Saturday, December 17, 2011

New pizza place in my neighborhood

A new pizza place just opened up in my neighborhood. It's called Mr. Pizza. Today was the grand opening. It touts itself as a wood fired pizza place. So after a leisurely day of more rock climbing, Yuki and I headed over to check it out. Fortunately, we headed there super early, because there was a 4 hour wait for the pizza. We ordered at 4 pm and they said it would be ready by 8 pm. By the time 8 pm rolled around, we were both pretty hungry. The pizzas are indeed wood fired as can be seen by the stacks of wood kindles piled outside. The stove is a bit crudely constructed though. mostly of brick and spare parts it seems. But the oven bed did seem like it was made of one piece of large ceramic. The interior lacked design and looked like it was haphazardly put together at the last moment. Which could be the case, since they are newly opened and perhaps wanted to make the due date. What's important is the pizza pie. At $160 a pie, it is a bit expensive. Although Yuki and I shared one, one was not enough. I can see myself easily finishing one whole pie myself (approx. 10 inches). The taste, wasn't that bad. Pretty darn good I must say. Yuki says it's the best she's had outside of Aunt Su's. But there's still two negatives I'd like to get out there. First off, there's no parmesan cheese! Hot pepper, salt and pepper. Salt and pepper!? WTF? Secondly, I hate thin crust. Granted it wasn't as thin and crappy as Bollywood Pizza, but it's still a thin flavorless toasted flatbread-like crust. I don't get it. Do the Taiwanese prefer it like that or has no one taught them how to make decent pizza bread. I'm undecided on this place. Super convienant, wood fired, tasty toppings versus overpriced flavorless flatbread.

Mr. Pizza
145號, 明德路, Beitou District Taipei City, Taiwan 112

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chien Yen Hot Pot...redux!

Here we are again! Gut-busting All You Can Eat hot pot at Ximending. One of my good friends here in Taipei was recently turned onto my blog. So after reading the article about Chien Yen hot pot, she really really wanted to me to revisit the place with her. According to her, mainly for the dessert/cake display not the hot pot! Well, in my original post, I only posted pictures of the cake display and not of any hot pot action. At first she was unable to decide if she wanted this much food. But at the last minute, I got a call from her stating that she was IN! Well, for gut-busting desserts perhaps. So we met up, walked in and put our names down on the waiting list. Even for a Sunday evening, it's still quite packed and thus we waited about 15 minutes. I'm sure it would have been worse had we walked in without reservations on a Friday or Saturday evening. We sat, we ate, we burped, we ate some more and then went dessert binging! yadda yadda. You get the idea from my last post about this gem of a place. Oh although they don't have froyo, they do have soft serve ice cream. In the end, she liked it so much she vowed to return with her family members when they visited. You should should visit too!

Chien Yen Hot Pot

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bouldering is my anti-age

First day of my new age. I'm going to exercise. "I'm not old, I'm not old" I keep telling myself. So I brought Yuki along with me to a local rock climbing/bouldering gym near my house. It's off the Shipai MRT station so it's about a 20 minute walkable distance from my house. It's a fairly sizable rock climbing gym (They call themselves IDEA) standing at 3 stories tall, inside the much larger Beitou activities center. The Beitou activities center has a olympic size pool, billiards tables, basketball courts, squash/racquetball courts, weights gym, spinning room, fitness room, store and a Moss Burger. Yes, a Mos Burger. Ironic how the only food choice in an activities/fitness facility is a fast food establishment. The rock climbing gym isn't that bad. It definitely has height, but falls short on the space. Most of the space is for belaying. There isn't much space for bouldering (no ropes), which is what I prefer. I found traffic jams a frequent occurrence. There are no overhangs except for the one 50 feet above your head for the advanced belay climbers. If there's a class going on, they boot you off your spot. You can't belay unless you have a license from them. It costs $990 NT and is only held once a month. The marking system is different than the standardized system the US uses. Speaking with a instructor, they say they don't have their own path marked out. All the tape is from other climbers. Sometimes they aren't maintained and they peal off, creating an incomplete path. So you essentially have to create your own path. That can be taken as a positive or a negative. Bouldering fees cost $150 per person all day. $80 for shoe rental. $20 for chalk rental, but it can be shared. But it's reasonable priced for an all day entrance and walking distance from my house, so it'll suffice. Others that don't live near, may not like it as much. I also hear there is a larger, more challenging facility called Y-17 in Taipei city. I'll have to visit that one another day. Well this is good for now, my hands are very crunchy and dry and sore from the climbing. See you when my fingers heal!

