Tu Hsiao Yueh on Nanjing East Road Night Market [Taipei]

A few months ago, I wrote about Tu Hsiao Yueh, the original from Tainan. I found this knock off copy cat at a little night market in Taipei near Nanjing East Road. I sort of just stumbled upon it while I was going back to my hotel. I simply asked the taxi driver to find me a place that had good hole-in-the-wall Taiwanese dishes. Sometimes, you find some of the best places to eat, by talking to taxi cab drivers. Anyways. . .

This place had some of the same dishes, like braised pork on rice, fried pork chop, and noodles, that you’d find at the original Taipei location. I’d assume with the flux of Tainanese in Taipei, that you’ll find some similar restaurants. Or perhaps, this is a franchised outlet, while the original is an original owned. Or this could just be a disgruntled employee that wanted to copy the original. There could be a bunch of stories as to why there is this knock off. Who knows?

Anyways. . . the food was practically the same. As much as I consider myself an expert in braised pork rice 魯肉飯, I am not. I know this – the original Taipei location has some of the tastiest 魯肉飯. The fried pork chop was actually good, here. I like the crispness texture of the batter, more than the flavor. One thing I really enjoyed, unexpectedly, was the fish soup. This large bowl of soup had this huge piece of fish. The fish was a light flavor, with a moist flakey flesh. The skin was left on, for some nice oil taste. Most of all, since I am somewhat of a foreigner (ABC – American Born Chinese (or Taiwanese)), I liked how there weren’t too many bones in the fish. I was quite satisfied with this fish soup.

What to Order: Fish Soup
What not to Order: anything else is fine – not special

Rating
2 Pigs
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT

度小月
Unfortunately, I have do not have the address. I just know it is off of Nanjing East Road in Taipei. There is a small alley that doubles as a night market. Check out the photos below for the exact location. I am not even sure I could find it again, myself.

Mayan Grill [Taipei] – closed

With growing emergence of Mexican restaurants, in both Shanghai and Taipei, I have seen both high end restaurants like Maya, everyday type of restaurants like Cantina Agave, and almost fast food types like Oola Mexican Grill. Mayan Grill, which opened in the spring of 2011, has entered with its own concept, featuring a great dining space, which is also suitable for drinking.

Located in Zhongshan district of Taipei, Mayan Grill features great Mexican fare from quality ingredients. The salsa, guacamole, and hot sauce are made from scratch. You can taste the freshness. I was especially fond of their proudly made hot sauce in different degrees of pain. It was so spicy that they use eye droppers to apply the sauce. When you use that – you know you have to be careful with the sauce.

Today for brunch, I had one of my favorites, Chilaquiles. This simple dish with tortilla chips, cheese, and egg, all smothered in sauce, is a great dish to pick and nibble on, while downing a Lime Margarita. The sampler platter of appetizers, with quesadillas, taquitos, and chimichanga, was also a good show of the yummy Mexican foods.

Anyways. . .if you are looking for a place to have great Mexican food and relax with drinks – check out Mayan Grill. They also have a nice little outdoor patio on the 2nd floor.

What to Order: Sampler Platter, Chilaquiles, Enchiladas. Make sure you try their spicy sauces (if you dare)
What not to Order:

Rating
2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

Links
Twitter linkHungry in TaipeiDivine DailyNile GuideTrip AdvisorTaipei Times

Mayan Grill
No. 6, Lane 65, Zhongshan N. Road, Section 2, Taipei City
+886 02 2511 6282
www.mayangrill.com

Marquee [Taipei]

Glamor is a universal feeling that people naturally desire. From Hollywood celebrities, to the Hampton debutantes, the plush Marquee maintains this mantle in Taipei.
Unlike the teen-infested, pushy crowds that fill Sparkx, Room 18, and Primo, Marquee is the place for those who know how to revel. Perhaps it is the glorious interior decor accented by the hues of royal purple. Or could it be the modelesque crowds, that Adonis and Aphrodite would envy. I’d suggest it might be delightful offerings on their menu.
Marquee probably best known as lounge, is indeed proud of their dining menu. Highlights include, pizza, pasta, and their chicken wings. The chicken wings, clearly my favorite, is prepared, with the meat split apart is then lightly deep fried. Presentation of the wings is a sight to behold.
Enjoy the ambiance and scene at Marquee, but I’d suggest you try their menu.
What to Order: Chicken Wings
What not to Order:
2 Pigs
$$

