Mazendo: Noodles and Dumplings (Taipei)
I love my noodles and dumplings. Not long ago I was walking the streets near Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall MRT station and saw this packed out joint that appeared like a bit of a Din Tai Fung clone. It is called Mazendo (麻膳堂) and there’s always a line during lunch and dinner time. I did some research and it came highly recommended by a lot of bloggers.
A few days later, on a rainy evening, I went to check it out. Fortunately, because of the rain and the relatively early time (6pm), we didn’t have to wait to get a seat. The interior is not particularly big, but that’s because part of the space is dominated by a see-through glass kitchen, where the chefs are busy preparing dish after dish. Like many Taiwanese restaurants, they give you an order form which you fill out yourself and hand to the waiters, but be warned — they only have a Chinese version, so bring someone who can read Chinese with ya.
The menu is varied but not extensive. There is an assortment of stewed beef soups with noodles or vermicelli, and you can choose whether you want it spicy (mala) or not. There’s also the usual selection of dry noodles, from minced meat (zha jiang mian) to sesame sauce to spicy sauce to pickled vegetables (mustard). Of course, they also have fried rice (pork and prawn) and a selection of dumplings and pan-fried gyoza (potstickers), but what they don’t have is xiaolongbao. On the bright side, the prices are quite reasonable — the beef noodle soups are around NT$120-140, while everything else is between NT$60 and NT$90.
We ordered a minced meat dry noodle (zha jiang mian), a bowl of dumplings in red chilli oil, a plate of potstickers and a spicy beef noodle vermicelli. Naturally, it was far too much for two people.
I have to admit, the photos look pretty good, but must say I was somewhat disappointed after all the hype. The food was pretty decent for the price, but it was nothing exceptional. The zha jiang mian in particular was very bland, and I’ve had better at stalls on the sides of random streets. The dumplings in chilli oil were good but a little different because usually the oil goes with wontons, and it’s usually sour rather than sweet. I didn’t mind it but my wife thought it wasn’t particularly appetising. The potstickers were average and by the time they arrived at our table, not particularly hot, like they had been out for some time. And the spicy beef noodle vermicelli, their signature dish, was interesting because it was different (it had sliced beef and blood cubes), but it wasn’t the type of flavour that appealed to me.
So ultimately, I guess it was a personal thing. For the price, it was a decent meal, but in terms of the quality of the food, I’m afraid Ma Shan Tang doesn’t quite live up to its reputation.
6.5 out of 10
Address: No. 24, Lane 280, Guangfu S. Rd, Taipei (nearest MRT: SYS Memorial Hall, exit 2)
Phone: (02) 2773-5559
Opening Hours: 11am – 2:30pm; 5pm-10pm (7 days)
Price: Around NT$100-200 per person, depending on what you order.