Monday, February 28, 2011

Sumi Sushi

My dear friend, Yuhki (different from Yuki), will be departing from Taiwan soon. So for brunch I joined him at NY Bagel in the Taipei Main station Q Squared mall today. He'll be leaving for Japan this coming Saturday. So we talked and had a nice brunch, possible our last one before he leaves. Yet another fellow student from Shida University MTC leaving :(. After saying our farewells, Yuki (not Yuhki) and I headed to the Huasan Creative Park 1914 because she has never been there. In fact I have never been there during the day. It was bustling with people and most of the stores were open. So this was my first opportunity to explore the book store and gift shops it offered. I really like the gift stores. They have a lot of unique and creative Taiwanese designed gifts. Afterward I headed to the Eslite bookstore on Zhongxiao East Road. They have a jewelry, clothing and gift shops on the basement and 1st floor. The second floor was the books. Pretty big, but not nearly as large as the Xinyi district one I visited yesterday. Yuki and I just went there to kill time before heading off to Sumi Sushi for dinner. They opened at 5:30 and we were running early. Sumi Sushi is just south of the S.Y.S Memorial MRT station. The owners are very nice. Not only are they friendly, but they can speak English too. They're Taiwanese but immigrated back to Taiwan from Vancouver, Canada. This place has some great Maki rolls and they're glad to recommend a roll or two for you. They even have a $1000 NT option to create a set menu for you with only the sushi you like. It was a little expensive for me on a student budget at the moment, so I passed. I stuck with a la cart. We had a braised salmon special, spider roll, Hokkaido raw scallop special and a special California roll. Yes, california roll. Yuki likes it because they don't have that in Japan, so it's a foreign oddity. A Japanese person that likes California rolls, go figure LOL? But this California roll was custom for us. I like Herring Roe and she likes California roll. So he combined the two, so awesome! How many sushi places do that? On the flip side though, the place was a bit tiny though. Maximum of approximately ~14 patrons. But that sort of makes for a more comfortable and quaint environment. No other patrons came in while we were there, probably because it was an early dinner, making it a nice private affair. I'll definitely try to make it out there again, and maybe try the $1000 set. Tomorrow, i'm heading to Tainan, there will be a lot to blog about there!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

MiaoLi grave sweeping & Luminaries 2011

Today I went with my parents and other relatives to my grandfathers home in MiaoLi for grave sweeping day. It's a chinese tradition to come and clean the grave site of our ancestors. We then prayed for them and did the ritual "wish" to our ancestors as well as burning of money for the afterlife. Afterwards, we headed in to town and had a traditional Hakka lunch. This was my first time to have a Hakka only meal. It's hard to differentiate the different between Hakka cuisine and chinese cuisine, but being that MiaoLi is full of Hakka people, this was definitely the real deal. That and of course I trust my dad's opinion on the matter. So it was a real treat and now I can better recognize Hakka cuisine when I see and taste it. After coming back and doing some laundry, it was already time for dinner. So Yuki and I headed over for some cheap sushi at Sushi Express near the Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station. I must say, it's mediocre at best. But at least it's not making me sick. I still give it a good review though. Why? because it's $30 NT a dish. At two pieces of sushi per dish, that's $.50 cents each piece. I can't get a can of Coke for that cheap in the states. So if you need to satisfy your craving for Sushi on a budget without getting stomach sickness, try out Sushi Express. But if your craving the quality stuff, this is not the place. After wards we made a quick run through the Taipei Luminaries 2011 festival at Chang-Kai Shek memorial hall. Then onwards to the Eslite mega bookstore at Xin Yi district (next to 101). I ended up purchasing a Taiwanese cook book. It was cheap, simple, in English and a good start to chinese style cuisine. So expect some of my culinary creations soon.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Maokong and Shin Yeh

