|Crispy Pig Knuckle|
My aunt wanted to introduce this place to me. As soon as she mentioned a Russian restaurant I knew where she was talking about. Taipei as far as I know only has two russian restaurants. Salt & Bread which seems to have some negative reviews accusing it of being too compromised by the Taiwanese preference. Fortunately that's not the one my aunt was talking about. It was Astoria near the Taipei Main station. It has an awesome history dating back to the 50's. Here's Wikipedia's excerpt on it's history. Yeah, this place even has it's own wiki page! "In October 1949, 18 year old Archiybold Chien became business partners with six Russian immigrants who fled Shanghai to Taiwan. Together they opened Taipei's first western style pastry shop on Wuchang Street in downtown Taipei. They offered pasteries on the first floor and a cafe on the second floor. One month after the Astoria opened for business, Chiang Kai-shek resumed presidency of the Republic of China and relocated his government to Taiwan. After the Korean War broke out in 1950, the United States maintained a significant troop presence on Taiwan. During this time, the Astoria hosted many important guests from abroad, including Jane Fonda. The cafe was also a frequently visited by Chiang Ching-Kuo, who had studied in Moscow for many years and his Belarussian wife Chiang Fang-liang. In 1950, Astoria hosted a Russian New Year Celebration which was attended by Chiang Ching-Kuo and his family. Chiang Kai-shek's last birthday cake was also prepared by chef's from the Astoria. After World War II, the Cafe Astoria became a popular spot for many socialites and government officials. It was also a spot where many struggling writers and intellectuals met and composed their works."
Their specialty is the borscht. It's a beetroot soup with a deep red color to it. I was expecting something a little more hearty. But since I have no previous experience, I'll just say it was awesome. It'll be my benchmark until another russian (or eastern european) tells me otherwise. ha! However that was what my aunt had. I chose a pig knuckle plate. Fall off the bone pork with a crispy fried skin! The meal comes with some brown bread (also soft and very delicious) and a bowl of mushroom soup (i think) and a cup of Ronnefeldt tea. Expect your bill to be around $500+ a person. But they also have some afternoon tea for a cheaper price. The decor was very much matched with the eastern european or russian theme. The windows let a lot of light in and I saw several people there reading books and just relaxing over some tea and cookies. The restaurant doesn't mind. Or if your in the mood for something quick or sweet, head downstairs to street level and visit the confectionary. One of it's specialities include a soft Russian marshmallow candy called Mazurka walnut cakes. It was once only available to the Russian royal family, but can now be bought on the go. I highly recommend going to this cafe and confectionary as it's one of the rare, if not only Russian restaurant in Taipei. Let along a long illustrious six decade history that dates back to CKS.
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