Cherry Valley Duck at Red Lantern, Silks Place (Yilan)

July 8, 2014 in Best Of, Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller


We received a recommendation from a friend that if you are looking for excellent roast duck, then don’t miss out on the famed cherry valley duck (櫻桃霸王鴨) in Taiwan’s Yilan county. Specifically, the place to try is the Red Lantern (紅樓) at Silks Place (蘭城晶英酒店), one of the region’s top hotels.

And so when we knew we would be passing through Yilan, we made sure we booked two weeks in advance. It was a good thing we did too, because it was a Friday lunch at the place was packed out. They offer two strict times, an 11:30 slot and a 1:30pm slot, with a dining time of 90 minutes. Everyone goes there for the duck, without exception.


Their menu is relatively extensive (you can find it here). You can go for a banquet that’s NT$3888+10% for four people, NT$5288+10% for six people and NT$7288+10% for 10 people, or you can just go for the duck plus a few side dishes. When you order the duck, there’s basically a four-course set and a five-course set.

The four-course duck set (NT$2,088) comes with what is essentially Peking Duck (wrapped in a special Yilan scallion pancake), duck sushi, duck soup and a choice of either duck san choy bau (cooked duck wrapped in lettuce) or san bei ya (three-cup duck) cooked in a clay pot. The five-course duck set (NT$2688) is the same except with an extra duck mapo tofu.

We ended up going with the four-course duck set plus a few other dishes. We also ordered a jug of fresh watermelon juice, which looked really appetizing because everyone else around us was having it. It was indeed super sweet and refreshing, but it did set us back a whopping NT$600.

Anyway, here are the photos. First up, the duck.


A chef arrives with the first of the duck courses, which is served in traditional Peking Duck style

Juicy, succulent duck with a super crispy outer layer

Juicy, succulent duck with a super crispy outer layer

The chef slices off the crispy skin, piece by piece

The chef slices off the crispy skin, piece by piece


Just like this…

And this...

And this…


The duck is wrapped in this special Yilan scallion pancake

And served with a special sweet miso and either standard scallion or deep fried scallion

And served with a special sweet miso and either standard scallion or deep fried scallion

They do all the rolling for you, and this is the end result

They do all the rolling for you, and this is the end result

As you can probably gather from the photos, this is a spectacular dish, as good as, if not better, than any Peking Duck dish I’ve had, even in Beijing. The duck is of course exquisite, but what sets it apart are the scallion pancake, which gives it an added flavour boost, and the sweet miso, which is not as salty and heavy as traditional hoisin sauce. The normal scallion is also not as sharp as others I have tried, and the fried one is a whole different experience. What a fantastic start.

Next up, the duck sushi.

The duck sushi is served on individual spoons and can be eaten in a single mouthful

The duck sushi is served on individual spoons and can be eaten in a single mouthful

This turned out to be the most unbelievable duck dish I’ve ever had. I never thought duck sushi would be this spectacular. The crispy duck skin was glazed and cooked to perfection; the sushi rice was excellent, with just the right amount of vinegar; and there was also a thin layer of cheese that completes it. Absolutely heavenly.

Next up, the duck san choy bau.

Duck san choy bau

Duck san choy bau

This was also surprisingly good. The lettuce was fresh and the duck was saucy and cooked with bean sprouts. The filling and the lettuce are served separately, so it’s up to you how much you want to put in. I put in a lot.

Unfortunately, I may have forgotten to take a photo of the soup. But you can guess what it looks like. To make up for it, here’s a photo of a noodle soup we got.

The other a la carte dishes we got include sauteed beef with spring onions and sauteed water spinach. Both were very very good.

Noodle soup with spring onion

Noodle soup with spring onion

Sauteed beef with spring onion

Sauteed beef with spring onion

Sauteed water spinach

Sauteed water spinach

So, you add some of the best duck I’ve ever had, anywhere, and you throw in the ambience of the hotel, the quality service and everything else, and you end up with a top notch dining experience you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. I would definitely recommend paying the Red Lantern a visit if you’re ever near Yilan, and I’m sure I’ll go back there some time in the future.



Red Lantern (紅樓) at Silks Place (蘭城晶英酒店)


Number: 03-9101011

Address: Silks Place, No. 36, Section 2, Minquan Rd, Yilan

Hours: Weekdays 11:30-15:00, 17:30-21:00; Weekends 11:00-15:00, 17:00-21:00

TJB Cafe (Taipei)

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


So apparently there are a lot of different types of restaurants under the TJB (TheJeansBar) umbrella. Last time we went to their dim sum store at Taipei Main Station, which was surprisingly tasty. This time we decided to check out their cafe in the trendy Zhongxiao Fuxing district.


