It was so many years back when I noticed this famous cafe ‘Astoria Cafe (明星咖啡館)‘ in 隱地‘s books. He was one of my favourite Chinese writers when I was a NZ high school student. He often mentioned that Astoria Cafe was a cafe where most literary authors loved to spend the whole day in there while only ordered one cup of coffee! The Astoria Cafe was closed in 1989 and what he missed that good old time so much.
I also felt so sad that I had no chance to visit this cafe during my summer vacation back to Taiwan. I almost forgot this since I started to work in this Taipei city.
Just about a few weeks ago, I happened to see the TV news saying the Astoria Cafe was reopened in 2004 and will be soon closed due to Taipei Capital Redevelopment Project. Suddenly, I was reminded how much I was so willing to visit this Cafe! So here I came!
Astoria Cafe is pretty easy to find the way – just opposite of the City God Temple (城隍廟) in 武昌街. The ground floor is Astoria Bakery and the first floor is the Cafe.
Probably because of the TV news of that previous day, there were so many people in the Cafe.
Astoria was established in 1949 by a few Russians. It was used to be a home restaurant for those Russians escaped from Communists Russia to China and then to Taiwan. Chiang Ching-Kuo (蔣經國) and his Russian wife were used to come here a lot for family events or Russian cultural events.
I was trying to recall what I read from 隱地’s books about this Cafe. But my books were left in the NZ home. I was unable to check words by words with this Cafe where I was actually sitting in.
Don’t know what’s difference from the historical and the refurnished cafe. But I am sure each seat has an Internet plug-in port. You could come here with the laptop and spend a whole afternoon – or as long as you wish!
I was a little doubted all of these colourful pantings were here previously since 1949. After I bought the biography, I realised all of these paintings were the master pieces of the owner’s grandson, Leland Lee.
Reminded me the cafe in Vienna.
The paintings hung in the Stairway were more classic and made me feel back to the old times.
Astoria blended coffee NTD 180 — BRILLIANT!
Astoria latte $180 – but sugars were already added in before served. No stirrer was provided and the sugar didn’t dissolve completely. You could image how it was tasted……
cake set $180
The white stuff at the lower part is the famous Russian soft candy which is often mentioned in 隱地’s books. Unlike its name ‘candy’, the white portion is not sweet at all. White portion is soft while walnut in the middle makes the taste very interesting. You could buy the pack in the Astoria Bakery and take it into the Cafe (so you don’t need to spend $180 to buy the Cake set which I do NOT really recommend).
If you read Chinese, I recommend to read the owner’s biography << 武昌街一段七號>>. Its more than you could feel than just sitting in it and having a cup of coffee. Honestly speaking, I think Starbucks makes a better environment (I am NOT a Starbucks lover). But I admit that the history of Astoria Cafe makes everything different after I read this book.
What to Order: Astoria coffee NTD180, Russian soft candy
What not to Order: Astoria latte, of course
Parking situation: some parking spaces in 重慶南路 or 博愛路, but MRT is the most recommended.
1.5 pigs, $$
A group of us had dinner at Animal the other day. I didn’t want to write much, but just post up some pictures. Check out my previous entry here.
This is the last in a series of Truck Feasting Week. Check out my earlier posts of the Flying Pig, Lomo Arigato, World Fare, and Border Grill.
The more and more I try different food trucks, and I have tried a lot, I realize some of the more successful ones keep their menus simple and do what they do really well. And Frysmith is the ideal case. All they do are french fry’s with different toppings.
Their menu features fry’s with different combinations of meats and flavors. They even have vegan chili fries, as well as Beef/Steak, Chili, and Chicken. They also have weekly specials – this week being the poutine fries. Tonight, I shared a kimchi fries – Kimchi with Kurobuta pork belly, onions and cheddar cheese. My personal theme of pork, hence my name the Thirsty Pig, wasn’t a surprise choice. Like the crispiness of the fries, the pork was crisp, yet juicy from the fat and cheese. The kimchi was spicy, but not overpowering. The fries remained crispy, and not soggy from the chili – and that’s a great thing.
