Tuesday, April 25, 2017

pizza/fusion: i recommend MILANO PIZZERIA

No. 55 SiPing St, 2F

MRT: Songjiang/Nanjing (2 minute walk) 

hours: 11:30-2:30PM; 5:30PM- 10PM. Closed Tuesdays

$$$ (about NT$700/person+)

kid friendliness: hawaiian and cheese pizzas available, and lots of dessert pizzas. 2nd floor restaurant.

visit reviewed: 4/24/2017

must orders: burrata pizza, fig pizza

FOR MONTHS, my friend and her husband had been telling me about this hidden pizza place they've been wanting me to try. "It's never crowded and I want you to post about it because I don't want it to go out of business," he said. "E loves it so much, he once ate there for five days in a row," she said. And today was the day, I finally got my mouth on this fig and mascarpone cheese pizza I had seen on her instagram weeks earlier. 

First thing you should know is that this is the entrance, next to a noodle shop in a lane that sits in front of the SiPing traditional market. No hipster neon lettering signage declaring "Keep Calm and Eat Pizza" in bright pink, no giant pizza logo. I had to double check the address on google maps twice before remembering that it was on the second floor. Walking a little closer, I spotted a red sign above the doorway.

Once upstairs, opening the door reveals a open kitchen decked with a wooden long bar, bookended by two pizza ovens. There's lots of window light, but muddled by sheer curtains and drapes, while the tables are decked with white tablecloths and emerald green runners. 

The menu was a bit overwhelming as a first timer, with over 18 pages to flip through. The beginning of menu were suggested set menus, then side orders, salads, appetizers, then meat pizzas, seafood pizza, calzones, vegetarian pizzas, meat dishes, and finally dessert pizzas. Even their salad options came with all sorts of topping choices- Europe Fresh Salad (NT$380) or with options blue cheese, duck confit, anchovies, italian cold cuts, smoked salmon or parma ham and fig. I couldn't even distract myself with their main dishes, I was here for pizza.

There are almost 50 pizzas to choose from, in 6 inch or 10 inch sizes. I knew I wanted the fig pizza for dessert, but there were SO many choices for the regular pizza. Duck breast and foie gras? Pig Knuckle? Crab and ikura? Scallop? Zucchini?  I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into.

Milano Pizzeria's dessert pizzas alone on the menu has over a dozen options, including mango, strawberry, mulberry, fig, dried lychee, peach, tiramisu, adzuki bean with matcha and nuts with raspberry jam.

I wanted to see what my friends' favorites were so I just ordered the caesar salad to start. (NT$380) It was lightly dressed, and came with a generous dusting of cheese over mixed greens, as well as some oven roasted tomatoes and olives. It was big enough to share between 2-3 people.

When my friends finally arrived, I let her do the ordering. She said she usually ordered the margherita with burrata (NT$740) and her hubby's favorite pizza was the fish and ikura- listed on the menu as flatfish pizza (NT$500). And we had to get the fig pizza (NT$480). Since there were only three of us, we got 6 inch pizzas instead of 10 inch, to share.

As soon as the first pizza arrived to the table with huge chunks of burrata cheese atop each slice, I knew this would make me happy.  I mean, who doesn't love burrata, the extra creamy cousin to buffalo mozzarella? The crust was pliable and not too thin and one person could probably finish a six inch by themselves. I LOVE BURRATAAAAA! 

The flatfish pizza was dotted with a few small orange pearls of ikura (fish roe) hidden under the cheese, and olives. I'm not a huge fan of engawa (the fatty part of the flatfish near the fin) even as sushi, since it's a bit too oily for me and has a specific chewy texture, though I have a lot of friends who love it. I tried one slice and didn't want another. (Sorry E!)

I could see the appeal of the pizza though-- I mean there's smoked salmon or clams on pizza, why not other types of seafood that work when baked or charred? Or have I lived in Taiwan too long that this type of menu no longer shocks me? There's also squid, cuttlefish, crab and roe or shrimp pizzas available here, for the more adventurous eaters. 

Last but not least, was the fig pizza. With a thick smear of sweetened mascarpone cheese, almost like a frosting, big slices of fresh figs and berries atop made this almost like a tart. But it was still a pizza, as there was mozzarella cheese atop the crust, though this pizza was served room temperature to cool, which made the crust not as tasty. But as I wondered aloud about where they got their figs, my friend said that Milano Pizzeria imported most of their ingredients, and that's why their prices were higher.  If the prices were a little lower, I would strongly recommend this place, but for now, it's a solid recommend. 

A thing of beauty.

