Shaffer’s Kitchen (Taipei)

February 25, 2015 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

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Taipei locals have been raving about Shaffer’s Kitchen for a couple of years. Opened by a Taiwanese woman looking for something to do after moving back from the United States with her American husband, the restaurant is known for her home-style cooking with a gourmet touch. Think of kind of stuff the contestants of My Kitchen Rules like to make. (For a more detailed history, check out this post from Taiwan Xifu)

Reservations are highly recommended. We went for lunch just before Valentine’s Day, and the place appears to be particularly popular with local workers because of their affordable business lunch set. Intent on something more special, we asked for the regular menu instead. And here it is.

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Since it was (almost) Valentine’s Day, they were also nice enough to give us this home-made, hand-made cookie.

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We ordered way too much stuff for ordinary humans to consume. We started off with some marvellous home-made bread. The long slices are infused with olive oil and herbs, while the round buns are hot and fluffy on the inside. A great way to kick off the meal ahead.

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The soup of the day was carrot (I know it looks like pumpkin), and it had both a nice flavour and consistency.

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We ordered one of the special starters (on the blackboard in the back), roasted eggplant with pine nuts on toast. This one had a lot of Balsamic on it, which was a little too much for me, though there’s no denying that it’s a fine conceptual creation.

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The other starter we got was from the menu, the goose liver pate. This was very fragrant and would have been a good order had I not already devoured so much bread.

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Yes, we got another starter, the salmon crepe roll, which came stuffed with salmon and creme cheese, with fish roe on top. This was my favourite starter. Small but delicate and delicious.

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After the glut of starters, we had barely any room to fit the two mains, the first of which was the duck breast with red wine berry reduction.

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I loved this duck breast and the sauce that came with it. The duck was seared to perfection, with a crispy skin on the edge and soft flesh beneath. The sauce was tangy and sweet, and thankfully there was plenty of it.

The other main was the famed balsamic roast chicken. Just look at it.

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As I said before, I’m not the biggest fan of balsamic, but in the right doses it can be sublime. They got it right with this chicken, with the sweet and sour flavours penetrating deep into the skin without being too pungent or overpowering.

We really wanted to get some dessert was well (there is a wine-pear dessert that’s supposed to be awesome) but we were too stuffed to dare.

So on the whole, Shaffer’s Kitchen lives up to the hype. Good food, friendly atmosphere and hospital service at reasonable prices. It’s not Michelin-star cuisine, but as far as classy, home-style Western cooking goes, this is about as good as it gets.

8/10

Details

Shaffer’s Kitchen (雪飛詩歐廚)

Address: No. 9, Lane 42, Yixian Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City

Phone: (o2) 8789 4088

Website: http://shafferskitchen.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShaffersKitchen

Opening Hours: Tue – Fri 11:30pm – 9:30pm; Sat – Sun 11:00am – 9:30pm (Closed Mondays)

Piccola Enoteca (Hsinchu)

February 23, 2015 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

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We were dropping by Hsinchu in northeast Taiwan after a morning picking strawberries in Miaoli (further south) and needed a good recommendation for a place to have lunch. That recommendation turned out to be Piccola Enoteca, an Italian joint with an innovative recipe crafted by a Hong Kong owner.

The restaurant is small, with probably only enough room for 30-40 seats, but even for a Friday lunch it was very busy. Here is their menu (which apparently changes regularly), available in both Chinese and English — but I apologize for it being too small to read properly. They have a mix of homemade bread, antipasti, pasta, and main course meats, as well as side dishes. They also have some daily specials, so be sure to check out what they are from the professional staff.

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Here’s what we ordered (for four adults).

First up, an interesting take on the Taiwanese oyster omelette, with additional fish and squid. It’s as good as it looks, and not as oily as they typically are.

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Next, fried truffle and mushroom balls. Incredible stuff. Anything fried and anything with truffle is awesome, so the two together is hard to top.

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The first main course is a simple handmade pasta with black truffle, shaved freshly before your eyes. The handmade is perfection, though the flavours were held back to allow the star of the dish, the truffle, to dominate.

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The second pasta dish was the pumpkin ravioli. A superb blend of textures and sweet flavours. An Italian dish with an Asian touch.

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The third and last pasta was a more conventional tomato-fish spaghetti with ample garlic and a sprinkle of cheese and chili. The highlight again was the handmade spaghetti, cooked al dente.

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The main meat recommendation was “Saltimbocca”, the Chinese name for which is translated to “Jump in the mouth”. It comprises Yilan pork together and ham together with special herbs and spices. Very interesting mix of textures and flavours, especially with the Basalmic vinaigrette to give it a tangy sourness.

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The other meat was a special, a fish dish with an assortment of vegetables. The fish was well cooked, though this was probably the least memorable order of the meal.