I admit I was full from dinner, and that this was only a snack. Next time I want to try the Chicken Sweet Potato – Free-range chicken in tomatillo-tamarind sauce over sweet potato fries topped with cashews and the Rajas Fries – Fire-roasted poblano chiles, caramelized onions and shawarma-marinated steak with Jack cheese.
What to Order: Kimchi with Kurobuta Pork Belly
What not to Order:
Parking situation: Look for street parking anywhere the truck is parked.
2 pigs, $$
If you are looking for food trucks, you can follow my twitter list of mobile food
Flying Pig is a regular at Downtown LA’s artwalk – 2nd Thursday of every Month and Venice’s First Friday (of every Month).
During a recent artwalk in Downtown LA, I stumbled upon the Flying Pig truck. I admit, that I was looking for other food trucks and the Flying Pig Truck was more of decision based on lines. The other truck’s, the more well known ones, had longer lines.
But I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. I ordered the braised pork belly buns, the tamarind duck taco, and the crab ball snacks. I would have order pork belly if it was in a pile of dirt. I noticed the people behind the scenes in the Flying Pig Truck were Asian, and deduced that they probably knew how to do pork belly. The little buns, like the ones you use for Peking Duck, wrapped itself around a chuck of pork belly. I could say it was succulent, juicy, and well flavored, as you could expect. But I liked the buns more. It was only a matter of time, before some truck was going to use the Asian (Chinese) buns as the delivery system for mobile hand held food. My next prediction would be the pita bread, if it hasn’t been used already in a truck(but you can see at California Chicken Cafe). Anyways. . .These pork buns weren’t even the best thing on the menu.
The Tamarind Duck Taco’s were, IMHO (in my humble opinion), the showstoppers. The flavors of the duck were bold and came out nicely. I don’t know what else to say, but to strongly recommend to try it. I may have wanted to try it in the buns, for the familiarity of the Peking Duck. And for only $2.50, it was a good deal.
Anyways. . . check out the Flying Pig. One of the better, unspoken food trucks.
What to Order: Tamarind Duck Taco and Braised Pork Belly Buns
What not to Order: Crab balls
2 pigs, $
Vote for the best food trucks at MobileCraving.com. And if you are interested in starting your own food truck, try these two resources Road Stoves and Mobi Munch.
On a nice day in Downtown LA, my friends and I found the Lomo Arigato food truck.
The sauce from Lomo Arigato is this yellow-greenish thick sauce. I believe this sauce is called ají amarillo – yellow chilis with milk, bread, cheese, and walnuts. The Aji has a mild kick, but not so bad that almost anyone can take.
Lomo Arigato features three entrees – the Lomo Saltado, Chaufa, and Tallarin Saltado. The lomo saltado is a rice dish with meat, potatoes, and peppers. The chaufa is a fried rice. And the Tallarin Saltado is a fried noodle dish. Unfortunately, the lomo arigato’s selection resembles Chinese food – fried rice and noodles. Though the lomo saltado, as the truck’s specialty, is their best dish. I know it is tough to serve fast Peruvian cuisine on the road like Ají de Gallina, Arroz con pollo, or a Ceviche. But I commend the truck with their Aji sauce. I used it on all three.
So, if you catch the Lomo Arigato truck, make sure you get the Aji sauce. The Inca Kola is also great, too.
What to Order: Lomo Saltado
What not to Order: fried rice and fried noodles
1 pigs, $
This week, I will trying different Food Trucks. People ask me how do I find these great trucks and how can I track them? Here are a couple of places I look – the Find LA Food Truck twitter feeds, TruxMap, and Roaming Hunger.
A bite into a Bunny Chow. See the hollowed out hand held bread bowl.
The World Fare, one of the newer Food Trucks (or buses) to hit the streets of LA, features bunny chows. Originally a South African street worker food, the hollowed out loaf of bread with filled with different types of savory meats.
