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

Ed’s Diner (Taipei)

September 27, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

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It was time for some BBQ, and from what I’ve been hearing, Ed’s Diner in Taipei’s Neihu district is the place to be. We got there early on a Friday morning, at 11am, just as they were opening, and we weren’t the only ones. The interior is relative small, with a semi-open kitchen and probably enough seats for about 30 people.

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As the menu says, all the meats at Ed’s Diner are wood smoked for long periods, rubbed with 23 secret herbs and spices (take that, Colonel Sanders) as well as a homemade BBQ sauce.

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The menu is relatively simple. Their main dishes are ribs, burgers,and big slabs of meat, with sides such as salads, chicken wings, corn, coleslaw, etc. Here are some very poor quality snaps I took with my phone. The burgers and salads come with a soft drink, while the meal sets (usually about an extra NT$100) come with soup, salad, and a side (like hand cut fries).

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There were only two of us, but we knew BBQ isn’t the type of food you have every day, so we went all out. We got a half rack of ribs + meal set (NT$600) plus their signature pulled pork sandwich (NT$220) and a slab of beef brisket meat ($250). The total, including the 10% service charge was NT$1177.

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The pumpkin soup and the salad were both surprisingly nice. The soup was sweet and not too thick, while the salad came with a nice tangy fruity dressing that also had some almond pieces that went well with it.

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The beef brisket meat was sensational. A little on the fatty side, naturally, but it was so soft and juicy and succulent. Even without any sauce it was super tasty, but with the BBQ sauce the meat went to another level. I think that’s the secret to Ed’s Diner’s success — the sauce. Salivatingly tangy, not too sweet and not too sour, it was so good I asked for a whole tub of it, and nearly finished it too.

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The beef ribs don’t look like much (they look a little burnt), but they were also very good. It was a little dry on top and not quite as juicy as some I’ve had elsewhere, but it was still good. Throw some of that superb BBQ sauce on top and I’ll have no complaints.

The hand cut fries were surprisingly good too. Very crispy and moist on the inside.

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The pulled pork sandwich was a mild disappointment in my books. Its strength is the toasted bun, but the pulled pork itself was too dry for my liking. It was supposed to be offset by the coleslaw, however, there wasn’t enough of it, meaning you might need to take two or three bites of the dry pork before you get to the creamy coleslaw. The solution? More BBQ sauce. Solves everything.

There was way too much for two, so we ended up taking away half a beef brisket and half the half rack of ribs. The amazing thing is that after we reheated it that night (mostly through steaming), both the brisket and ribs were even more juicy and succulent than they were at the restaurant! So takeaway is definitely a smart option if you can’t stuff everything down at the restaurant. Of course, you still need the BBQ sauce.

8/10

Details

Ed’s Diner

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

Address: 1/F, 216 Le Qun 2nd Rd, Neihu District, Taipei (nearest MRT Jiannan Road)

Phone: 02 8502 6969

Hours: 11am-2pm, 5pm-9pm (closed Mondays)

EdsDiner

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

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