100號, Lane 39, Section 1, Shípái Road, Beitou District
Taipei City, Taiwan 112

Friday, December 9, 2011

熱炒 with friends makes me happy!

Today I celebrated my birthday with several of my close friends (minus a few that couldn't make it). I chose one of my favorite rechao (熱炒) restaurants, 中央市場-生猛活海鮮. It's no where near any MRT stations. The closest one is probably Songjiang Nanjing station (捷運松江南京站), and it's still a 15 minute walk southwest from there. My Taiwanese friend commented that it's really local place to hang out at, because obviously foreigners have a tendency to not stray too far from the MRT stations. But I give credit to my California church friends that visited me a few weeks ago. They introduced it to me. Moving on, I chose a rechao location over a much more elegant and obviously more expensive place is because I just enjoy the atmosphere better. You can be loud, drink lots of beer, eat really good cheap food ($100/plate), look at beer girls (not that pretty though), and karaoke ;). I feel more comfortable and care-free there or maybe because it's so cheap, I can eat 'till i'm stuffed. We had deep fried japanese burdock chips, deep fried oysters, GongBao chicken (拱抱雞丁)or KungPao as some people say, 空心菜… We all had a great time! We went through a mild 8 600ml of Taiwan beer ($80 NT per bottle). But everyone was having a good time and some even got up the courage to sing a chinese karaoke song. If you go to this location, go downstairs. They use regular seats with big tables and round lazy-susan things (you know the ones that you see in chinese restaurants). The tables upstairs are more traditional, stools and short table tops. I'm too tall for those and I find them annoying. Plenty of free refillable rice to go around and lots of photos and even more jokes and stories. Thanks everyone for a happy birthday! Cheers!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

金色三麥 Leble'dor

The day for my one year anniversary with Yuki is coming up. However with the coming arrival of my parents next week, we thought this weekend would be a last time to celebrate it privately. So for dinner we decided to go to a Taiwanese german restaurant at the top floor of the Q Square mall. It's called Leble'dor. It's a famous Taiwanese beer brand that is heavily influenced by the german art of beer. It was first introduced to me at CitySuper market in Sogo Tianmu by a sales representative. It tasted awesome! I mean Taiwan beer (the brand) has it's merits, but not for it's superior taste. The beer brewers at Leble'dor really did their research. It's some great tasting beer similar to what you'd find with American microbrews like Blue Moon, Fat Tire, Longboard or Anchor Steam. So we were much anticipating our first experience to eat and drink there (on tap). Walking in, the interior design is reminiscent of a log cabin/wine cellar. With wood logs, iron fencing, stone, wood barrels and candle chandeliers, it really gives off a warm cozy atmosphere. first things first, two 40oz steins of seasonal beer please! The selections were Hefe-weizen, Honey, Dunkel, Seasonal Lager. Looking through the menu, it's' mainly a mish-mash of fusion asian, german and american fare. Pizza, salads, bratwursts, onion rings, steaks, fries, pasta, hot pot, soup and mexican. We ordered a mix of food + one recommended: the garlic beer-flavored shrimps (recommended), beef steak with sauce, onion rings. The food turned out pretty good. Well as far as onion rings, steak and fries goes. Perhaps because I've been an American for too long, I don't find a good set of fries, onion rings and steak as that special. But I'll give Leble'dor credit in that, those were one of the best fries and onion rings i've had so far in Taipei. Next time I really want to try out their pork knuckles, german sausage platter and grilled chicken leg cartilage. The only disappointing part is the most shocking to me. The beer! It still has the same great taste that I had at Sogo, but they served it mildly cold. Beer needs to be served ice cold! I asked the waiter if he could bring me back an ice cold one, but he said that's the temperature they keep their refrigerator at. So much research and development went into some great beer that the Taiwanese can call their own, and they shoot themselves in the foot by serving it under chilled :(. Their own bottle even says serve chilled at 5° C. I definitely want to revisit this restaurant in the future. I love the beer and the menu looks delicious (albeit more american than german), but please oh please put my beer in the freezer for 15 minutes before serving it to me. As a side note, You can go to the many other Lebre'dor locations around Taiwan and buy the liter bottles of any of the four varieties. The Sogo CitySuper in Tianmu seems to only sell the Lager and Dunkel.