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We were already stuffed, but dessert was a must.

We ended up ordering this homemade vanilla ice cream with Balsamic, a strange combination but a successful one. The ice cream was very creamy, and the Balsamic helped balance the flavours with a light tang.

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The other was a traditional tiramisu. One of the better ones I’ve had in Taiwan for sure.

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My favourite dessert selection was their lemon cheese cake, which was surprisingly light and fluffy but not too sweet and with just the right amount of sourness. With some chopped apple on the side, this was an incredible end to a pleasant meal.

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On the whole, a very rewarding dining experience. It would have been perfect if they had some pizza, but in terms of pasta and desserts it’s definitely a place worth visiting if you happen to be around Hsinchu.

8/10

Details

Piccola Enoteca (彼刻義式餐酒館)

Address: No. 84, Guangming 3rd Road, Zhubei city, Hsinchu county

Phone: (03) 558 6831

Website: http://www.piccolaenoteca.com/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/piccolaenotecatw

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11:30-15:00, 17:00-22:00, Sat-Sun 11:30-22:00

Ying Chi Dining Room (英記茶餐廳) (New Taipei)

February 10, 2015 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

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Ying Chi Dining Room (英記茶餐廳) is a restaurant I’ve probably been to more than a dozen times, though last week was the first time I finally remembered to take photos before hoovering everything done.

So as you might have guessed, I love this place. It’s part of the same group that owns New CB Party KTV, so they are always situated together. They have three outlets, though I can only vouch for the one in Banqiao in New Taipei because that’s the one I go to most, though I have visited the one in Ximen before. I have heard mixed reviews about the Fuxing store.

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The beauty of the place is that the you have a wide variety of selections (unfortunately the menu is in Chinese only), from traditional yum cha dim sums and BBQ meats to Hong Kong tea cafe rice, noodles, toasts and milk tea/coffee beverages, as well as Taiwanese congees and clay pot dishes. They even have Taiwanese beef noodle soup, sashimi and sushi.

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The scary thing is that most of their stuff is excellent. It’s not going to be the most delicate cuisine you’ll ever have, but there’s no deny that it tastes darn good. My favourites have to be their top-notch BBQ meats (we tend to get a triple-platter), their wonton noodle soup, and their stir fried beef rice noodle, though you really can’t go too wrong with anything. The service is also extremely quick, and the prices are reasonable, probably ranging from about NT$150-400 a head, depending on what you order and how much you want to eat.

These are some of the things we had during the most recent visit.

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Fried radish cakes stir fried in XO sauce

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Traditional Hong Kong pineapple bun with iced butter

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Chaozhou fried rice

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Triple BBQ platter with BBQ pork, soy chicken and pork belly

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Eggplant pot

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Rice noodle roll with BBQ pork

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Sesame balls

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Scallop dumplings

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Shu mai

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Stewed beef pot

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Stir fry beef flat rice noodle

I wish I had some photos of the seared salmon sushi and other dishes because they are sensational too.

This is the type of place you can go to in large groups or visit over and over again because there are so many selections. Good food, fast service, reasonable prices — can’t ask for more than that.

10/10

Details

Ying Chi Dining Room (英記茶餐廳)

Address: No. 1, Section 1 Zhongshang Road, Banqiao District, New Taipei City (nearest MRT: Fuzhong)

Phone: 2957-7979

Hours: Sun-Thurs 11am-11pm; Friday-Saturday 11am-12:30am

Website (Chinese): http://www.newcbparty.com/ycbr3.htm (contains details of other stores)

 

Katsusei (勝勢) (Taipei)

February 1, 2015 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

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Move over Anzu, there’s a new tonkatsu king in town.

For years, I have been convinced that Anzu (杏子) offers the best katsu in Taiwan, though recently I have heard murmurs that the quality of their food has declined significantly. At the same time, a new juggernaut, Katsusei (勝勢), is said to have emerged in Taipei’s Xinyi district at Breeze’s new Songgao store.

As it turns out, the two restaurants are owned by the same chain, so that explains a lot, but in any case I still had to check it out for myself.

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Apparently the place gets packed out early, so we arrived just after the clock struck 11am to ensure a seat. By noon there was a line forming outside.

Judging from the menu, the special is this kurobuta (black pork). They even have a super black one unique to Breeze that uses black crumbs. The other special is the Australian rib eye beef steak katsu.

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For those into seafood, they also have this massive tiger prawn katsu and Hiroshima oyster katsu, as depicted below.

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Other options in on the menu include regular tonkatsu, chicken rolls, steak and hot pots, as well as special lunch bentos.

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We ended up going with a kurobuta katsu (fillet) and a regular hire katsu (loin). With one of the orders we paid a bit extra for a set that includes a beverage and a choice of dessert.