Milano Pizzeria has been open for four years, but there was only another table or two eating while we were there during prime lunch time. Was its signless location near the SiPing traditional market too hidden, or was their menu too creative and pricey for most people? The average prices of the pizzas in the NT$400-800 range for 6 inches was definitely on the high side, but I could definitely see myself coming back for burrata and parma ham and the fig pizza when the craving hit. Would hard core pizza traditionalists say that these kinds of toppings aren't "real" pizzas? In the age of rainbow grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese pizzas, I think it's hard to make that argument. 

WHAT's nearby Milano Pizzeria that I also recommend: Kura Sushi, Baba Kevin's Barbecue, My Zhao, Regent Taipei, Fika Fika Cafe, Joseph's Bistro (a little reminder to myself of places to blog!) 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

taiwanese/late night: i strongly recommend ZHI XIANG LIANG MIAN



No. 143, ZhongXiao E. Rd, Sec. 5

MRT: Taipei City Hall

$ (Cash only) 

kid friendliness: sure

Visit reviewed: 4/11/2017

24 hour cold noodles (涼麵) means the option of eating them as a midnight snack or for breakfast! We had just left the Coldplay concert in Taoyuan, hungry and wet, having escaped the mess that was the post-concert flood of people trying to get home. Luckily, one person insisted on navigating us to a little shop on Zhongxiao East Road (a hop and skip away from W Taipei) that had offered up cold noodles, fish ball soup, shredded chicken rice and lu rou fan, 24 hours a day.

If you've never had cold noodles (aka liang mian) in Taipei before, it seems like a simple bowl of spaghetti-like noodles, topped with sesame sauce and julienned cucumbers. But every place has its own version of the sesame sauce- some with more soy sauce, some with chili oil, some with  peanut sauce.  I've even picked up packaged versions at 7-11 when I needed something on the go. Of course, it's much tastier with a tableful of semi-drunk friends, from a post-concert high, sharing a few bowls for less than a cab ride across town. Here, a bowl of liang mian costs NT$45-60, lu rou fan (braised pork rice) NT$35-45.  Probably some of the cheapest (and satisfying) eats you'll find in the Xinyi District. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

beef noodle soup: YONG KANG DAO XIAO MIAN



No. 5, Lane 10, Yong Kang Street
MRT: Dongmen Station

 $ (cash only) (about NT$150-200 per person)

Visit reviewed: 4/5/2017

[TAIPEI] YONG KANG STREET HAS A LOT OF FAMOUS EATS (mango shaved ice, original Din Tai Fung, spring onion pancake that now always has a line- for more details, check out my guide to Yong Kang Street ), but also a lot of unexplored side alleys with restaurants filled with locals rather than tourists. Tried this knife cut beef noodle shop for the first time today (there are two on Yong Kang, this one is in an adjacent alley. The other one, Yi Ping, where I took a writer for CNN ended up including it in his best beef noodle soup list and now there hangs a red banner announcing its inclusion 😂). 

Enjoyed the tomato beef noodle soup, but the thick noodles are quite filling. You can probably share a bowl (like we did) if you're planning on snacking along Yong Kang Street. Don't forget to pick up some cold dishes and spicy beef butter for your soup at the self serve station!

Check off menu only in Chinese, but there are some photos with English along the wall of the restaurant. Choices are beef noodle soup, tomato beef noodle soup, zha jian mian and then variations without the beef or the noodles if you wanted just the broth and noodles. 

I tend to try the tomato beef noodle soup  (NT$200) over the regular beef noodle soup whenever I see it on the menu. It imparts a touch of sweetness and freshness to the broth. I thought the beef was tender and the portion quite sizable for the large bowl.  The three of us didn't finish two large bowls.  

Zha jiang mian (NT$90) which is a minced pork and tofu sauce with julienned fresh cucumber over the knife cut noodles. Mix up the sauce and cucumbers into the noodles before eating.

There are four beef noodle soup shops in the short Yong Kang Street area now that I've tried (five if you count Din Tai Fung's beef noodle as one).

Yong Kang Beef Noodle is probably the most famous as it has been around for over 50 years and is now a tourist spot, but it's my least favorite bowl, reaffirmed my revisit a few months ago with Chef Sheridan from Las Vegas. It's a bit too salty and the noodles didn't have any bite. The beef noodle soup shop hidden by the Smoothie House mango ice shack isn't bad. Yi Ping San Xi Dao Xiao Mian has smaller pieces of beef and shorter strands of chewy knife cut noodles.

My favorite out of the bunch? Probably still Din Tai Fung's beef noodle soup (with half tendon half beef), followed by this spot.

But if you've never had knife shaved noodles, you should definitely try it at least once (followed by some spring onion pancake from the vendor around the corner).