Yong He Do Jiang Da Wang 永和豆漿大王 [Taipei]

Great for breakfast and late night urges, Yong He Da Wang seems to also have a steady flow of hungry customers at all hours. Even in the afternoon, such as the time when I went, there was a small crowd waiting for tables.
 
This small place, though not the more famous Yong He Do Jiang, looks as if it has been around for years. My favorite place, Si Hai Do Jiang, which used to be on Yen Chi St. and Jhong Hsiao East Road, closed down a few years ago. So, I almost was regulated to Yong He Do Jiang Da Wang (Soy Milk King) – unfortunately.
 
My favorite breakfast Taiwanese breakfast item is a salty Rice Burrito with a fried egg (飯糰 Fan Tuan). The rice, though is a little sticky and hard, meshes well with the rousong (dried pork), youtiao (fried dough), zha cai (pickled vegetable), and with an egg. Hearty as it sounds, it could almost satisfy you through lunch. You unwrap this meal in a hand, as if it was a burrito. The sticky rice, serves as the wrapping component. Eaten hot, you will notice the slightly hard texture of the youtaio with flavors of the dried (but now moist) pork, egg, and pickled vegetables. The savoriness combination of the pork and egg with the pickled vegetables and texture of the rice and fried dough makes this great breakfast item.
 
In addition, I had an egg pancake (蛋餅). This is a simple dish in which you have a fried egg with a this pancake. You fry the egg, then layer, the already fried pancake, on top. Cut in thirds, you eat with thick soy sauce and hot sauce. This dish is also one of my favorites.
 
But I must say the Fan Tuan at the Milk King disappointed me. I wanted to have the egg inside. But they already had prepard Fan Tuan’s, so essentially, mine was not fresh. They choose to fry the egg and wrap the egg around the Fan Tuan. Though it had almost the familiar flavors, it just felt different.
 
What to Order: Egg Pancake 蛋餅, a Fresh Fan Tuan with an egg inside
What not to Order: a not fresh (or stale) Fan Tuan
1 Pigs

$

永和豆漿大王
Yong He Soy Milk King (Yong He Do Jiang Da Wang)
102 Fuxing South Road, Sec. 2
(02) 2703-5051
hours: 24 hours/7 days a week

2 Bunnies Cafe [Banqiao] – closed

One afternoon I was looking for a cafe to do some quiet work and reading, and I was recommended 2 Bunnies Cafe. Its nice little cafe that serves Japanese style meals and cafe drinks.
 
Seems like that they would do well for afternoon tea. Their menu, catering toward those of the female gender, features little cakes, teas, and snacks. They also had some Asian rice and noodle entrees. Into my studies, I picked a rice set with beef and vegetables. With disregard to consistency and taste, I dove and licked the bento box clean. I know it probably wasn’t all that good, but I was hungry.
 
2 Bunnies is good for afternoon tea, but not so good for dinner. At least they have free wifi and coffee.
 
兩隻兔子珈琲館, 板橋文化店
2 Bunnies
02-2965 8139

便當 (The Bento Box) aboard Taiwan’s HSR [Taiwan]

The High Speed Rail(HSR) of Taiwan has roots from Taiwan’s decades old train railway system. And after years of development and construction, the HSR finally opened a couple of years ago with much public fanfare and to the dismay of the domestic airlines. One tradition the HSR brought with them was the bento box meal. Whenever I was on those trains, when I was a kid, I looked forward to lunch with a bento box. I remember always looking out for the snack and bento vendor back then, as I did, recently, on the HSR.
 
The 便當, the bento box, on the old trains was famous for being scrumptious and yummy. There was always chicken or pork with a boiled egg, with the vegetables, served hot is a metal bin or paper box. The bento box today, is in a sealed recyclable plastic container, with pork or chicken. But with preparation a little more refined. The meat is sliced and marinated nicely. The vegetables and others are presented in a six sided bento box.
 