Miss J and I tried the Short Rib Bunny with Worcestershire braised short rib, Horseradish Crème Friache, “The Original” Bunny with Chicken Curry, Coconut Milk, Chick Peas, Cashews and Cilantro, and the BBQ Bunny with Barbeque Braised Pork Butt, Sweet Corn Jalapeno Relish. We also ordered a side of the Truffle Mac and Cheese Balls. I have to admit that I dove into the bunny chow without any expectations. The pictures showed a small, almost bite size piece of bread, with some meat on top. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised. The bread was larger than expected and it was hollowed out, so the meat could be stuffed all the way to the bottom – as if it was in a bread bowl. The Short Rib Bunny was quite good, as was the Chicken Curry, but the BBQ Braised Pork Butt was probably the best. We thoroughly enjoyed the bunnies, but we weren’t quite sure why they are called bunnies. The side of Truffle Mac and Cheese balls were also a nice addition. I think World Fare’s top side standing dining area is also a nice feature. But I think their prep and cooking area seems a bit small for them. From the looks of things, it looks like their team of 2 or 3 seems a bit squished, while the other food trucks have much more room.
Anyways. . .I hope World Fare does well. I think their concept, like Marked5, is unique.
What to Order: BBQ Pork Butt Bunny Chow, Braised Beef Bunny Chow
What not to Order:
2 pigs, $
This week I will be reviewing food trucks in and around LA. I will be looking at the Border Grill Truck, World Fare, the Flying Pig, Frysmith, and Lomo Arigato. Previously, I have tried the Grilled Cheese Truck, the Buttermilk Truck, the Slice Truck, Don Chow Tacos, Kogi, Tacos El Gallito, Marked 5, Fishlips Sushi, and Barbie Q.
Yucatan Pork Taco, Potato Rajas Taco, Crispy Baja Fish Taco, and Cilantro Chicken Taco
The Border Grill Truck was one of the first gourmet food trucks to hit the streets. From the people who created Border Grill, Street, and Ciudad. The “Too Hot Tamales”, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger serve Mexican tacos, quesadillas, ceviches on their Border Grill Truck.
Mr. D and I tried some of their tacos, the special of the day Chilaquiles, and Churro Tots. We had the Yucatan Pork Taco with braised achiote pork, black beans, pickled onion, orange jicama slaw, the Cilantro Chicken Taco with tomatillo, creamy salsa fresca, Potato Rajas Taco with roasted potatoes, chiles, mexican cheeses, pickled onion, and the Crispy Baja Fish Taco with chipotle honey, creamy salsa fresca. I liked the Yucatan Pork taco with the sweetness of orange jicama slaw with the pork. I thought it was a great combination. I am also a big big fan of black beans. The other tacos were pretty good, though I didn’t care too much about the Cilantro Chicken Taco – probably because it had too much cilantro for my taste. I did enjoy all the different sauces for each of the tacos. The churro tots with dulce de leche infused churros, cinnamon sugar, whipped cream was absolutely yummy. But it was a bit too creamy for us on the inside. We didn’t expect it to be that creamy. But after thinking about it, it was still really good and I would order it again. The Breakfast Chilaquiles, sort of like nachos on steroids with a fried egg was the best thing. There was bits and pieces of chorizo and egg inside with the tortilla chips. The sauce and salsa made the chips more soggy, which was good, as it soaked up the juices. It was a fine little breakfast to go along with our tacos.
What to Order: Yucatan Pork Taco, any special item they may feature, and Churro Tots.
What not to Order: Maybe not the Cilantro Chicken Taco
2 pigs, $
Look for this sign in a mini mall off Overland in Palms, about a mile south of the 10 freeway.
Chef Roy Choi’s, of the Kogi Taco Trucks, newest spawn is Chego. Going against the norm, again. While traditional restaurants are considering mobile food trucks to expand their businesses, Choi opens his first sit down establishment.
Miss C had attended their friends & family soft opening earlier this week and told us about her Chego experience. With Choi’s daring creativeness to meld Asian flavors, I knew I had to try it. As a gourmet Food Truck pioneer with Kogi, you can see and taste Korean marinaded meats with latin tortillas. My earlier post about Kogi.