Today, I tagged along with Yuki showing her friend from Japan around Maokong. We headed to the Maokong Gondola station and headed back up the mountain to the same tea house as last time. It's called Yao Yue (邀月茶坊) teahouse. They remembered us from a few weeks ago, which was nice. So they gave us a 10% discount. The waiter, same as last time also, escorted us to another picnic table with a view and an umbrella. Out of all the dishes we ordered, the blackened chicken with ginger and fried tofu were by far the best! I'm usually not a fan of ginger. But the spices they used to cook the ginger made it taste salty/sweet. We ended up eating ginger pieces like potato chips! Of course, we ordered the bamboo in tea oil dish too. Thats a must and one of Yuki and I's favorites. Afterwards, I joined my family and relatives for another AYCE stomach busting adventure at the Shin Yeh japanese buffet on the 5th floor of the Shin Yi Shin Kong Mitsukoshi(新光三越) A11 building. I'm still thinking about that ginger chicken..hehe. I want some more!

Friday, February 25, 2011


Last day of class. All we did was eat snacks and watch a movie called "Secret", which is a pretty good movie about a student that falls in love with a girl student. But they can't be together because of a secret that she cannot reveal to him. There's some fictional magic in there, so it makes it that much more dramatic. I can't describe it any more or it'll reveal the ending. But definitely watch this movie with a significant other. It's a great romance movie. Don't get me wrong, I love action and adventure movies too, but it's hard to accept Taiwan culture without also accepting their romance movies. This is probably a good time to also say that I'm dating someone here in Taipei. She's Japanese and if you've been following my blog, her name is Yuki. My family knows, my classmates know and so now the rest of the world now knows. Surprise! Haha, Anyways...after class, I had a dinner party with my good friend from Germany, Hanya. She's so friendly and full of life. She's such a great friend to have around and she has to return back to Germany. Taiwan and I will miss her. You really get to meet so many colorful personalities from around world here at Shida, and IT IS SO AWESOME! But the hardest part is really saying Bye to them, as not all can stay forever. See you later Hanya, contact me when you return or if I visit Germany :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oola Mexican Grill (Gongguan)

Today, while browsing through the internet before class, I discovered a hidden mexican food place near Gongguan. So I decided to visit this place after class. It's hard to find. It was literally down a dark alley, behind other buildings and a large movie theater. But once I found it, it was brightly lit up with the name Oola Mexican Grill across the top. It's a two floor eatery. Tonight the top floor was busy with teenagers while the downstairs tables remained more quiet and comfortable. So I opted to stay on ground floor. I ordered a burrito barbacao and my partner in crime ordered a chicken burrito. Prices range from $170-200 a person + $50 for drinks & chips. Hands down the best burrito i've had so far in Taipei. And I'm kinda glad I found another place for my south of the border cravings. My two other options either closed down (Taco Bar) or a little on the expensive side (Aunt Nitti's). Only three vital things were missing; refried beans or black beans in my burrito, it was not mexican rice (jasmine doesn't cut it), and no Cholula hot sauce. OK one more, no Lengua (beef tongue). Lengua is the bomb! But I have to give it to them, mexican food doesn't seem to have a strong demand in Taipei and their salsa was very good! And to all you authentic Mexican foodies out there, I know burritos are an American invention. But when I say Mexican, I mean California-Mexican (Fresh-mex). Oola also has a build your own burrito/taco too. All in all, an excellent restaurant and it's bumped to the top of my list for Mexican food in Taipei. Oh one last thing, students get a 10% discount so bring your ID's!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RaoHe night market

Tonight I visited the RaoHe night market. OMG, this night market is the bomb! Not only does it have a clothing warehouse next to it. But It also has a dramatic and beautiful temple next to the entrance/gate. First, the clothing warehouse is where a lot of the venders get their clothes from. Usually this would only be for business venders, like in the USA or Japan, because that would just ruin the sales for the venders if the customers knew their source. But in Taiwan, it's also open to the public. And this place is huge! I got lost in it. The clothes are pretty affordable, not cheap, but cheaper than what you'd find at the other night markets. There was a shirt at Shida that I was looking at for $800. I found the same one at this warehouse for $390 NT. The styles they have here is really great too.It's more of a Shida/Ximen style, which appeals to the 16-30 year olds. YongLe yesterday was pretty good, but due to the cheaper prices, the style suffered alittle. Not at this warehouse. This is a must must revisit. Moving on to RaoHe night market. The place isn't that big, one street length. But they have food that I haven't seen at other night markets. They have a Thai banana crepe thing. It's banana in crepe, then pan fried. Soo frigid' delicious! I had a Thai iced tea to go with it. Then I also found a Indian Pakistani restaurant. I ordered grilled masala chicken. It was extremely good. And they had Chai tea. Finally, I get my Chai tea in Taiwan! Third, we found a cart serving Beijing style Lamb kebab. We didn't try any because we wanted to save that for next visit. But since we saw several people eating this, I figure it's a must be good. When I'm just about getting bored with night market food, Taipei pulls another ace out of it's sleeves. Bravo Raohe night market! I'm coming back for you. Good night everyone!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lehua night market

