Shanghai Kitchen (New Taipei)

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

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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

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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

Bakery 49 (New Taipei)

April 25, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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My wife told me we should try this new cafe called Bakery 49 that looked fairly decent on the second floor of the Global Mall at Banqiao train station. As it turned out, it dawned on her after we sat down that she completely forgot she had been there before without me, which just means the place was not very memorable.

Nonetheless, the place was clean, new, and had a big TV against the wall. It’s apparently very popular for its all you can eat specials available only during dinner, but we were there for lunch. The cuisine is supposedly “San Franciscan” and known for the sourdough and clam chowder.

The menu, as you can see below, is quite simple. A couple of soups, a few salads, a handful of pastas, risottos, main courses and sandwiches. We were recommended the clam chowder, their specialty, but we didn’t go for the “bread bowl” because it looked a bit too much.

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The other recommendations we went with was the Shrimp with Lemon Mascarpone Risotto (which we turned into a set meal with soup of the day, a salad and dessert), and the Bakery 49 Ginger Roasted Chicken. Anything that has the restaurant’s name in it must be their best dish, right?

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Clam chowder

First up, the clam chowder. Can I just say I was it was kinda disappointing. It was their most marketed dish and it was just average. Too thick and too salty.

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Tomato basil soup

Next, the soup of the day, a tomato basil soup that was actually better than the clam chowder! It wasn’t spectacular, but it was pretty good, tangy and tomato-y, the way it’s meant to be.

 

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Set meal salad

This salad was OK, but it was extremely no frills. Just a few pieces of vegetables and a light oil dressing. Meh.

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Shrimp with Lemon Mascarpone Risotto

The first main, the Shrimp with Lemon Mascarpone Risotto, sounded really good, but it was more or less what I expected. A sour, lemony, creamy risotto with a couple of prawns. Not my style, but I suppose if you like lemon risottos this might be your thing.

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Bakery 49 Ginger Roasted Chicken

The second main, the Bakery 49 Ginger Roasted Chicken, was…sigh. As you can see in the photo, it’s pretty much a salad, and I doubt there was really half a chicken as advertised because I could hardly find any. And the pieces I did find were not exactly succulent. The little side of mash potato was good though.

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Chocolate brownie

Lastly, the dessert, a chocolate brownie with walnut and chocolate sauce. It was somewhat hard, but the flavour was excellent, so I had no complaints.

Overall, not the best experience, and not helped by the young waitress who had a face that said “I don’t want to be here.” Now, I was only there for the lunch, which has a different menu to the dinner, weekend brunch and afternoon tea, so I can’t say if it would have been different had I gone at another time. And I was tempted to try their Kobe Burger which sounded, at least on the menu, to be rather enticing. But I can’t see myself going back there again.

6/10

Details

Bakery 49

Website: http://www.bakery49.com/index.asp?AR=PROD&PK=6&CK=12 (all menus available)

Address: Level 2, Global Mall, Banqiao Station, No. 7, Section 2, Xianmin Blvd, New Taipei City

Phone: (02) 8969-2049

Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-10pm; Fri-Sun 11am-10:30pm

Bite 2 Eat (New Taipei)

February 12, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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Eslite is one of the only chain book stores in Taiwan that has managed to survive in recent years thanks to its world-famous 24-hour store and its diversification into more of a cultural department store. The Banqiao Eslite (the one closer to Fuzhong MRT station) recently re-opened after undergoing refurbishment, and it is now home to one of the most popular restaurants in the area, Bite 2 Eat. As far as I am aware, there is only one other store in Taipei in the Xinyi district, though there are two more in Kaohsiung and another in Tainan.

So is it worth the fuss? I went and found out.

Taiwanese people really know how to mould the image of a restaurant, and Bite 2 Eat is not different. It’s an Italian restaurant, strictly speaking, but it has the look and feel of a stylish cafe that young people in the city just love. The walls are packed with random decorations, clocks and signs, and all the waitresses are young and friendly.

The menu is in both Chinese and English and filled with a generous range of pizza and pasta (and risotto) selections that are roughly around NT$200 each, but if you order appetizers, additional beverages or meal sets it could work out to be NT$400-500 per head. Some of the choices are fairly standard, but they also have a lot of creative and wacky creations you might not have expected. Here are some shots of the menu.

