Gordon Biersch (Taipei)

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

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

Sant-AnGeLo (Osaka)

October 23, 2014 in Food, Japan, Reviews, Travel

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So I recently went to Osaka on a short family trip. Meals were scarce, so we were sure to book ahead, and one of the recommendations we decided to try out was Sant-AnGeLo, allegedly one of the best Italian joints in the city.

It took us a bit of time to find the place, which is situated inside one of the food alleys connected to Namba Parks (near the very end of the strip). It has a nice Italian atmosphere, with traditional tablecloths and plates on the walls. They do have English menus so there’s no need to panic, and the waiters seem to be able to communicate in English if your Japanese isn’t up the scratch.

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Their menu is fairly extensive, with a nice range of traditional pizzas and pastas. With four adults, we decided to go with two pizzas and two pastas. Based on the recommendations of the waiters, we went with these:

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Quattro Formaggi, basically a “four cheese” pizza that comes with gorgonzola, mozzarella, taleggio, parmigiano. 

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The Pescatore, a seafood pizza with a tomato base

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The Bolognese

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The Carbonara

The food may look unspectacular but it was truly awesome. The pizza crust is hand made and wood fired, and the cheese seems like it’s good quality stuff. It’s hard for me to rank one pizza above the other because they were both so good in their own way, with the Quattro Formaggi full of cheesy flavour and the Pescatore so flavoursome and deluxe. The pastas were also deceptive tasty, especially the tangy bolognese, which the kids absolutely loved. The carbonara was also not too creamy and had a little bit of an extra zing.

For dessert we tried the tiramisu, but it was so enticing that we gobbled it up before I had the chance to take a photo.

In all, it was a splendid experience. Great atmosphere, friendly and speedy service and delicious, traditional Italian cuisine. Would love to come back if the opportunity presents itself in the future.

8.5/10

Details

Sant-AnGeLo (サンタ・アンジェロ)

Website (Japanese): http://www.anjou.co.jp/shop/angelo/index.html (pizza menu third tab, pasta/dessert menu fourth tab)

Address: 5-1-60 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture (walking distance from Namba stations)

Phone: +81 (0)6-6644-2855

Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30-14:00, 17:30-22:00; Sat-Sun 11:30-22:00

Price: about 1,000 yen per person for lunch, 2,500 yen per person for dinner

SA

Pizzeria Oggi (Taipei)

August 9, 2014 in Food, Reviews

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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

La Pasta (Taipei)

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

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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.

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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:

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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:

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The garlic bread was no good. It tasted stale.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

7/10

Details

La Pasta (義大利麵屋)

Website (under construction): http://www.lapasta.com.tw/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lapastaLA?fref=ts

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

Phone: (02) 2555-3818

Wendel’s German Bakery & Bistro (Taipei)

May 1, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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The bakery section of Wendel’s German Bakery & Bistro

Tick another one off the list.

There aren’t many German restaurants in Taiwan. I had been wanting to visit Wendel’s German Bakery & Bistro for some time and finally found the opportunity a couple of weeks ago when we made the trip to the Da’an branch near Taipei’s Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. It seems like a popular joint on weekends because of its brunch, though on the Saturday we went I’m sure they could have still squeezed out some tables for people without a reservation.

The branch we went to was kinda unusual because it was essentially two restaurants merged into one. I suspect it was so successful that they simply bought out its next door neighbour to double up the space. As a result, one side looks like a bakery/bistro, with brightly lit cabinets of fresh bread and cakes and pastry chefs doing their thing, while the other side looks like a regular western-style restaurant with dim lighting. We sat in the bakery section.

Wendel’s menu is extensive, and you can check it out at their website (see below). They have pizzas, pastas, salads, burgers, sandwiches, breakfast and brunch options, and of course traditional German cuisine like pork knuckles and schnitzels. Some of the stuff looked pretty enticing on the menu, but in the end we stuck with our guts and went for a pork knuckle and a pork schnitzel.

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Everyone gets some free house bread, and it’s an excellent variety, as you can see.

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Also provided with the main course is a salad, with tomato, cucumber, onions and olives. Not bad, quite refreshing considering we ordered all meat. However, we were fortunate to not have listened to the waitress, who recommended that we order a separate salad to balance out the meat. Now that would have been a wasted order.

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Pork knuckle, with sauerkraut, potato mash, gravy and mustard. I’m usually not crazy about pork knuckle, so I am going to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Wendel’s pork knuckle is the real deal — succulent meat, crispy skin, full of flavour. The potato mash was creamy and the sauerkraut not too sour. And the mustard gave it an awesome kick. A must-try if pork knuckle is what you’re after.

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That’s a Swedish flag, by the way

Next up, the pork schnitzel. Personally, I prefer chicken, but they didn’t have that, so it was more pork for us. Nice crispy fries without too much salt, a wedge of lemon and a tub of tomato sauce. Not as good as the schnitzel I had in Germany, of course, but it’s not bad for Taiwan.

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Next it was time for dessert, and it was not easy to decide. The ones of the left hand side are all individual cakes, while the section on the far end are slices of a larger cake. You can go up to the dessert counter and tell them what you want, and they will take it to your table. I thought one dessert, then two, but in the end I went with three. Just in case.

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So, I chose a chocolate mousse cake (layers of chocolate cake and mousse), a strawberry tart, and a chocolate raspberry cake. The best one was probably the chocolate mousse cake; the strawberry tart was just OK, and the chocolate raspberry was not good — far too dry.

In all, Wendel’s is a commendable place to try some “German” food if you are so inclined. The atmosphere is great, the prices are reasonable (NT$300-$500 per head, roughly, depending on what you order) and the food is extremely solid, but I do have to complain a little about the service. They were busy, no doubt, but the waitresses forgot about us several times — when we asked for a baby seat, when we asked for the menus and when we asked to be served. It got better later when they weren’t as busy, but I think they need some more training.

8/10

Details

Wendel’s German Bakery & Bistro

Website: http://www.wendels-bakery.com/index.asp (Chinese, English, German)

Address: No. 28, Lane 260, GuangFu S. Rd, Da’an District, Taipei (nearest MRT Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall)

Phone: (02) 2711-8919

Hours: Bistro:08:00-22:00; Deli:09:00-22:00

PS: Other branches at Tianmu and Neihu

Wendels

 
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