Tonight I visited Lehua night market because I got a tip that they had some cheap jeans there. I went there kind of late on weekday evening. So it was pretty empty, not crowded at all. Still, most of the shops and food stands were open. The streets are very wide and I suspect this allows the crowds to move around with a better flow during rush time. But I was content with just browsing around and killing time. The tip was good. I did find a few shops that sold some extremely cheap jeans, like around $400 NT. Ridiculous! That's $12 USD! OK, I don't need jeans THAT cheap. The $400 pairs were not that nice either. But they do have JD, which is a brand I have purchased before. They're not bad. I paid $1500 at Shilin and they were $980 here in Lehua. So this definitely warrants a revisit when I'm in the mood to buy another pair of jeans.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hakka breakfast

This morning my Dad introduced me to a traditional market hidden south of the XinSheng MRT station. It's a famous old market and there's plenty of people there buying their weekly vegetables and meats. But we were there to experience a single special little Hakka restaurant. Well more like a food stall/store front obviously since it's a traditional market. We had a hakka breakfast. I don't remember the dishes names, but hopefully i'll remember what it is when I read it on the menu board next time I visit. No pictures either. But at least I have the address. It's at the Northwest corner, cross street of Section 2, XinYi Rd. and Section 1, JinSan South Rd.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ikki near Nanjing South MRT

Tonight I went to a very nice japanese restaurant, Ikki, with my family and Yuki near the Nanjing South MRT station. It's pretty dark inside with reflective black walls, ceiling, table and chairs. The walk way is illuminated from below with neon red lights. The restaurant gives off a very moody and secret atmosphere. I went for dinner and they only have two set menus. One $800, one $1250. The food was spectacular! With the exception of the fruit, which my Mom though was not that sweet, the set dishes were delicious. There was sashimi, rack of lamb, japanese version of carpaccio…etc. The waitress service was very very kind and attentive.They even asked us if we were full. If we weren't, they would provide extra food to fill our stomach up the rest of the way. Which I'm guessing would have been free of cost. Wow! This is an excellent place to bring the family for some nice dining, or a date if you have the finances to support it. I just can't justify it myself as a student right now. So Thank you Mom & Dad! BTW this is one of my Mom's favorite restaurants. She's been here three times. So tonight's entry, is my Mom's recommendation. Enjoy the delicious photos!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Tonight me and two of my other friends visited a local and hidden pastry puff shop near the Zhongxiao Dunhua area. I'm sure if you google it, you can find it. It's called Laetitia. Tiny little shop with some awesome cream puff desserts. Story goes, the owner came from Japan and realized there was a void in the market for incredible delicious cream puff desserts in Taipei. So he opened up a shop and business boomed. Now it's a tiny Taipei jewel of a place. Take a visit after dinner like I did. After my dinner of some tasty dumplings in hot oil (紅油水餃), a coffee cream puff and chocolate pudding hit the spot. Thank you Laetitia!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cookin' at home: Shrimp Shumai

Today will just be a quick and short entry. I tried some packaged Shrimp Shumai I found at Carrefour. It's from Din Tai Fung, so it can't be that bad right? Not as good as direct from the source, but definitely sufficient for take home frozen use. I will grab another package when I'm at Carrefour again. :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Taco night at home