金色三麥 Leble'dor

金色三麥 Leble'dor (XinYi Eslite Mall)

金色三麥 Leble'dor (Miramar Mall)

金色三麥 Leble'dor (BanQiao)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oil rice with rice wine chicken

First off, due to some really confusing and complicated favor, I ended up having to meet Yuki for lunch at her work to deliver something. Which I'm quite OK with, because I've been wanting to join her for a weekday lunch for some time now. We ended up at a Japanese restaurant with rather cheap prices for the non-sushi items on the menu. Probably because it's Daan district and there are many local businesses around. For what our meal costs, it was a rather respectable clean and well decorated place. I asked the waitress for a glass of ice water (with ice cubes) and it took her a while to understand that and then she gave me a weird look. Asians like luke warm water, because they think ice water is bad for your health. I don't buy into it. But whether I do or not, it was a hot day and my body runs abnormally hot so I was burning up. My katsudon lunch turned out pretty good. Reminds me of my favorite Katsudon place in San Mateo, CA next to the Suruki super market. However the miso soup is something completely different. For some reason, my miso soup tasted sour. I don't know if it was a different variation of miso base they use, but that's not what i'm used to. I've tried hundreds of miso soups in Taiwan and in the states, never tasted a sour one. So I left it alone, for fear of getting sick from spoiled miso. Luckily dinner was better. Yuki's workplace gifted her a package of glutinous rice with mushrooms aka "oil rice" (油飯). It came in a fancy box, like it was some japanese dessert cake. But upon opening it, we discovered it was not sealed. So it's more like a bento box than a gift box. It's a good thing I felt like eating immediately tonight rather than storing it in the fridge for a later day. The rice turned out excellent! Not too oily and all the great traditional taste of good You Fan (油飯). It came with two chicken thighs and two eggs. Despite the pink coloring of the eggs, they're just normal boiled eggs. The chicken had a fried skin on it. But after being packaged for a few hours, it was soggy. Still great, but I'd like to try it when it was fresh and possible crispy from the frier. What was surprising was the chicken meat. It had a rice wine taste to it. Similar to drunken chicken or three cups chicken (三杯雞). Very very tasty and of course it tastes better when it's free. Thanks Yuki's company! Google mapping the name 太子油飯 (found on the box), brought up a location in Taipei. It's near the Daqiaotou MRT station (大橋頭捷運站). I must remember the next time I'm near that area, that there's a good 油飯 place, hopefully a restaurant and not a take-out only. All's well that ends well.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Home cookin': Kimchi Beef with potatoes

Yuki decided to cook some japanese dinner for me tonight. Well mayhaps not entirely Japanese as she could find a few key ingredients, so she substituted. She made a Kimchi Beef with potatoes and Bonito soup. So I guess it's a Korean/Japanese fusion dish? Anyways, I really like the combination. I'm do not know what went into this, but it tasted great! And the soup was awesome too. She soaked bonito flakes in boiling water, then strained out the bonito flakes to extract the flavor into the soup. Then she added mochi balls and beef balls and some vegetables. No need to describe it any further, because you'll never be able to experience her cooking. Haha just kidding. If you make it over here to Taipei and meet me and Yuki, I'm sure we can work something out. Sorry, the photo did not come out so well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Can't get enough HK 茶餐廳