The taste, quite different from the hearty train meals, is a good attempt in showcasing Taiwanese cuisine, yet still retains the simple cultural iconic Asian meal – meat with rice staple. The sliced pork is light and more than adequate on these short trips. Keep in mind, the trip to Taichung from Taipei, is a little less than an hour long. Whereas before, these trips would last almost 3 or 4 times of that. Then I had some of the vegetables and what I thought was a lion’s head – a ground pork meat ball. All this less than 4 USD, about NT$120.
 
2 Pigs
$$
 
Taiwan’s HSR
Stations throughout Taiwan.

Sushi at 紗舞縭壽司屋Shaburi, 微風廣場Breeze Center [Taipei] – closed

Shaburi, at Breeze Center, is a nice unassuming and non-pretentious Japanese restaurant. With high expectations on presentation and food, lunch was nice treat.
 
I don’t usually have sushi at lunch, since I like to enjoy the food and drink with the sushi chef. But, today was an exception, without the limited time rush, yet without alcohol. To make things easier, we ordered set lunches at the sushi bar. We had a NT$599 Sushi Set featuring Uni and Scallop and the Dreamy Dining Box for NT$690 – with all sorts of goodies. The dishes were served with excellent service and presentation. I thought the Box meal was a bit too much for one to handle. The tempura’d soft shell crab was quite tender and moist. I also enjoyed the chawan mushi with the sushi. The sushi set also had more than enough for one, with the different kinds of fish.
 
All in all, I think Shaburi is an excellent experience. I know they have other locations featuring shabu shabu, as well.
 
 
2 Pigs
$$$
 
紗舞縭壽司屋
Shaburi
Breeze Center微風廣場 BI, 39 FuXing S. Rd., Sec. 1, Taipei
Tel: (02) 8772-8951
Sun. to Wed. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.;
Thurs. to Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Katsuta 勝田日式豬排專門店 [Taipei]

Katsuta is a small Japanese Curry House that only locals in the nearby neighborhood would know about. They specialize in pork cutlet with their special curry sauce.
 
The shop, with the full name 勝田日式豬排專門店, translated to Katsuta Japanese Pork Chop Shop, is situated on a small street in a second floor space. Known by my friends as a grubbin’ curry and cutlet restaurant, Katsuta is comparable to similar Japanese restaurants found in Los Angeles. Yes, i know i shouldn’t say Los Angeles has great Japanese cuisine, but that’s my only reference point. With seating for less than 20 or so, Katsuta gets crowded fast.
 
Katsuta’s forte is in their pork and breading. They don’t use the sissy Panco breading, but something rougher and heartier. This particular pork cutlet, NT250, comes with the requisite shredded cabbage, pickled vegetables, and curry sauce. Deep fried to perfection with almost all lean meat, this pork is lacks deep flavor begs for the curry sauce. It seems that this cutlet is all about the texture mouth feel, with roof-of-mouth shredding breading, and curry sauce. Don’t get me wrong, almost all Lean pork lacks bold flavors, but that’s ok. The curry sauce is solid, as it should be. We also ordered a sweetened and rolled pork strip deep fried entree. Likened by girls for the sweetness and the lack of the fatty sauce, this is something I have never seen or had.
 
Katsuta is a nice place for friends and locals for curry and pork cutlet. I might be a decent place for a date. But curry breath is as bad as it gets.
 
2 Pigs
$$
 
勝田日式豬排專門店
Katsuta Japanese Pork Chop Shop
02-2719-0665

Katsu Sandwiches at 浪漫館横浜 Romankan Yokohama, Breeze Center [Taipei] – closed

Romankan makes a type of sandwich that features a specific type of filling that is quite popular. This Japanese style sandwich is packed with a fried pork cutlet, or chicken one. That’s all you need, practically.
 
Romankan, brought over by Breeze Center, is smartly located in a high traffic area at the food court at the shopping mall. You can’t be help notice the lines for the simple sandwiches – which is all they sell. There’s a large window where you can watch each You’d almost wish they had their full menu from Japan.
 
