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).

Monday, April 03, 2017


No. 158, DunHua N Rd, Songshan District
(02) 2715-6888

MRT: Taipei Arena or Nanjing Fuxing

website: Jade Lounge facebook page

$$$ (about NT$1300/person + 10% service charge)

Visit reviewed: 2/6/2017

[TAIPEI- SONGSHAN] First thing you should know if you are meeting someone for afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental in Taipei is which part of the hotel you are meeting at. It was almost comedic trying to find my friend while I wandered the marbled hallways, furiously texting him from the lobby to the empty shopping arcade, back to the Jade Lounge where I started. (Even finding their restaurants Thai and Thai or Bencotto takes a little bit of navigation as the hotel is split into separate buildings and there is an attached shopping mall). 

Afternoon tea is offered at both the Jade Lounge on the 1st floor as well as Cafe Un Deux Trois, with slight variations. Since my friend was doing a write up on "must stay" hotel round up in Taipei and invited me to join him on his comped afternoon tea, how could I say no. 

The afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental is a classic three tiered combination of sweet and savory bites, including a ham and truffle cheese layered crepe, Le Jambon Cru, 36 Months Dry-Cured Ham, Nut Bread Baguette Toast, Candied Tomatoes, smoked salmon on toast, scones and delicate raspberry and chocolate desserts and tea cakes to share. While the lounge and the set are very opulent and posh, the food unfortunately was prettier than they tasted, with some of the pieces being way too sweet. A lot of them were mousse based, so being someone who doesn't like mousse, this was a minus for me.  Which is unfortunate since the cakes I've had from their cake shop are actually quite delicious. 

The tea connoisseurs should be happy with their wide selection of teas, including half a dozen Chinese green teas, all from Taiwan. One of my readers mentioned on instagram that they used to offer you to try different types of tea along with the set- that would make it more worth the price tag of NT$1300 per person. Unless you are meeting someone who is staying at the Mandarin or looking for privacy, I would rather have afternoon tea at somewhere like Yellow Lemon or Smith and Hsu.

So cute but...

The scones were dry, even with jam... made me wistful for Smith and Hsu's scones.

On the way out, I spied this cart of chocolates and cakes, which after asking, are not a part of the afternoon tea set, but can be ordered a la carte. The price tag of NT$270 for three pieces of homemade chocolates will be sure to make you savor them slowly. I do also have to note that the service at Jade Lounge was quite helpful in suggesting what tea to choose and they kindly boxed up what we didn't finish for me in a takeaway box.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

burgers/smoothies: I recommend MEAT UP

No. 124-4, Section 2, Wuchang St
(02) 2331-4200

MRT: Ximen

website: Meat Up's Facebook page

Hours: 11:30AM–9PM; Weekends until 10PM; Closed Mondays

Kid friendliness: no high chairs spotted, room for strollers. Kids probably will enjoy burger fries and smoothies

Visit reviewed: 12/12/2017

My must orders: burger with mushrooms and feta, dragonfruit with kiwi and yogurt smoothie, onion rings

[TAIPEI] AWAY FROM THE CENTER OF XIMENDING, there's a bright cafe called Meat Up across from Vieshow Cinemas where I met up with a friend. Meat Up is seemingly designed for the Instagram crowd, with colorful smoothies and overflowing milkshakes and eye catching storefront murals. Burger was tasty with a lot of add on options, but I was addicted to the onion rings and truffle mayo. Dragonfruit yogurt smoothie also refreshing with right amount of sweetness. 

So many cute hand painted murals to admire, or take photos with. Pick a wall and strike a pose, or bring out your smoothie to get the natural light.

The menu includes burgers and fries, customizable with over a dozen toppings,  fried shrimp burger, chicken Caesar or feta salad and sides like buffalo wings, mushroom fries or onion rings. 

The juices and smoothies have names like volcano, summer, autumn, exaggeration or Anna Sui, and have fruits like kiwis, guava, dragonfruit, orange, strawberry, mango and passionfruit. For a sweeter shake, there's chocolate or Oreo banana. 

We didn't know what to get, so we asked the server to pick two for us. I really enjoyed the Dragon fruit and Kiwi Smoothie with Yogurt (NT$150), carefully layered with sliced kiwi peeking out from the mason jar. I would happily order this refreshing drink again.

The Banana and Oreo milkshake is over the top, but either we took too long taking photos or it would have been better with some Oreos or chocolate inside the shake, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the fruit smoothie. I didn't taste much chocolate, maybe it was just a banana milkshake, but tasted a bit watered down. (NT$195)

Burger with truffle mayo, mushrooms and feta cheese and French fries (NT$280); onion rings (we ate some before this photo) (NT$120) I was pretty full from half a burger, onion rings and the drinks. We also got the truffle mayo on the side, and it was delicious as a dipping sauce. Burger had nice fat layer of grilled mushrooms as well as fresh tomatoes, onions and lettuce.

Bring at least one friend so you can try more things. When we got there, we saw two other girls taking photos and a million selfies, but barely talking to eat other. Thanks to my friend D for letting me take a million photos and trying a new place with me, but hopefully we spent more time talking than on our phones. Thanks Meat Up for the invitation and lunch!! (Disclosure- I received this meal for free from Meat Up, but the opinions expressed are my own. No compensation was received.)


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