TWG Tea Salon (Taipei)

September 15, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

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The entrance to TWG Tea Salon at Breeze Center

Feeling posh? If so, go check out the TWG Tea Salon, the upscale Singaporean tea seller/diner at Taipei’s Breeze Center. I’m not much of a tea guy, but I do like brunch and I do like desserts, and TWG has both in spades. The store is pretty big, with about half dedicated to selling teas and the other with seats for dine-in patrons. No child seats or boosters, so that could be inconvenient for families.

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Tea. Lots and lots of tea

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A selection of tea-flavored ice creams

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The cake and macaron cabinet!

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Here’s one of their portable dessert cabinets

They also have a dining section outside the store, though it can get a little hot on sunny days despite the air conditioning as there is a sun roof.

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Outdoor dining section (that’s actually indoors)

Their menu is quite extensive, with a wide array of breakfasts, brunch sets, all-day dining and a la carte options. I took a photo of the full menu below (hard to see) but you can check it out the same thing at their official website here (note prices are in Singaporean dollars). Price-wise it is not cheap, around NT$1000 per brunch set and meaning that you’re likely to spend about NT$1000 a head when you take into account the 10% service charge.

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We ended up going with a midsummer brunch set, which comes with a massive vegetable quiche, freshly squeezed juice (we chose apple), one of their special teas, two scones or muffins, and a choice of dessert. That’s supposed to be a one-person set, so we also got their mini-burgers set a la carte, which comes with three tiny burgers.

Check it out.

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A visit to TWG is not complete without some tea!

They have about a zillion types of teas, so if you don’t know your stuff it’s best to ask the waiters for assistance. We wanted something that goes with milk, so we ended up a more traditional English Breakfast type. But if you want chai, or if you want fruit-infused tea, they’ve got plenty of that as well.

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Summer quiche

I’m a big quiche fan and a fan of this big quiche. This is a fantastic quiche, with hearty ingredients and chunks of real vegetables. The cheese is also not too strong and the flavour is just right — not too salty. Goes very well with the salad.

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Mini burgers!

These burgers were a little too mini for me, but they still tasted wonderful. The one closest to the camera is a foie gras burger with apple chutney, while the one on the right is a spicy chicken burger with a sauteed shallot confit. The one on the left is a Wagyu beef burger with a special TWG tea cocktail sauce. They were all wonderful in their own way, with contrasting flavours and textures, and really complemented each other well. Apart from the small size, this one was a dominating winner.

Then it was time for dessert, and after some soul searching we went for a lemon tart. We also chose the scones over the muffins (unfortunately you can’t get one of each). Here are the desserts and the jam/cream that came with the scones.

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Lemon tart and scones

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Cream and marmalade

The lemon tart was sour, which is just how I like it, and the meringue on top provided some sweetness to offset it. The tart base was solid and biscuity, the way it ought to be. The scones were quite average, and I think our homemade ones are better.

One final warning — the water is extremely expensive, from memory close to NT$200 for a relatively small bottle.

Overall, it was a pricey meal, but quite a nice and relaxing one too. An apt location for a relaxing afternoon tea or a brunch date. The food is high quality and there are plenty of options to choose from, so it’s not a bad place for a group gathering either.

8/10

Details

TWG Tea Salon

Address: Ground Floor, Breeze Center, No. 39, Sec. 1, Fuxing South Road, Taipei

Phone: + 86 21 3363 1837

Hours: 10am-10pm

Website: http://www.twgtea.com/

Shanghai Kitchen (New Taipei)

September 12, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

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Shanghai Kitchen’s menu

Shanghai Kitchen (上海鄉村) is a relatively well known high-end Shanghai cuisine chain in Taiwan (I believe they have five outlets). They have one in New Taipei’s Banqiao district in the same building as the Eslite building near Fuzhong MRT station. The place is huge, but the couple of times I have been — weekday lunch and weekend dinner — the restaurant had very few customers. That said, I understand that the majority of its business comes from large group meals (they have private rooms) and special functions, especially wedding banquets, for which they have a dedicated section on the floors above.

But anyway, I’ve decided Shanghai Kitchen is a restaurant worthy of review because the food is genuinely excellent. It’s not an everyday-type restaurant, but I’d recommend it for group gatherings or special occasions. Their menu is relatively extensive and offers a variety of banquet sets and a la carte options.

Check out some of the awesome stuff we ordered below.

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This is one of their Shanghainese specialties, the stir fried shrimp meat. It looks simple — and it is — but it’s also simply delicious. Juicy and seasoned perfectly.

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This is their tasty vegetable rice cooked in an earthenware pot. Another simple yet wonderful dish where the essence of the vegetables are infused into the rice because of the way it is cooked. Much better than ordinary white rice when consumed with all their saucy, flavoursome dishes.

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Speaking of saucy dishes, check out this braised dongpo pork. It’s super fatty, but boy is it delicious. It’s a little salty by itself, but perfect with the above rice or these plain white bun pockets below.