So due to yesterday's post, I couldn't help myself tonight. I had to head back to the Hong Kong diner, 好好味菠蘿包, at Shida night market for a proper dinner and try out their Cantonese food. You all remember the post from yesterday, so I can save the normal yapping and head straight to the food. I ordered some pork short ribs over rice. Excellent! The pork was soft and has some soft bone, but they're short ribs, what do you expect. The pork turned out to be just chewy enough and no where near dry. Excellent pieces of pork short ribs similar to what you'd find at a Dim Sum place. The rice they use is some long grain white rice, that was soft and not sticky, just the way I like it. And the die for. I'm not familiar with it, but perhaps it was some sort of XO sauce, Yuki guesses. A high price tag of $130 NT for a simple dish, but the taste is just about worth it. I should be able to make this at home right? Yuki ordered a noodle soup, 金牌車仔麵. I'm not sure what's in it. Typical Hong Kong style, it's a mix of several cultures and cheap ingredients. I see egg, sprouts, duck blood, beef balls, ramen noodles, green onion and intestines (*Stolen from Google Images). I'm no expert, but I've never actually seen this dish in Hong Kong, but it certainly plays the part of a HK dish. Looks and tastes like a hodge podge of random leftovers from the pantry, like you do when you're trying to clear your fridge before moving day. It's not award winning by any means, but maybe it's in my blood. I love this down-home, simple, cheap, hodge podge of ingredients that I think makes up most Hong Kong 茶餐廳 dishes. And of course, you can go here with out a pineapple bun finisher with loads of artery cloggin' butter.

Hohomei Shida location (好好味港式菠蘿包)

Hohomei Zhongxiao DunHua location (好好味港式菠蘿包)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

That Hong Kong restaurant

Today Yuki and I decided to hang out with some of our female friends and show them around the Dongqu area (東區). Unfortunately, we didn't expect to walk into a ghost town. This area is usually a very trendy and busy area for young adults. However. I guess on an early Sunday noon hour, all the shop owners are sleeping in. Thus there wasn't much to see other than window shopping (literally). Since it was too early, we decided to take an early lunch. Earlier last week, Yuki discovered a nice cafe with a large outdoor patio in the Dongqu area and wanted to try it out. I forgot the name, sorry. It has a small driveway in the front, leading to a large double door. Once inside you get a nice sensation of industrial cement, mixed with earthy wood and muted photos. Nice, but I'm not sure what it reminds me of. We ended up outside on the patio anyways. Just as we sat down, the sun started to peek through and warm us up. The weather was starting to agree with me. Slightly cool in the shade and slightly warm in the sun. We each ordered our meals. Some soup, grilled chicken pita and nachos. I didn't try out the soup, but it looked very creamy and tasty (cream of corn). My grilled chicken pita ended up being OK. The pita bread was over grilled, so it was too fragile to pick up and eat. Putting wasabi mayonnaise on it didn't help either. So I guess they expect you to fork and knife it. That ok, I can roll with that. The chicken was pretty good as it really works with that wasabi mayonnaise, but not spectacular. It could have been larger (slightly smaller than my hand) for the price of $220. The nachos was by far the worst disappointment. It's Doritos with flavorless sour cream, sweet salsa and so called "nacho cheese" orange sauce. Yuki said the tastes didn't match. According to her, the Doritos have too strong of a processed cheese flavor and it clashed with the salsa and sour cream. There's a reason why it's done with Tortilla chips. Unfortunately, we didn't get to try out any coffee. Perhaps that's where their skills are at. In my opinion, this place is like a dumb supermodel; Pretty on the outside, but damn bland and empty on the inside. If you happen to end up at this joint, please stay away from the food. The chef needs to go back to culinary school or arrested for selling overpriced Dorito chips. After our lackluster lunch, we continued our troll around the Dongqu area. Thankfully some of the shops started opening up. It was around 1:30 in the afternoon. So note to readers, don't come here before 2pm on a Sunday, it's deadsville. Luckly, along with the weather, shopping got more sunny and bright. We discovered a cute little treats and tea shop with a heavy influence of white and pink antique decor. It had a vintage (possible circa 1940's) expresso machine. The tall shiny copper ones with elaborate designs on the corners. And glass tubes of various hard candies lined up in the front, reminiscent of an victorian candy shop of yesteryear. There's also a small gift shop in the back full of unique food themed gifts. Although this is much better suited for females only, it won't look awkward as long as you have a few female companions in the vicinity. Haha. I wouldn't mind having high tea with cupcakes here. This store is called VVG Bon Bon and the cupcakes run about $80 NT each. *Photo from Google Images. After that, we hopped on to the MRT over to Ximending to look for some messenger bags. But you don't want to hear about that. Fast forward a few hours, my friends all headed home as I headed over to church.

