Silk Road Feast at The Westin Taipei

May 7, 2015 in Food, Reviews


A very kind friend gave us a couple of paid-for coupons to the Silk Road Feast buffet at the Westin hotel in Taipei. Despite buffet restaurants upping the ante every year, Silk Road is still known as one of the most deluxe buffets around with its extensive variety and the overall quality of the food. This is no cheap stuff. Silk Road has fresh seafood, made-to-order pasta and omelettes, sashimi, Thai, Chinese dim sums, and freshly made Indian naan and so forth, and of course the usual salads, desserts and hot dishes. Even if you just take one bite of everything they have on offer you’ll still end up stuffed.

The biggest attraction at Silk Road, however, is that in addition to the buffet, each guest also receives a main course — a Choice-grade US steak, grilled in a hot plate deliver straight to your table with roasted garlic.


A steak main course comes with every buffet entry

If you don’t like steak, they can replace it with half an Australian golden lobster.


The lobster alternative

Each table comes with a few plastic tokens with your table number on it. You can take the token to some of the made-to-order counters and just drop it into a box. When the chef is done they will take it to your table so you don’t have to stand around and wait.

There is also a bar with plenty of fresh juices and other beverages they can make for you on the spot. If you want tea or coffee you can just ask the waiter and they will bring it to your table.

Anyway, let me give you a brief tour of the facilities.


This is the fresh sashimi section, where the chef will slice up an assortment of fresh fish to your liking. There’s also some rice there if you want to make chirashi.


This is the fresh seafood isle and cold section, with fresh shrimp, squid, and pre-made salads.


A little further down is the cold cuts and fresh DIY salad section.


Head around the corner and you’ll enter the Indian section, with a bunch of flavoursome curries on offer.


An authentic Indian chef makes authentic Indian naaan (or is that chapati?).


Back around the front, there’s this fresh seafood section I completely missed until I was too full. You pick what you want and they cook if for you.



In this section you choose the type of pasta you want, the kinds of meat you want, and the type of sauce you want. And the chef will make it for you, fresh.


This is the hot food section. Mainly Chinese stir-fries.


I think this is the Thai section. Meatballs and curries with Thai rice and rice cakes.


A little further down and you get to the roasted meats section. The place to be if hams and sausages are your thing.


And then there’s a dim sum section with chicken feet and shumais.


This is the bar area with juice jugs and beverage dispensers.


Bread paradise. I missed taking a photo of the omelette section, which is right next to this.


Fruit to finish off the meal. Those tiny white bowls in the photo are buts and candies like M&Ms. The cheese and crackers section is next to that.





And last, but not least, the gelato. You can get it in a cup or cone.

No comment.

In all, a super stuffing meal with amazing variety. The steak was obviously not the best I’ve had, but it tops a lot of steak restaurants I’ve been to before. Cooked medium, with roasted garlic…mmm…you don’t even need to add any additional flavour. I liked the lobster as well, though it didn’t have quite as much flesh as I would have liked.

As a buffet, there will be some hits and some misses, but each section at Silk Road manages to hit a certain level of quality. You might not love everything, but there will be very few things that will disappoint, if any. The service is also outstanding and there are enough waiters in each seating area to make sure you are well attended to.

On the whole, a quality experience. I’m not sure trying everything is a good idea for your health or your palette, but if you can manage, good for you. My favourites were the salmon sashimi (extremely fresh), the Thai section, the Indian naan, and of course, the desserts. No chocolate flavoured gelato, which is probably my only complaint of this visit.



Silk Road Feast at The Westin Taipei


Address: 133 Nanjing East Rd. Sec.3, Taipei, Taiwan

Phone: Tel : +886-2-8770-6565    (booking hotline: +886-2-3518-3078)

Hours and Prices:

Breakfast 06:30 -10:00 / NT$750+10% per person; NT$375+10% per child (5-12)

Lunch 11:30 -14:00 / NT$1,380+10% per person; NT$375+10% per child (5-12)

Afternoon Tea 15:00 -17:00 / NT$990+10% per person (no main course) or

NT$1,380+10% per person (with main course) or NT$350 +10% A la carte;

NT$495+10% per child (5-12) (no main course) or NT$885+10% per child (with main course)

Dinner 18:00 – 21:30 / NT$1,380+10% / per person ; NT$690+10% per child (5-12)

Snack -A la carte 21:00-22:30

*No main course for children unless specified otherwise

Trésors de la Mer (Taipei)

April 29, 2015 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel


I’m not much of a seafood guy, to be honest — too much trouble getting all that shell off, sorting through bones and putting up with potential skin allergies — so I had never heard of Addiction Aquatic Development, basically a fish market joint owned by the Japanese cuisine juggernaut Mitsui Group.