Located behind the Zhongxiao SOGO department store, TJB cafe is cozily fitted and looks nice and clean with that Tiffany blue decor. They have an extensive menu featuring all-day brunch options, appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, pastas and risottos, Mexican selections, desserts and so forth. Price-wise we’re talking about NT$250-400 a head, depending on if you order set meal or other beverages or desserts. It’s yet another one of those all-in-one cafes that seem so popular in Taiwan these days. Here’s a sneak preview of their menu.

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The problem, as always with such places, is deciding what to order. When they have so many options it makes me concerned that they might be a jack of all trades but a master of none. What is good and what is not here?

In the end, we went with a Mentaiko (pollock/cod roe) pasta and a Philly steak sandwich, one of which we turned into a set meal that includes a drink, a soup and a dessert.

Here are the pics!


Surprisingly good creamy corn soup with thin slices of garlic bread.


Legitimate 100% fresh orange juice


Mentaiko seafood pasta


Philly steak sandwich


Chocolate brownie dessert with vanilla ice cream

I think we did pretty well with the ordering. The creamy corn soup was better than most “soup of the day” ones you get with set meals, and the bread was relatively fresh. The mentaiko pasta was creamy and flavorsome, and the Philly steak sandwich had plenty of beef chunks and cheese sauce. The fries were super crispy and the honey mustard dipping sauce was a delight. Even the dessert, which was quite a small piece of chocolate brownie, wasn’t too bad, and it was good to see they did not skimp on the much-needed vanilla ice cream.

Everything else others were ordering on the tables around us look very good too, so I think this is a place I can definitely see myself coming back to some time in the future.



TJB Cafe


Facebook page:

Address: No. 31, Lane 135, Section 1, Fuxing South Rd, Daan District (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing)

(Four other locations in Taipei, one in Hsinchu)

Phone: 02-2775-1559

Hours: 9am-10pm


La Pasta (Taipei)

June 25, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller


So we’re in search of a place to enjoy a tasty, reasonably cheap Italian joint and we keep hearing about this place called La Pasta. It is so popular that it has four locations in Taiwan (and a few in China), and the one we decided to visit was near the Zhongshan MRT station on the red line.

Internally it looks like your average cafe/diner in Taipei. Clean and not too flashy, with the only thing standing out being the kidney-shaped tables that weren’t particularly ergonomic.

We go early on a Friday to take advantage of the business lunch menu that netizens have been raving about. Here it is.


There’s basically three sets: a NT$219 set that comes with a choice of pasta and beverage, a NT$249 set that includes a pasta, a choice of the first 6 appetizers (which can be soup or salad) and a beverage, and a NT$279 set that widens your selection to all 8 appetizers (satay sticks and escargot) and allows you to choose either a pasta or a main course. All courses also come with garlic bread and dessert.  They only have one pizza in the lunch menu, sausage and mushroom, available as an add-on for NT$168.

The strength of the menu lies in its pasta variety. If nothing in the business lunch set tickles your fancy you can always go for something in their conventional menu for more money. Here’s a sample:



The service is not great. I’ve head some complaints about it and they weren’t lying. The waitresses, especially the old ones, just seem a little snappy. One of them also made a mistake and added an extra beverage to our bill. Luckily another waitress noticed it when I paid.

None of that matters much to me if the food is awesome. So here it is:


The garlic bread was no good. It tasted stale.


The salad was pretty good for one that comes as part of a set course. Plenty of variety and the dressing was the thick, flavoursome honey mustard type that I like.


The onion soup was average. It’s one of those they just scoop out of a big pot. I liked that it was not too thick, but the onion taste could have been more refined. The croutons inside were not fresh.

Then, the pastas.


After a lengthy thought process we went with this chicken and garlic olive oil-type pasta. It was of the home-made calibre, I suppose. The flavours were not bad, but the chicken was chewy and didn’t taste like real chicken. The ample garlic helped though.


The other pasta we got was the spaghetti with spicy chicken pink sauce. I assume pink sauce is some kind of mix between a tomato and cream-based sauce.  This one was OK too. Nothing exceptional, just generally acceptable home-style pasta.