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Next up, my favourite dish of the night — stir fried crab with glutinous rice cakes. This sauce is just sensational. The rice cakes provide a nice chewy texture to go along with the succulent crab meat, and if you have any sauce left you can have it with plain rice, or anything else really.

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The sauce goes great with these silk thread rolls we got below.

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And even better with these fried ones.

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To balance the meal up a bit after all that meat and carbs we also got this soupy luffa dish. Nice stuff.

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In all, this was a hugely satisfying meal. No weak links in all the dishes we got, with the stir fried crab and glutinous rice cakes and the dongpo pork being good enough to be the star menu items at any Shanghainese restaurant I’ve been to. A great place to visit for group gatherings and family meals.

8.5/10

Details

Shanghai Kitchen (上海鄉村)

Website: http://www.shanghaikitchen.com.tw/index.aspx

Address: Level 7, No. 46, Section 1 Zhongshan Road, Banqiao District, New Taipei City (inside Fuzhong Eslite)

Phone: (02) 2956 1818

Royal Copenhagen Cafe (Banqiao)

September 4, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

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So apparently there was only one Royal Copenhagen Cafe in all of Taiwan (at the Zhongxiao SOGO department store) — until they opened another one, in Banqiao’s Mega City Mall. I knew that Royal Copenhagen sold porcelain kitchenware, but I had no idea that they branched out to edible items. In any case, my wife spotted the cafe while shopping one day, so we decided to try it out.

It’s not the easiest of places to find, because it’s attached to the Royal Copenhagen store, which is tucked away on the side of Mega City’s level 7 along with all the other kitchenware. But once you find it, you’ll remember it, because Royal Copenhagen Cafe is actually really good.

There aren’t that many seats and tables, so make sure to get in early or make a booking. Their menu is varied but not extensive, though there are some items that are exclusive to the Banqiao store. There’s pasta and risotto, sandwiches and salads, main course steaks and meats, afternoon tea, and of course dessert and waffles. I managed to take some snaps of the menu for future reference.

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We asked the waiter for recommendations and were told that their seafood pesto risotto (NT$290) and roasted beef spare rib and cream tomato sauce pasta (NT$350) were winners, so we went for that, along with one deluxe meal set (extra NT$180) that comes with a soup of the day (fresh mushroom puree) and a beverage (100% fresh orange juice)

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The mushroom soup was excellent. I had been expecting the type of mushroom soup I’ve had at countless other Taiwanese restaurants, where the soup is extremely thick and creamy. But this one was surprisingly light and not salty at all, with some real sauteed mushroom pieces giving it a flavour kick.

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The pesto seafood risotto was indeed a winner. There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of seafood (fish, pipis, calamari and a single shrimp), but the pesto risotto itself was top notch. You could tell it was fresh pesto, not the canned or artificial stuff, and the risotto was also cooked to perfection.

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The beef spare rib with tomato cream sauce pasta was the highlight of the meal. The beef ribs were sizable and coated in a deliciously tangy, sweet and sour gravy, which also went well with the pasta. The pasta sauce was nowhere near as creamy as I had anticipated (a good thing), and the amount of  garlic and fresh tomato was also a pleasant surprise.

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A lot of desserts to choose from, and we went with a chestnut cake (NT$160). I’m not much of a fan of chestnut, to be honest, but the tart bottom was divine and the chocolate sauce that came with it was sublime. I’d be interested in trying the cheesecake or the waffle next time.

In all, a wonderful place for a light meal. It’s away from the food court and all the other restaurants, looks nice, clean and comfortable, and the food is great. I’ll be back.

8.5/10

Details

Royal Copenhagen Cafe

Address: Level 7, Mega City Mall, No. 25 Xinzhan Road, Banqiao, New Taipei City

Phone: (02) 2951 6289

1516 Bistro (German) (Taipei)

August 18, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

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I have a cousin who’s a big foodie just like me, and recently I’ve been keeping an eye on her recommendations on places to visit next. She gave a big thumbs up to 1516 Bistro Essen und Trinken, a cozy German joint in an alley across the road from the Breeze Center near Zhongxiao Fuxing in Taipei.

We visited early for Friday lunch. It’s not the type of place you notice walking by, and the interior is quite small with only room for about 25 people. But it’s stylish, with a little bar out the front and a wine room in the corner. The toilet is also surprisingly spacious and clean.

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They usually serve business lunch sets during lunch times, but you can also ask for their dinner menu (which comes in English). The business lunch (between NT$300-380) is quite different, offering a soup of the day along with a choice of four sets, which include a salad, a main course and rice, plus a tea/coffee or other beverage for an additional cost.

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The dinner menu is packed with traditional German goodies, and the recommendation I got was to skip the vegetables and go for the meats. It’s a shame, because we wanted to order a lot more than we did, but the waiter told us it was likely going to be too much already, as our order came with free soup and bread. This meant we had to skip the German sausage and bacon, as well as the pan fried US prime steak and the mustard pork tenderloin.

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Instead, we went with the flammkuchen (bacon onion pancake/pizza) as a starter, and pork knuckle and deep fried chicken with caramel sea salt.

First up, the complimentary soup and bread.