The website can explain the place better than I can, but essentially they offer many different types of ways you can eat fresh seafood. There’s a supermarket with a lot of sashimi, sushi and bento; a stand-around sushi bar where they make the stuff fresh; a hotpot area; a grill/BBQ section; and a proper restaurant — Trésors de la Mer .


The view from the second floor of Trésors de la Mer

The restaurant also serves fresh seafood, which you can choose yourself from the tanks and iced section outside the front door.


They have set specials (in Chinese only) that range from NT$1,280 to NT$2,280 per person (minimum 6 per table), but as I am quite picky with my seafood we decided to order a la carte.



The seafood is REALLY fresh

The upstairs dining area is spread out but comfortable, and also surprisingly child-friendly.


It’s all about the food, of course, so let’s check out what we got.


First up, salmon sashimi. We only got salmon because that’s what we like, but we got half belly and half “normal.” Served on a bed of ice and with fresh lemon pieces, this was an absolute delight.

If you noticed that it is missing wasabi, it is because we have to grind it fresh ourselves.


You get this plate with trapping holes in it and you have to grind a stick of Japanese horseradish to create the wasabi, which you then scrape to the edges with this wooden brush. It’s a lot of work, but totally worth it, because fresh wasabi is totally different to that processed stuff you mostly get and it’s fabulous.

If you order sushi, they will roll around a sushi cart and make it for you on the spot.


I ordered a tuna one and it was just OK. Not enough tuna for the amount of rice you get and for the size of the dried seaweed sheet.


One of the highlights was the prawns, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic and served with a side of salad drizzled with a vinaigrette dressing. The prawns were just so fresh and succulent and makes you realise that freshness really makes a huge difference.


To ensure we would we full, we ordered a stir-fry seafood and chicken udon. Also very good, with a thick but light sauce but not too starchy. The seafood again was fresh and the chicken was surprisingly succulent.


I love scallops, so we got a couple of skewers of grilled scallops. It was fresh and flavoursome, though in hindsight seared might have been better because scallops are more awesome when they are raw.


The biggest surprise of the meal was the fish. It looked small and dry, but boy was it marvellous. With just a dash of salt and lemon, the natural flavours were allowed to shine through, and despite being grilled it was so fresh it almost melts in your mouth with a natural moistness.


Lastly, you get a plate of fresh fruit — in this case sweet pineapple, bell fruit and guava.

After sampling the meal at Trésors de la Mer I can definitely understand why Addiction Aquatic is such a popular destination for tourists, especially those from Hong Kong and Japan. If you love seafood, there’s probably no better place to visit in Taipei.



Trésors de la Mer


Address: Level 2, No.20, Aly. 2, Ln. 410, Minzu E. Rd., Zhongshan Dist., Taipei City

Hours: 11:00-24:00 (Addiction Aquatic open 6:00-24:00)

Phone: +886-2-2508-1268

Shaffer’s Kitchen (Taipei)

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


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.


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


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.



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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.



Shaffer’s Kitchen (雪飛詩歐廚)

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

Phone: (o2) 8789 4088



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

TWG Tea Salon (Taipei)

September 15, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel


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.


Tea. Lots and lots of tea


A selection of tea-flavored ice creams


The cake and macaron cabinet!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Lemon tart and scones


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.



TWG Tea Salon

Address: Ground Floor, Breeze Center, No. 39, Sec. 1, Fuxing South Road, Taipei

Phone: + 86 21 3363 1837

Hours: 10am-10pm


Movie Review: Lucy (2014)

September 12, 2014 in Movie Reviews, Reviews


Lucy is a big deal in Taiwan. About half the movie was shot in Taipei, which is why locals have been so supportive by flocking to see it by the truckloads, turning the sci-fi action flick into the No. 2 film at the domestic box office for 2014 (behind — you guessed it — Transformers: Age of Extinction). The film’s reception in Taiwan has been somewhat muted. Some people say it’s awesome, while others have given it the lukewarm “It’s OK.” No one in the country really wants to say it. So I will. Lucy sucked.

Our eponymous protagonist, played by Scarlett Johannson, is a young woman living in Taipei who becomes an unwilling drug mule to some Korean gangsters. During her ordeal something happens, opening up her brain capacity from the normal (mythical) human 10% and accelerating it towards 100%. If you’ve seen the trailers you’ll know some crazy stuff goes down. She doesn’t just become a smart gal. She becomes a freaking superhero who would shit all over the Avengers if they ever met in a dark alley (and yes, that includes the Black Widow).