Today, I decided to eat in and make it "Taco Night". So I visited my local TianMu (天每) American import place, Willie's Deli. Boy, is the final price tag expensive. But hey, it's Valentine's day, expenses don't count today right? I have to say it was quite satisfying. It's been a while since I cooked at home. My kitchen is sizable, but unfortunately it just doesn't offer the counter space nor the tools that I need for proper "western" cooking. Like an oven. But I make do. Ovens in Taiwan are rare and reserved for the very wealthy. But, I can only image the stuff I could make with an oven. Like cookies, lasagna, DIY pizza, pie...Taco night turned out to be a success. Abiet no where near authentic, but delicious none the less. However, outside of my kitchen I'm still in search for a decent fresh-mex burrito in Taipei. Here's to taco nights and fresh-mex!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Miramar mall

So, Miramar. That far and distant mall out on the outskirts of Taipei. Finally took the trip out to the Miramar entertainment park at the Jiannan MRT exit on the Neihu line. They call it a park, but it's really just a big fancy mall with nothing much around it. Perhaps it'll develop in the future as Taipei city expands. The mall is really nice. Upscale and well designed. Much of the mall have upscale brands ranging from LV to expensive Taiwanese fashion brands. There were some discounted and cheaper stuff on the top floor. Whats really cool is the Ferris wheel on the top floor. They have both normal cabins and glass cabins. That night, there were lines of couples waiting to go on the Ferris wheel. I think the price was around $150. Again, it's slightly discounted with a student ID :). Definitely a must ride if your with your significant other here at night. There's also some nice, but limited choices for restaurants at the Miramar. Fear not, there's the Five Dimes restaurant I blogged about previously nearby. Overall, nice place, but not that "special".

Saturday, February 12, 2011

PinXi Lantern Festival

Today, I was given the opportunity to join other MTC classmates to Pingxi for the lantern festival. Pinxi seems to be situated in a small valley on the edge of the Taipei basin. This small town, once a year, gets overtaken by crowds of people floating off lanterns. Your supposed to write your future wishes and hopes on the lattern and set it off into the sky. Our school was generous enough to give us a free bus ride to the PingXi festival and also give us a lattern to set off. It's in the middle of a high school courtyard. There was a famous taiwanese singer there and dancing and performances by many musicians. Regular visitors are not allowed to go into the middle of the field, but our school reserved us a spot to go in as a group to set off the sky lanterns. Such a unique experience! If your currently enrolled in a university in Taipei, you should really find out what your school offers, they can really get you into a lot of festivities that would be otherwise hard to get into or expensive. Here's to student discounts and generous universities!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kaygetsu (Ximen)

Tonight I went with a friend to Ximending district. She had to do a interview with a cafe for her job. So while waiting in Starbucks I finished my homework. When she was finished, we walked around the area searching for dinner. I wanted to stop by the cheesesteak place to see how they cooked it. They have it all wrong! I shouldn't be surprised, but that's not how Philly cheesesteak is done! They're using toasted hot dog buns! And I don't think they're soaking the sliced meat in the broth. And they're using cheddar cheese. Sorry, but it must be Hoagie roll (preferable Amoroso) + sliced soaked in broth USA meat + Provolone! Some will argue Cheez Whiz, but I hear some Phillidelphians will allow provolone. So if it's OK by the originators, it's OK by me. As incorrect as this so called "cheesesteak" is, I'll still have to try it out in the future. After that farse, I was craving some Ramen. So I decided to try out Kaygetsu. Kaygetsu is right in the middle of the Ximen market mayhem. It's next to the ABC mart I think, but it's pretty much right in the middle of everything. I ordered their Spicey ramen. Despite their warnings, I can handle my spices. OMG, it was sooo good! This wouldn't be a traditional ramen, but it is damn tasty! The broth, the meat and the noodles were fantastic! And to verify the authenticity of the ramen, my japanese friend ordered some more traditional ramen… Thumbs up, it's pretty close to authentic taste! Hunger pains for ramen, try this joint out! Fat asian man signing out!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Grandma Nitti's Kitchen