And lastly, the dessert, which was chocolate brownie on this particular day. Not bad. A little on the small and plain side, but can’t complain about the taste of the brownie itself.

So there you have it. After reading all that hype, La Pasta turned out to be a disappointment. It’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly good either. Taking into account the price, the service, the variety and the quality of the food, I’m not sure I can even call this place above average. I can’t speak for the other outlets, but when it comes to their Nanjing West Road store, it is what it is. 



La Pasta (義大利麵屋)

Website (under construction):

Facebook page:

Address: No. 4-3, Lane 25, Nanjing West Rd, Datong District Taipei City, Taiwan 103 (nearest MRT Zhongshan, exit 2)

Phone: (02) 2555-3818

Mr Onion (Taipei)

June 16, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller


I’ve explained this story before, but essentially there was once a very popular family-run steak joint called Cafe Onion in Taipei’s Tianmu district. Success bred greed, and eventually there was a spat that led to a branching off that became Mr Onion.

I already tried Cafe Onion, supposedly the “original,” even though it was a mistake because I had planned to visit Mr Onion. That review is here, but in short it was a total disappointment. In fact, it was one of the worst dining experiences I’ve had in Taiwan.

But I still planned to visit Cafe Onion on account of the positive word-of-mouth reviews I’ve received, so I went to the one located on the underground floors of Q Square near Taipei Main Station.


The interior was roughly the same as Cafe Onion in that it had this old-style feel to it, complete with the dim lighting that was popular probably about two decades ago. It didn’t have the best ambience, but I kept an open mind nonetheless.

Mr Onion appears to be better managed with more switched on staff, and they do have a better website that includes the full menu, so I don’t need to post all the menu photos. But here are a couple anyway, for reference:



As you can see, they have an assortment of steaks, as well as pork, fish and chicken. They also have pizza and pasta, though if you’re going to a steak joint you really should try the steak. We went during lunch so we have the business lunch set (11:30-16:30), which includes house bread, a main course, a salad/soup/appetizer, and a choice of beverage as well as dessert. The prices depend on your main course and may range from about NT$400-$800.

Here’s what we got.


Garlic bread. About as average as you can get.


Onion soup, with cheese and fried onions. Not bad, but way too thick.


Better than expected, though the seafood was not fresh and may have given my wife a stomach ailment

Next, the main courses.


Felt like both steak and chicken, so we got the combo set that had the pan-fried chicken together with a blade steak covered in fresh garlic


French duck breast with Italian seasoning

The waiter will give you an option of two sauces, the mushroom and the black pepper. As you can see from the photo I asked for both. The mushroom sauce goes very well with the steaks, and the black pepper is excellent for people who like a bit of a kick with their meats.

The main courses were actually pretty nice. The chicken had crispy shell and was juicy on the inside, and while the steak itself was not a the greatest quality, the fresh garlic on top made it a decent dish. The duck breast was firm on the teeth but still succulent and above average in flavours.

Lastly, dessert (didn’t bother with beverage pics):


Chocolate mousse cake


Vanilla ice cream crumble

I quite liked the desserts. They weren’t spectacular, but at least we had a selection to choose from and they were much better than your standard milk puddings. The chocolate was rich and sweet, and you can’t really go wrong with ice cream.

On the whole, while it’s not exactly a spectacular place to dine, Mr Onion is head and shoulders better than Cafe Onion. It’s a no contest. Everything is better, from the soups to the mains to the desserts. There are of course better steak restaurants around in Taiwan, though for this price Mr Onion is a worthwhile experience.



Mr Onion


Address: Level B3, Q Square, No. 1, Section 1, Chengde Road, Datong district, Taipei (other outlets)

Phone: 02-25596686

Hours: 11am-9:30pm (10pm on Fridays and Saturdays)

Exquisite French dining at Papillon (Taipei)

May 21, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

photo (9)


The San Want hotel in downtown Taipei is known for its convenient location, but also for its marvellous food. I’ve already reviewed their Chinese cuisine at Chao Ping Ji and their Japanese cuisine Sumie, and now it’s time to check out Papillon, their French fine dining restaurant.

Papillon is situated on the ground floor of the hotel and is in a bit of a strange spot as it shares its space with the hotel’s all-day buffet (I will have to leave that for another day). Both are part of Papillon and basically occupy the same room, but those going for the set courses rather than buffet will be ushered to a section with a few boothed tables behind a large curtain.  So in terms of ambiance it’s not the best, but for me, as always, it’s always about the food.

photo 2


Papillon’s menu is simple. There are four set courses of different price levels, from NT$1800 to NT$2500 to NT$3600 to NT$6000. This is what you get with each set.