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The soup was thick cream corn soup, which was nice but extremely thick, so my advice is to not force yourself to finish it because there’s plenty more to come. The bread is nice a fresh, and comes with butter and olive oil/balsamic.

Next, the flammkuchen.

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This was amazing, more or less a super crispy pizza with bacon, cheese and spring onions. Highly recommended as a starter. It’s thin and flavoursome, but not too heavy or filling.

Then, the main courses. Their signature dish is the German pork knuckle, which is crispy on the outside and with a nice bite on the inside.

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It went really well with the yellow mustard and the sauerkraut, which was great because it was not as sour or vinegary as I expected. The best part is that it did not feel too oily or heavy, unlike a lot of other pork knuckles with crispy skin.

Next, the fried chicken with caramel sea salt.

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As you can see, the chicken comes in a roll with a thick, tangy sweet sauce below, well-cooked fried potatoes with onions and sour cream, and a fresh salad. Excellent stuff.

All of that is great, but if you get the chance — and if you can handle a little spice — you must ask for their homemade chili sauce. Take a look at this beauty below.

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It’s spicy, but it’s not the kind of heat that makes you uncomfortable. It just gives the food a great kick and enhances the flavours, without overpowering it. Get it if it’s available — you might have to ask for it.

Lastly, we asked about dessert and were recommended the Kaiserschmarrn, an Austrian pancake that’s supposed to be shredded but comes as a whole here.

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They serve it whole, and then cut it up in front of you before adding a sprinkle of sugar powder and syrup. It’s a glorious hot mix with raisins on the inside, and reminds me of a mix between a thick pancake and bread and butter pudding. It’s phenomenal.

I would have liked to have tried more things, but what I did try was fantastic. 1516 Bistro is one of those small, cozy restaurants that you might not notice at first glance, but one you try it you’ll likely be back, again and again.

8.5/10

PS: I’m not much of a drinker, but I hear they have great wine too.

Details

1516 Bistro Essen und Trinken

Address: No. 4, Lane 30, Section 1, Fuxing South Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei

Phone: +886 2 2740 5586

Hours: 12:00 am – 2:00 pm, 6:00 pm – 12:00 am

1516

Pizzeria Oggi (Taipei)

August 9, 2014 in Food, Reviews by pacejmiller

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For the longest time I’ve wanted to try out this woodfired pizza place called Pizzeria Oggi in Taipei’s Tianmu district. It’s apparently the only pizza joint in Taiwan certified by the True Neapolitan Pizza Association in Naples, whose mission is to promote “true Neapolitan pizza” around the world. I finally got an opportunity a few weeks back, and let me tell you: it was an absolute delight.

Pizzeria Oggi has an open pizza kitchen and a bar with stool seats, but not a whole lot of tables for a relatively narrow restaurant, so you’d probably be best off making a booking. We were lucky and managed to snag a seat without one. It’s also a child-friendly place, with children’s chairs, cutlery and crayons available.

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Best of all — and we didn’t know this when we went — they offer a free pizza (either Hawaiian or Nutella dessert pizza) if your birthday happens to fall in the month of your visit (ID required). It just so happened that my wife and my youngest son’s birthdays are in July, and since we were going to order a Hawaiian for the kids anyway, the birthday present was a pleasant surprise.

Their menu is quite interesting and you can check it out online here. They categorize their pizzas according to base — Napoletana (traditional Italian), Bianca (no sauce) and Romana (tomato). You also have a choice of crust — thin and crispy or the doughier traditional Italian. They also have some soups, salads and antipasti. In the end, apart from the Hawaiin we also went with one of their most popular ones, the surf and turf, which has one half pesto seafood and one half spicy Italian chorizo sausage.

That was all we got, which was a shame, because I would have liked to have tried their other pizzas.

Still, what we did order was spectacular.

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The surf and turf was amazing, a perfect combination of a tomato and pesto base. The seafood was plentiful and fresh, and the chorizo was of the legitimate kind — with a little bit of a spicy kick — not the crap you get from supermarkets. We got the doughier crust for this one, which was a nice fit because you can dangle the cheesy edge into your mouth.

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The Hawaiian (which was completely free, by the way) was perhaps the best Hawaiian pizza I’ve ever had. Normally you can’t do much with just ham and pineapple, but here the pineapple is in entire slices and they’re caramelized, so they’re kind of crispy and sweet. My kid loved them so much that they gave us another plate of just pineapple! The ham was also quality, thinly sliced parma, not the low-grade diced chunks you would get from Pizza Hut. On top of that they threw on a few fresh prawns at the edges. Super.

Since Papa Gio closed down, Pizzeria Oggi has probably become my favourite pizza joint in Taipei. Can’t wait to go back again some time.

9/10

Details

Pizzeria Oggi

Website: http://www.pizzeria-oggi.com/

Address: No.19, Dexing W. Rd, Shilin Dist, Taipei (nearest MRT Zhishan). They have another store at Minquan East Rd in Taipei’s Songshan district.

Phone: 02-2834-3886

Hours: 11:30am-9:30pm

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