Friday, May 27, 2016


Oatmeal recall in Taiwan on front page today. Pesticide residue found in over 10 products, including Quaker Oats, McCann's, Coach's Oats, Bob's Red Mill Instant Rolled Oats and Fifty50. 

No wonder the line for returns at Costco was so long this morning... 

More news sources

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

hotpot/chinese: i recommend HAI DI LAO HOTPOT TAIPEI


No. 12 Songshou Road, 6F
(02) 7743-1855 

MRT: Taipei 101

hours: 11AM - 4:30AM (Yes, 4:30AM. Post clubbing hotpot option)

$$$ (NT$1000+ per person)

website: Haidilao's FB page

kid friendliness: lively atmosphere, with lots of selection and lighter broth options. small kids room in front for pre or post meal waiting 

visit reviewed: 5/9/2016

HaiDiLao is a popular hotpot chain from China that opened up its first Taiwan branch last September. I first heard of it when I saw videos of their noodle dancers (yes, dancing noodle makers) on instagram and four square'd hotspots. Hearing about the long lines from a friend who was a regular of theirs in China and had waited hours to dine at the Taiwan branch, I finally had a chance to check it out along with a travel writer in town who scored reservations. 

Reservations are usually taken on the first of every month for the following month, but I still saw a crowd of people waiting at the entrance for seats. But unlike many restaurants that make you wait, HaiDiLao provides lots of services to distract you- complimentary manicures, massage chairs, a small playroom for kids, and even a costumed dancer. With this concept, Haidilao has opened over 100 branches around the world, including in Los Angeles, Seoul and Singapore. 

Manicure station near the front of the restaurant.

The restaurant space itself is massive, with large sauce stations and view of Xinyi district. Completely packed on a weeknight dinner at 7PM. Reservations are taken 1st of each month for the following month and Taipei's HaiDiLao is open from 11AM to 430AM. Post clubbing hotpot anyone?

Once you're seated, you're given an iPad to order from. They have English and Chinese available, as well as a photo for each menu item. I was a bit confused about how to order things, but the waitress was very helpful in showing how to use the iPad as well as making suggestions for a first time visit. First you choose your soup base- you can opt for one, two or four broths. There's a Delicacy broth (chicken/pork broth), Sichuan spicy broth, tomato broth and mushroom broth, as well as a fish and kelp broth that we didn't choose. Adding each broth has a charge of NT$105-120 per broth.

Half orders are available, which is great if you want to try different things when dining alone or with only one other person, and there's quite a range of choices for meats, seafood, tofu, veggies and offal. I've included the complete iPad menu for Haidilao Taipei at the bottom of the post. We were handed aprons, eye glasses cleaners and was even given a small blanket to use when we asked the server about the chilly air conditioning. 

After the hotpot gets bubbling and you've "sent" your order in, plates of veggies and meat start arriving to the table. Veggies combo (NT$288)

It's a good time to get your sauces when you're waiting for your food to come. The epic sauce bar is THE most varied set up I've ever seen. There are English and Chinese labels for everything, but I started with sesame sauce with scallions and cilantro, and a soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, chili oil, garlic sauce. If you feel overwhelmed, you can ask your server to make a couple for you. In addition to two she had made for my dining partner (one for the tofu and one for the beef she said), she ended up making a new one with fried peanuts, ground beef, chili peppers, cilantro and spooning some of the spicy broth into it. It reminds me of the first time I had mongolian bbq and I didn't quite know how much of each sauce to add to pile of meat and veggies. I also enjoyed the glass noodles and black woodier fungus and there's dessert soups on that table as well.

The menu is equally dizzying with choices. I was happy with what we ordered, though next time I would like to come with more friends to try more meats and dishes. The server cooked some of the things for us in the beginning, but then we were left to fend for ourselves as new tables came in. She piped in the fresh shrimp and cooked the beef and tofu.

Mashed shrimps (NT$180 for half order) I expected this to taste like fish balls, but it tasted like fresh shrimps. Would order this again.

Lao tofu (NT$95) 

Lu rou fan (braised pork rice)

Scallops (half order) NT$160

Then we heard the Kongfu noodle guy before we saw him. He brings his own music and starts to twirl and twist one strand of dough like a gymnast performing a ribbon dance. It's very entertaining and the gravity defying noodle dancing and music catches the attention of the neighboring tables. To me, this is one of the must order dishes at Haidilao, and you can find it on the iPad menu with its own Lao Kongfu noodles icon. Dinner and a show for only US$3. (NT$110)  lol!

And the taste of the noodles were good! Quite bouncy and chewy. Especially with the perfect sauces you've concocted. See the noodle guy in action on my instagram video.

All in all, I would come back to HaiDiLao and so I recommend it to you. When Haidilao first opened in Taipei, the waits were as intense as the meal, in the four hour plus range. I had reservations, so I don't know what wait times are like now, but I would say this is about a one hour wait meal, tops, especially with so many hotpot spots in town. Of course, this is the only one with a guy that will hand pull noodles and dance for you at the same time. How long would you wait for HaiDiLao in Taipei?

Don't forget to save room for your AYCE Haagen Daaz ice cream near the front of the restaurant.

HaiDiLao Taipei's menu

Thursday, May 05, 2016

sushi/japanese: i recommend SUSHI FUJIMORI X KOUMA AT SHERWOOD HOTEL

Sushi Fujimori すし藤森 x Kouma at Sherwood Taipei 
No. 111, Minsheng E. Rd, Sec. 3
Pop up - April 30- May 3, 2016

MRT: Zhongshan Jr. High

Visit reviewed: 5/2/2016

Sushi Fujimori's husband and wife team from Tokyo did a special menu for a few days at @thesherwoodtaipei's Kouma restaurant. One or two pieces/dishes were a tad too salty for me, but overall, I was really happy with the sushi. The seaweed, soy sauce, rice all selected by chef Fujimori and brought from Tokyo. His wife makes the cooked items in the set, and was formerly at three starred Michelin restaurant Kanda, when they met. After work, she and her coworkers from Kanda would eat at Sushi Fujimori, and eventually she and chef fell in love and got married, and now they work together at Sushi Fujimori. 

A few favorite bites from that day's lunch- uni, crab, amaebi and toro temaki. 

My friend who invited me didn't manage to get seats at the sushi bar, so we were seated in one of the private rooms. We thought we weren't going to get to interact with Chef Fujimori, so it was a pleasant surprise when a wooden cart was rolled in and he deftly made and presented a couple nigiris to start the meal for us. It gave us a feel of what it would be like to dine with him at the sushi bar in Japan and made the experience 100x better, especially since he was so friendly. I unfortunately didn't catch all the names of the fish since the waitress didn't know them in Japanese/English and told me that I would get a list at the end (which never appeared) so I got as many as I could. 

Pea soup

Akami (tuna)

Kinmedai and clams 

Shelled fresh crab is always such a treat.

Amaebi (sweet shrimp)

Steamed winter melon

Uni with tomatoes, edamame and jelly. So good and refreshing 

These pieces were marinated in kombu, and with the additional soy sauce were a bit too salty for me, especially the chutoro. 

Seaweed steamed egg chawanmushi. They said that all the saltiness was from the fresh seaweed.  

Tamago to end the meal 

Loved this toro handroll! Attention to detail like making sure the seaweed is crisp, the rice is the right texture and adding sesame seeds and finely minced pickled cucumbers gave it a unique crunch. Still thinking about it now. 

I'm going to Japan in a few weeks and this meal made me excited about all the good eats I'll be hopefully having soon. Thanks JC for including me and for the treat!