I went to dinner with a friend to Grandma Nitti's Kitchen in the Shida night market. It's on #8 Lane 93 Shida Rd. We were looking for some comfort food because we were both feeling a little under the weather. More so her than I. After all the hot weather we had during the Chinese new year break, today was cold and rainy. A lot of other students have caught a colds too. Anyways, back to the restaurant. The decor is pretty simple. Mostly white stucko walls with lots of sketch artwork. But the place was still pretty busy for 6pm. Looking at their menu, they have mexican, salads, pasta, hamburgers and pizza. Since my discovery that my favorite mexican food place (Taco Bar) decided to shut down, I haven't found a replacement. So I decided to try some of Grandma Nitti's Kitchen's enchilada. Oh wow! Soo good. Still probably not quite what you'd get in California, but for someone that hasn't tasted mexican food in months, THIS WAS GREAT! This motivates me to not only come back and try out their other dishes, but to have a tex-mex night at home. Prices are around $300-500. Website is Afterwards I noticed a cake shop across the street. It was called MySweetiePie Cake and Cafe. Their display counter had ALOT of delicious looking cakes. I was full and didn't feel like stuffing myself anymore. So i'll make a note to visit this place next time.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Maokong "tea road"

Finally took the long trip down to the Maokong Gondola and up the mountain to the tea roads. There was a large line for the Crystal glass gondola ride, so in the essence of time we chose to take the normal gondola. Same great view, but without a glass floor. Next time, I'll have to head over there earlier for the Crystal glass gondola, like before 10AM. The MRT fare is $35 to Taipei Zoo and the Gondola fare is $40 (normal car). So it's not that expensive to revisit. Once at the top, there are a lot of food stalls (like a night market) and about 40 tea shops. I didn't try any of the stalls out. What's the's the same as any night market down the mountain. But certainly a cheaper option if your looking for lunch on a budget instead of eating at the tea house. In addition, there are a lot of walking trails. Miles and miles of tea roads. You could use it as a hiking trip if you wanted to. But that about it. Food stalls, tea houses and lots of roads.I visited the Yao Yue (邀月茶坊) teahouse and drank Tieguanyin tea (鐵觀音), because thats what was recommended in a book I read. That's one of the more popular teas the Maokong region produces. Everything was great. Especially the Bamboo in Tea Oil. It's exceptional! A must order! Besides the food, though, the view was so-so. There were a few smaller shops I passed on the way to Yao Yue that had a better view. So if you enjoy chatting over several pots of tea, relaxing and hiking...this is your place. It's cheap enough and convenient enough to revisit over and over. Try new tea houses and try new teas. Like Yuan Xu Yuan Teahouse (緣續緣茶坊), 16-2, Lane 38, Zhinan Road, Sec 3. Yao Yue teahouse is #6, Lane 40, Zhinan Road, Sec 3

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Haagen-Dazs ice cream fondue

Tonight, I had a special dinner with my relatives from my mom's side today. But before arriving. I went to the Haagen-Dazs ice cream store near Zhongxiao DunHua MRT station. The interior design is lavish with crimson decor and there are two levels. As usual to Taiwan, it's not a normal ice cream shop and is full service. You get seated at a table and a waiter comes around to take your order. Fine dining ice cream parlor :). Looking through the menu, they have a lot of ice cream "dishes" that are large enough to share between 2-4 people and include several flavors. They take it way beyond your boring cup and cone. They have pages of elaborately plated deserts with multiple ice cream flavors and "iron chef" worthy presentations. But what caught my attention was the chocolate dipped ice cream fondue. Fondue...tasty. Ice cream...delicious. Fondue Ice Cream...FTW. I'll let the pictures do the talking! How could you NOT want that NOW!? ok, so I didn't order it. Not enough time or money. But mark my word, I WILL return to indulge in that ice cream extravagance!

Although that ice cream fondue may overshadow steamed crab. But during my dinner with my family, they had a plate of steamed crab. Steamed pregnant crab. For those that love chinese seafood cuisine and know what i'm talking about, yeah the orange eggs buried under the shell, your salivating right now! It's my favorite part of the crab. Don't get me wrong, the leg meat is good too. But I've grown beyond that. Now I love the tasty eggy meaty parts under the shell. I could take a chopstick or a small fork and scrape at it for an hour just to get the last bits. MMmmmmm. Sorry, picture is kind of dark and blurry.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mimi-JieJie, sushi, Coldstone = !!!