It sounds like a cool idea, and writer and director Luc Besson (who is also very popular in Taiwan) clearly thinks so too. But for a movie about an unfathomably intelligent being, Lucy is remarkably stupid. Stories about maximizing human brain capacity are not novel — Bradley Cooper gave it a shot in the flawed but vastly superior Limitless back in 2011 — but in Lucy the enhanced brain functions are taken to a whole new level, giving her ever-expanding supernatural powers like telekinesis, super-hearing, mind-reading, shape-shifting, tapping into electronic signals, controlling gravity, expert marksmenship, time travel, etc — you name it, Lucy can do it. And you thought the stuff Johnny Depp could do in Transcendence was ridiculous.

So basically, any semblance of real science goes out the window. The film is more or less a superhero action flick, and everything about it — from the tone of the film and its completely over-the-top action scenes to the way she transforms after gaining her powers — tells us not to take things too seriously. And yet, Lucy lacks the elements of what makes a superhero movie good. The problem lies with the complete lack of character development, or rather, the reversing development in her character. Lucy started off semi-likable, but the more powerful she grew the less human she became. She loses her morals and emotions. She essentially (and quite literally) turns into a machine — and we don’t give a shit.

When a film fails to make any emotional connection we start looking for something else, and in this case it’s the action. Lucy is adequate in this regard but nothing special. There is one scintillating car chase scene through the streets of a major city, but apart from that there’s not much we haven’t seen before. One of the reasons the action fails to truly excite is because Lucy becomes so powerful that she has no enemy who could provide the film with some much-needed conflict or tension. There’s no formidable foe or arch nemesis to give us the type of showdown a movie like this demands.

Worse still, Lucy has a distinct dearth of humour for a Luc Besson film. There’s a little bit of the usual cheekiness, perhaps, but there are no laughs to be found in Lucy, which is strange given the film’s farcical nature and tone. As for the performances, Johansson and Morgan Freeman are about as good as you could have expected, while the special effects are admittedly seamless, though both are things we tend to take for granted these days.

Unfortunately, my gripes go deeper than that. For all the hoopla about filming in Taiwan, it turns out that those scenes could have been shot anywhere. So we see some shots of the busy Taipei streets and various angles of Taipei 101. Big deal (sadly, for some Taiwanese audiences, that’s enough to make the movie great). We actually have no idea what the heck Lucy is even doing in Taiwan. We know she lives there and she appears to be a student, but that makes no sense because she doesn’t know a lick of Mandarin. Moreover, the antagonists in the movie are Korean. We don’t know what they’re doing in Taiwan either. They don’t speak English or Mandarin. It just makes the whole Taiwan setting extremely pointless.

I consider myself quite a careless viewer in that I don’t usually notice holes in movie storylines, but in Lucy they were jumping out at me because they was so obvious. For example, when Lucy goes into a Taipei hotel to look for a Mr Jang, the receptionist connects her over the phone and acts as a translator between the two. The problem is, the receptionist is speaking Mandarin to Mr Jang and/or his henchmen, and we find out later that they’re all Korean! Or when Lucy is in Taiwan and tells Morgan Freeman that she’ll be at his place in Paris in 12 hours — except a direct flight from Taipei to Paris is 12 hours and 35 minutes, and she’s not even at the airport! And I haven’t even talked about how Lucy apparently loses most of her teeth at one stage, only to have them apparently all grow back (so she’s got Wolverine powers too?) or how she kills a whole bunch of innocent people for trivial reasons (or no reason at all), and yet spares all the bad guys who are hell bent on tracking her down and annihilating her. Just really careless, sloppy stuff.

Having said all that, I didn’t loathe Lucy, or at least not as much as I think I should. The film actually started off relatively strong and was packed with a decent level of intrigue, but the further along it went the more preposterous and — pardon my “political correctlessness” — retarded it became. Apart from all the batshit insane stuff Lucy was doing, the film was filled with trite philosophical BS pretending to give meaning to the story, complete with Terrence Malick Tree of Life-style random snippets of micro-organisms, (copulating) animals and outer space. And if that’s not crazy enough for you, the Akira-esque ending almost makes Muholland Drive seem logical

All of the above combines to make Lucy a trippy, messy, cheesy experience where the enjoyment level is heavily dependent on how much nonsense you can stomach. If you go into it knowing you’re about to see the dumbest action movie of the year rather than the intelligent sci-fi it appeared on paper, you might even find the silliness endearingly fun. For me, however, Lucy was just one big clusterWTF that’s neither clever nor funny, rarely exciting, and only passably entertaining.

1.75 stars out of 5

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