Made to order, the katsu pork is battered and deep fried to a golden brown, then put together with crust-less white bread. Minimal additions, such as mustard, shredded cabbage, and tonkatsu sauce, complete the meal. They offer a couple of variations with Pork or Chicken in their simple menu.
 
If you imagine a standard American hamburger, you can kinda envision the heartiness of the sandwich. Rather than a grilled and greasy patty, the mouth feel is a savory, crunchy, and juicy pork or chicken fillet. The white bread holds the protein as well as offsets the sharpness of the tonkatsu and/or mustard sauce. If your sandwich has the shredded white cabbage, it is the equivalent of the lettuce and tomato you might find in an In-N-Out Double Double. Each of these sandwiches is presented as perfect as the images on their menus, unlike the burgers found in American fast food joints.
 
With outlets in Hong Kong and Singapore, Romankan Yokohama has made katsu sandwiches an art. I’m pressed to find a comparable sandwich anywhere else.
What to Order: Any of their sandwiches
 
What not to Order:
3 Pigs
$
 
浪漫館横浜 Romankan Yokohama
微風廣場 Breeze Center
台北市復興南路一段39號微風廣場B1F
39, Fu Hsing South Rd, Sec. 2, Food Court, B1
(02) 6600-8888
11am-9:30pm Sun-Thur
11am-10pm Fri-Sat
 

Astoria Cafe [Taipei]

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.

historical photos

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, $$

Hi Sushi [Taipei]

This kaiden sushi restaurant, Hi sushi 海壽司, looks quite modern from outside but provides superb and creative sushi which I never tasted before.

Why I stepped in here was a mystery. Just wanted to try something different, tired of the bargain 爭鮮.

I was very impressed of so many different types of salmon nigi sushi could be offered! Both me and my hubby are salmon lovers.


↓ 3 options of tea bags – pick up whichever you like! I personally like genmai tea 玄米茶 with rice smell

↓ grounded wasabi

↓ salmon with salmon eggs + spring onion NT$80


↓ salmon with pickled herb NT$60 – my favourite

↓ salmon (again) NT$80

↓ what a big slice of sashimi! Top 1 in the restaurant

↓ salmon 明太子鮭魚 NT$80 – my hubby’s favourite

↓ 鹽之花炙和牛握壽司 half raw beef with a bit sea salt on the top
NT$150 – taste very similar to yakiniku though

↓ tuna NT$60

↓ raw scallop NT$100 – tastes ok, not very impressive

↓ shrimp NT$80 – not impressive either, too dry

↓ eel NT$60 – very fresh, good!

↓ inarizushi NT$40 – good!

↓ tamagozushi NT$40 – tasted ok, not very impressive

↓ squid NT$40 – tasted ok, not very impressive though

內湖店
phone:(02)2656-0968
address: 台北市內湖路1段244號

The Creator of the Pearl Milk Tea – 春水堂 [Taipei]

On a trip back to Taipei, I was taken to a small tea house called Chun Shui Tang. I was told, that one of the chain in Taichung was responsible for creating the Pearl Milk Tea. The Pearl Milk Tea, also known as the Boba Icea Tea, is the key product in the Lollicup and Tapioca Express shops. I know girls like this place as an afternoon tea choice.

Regardless of the pearl milk tea, which I am not a big fan of, the tea house is a nice little place for . . .tea. They have a large variety of hot and iced teas with fruits, tapioca, etc. Open late, they also serve traditional Taiwanese dishes, that I grew up and love. As you can see from the picture, you can see the nice little side dishes. Chun Shui Tang also has the pork and chicken rice entrees as well as soup noodles. In addition, they have great dumplings, Taiwanese sausage, and others. You can see more pictures of what they have on their website.

You can see a list of their other locations throughout Taiwan, on their website. I am sure I will go there more often in the future. Simple traditional food at a nice little tea shop.

春水堂
Chun Shui Tang
南京店
台北市南京東路一段29號
TEL:02-25213359
http://www.icetea.com.tw/