Katsusei‘s sauces and condiments are very similar to Anzu‘s. They have this little tub of pickles which are really nice, plus all-you-can-eat rice and cabbage salad. The two salad dressings are sesame and shiso , and the two katsu sauces are sweet and spicy. As with most katsu restaurants these days you get a bowl of sesame to grind and mix with the sauces.

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The katsu was, as expected, sublime. Definitely as good as Anzu was in its heyday, perhaps even better. The regular pork loin katsu below arrived first, and it was extremely soft and tender. When you add that tiny dash of hot mustard on the side to go with the sauce and rice, the mix of flavours and textures is simply unbeatable.

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The kurobuta katus came second and it was also very good for a fillet katsu — which typically have more “bite” than the pork loin. No complaints though about the flavour, the juiciness of the pork itself and the crunchiness of the crumb coating. The miso soup and pickled sides were cherries on top of a very satisfying meal.

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Lastly, as part of the meal set, an orange juice (not freshly squeezed though) and a surprisingly nice cheese cake.

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My only gripe was that the cake came with a fork that was very difficult to use as it would splinter the cake into tiny pieces. Price-wise, it was very reasonable,  just a shade under NT$900 for two people.

Overall, one of the best if not the best katsu restaurants I’ve sampled in Taiwan. Katsusei is the real deal, and fans of Anzu should do themselves a favour and try this place out.

10/10

Details

Katsusei (勝勢)

Address: Level B2, Breeze Songgao, No. 16 Songgao Road, Xinyi District, Taipei (nearest MRT Taipei City Hall / Taipei 101 World Trade Center)

Phone: (02) 2722-0128

Hours: Sun-Wed 11:00-21:30; Thurs-Sat 11:00-22:00

Gordon Biersch (Taipei)

November 19, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

Gordon Biersch

I’m trying to limit by carb intake, so I needed a restaurant that serves something other than rice, noodles, pasta or bread, etc. Gordon Biersch doesn’t really fit that description, but they do have steaks and ribs, so it was good enough.

There are three Gordon Biersch branches in Taiwan, two in Taipei. We visited the one at Taipei’s Xinyi district, on level 2 of building A4 of the Shinkong Mitsubishi department store. The store is fitted out like a typical American sports cafe, with TVs playing NBA and NFL on them hanging near the bar. The whole time I thought Gordon Biersch was a German beer cafe, but as it turned out it’s just an American food joint not unlike TGI Friday’s or Chili’s.

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The menu is quite extensive and can be found on the website. They’ve got appetizers, salads, tapas, and so forth, as well as pizzas and flatbreads, burgers, sandwiches and tacos. There’s also pastas, steaks, and ribs, and of course, desserts. They do offer a wide variety of beers, wines and cocktails, but since I’m not a drinker I didn’t try anything.

They have a lunch special, which offers on top of your (limited) selection a soup or dessert plus a soft drink. You don’t save a whole lot, but it’s better than nothing. They also have a kid’s menu and a late-night menu featuring mainly drinks and snacks, so there’s pretty much something for everyone.

I couldn’t just get steak and ribs, so I compromised and got a Marzan BBQ burger (lunch special with dessert — for NT$440) and a half rack of ribs (NT$550).

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The ribs were surprisingly good, extremely juicy and flavoursome and with succulent meat that comes right off the bone with easy. The BBQ sauce was tangy and had a little spice to it that tasted a little Indian for some reason. The coleslaw that came with it was average, but the garlic fries were super crunchy and tasty.

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The Marzan burger was a bit of a disappointment. I thought the bun was nicely toasted, but the beef patty was way too salty. It was one of those burgers that packed a solid bite because both the bun and meat were really thick. The thing is, even as salty as it was, the burger felt like it needed some more tomato sauce and mustard. The slaw was the same, but the bacon potato mash was pretty good.

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Lastly, the dessert of the day, which was carrot cake. It was a huge slice, which came as a surprise because usually the desserts that come with meal sets tend to be small and crap. But this was a good portion and it was actually very tasty! I liked the nuts lining the back and the cake itself was very solidly packed together. I liked it.

I’ve only had a small handful of the options on the menu so it’snot exactly fair to give it a rating. But I will anyway. Two out of the three things we got were excellent, one was slightly disappointing (though the fries were great). Accordingly…

7.5/10

Details

Gordon Biersch

Website: http://www.gordonbiersch.com.tw/Eng/branch.aspx?prm_BranchID=1

Address: Shinkong Mitsukoshi Department Store, Building A4 2F, No.11 Songshou Rd, Taipei

Phone: 02-8786-7588

Hours: Monday-Fri 11am-2pm (Lunch); 3pm-5pm (Happy Hour); 9:30pm-11pm (Late Night). Saturday-Sunday 11am-12am

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