a set with a small salad and dessert by adding a small fee. Besides pastas, there are also baked pastas with cheese, Japanese hamburger, steak with teriyaki sauce-- all the sort of things that would fit in at a restuarant on Sawtelle. The menu reminds me a little of the now shuttered West LA Little Osaka restaurant Blue Marlin, except that there's no uni pasta at Nagomi.

Nagomi sits about 20 people in the front of the restaurant and there's additional section of seating in the back. 

Caesar Salad NT$160
Fresh and crisp, but nothing you couldn't put together yourself at home. Dressing was also lighter and not as creamy as the American style Caesar dressing.

Salmon Ikura pasta with butter, onions and mizuna NT$360
First reaction was that the pasta was quite buttery, the second was that some of the pasta was torched since they seemed to have seared the salmon atop the pasta. This would be nice with udon instead of spaghetti, but it's mostly pasta here, imported from Italy. 

Chicken, deep fried gobo, chili, sesame, soy sauce spaghetti NT$260
This had a kick to it, though my friend didn't seem to notice. 

Mixed mushrooms, egg, homemade meat sauce, grana padano NT$280

I saw the soft boiled egg on the menu, and I had to order this dish. This is probably the least fusion-y of the 20 or so pasta dishes on Nagomi's menu with a bolognese meat sauce and freshly grated grana padano cheese. The sauce here does taste like Bellini's version, as it is on the sweeter side. 

While I enjoyed this dish, I didn't like that the soft boiled egg was cold, especially with a hot dish. I've had bad experiences in the past with cold soft boiled eggs and since that means it was premade, you don't know how long the egg has been sitting around. From my recollection, the egg at Bellini (the first place I've ever had the soft boiled egg on bolognese pasta) is served hot.

The first time I spied Nagomi Pasta was when I went to Solo Trattoria (opened by Solo Pasta) around the corner. The next time, I think I would still prefer to go to Solo Trattoria. They have a stewed beef cheek zitoni pasta that is divine. Or come back with more people to order more dishes to try. Had a little bit carb overload with three pasta dishes and not as much protein.

Monday, October 05, 2015

taiwanese/dessert: i strongly recommend SAN HE MIFUN TANG & TAI DA PANG NIU SHAVED ICE

No. 3, Lane 61, Linsen S. Rd, Zhongzheng District
(02) 2392-5489

Lane 18, XuZhou Rd

MRT: Shandao Temple or NTU Hospital

hours: closed Mondays 6:30AM - 3PM 

visit reviewed: 

If you want to eat like a local in Taipei, a bowl of mifun tang 米粉湯 (rice noodle soup) isn't a bad place to start.  A sign that a place serves mifun tang (besides the characters in Chinese) is the huge vat of boiling tofu and noodles at the front like the one at San He Mifun Tang. Pair it with a plate of mushrooms, tofu, pork belly, seaweed, offal and bamboo, you are good to go for less than NT$200. Even though I've lived here for so long, I usually don't go to local shops like this because I don't know what to order. Luckily, I tagged along with some friends on this day and they did all the ordering and it was one of the better bowls of rice noodle soups that I've had in awhile (better than the bowl at Keelung night market and just as good as the one at Tonghua Night market.) Because the broth is clear, it doesn't look as flavorful as the more well known beef noodle soup or the popular Ah Chung flour rice noodles in Ximending, but don't be deceived. A hot bowl of fat, slippery rice noodles has a broth that rivals any ramen broth you'd slurp in its umami for only NT$25.

A photo menu is always a helpful reference.

I shared a bowl with a friend, and the restaurant kindly gave us a bowl filled with extra broth rather than an empty bowl. Sometimes some places overcook their rice noodles, but I found the texture here just right. 

Mushrooms and "oil" tofu 油豆腐 (NT$20)

Pork belly (NT$40), chicken heart (NT$50) and seaweed. I liked all the side dishes we ordered and would order them all again. These three plates were shared between 6 people.

Fresh Bamboo (NT$30) is always a favorite side dish.

On our way back to my friend's hotel, we came across a corner shaved ice stand- Tai Da Pang Niu Shaved Ice. It looked too good to pass up on a hot day, so we decided to get a bowl. You can pick as many toppings as you'd like and I got it with condensed milk of course (NT$50)- tapioca, green mung beans, grass jelly, peanut...

Generous with the condensed milk and we polished off the shaved ice before it melted. If you're staying at/near the Sheraton Hotel or near NTU, you can come look for this corner at XuZhou Road. So good. Can't beat it. For this price, you could have two bowls.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

taiwanese/breakfast: i still recommend FUHANG DOU JIANG

at Huashan Market, 2F
No. 108, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Sec. 1
(02) 2392-2175

MRT: Shandao Temple station

hours: 5:30AM- 12:30PM; Closed Mondays


Kid friendliness: no high chairs spotted. room for strollers and family seating

Visit reviewed: 9/22/2015
Last visit reviewed: 9/2010

My favorite thing from FuHang Dou Jiang is the thick sesame flatbread hou bing 厚餅 (NT$38 with egg 厚餅夾蛋) and the only thing I'd wait in line here for. Waiting in line took about 25 minutes last week and the line was still around the block when I left with my to-go order at 10am weekday. 

Before this place was known to mostly (only) locals until #CNNfood asked me for some non-touristy places and I mentioned this to them. Little did I know CNN's list of 40 must eat foods in #Taiwan they compiled would be passed and copied around the world. So now there's a line everyday and filled with mostly tourists, many clutching Japanese guidebooks. The good thing is that Fuhang is efficient, spacious and clean and provides service in multiple languages. The bad- it became a tourist destination rather than a local's secret and us locals gotta wait longer now. #mybad 

The first time I took a friend there after the list had been published a few years ago, I was shocked that the line went down the stairs and down the street on a weekday morning. Now those lines are a regular sight so I don't go to Fuhang very often since there are other great neighborhood Taiwanese breakfast places to grab and go. 

But when I had some stuff to do in that neighborhood recently, I decided I wanted to get some breakfast to go. When I got there on a Tuesday morning, the line of people patiently waiting was already around the block. 

So I started waiting at 9:37AM hoping the line would move quickly, since I had to be somewhere nearby at 10AM. 

Finally saw the entrance at 9:48AM. 

Still have to wait in line going up the stairs. 

Once you get up to the second floor and can see the food court, then the wait isn't too long. If you are planning on eating there, then I would have someone scope out an area to sit while the other person waits in line to order. 

You can see the busy kitchen working nonstop to make sure there's enough shao bings and you tiaos to go around. 

Got to the front at 10:02AM, so about a 25 minute wait that day. 

Once I got to the ordering counter, the first lady asked me "what do you want to order?" in Chinese. Lots of people are taking pictures, so it's her job to move us and the line along. When the people in front and behind me didn't respond, she quickly launched into the question in Japanese to which the people responded. You give your drink order first, then your food order to the next person, then pay the third lady before you carry your order away. It's fairly quick so it's best if you know what you want ahead of time, so the line keeps moving. If you can't read the Chinese characters, they do have an English printed menu to look at upon request. 

The only thing I would wait in this line for is the hou shao bing since its the only place I've found it. I added an egg that day so it was NT$38. There are other places where I prefer the salty soy milk and you tiao and more in my neighborhood. 

"I love the thick sesame flat bread at Fu Hang because it has a slight sweetness, a thin crispy layer and soft center from coming straight out of the hot metal barrel," quoting myself from Lol.


SO have you waited in line for Fuhang Dou Jiang? Was it worth the wait?