Tonight we sampled just about everything on the menu. I choose the One Chubby Pork Belly with fried egg, waterspinach, & peanuts. Any place that has pork belly and a fried egg is a winner in my book and will at least get 2 pigs. Though the pork belly was a tougher than I am accustomed to, yet made up for it with the flavor in the fat and sauce. I like the peanuts included in this bowl. The rice by itself was fine, but once mixed with the egg and runny yolk – it had a consistency, more sticky and globby, that wasn’t to my liking. Yet, I would still order it again, but wouldn’t mix everything together.
I believe the Tiny’s Prime Rib Rice Bowl with fried egg, waterspinach, and horseradish, might have been the best entree. The prime rib, well marinade Korean style, had the best flavor. The meat was tender just enough with a good fat to lean meat ratio. Sometimes, I don’t understand why people don’t like to eat fat on their meats? The glistening substance gives good flavor, moistness goodness, and provides nice texture to otherwise dry meat. Keep in mind, that this fat is good for, not like the unsaturated processed fat. I would be willing to sacrifice a few calories for flavor.
I know my Asian friends had reservations about this place, but I like it. They feel they could easily make this at home, but I think they may not necessarily be able to think of the different combination’s. Choi’s simple menu selections are done well. Coupled with his west LA location and the frugal mini-mall location, I think Chego’s will be able to sustain for awhile.
What to Order: One Chubby Pork Belly, Tiny’s Prime Rib Rice Bowl
What not to Order: The Chicken – It might be a bit too spicy.
Parking situation: Small Mini Mall Lot, might have to resort to street parking.
2 pigs, $
The 3pm Meatballs with Beef, Pork, and polenta patty. My friends didn’t like it, but I enjoyed it, even with the polenta patty on the bottom. The sauce was nice and tangy. I think they should have advised customers to eat the meat balls with the sauce on the side.
Notice the interior. On their soft opening for friends and family, they asked everyone to bring something for the restaurant. All the knick knacks on the shelves are from the donations from their friends and family, in honor of their support.
Bacaro LA is a cool place for drinks with a small group of friends.
Bacaro’s been around for a couple of years as a quiet but cool winebar. Perhaps its because I don’t enjoy wine, is why I didn’t look for it. But lately, I have been more daring and wanting to try more wine, with the films Sideways and Bottleshock.
Bacaro is on the fringes of Downtown LA, just south of the Santa Monica Freeway. You could almost say it’s a College Bar, since the close vicinity of USC. Yet, as you walk in, the dark hues and spartan benches and tables give it hipster feel. I like it, as did my friends.
We got there just as the place was filling up with happy hour on its way. So we quickly ordered our tapas – in this case our dinner, with their open face burger with an egg, their white pizza, and one of their cheese plates. Their burger was really good with their almost-like-big-mac-special-sauce with the egg. I could ate it all by my self. Seriously this was a Great Burger with the Texas Toast. Next time, I might ask for the other bun and eat it all by myself. The white pizza was also tasty, yet a bit too salty. I know salty is a common theme when it comes to bar food. I know Miss B and Miss C didn’t care too much for the over zestiness. We also had the Pan-Seared Scallops with Charred Brussel Sprouts, Bacon, and Balsamic. I almost forgot to mention the Noa’s Cauliflower. This was presented and cooked in a way that I have never seen or tasted. The chipotle spice gives the Cauliflower great personality. Non-veggie guys might like it and can compare the meatiness of the cauliflower to a carnivorous meat. Though the scallops were quite large – they were ho-hum. The Nutella Panino was quite a treat. I didn’t think I would like or would want to have dessert, it was quite good. (I am not a big dessert guy). This dessert was like a grilled sandwich, except with nutella and strawberries.
Anyways, this is a nice place to go where the food is good. I like how the menu features names like Noa’s, and Dalia’s. I wonder who they are. The wine list is something that I’ll have to study later.
What to Order: The Bacaro Burger, Nos’s Cauliflower
What not to Order: Scallops
Parking situation: Parking sucks. Street parking will be a challenge. There is a small lot behind the restaurant.
2 pigs, $$
2308 S Union Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007