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So this is what we ordered: a pizza and a pasta, one of which we combined with a Fantasia Set Meal (NT$259) that includes an appetizer and a Frantalia side dish, plus a drink and dessert. Our selections were pretty much all recommended by the waitress.

First up, the fried squid (our Frantalia dish), which came with some salad and a line spinkle of mustard. I really enjoyed this as the batter was thick and crunchy, and they did not skimp on the squid. Perhaps a little on the salty side, but squid dishes often are.

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Next up, the appetizer, which was a simple focaccia with a dip. Now, I don’t know what the dip was, but it was amazing, creamy and kind of garlicky, with a smooth texture and some herbs. The focaccia was also fluffy with a touch of sweetness. The two went together very well.

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Our first main was the pizza, and we went for the spicy Seasoned Chicken Pizza. It wasn’t too spicy but it was spicy enough to give it a bit of a kick. The handmade base was fresh, but it was a little on the soft and floppy side, though the flavoursome and ample cheese made up for it. Not a bad pizza at all.

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For the pasta, we went for the Spicy Spaghetti with Smoked Duck , and this one actually was quite hot. I also enjoyed this one — the spaghetti was al dente, the duck breast was tasty and the fried slices of garlic on top really hit the spot. It smelled really good too.

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Lastly, we went with the Tiramisu for dessert. It was a reasonable slice that tasted fine, although it felt like they had just taken it out of the freezer as the bottom was still icy.

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On the whole it was a solid meal, better than the majority of these types of cafes I’ve been to in Taiwan. Great ambience, good service, delicious food and reasonable prices. I can understand why there are always people lining up. The best part is that there are so many great selections on the menu that I’m sure I’ll be back to try some more.

8.5/10

Details

Bite 2 Eat  (薄多義)

Facebook page

Address: Level 5, Banqiao Eslite, No. 46, Section 1 Zhongshang Road, Banqiao District, New Taipei City (nearest MRT station Fuzhong)

Phone: +8862 2954 0410

Birkin Waffle Cafe (New Taipei)

February 11, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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There are a lot of popular cafes in New Taipei city these days, especially near the Banqiao/Fuzhong/Xinpu area along the blue MRT line. One of these is Birkin Waffle Cafe, a short walk from the Xinpu MRT station and a slightly longer walk from Banqiao MRT station.

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It’s a nicely fitted two-storey restaurant with a lot of comfortable sofas and slim young waitresses, which might explain why it is so popular with locals. And there is this big bear on the steps to the second floor, which people seem to like but freaked me out when I saw it.

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Their menu is fairly extensive and offers all day breakfast, burgers, paninis, salads, fried stuff, steaks, ribs, and of course, waffles. Prices are fairly standard and depending on what you order you’re probably looking at around 300-500 per head. Minimum spend is a beverage, but if you order a meal that comes with a drink then it won’t be necessary. Here are the snaps I took of the menu. Interestingly, the breakfast section does not have English translations.

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The first thing we ordered was one of the items on the breakfast menu which had eggs and ham on buns, bananas, salad and hash browns. I have to admit this was way too weird for my liking as the mix of flavours was completely off. From the photo I thought it was eggs benedict, but it was actually scrambled eggs, which is fine, but the buns beneath were sweet. And hash browns with bananas? It was just whacked.

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With my expectations dampened, I didn’t expect much from the next item, the special sauce beef burger. But guess what? It was amazing! Nice bun, great beef patty and tangy sweet chili sauce. The fries were nice and crispy too. A standout burger.

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For dessert, we were tossing between the chocolate and the strawberry but ended up going with the latter. Not a bad choice but the waffles weren’t anything spectacular.

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On the whole, a pretty comfortable place to dine, especially for a nice brunch or get together. The food is a bit of a mixed bag and I don’t recommend the bizarre breakfast options, though the burger we tried was excellent. I was surprised that with “waffle” in its name the place didn’t offer more waffle options (there were 6 in total), but the one we tried, one of the recommended flavours, was fairly decent.

8/10

Details

Birkin Waffle Cafe

Address: No. 1, Jièshòu St, Banqiao District, New Taipei City

Phone: +886 2 2257 1777

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birkin-Waffle-cafe/371824229553388

 
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