Today is special. I got to meet up and have lunch with my Mimi-JieJie and huzi-daddy (鬍子爸爸). If the names don't make sense, it's because they're childhood nicknames my sister and I gave them when we were little children. Anyways...She is my Father's second brother's daughter. Most of my happy childhood memories are with her in Taiwan. So she is a big part of the reason why I love Taiwan so much. We ate at the old 1946 Japanese restaurant in Ximending shopping area. I don't remember the name, but it's a very famous establishment. It consistently has a line outside and the two floor restaurant is always packed with more people than should be at a single table. The sushi was really good and extremely large cuts. I never got to see the price tag on this thick sashimi cuts, but I'm going to assume it doesn't come cheap. Thank you Mimi JieJie (姐姐). Afterwards I went shopping around and found another pair of jeans I liked from Samual and Kevin. Semi-shiny black jeans, daring and a little out of my comfort zone. But oddly enough, cheaper than Shilin night market, so I purchased it. Hopefully i'll get more comfortable with it. Just before we left the market, we decided to rest up at the Ximen ColdStone Creamery.They have the flower Expo special flavors which I assume would not be available anywhere else in the world and for a limited time. It was delicious. It tasted like roses. Well not like actually eating the plant, but eating the fragrance of a rose. Excellent and unique! There were two flower flavors, so I'll definitely have to try to other one next visit if the specials are still available.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Peanut shaved "snow ice"

Nothing much today. But I did get a chance to visit my friend's favorite dessert place at the Shilin night market. It has peanut (huasheng,花生) shaved "snow ice" or xue bing (雪冰). They take a flavored milk and freeze it into a giant cube. Then they shave that cube into a bowl and add topping on it for dessert. What makes it really stand out from the normal shaved ice, is that it's made from milk. So the ice is not only flavored, but it has a smoother texture similar to frozen yogurt. I know of other places that serve this, but given that this place was crowded, I'm guessing other believe this place makes it the best. I've never seen this in the US, so this may be a Asia only thing. I wouldn't imagine it being too difficult to duplicate at home though. But for now, if your in Taiwan, you need to try this for desert. They have other flavors too, like green tea, milk, lychee, coffee, mango...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Year of the Rabbit! Everyone is pretty festive here in Taipei and the multitude of rabbit themed items are abound. It's a happy time for me too. My school gives us a week long break from classes. So I have 8 days all to myself. Everyone is also busy shopping for food supplies and there will be 1-2 day where most restaurants will be closed. But the big grocery stores will remain open, so not to worry too much. Here's a picture of the Ximen Red House decorated in rabbit shaped animated lights.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Le Leone Pasta restaurant

Tonight I ate at Le Leone pasta restaurant near zhongxiao dunhua tong lin plaza area. It's at DunHua South Road, section 1, lane 233, #57. Much to my surprise, looking through the menu, I noticed they had calzones. It occurs to me that through all the pizza and pasta shops i've seen in Taipei, not one had a calzone. So I had to order the calzone. It reminds me of my college days when it was first introduced to me. It's pretty much the only time I ate calzones too. Once I moved back home, I no longer ate calzones on a regular basis. Upon delivery of my pie, they slathered it in a tomato sauce. Not really the way I remember eating it. Although the meat was inside the calzone, i expect my sauce to be in there too. So I can pick it up with my hands and eat it, which I believe is the original way of eating a calzone. Either way it was pretty good and well as HUGE. It's bigger than my head. You can use my iPhone in the corner of the picture as a size comparison. I recommend some help with eating this one :). The pasta is pretty tasteful too. Typical Taipei italian, not exceptional, but still very tasty and each establishment has their own flare in flavor. The wait for my calzone did take a while, much longer than the pasta. And they only have one flavor option for the calzone. So next time, i'll probably just stick with the pasta.