Later on in the night, post church, Yuki and I decided to check out a new indian + pizza place at the Shida night market with some new friends that we met in church in tow. We walked through the heavy crowds to finally arrive at the end of a street in the Shida night market. Newly opened and rather busy, it's called Bollywood Pizza. Lucky we were early enough to not have to wait for a table of five. Because shortly thereafter, the restaurant started to fill up. We ordered a thai chicken pizza and a lamb curry pizza along with a pasta. The pizzas were a bit pricey at $300+ per pie. One could suffice for two people, however two small people. I'm pretty sure I can finish a whole one by myself. The pizzas ended up pretty tasty. Although, not a lot of spice as I had hoped, as it may be more catered to the Taiwanese taste buds. Oddly enough, I found the Thai chicken pizza better than the Lamb Masala pizza. However I have three big gripes with the pizza. 1. All the indian pizzas are masala curry based. No tandoori, Makhani, Vindaloo in site. Come on, lets get some variety here! 2. Pees! What the hell are peas doing on my pizza! 3. Shitty thin crumbly bread. It's more like toasted pita bread than pizza bread. I think I have to blame the Taiwanese influence here. Most "pizza" places I go to in Taiwan prefer to use this thin, flavorless toasted pita bread type crust and pass it off as pizza bread. The one at Bollywood Pizza was the worst, it couldn't hold up it own weight because it was so weak and thin. It makes it a very annoying and messy dining experience having to use a fork to eat most of my pizza that just fell onto my plate. The pasta was so-so. Not exactly sure what it was, but it tasted fine, despite being drenched in sauce. I felt like I was eating noodle soup, not pasta. To the owner, if you ever get a chance to read this, use some real pizza bread and you might have two decent pizza dishes. Otherwise, I don't see this restaurant lasting more than 3 months after the "new place" allure dies down.

Lastly, for dessert we headed to a Hong Kong style restaurant in the Shida night market. Now this deserves a new paragraph. I've eaten here before when I tried out their pineapple bun (菠蘿包, Bo Luo Bao) to-go, but never entered the restaurant. They actually call it ice-fire pineapple bun with butter (冰火菠蘿油). The name of the place is hohomei (好好味港式菠蘿包). Despite the small store front, there is usually always a huge crowd waiting outside for their order of pineapple bun (Save $10 NT if you take it to go). The small front eludes to a small dining area, but in fact it's quite large and occupies two floors. Since most of the people are outside taking it to go, it wasn't difficult to find seating for 5. Once inside, I have to say, I LOVE the interior decorations. The owner, which I am honored to have met, imported over several trinkets, stairwell railings, wallpaper, movie posters from Hong Kong to decorate the place. It really gives it the feeling of a 1970's Hong Kong diner (茶餐廳). Yes, I wrote stairwell railings. Soo distinctly Hong Kong and so cool. Moving on to the food. The pineapple bun was as excellent as ever. I don't know how they get the top so crunchy, but it adds a new depth to the texture. They also sandwich a slab of butter in the middle. Totally not healthy, but you can opt for it without butter, and it would still taste awesome. The HK milk tea was also good in it's own right. In addition to the pineapple bun, we ordered 法蘭西多士。 I'm not sure what it is, but it comes recommended by the owner. It's like a peanut butter cake with butter and pastry flake. I don't know how to better describe it. Tastes awesome, but it doesn't matter, go there, order it, put it in your mouth and enjoy. Since we already had dinner, we didn't get a chance to try out their cantonese cuisine, but my friend says it's close to authentic. So i'll take his word on it and definitely put that on my list of must try out next time I'm in the Shida night market. The prices are decent hovering below or slightly above $100 NT. The Dinxi 茶餐廳 was not satisfactory for me as a proper HK style diner (茶餐廳) and it takes advantage of the Hong Kong name by putting a premium on in it's pricing. Oh one last thing, to "Custard" girl if your reading this, 好好味港式菠蘿包 has egg custard buns (奶黃包)!

Costumice Cafe

VVG Bon Bon

Bollywood Pizza

Hohomei Shida location (好好味港式菠蘿包)

Hohomei Zhongxiao DunHua location (好好味港式菠蘿包)