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You really can’t go wrong with any of these, and in the end we went with what we liked best from the menu and chose the NT$2500 and NT$3600 sets. It’s quite expensive for Taiwan but not that bad by Australian standards for the type of quality you get (plus I got a 20% discount on the day).

As a start, some hot house bread, which looks average but was surprisingly good. A nice mix of textures and flavours. No dips but served with high quality butter.

photo 1


Before we got started, we were each given a little appetizer that’s not on the menu. A small piece of biscuit bread with a square of prosciutto, jelly and balsamic vinegar. A great way to kick things off.


photo 5 (2)

Next, the trio of fresh sea urchin, seared scallop and braised abalone from the NT$3600 set. I loved this dish. Three types of seafood each cooked a little differently and with different sauces and flavours. The scallops were seared to perfection and were my favourite, and the abalone had a light oil dressing that provided a sweet contrast. I’m not usually a sea urchin man but it was very good here.

photo 4

With the NT$2500 set we got the fresh seafood plate to start things off. This was cold and interesting, with an assortment of fresh seafood in a gooey, almost jelly-like sauce, together with fish roe. I didn’t like all the seafood they had in it but the ones I did like were excellent, and everything was fresh.

photo 3


The second course in the NT3600 set was sauteed duck fillet, foie gras with fig and port win sauce. The one in the NT2500 course was similar — also with foie gras — but there was no duck fillet and it was in a wild berry sauce. Both were magnificent, probably my favourite dishes of the entire lunch. The foie gras was some of the best I’ve ever had — literally melts in your mouth. Neither were too oily and the little berries, figs and so forth on the side provided a different taste with every bite. Incredible.

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Next, steamed lobster with lobster jus (NT$3600 set). I’ll just say wow and let the photo do the talking. Sublime stuff.

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Sauteed cod fish with Provencale vegetable ragout (NT$2500 set). This was a lighter dish, as they tend to be with cod, but still very nice. The cod was not overcooked and went well with the thick yellow sauce, with the surrounding vegetables adding some variety to the textures and flavours.

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Then it was time for soup. We got the pumpkin soup with oyster (NT$3600 set) and the clear tomato soup with mascapone tortellini (NT$2500). The pumpkin soup was a delight that had a superb oyster taste to it, and while the clear tomato soup was a little bland the delicious tortellini more than made up for it.

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The NT$3600 set had one extra course, the parma ham with asparagus and balsamic vinegar. This was an interesting choice after a soup but it did kind of help cleanse the palette before the main courses. I was surprised how nice the asparagus was.

photo 1 (4)

And now, time for the main courses, both of which in this case are steaks. The NT$3600 set comes with the grilled Australian Wagyu with chive and red wine sauce, while the NT$2500 set comes with US rib eye with red wine and Bearnaise sauce. The Wagyu is of course more tender, but I personally preferred the rib eye because of the Bearnaise sauce, which really added a thick, tangy flavour to it. The baby onions and tomatoes were great accompanying sides too. I wouldn’t say they are the best steaks I’ve had, but they’re pretty good.

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Lastly, the desserts. The NT$3600 set dessert was the Grand Marnier flavored with peach and mint sherbet (I’m sure there is a typo in the menu something), while the NT$2500 dessert was a green tea cake with nuts ice cream. Very interesting selections here, especially the first one, which is something I never had before. It’s more or less a minty jelly and ice dessert with a peach on top. Not the type I would normally order but it was refreshing and went well with the green tea cake and nut ice cream, which was much heavier but equally awesome. I loved the piece of chocolate coated crackle on the side and the fact that the middle layer of the cake was not red bean but chocolate. One of the best green tea cakes I’ve had.

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Good quality tea and coffee after that and that was about it.

Overall, Papillon is fantastic and one of the best dine fining restaurants I’ve been to in Taipei. The setting is not optimal because of it’s shared with the buffet diners, but if you’re after quality French cuisine you can’t go wrong here.



Papillon (伯品廊)

Address: Level 1, San Want Hotel, No. 172, ZhongXiao East Rd, Sec. 4 (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua)

Phone: (02) 2781-7063

Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2pm; Dinner 6:30pm-9pm

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