VVG Bistro (Taipei)

February 26, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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The VVG in VVG Bistro stands for very very good, and so it was necessary for me to confirm this. Located a short walk from the Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station, VVG Bistro is just one of several joints in the VVG franchise (the others include the nearby VVG Table, as well as VVG BonBon and VVG Something). This one serves Western fusion with a French influence — main courses such as roast chicken, roast pork, grilled fish and sirloin steak, an assortment of casseroles, about eight types of creative pastas and a selection of salads and sandwiches. They also serve snacks such as french fries with white truffle oil, hot chicken wings and cheese platters.

The look of the restaurant is very bistro-like, with one outdoor table out front, a few sofa seats and a couple of tables, with an open kitchen where chefs are either busy cutting up vegetables or cooking on the hot stoves. The desserts are on display in a glass cabinet so you can check it out for yourself before making a selection.

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Price-wise it’s reasonable but relatively expensive, with the mains costing around NT$500, the casseroles NT$680, and the pastas and salads averaging around NT$400 each. The desserts are not cheap either, with the cheapest, the apple cinnamon roll, priced at NT$120 and cakes at NT$220 each. The chocolate fondant, which takes 30 minutes to prepare, is NT$280.

Anyway, we ended up going with recommendations from the waitress, who suggested a chicken stew casserole over the roast thyme-mustard chicken because it was more unusual, and the scallop and mushroom linguine with fried garlic and mentaiko (Japanese marinated cod roe sauce).

The casserole required a 20-minute wait, so in the meantime we were served some house bread with basil pesto (which came free
with the casserole). Noice.
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Next came the pasta, which was surprisingly good. It was a very Japanese-y dish, as the mentaiko sauce was tangy and had that roe texture to it and the scallops went well with the al dente linguine. I hadn’t anything quite like it before and I enjoyed it a lot.

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Then eventually the casserole came, along with a pumpkin soup and a salad. The soup was thick and creamy, and the pasta was fresh and served with a dressing that had a real zing to it. The casserole itself didn’t feel very heavy. The chicken was soft and juicy and the vegetables it was cooked with (a lot of onions, carrots and red peppers) provided a nice mix of flavours. And it smelled really good.

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Lastly, the dessert. We agonized over the chocolate fondant, but ended up going with what looked like a safe bet — the caramel cheese cake with kosher salt and caramel sauce. It was a rich cheese cake that didn’t taste too sweet because of the salt, and the added whipped cream on top with a dash of caramel sauce really hit the spot.

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On the whole, I’d say VVG Bistro is a nice place for a casual gathering with friends, as the setting is comfortable and meal selections are quite interesting and not what you would find elsewhere. That said, the food wasn’t extraordinary, nor was it very very good, though I admit it was pretty good. Taking into account the price, however, it might not be a place I’d go back to again in a hurry.

8/10

Details

VVG Bistro (好樣)

Blog: http://vvgvvg.blogspot.tw/ (Chinese)

Address: 20, Alley 40, Lane 181, Zhongxiao E Rd, Sec 4 (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua)

Phone: (02) 8773 3533

Hours: 12pm-11pm Weekdays, 11am-11pm Weekends

Vietnamese at Pho Hoa (Taipei)

January 27, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

5

A pretty decent, fairly authentic Vietnamese joint in Taipei is Pho Hoa, situated in one of the alleys near Zhongxiao Fuxing/Dunhua MRT station. It’s usually very very busy and always packed out during peak hours, so we went early one day just as they opened up to ensure we’d get a seat.

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We ordered two noodle soups: the Signature Pho (NT$180), which has an aromatic, translucent (nearly opaque) broth with all kinds of different meat; and the spicy and sour fish rice noodle soup (NT$160), also one of the specials. The noodles come with the usual condiments — lemon, chili and basil — and there is also chili and hoisin sauce for the beef, just the way I like it.

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Their extensive menu has all sorts of other options, such as dry nice noodles, spring rolls and BBQ skewers, etc.

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The highly touted Signature Pho was good, but not as great as I had expected it to be. When I see a soup that thick, I anticipate a burst of flavour, but the broth was surprisingly light in taste. Not bland, just lacking a bit of a kick. That said, it’s still a nice hot bowl of Pho.

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The hot and spicy fish rice noodle is not something I usually have at Vietnamese restaurants, but it was nice to try something a little different. It wasn’t too spicy and the broth had some tang to it, and the fish was reasonably fresh. I still prefer pho but I didn’t mind giving it a go.

Pho Hoa is regarded as one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Taipei, but for me it’s just one of the better ones. That said, I won’t mind going back there again if I’m in the area.

8/10

Details

Pho Hoa (美越牛肉粉)

Address: No. 43, Lane 190, Section 1 Dūnhuà South Road, Dà’ān District, Taipei (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing / Zhongxiao Dunhua)

Phone: 02 2751 5578

Hours: Mon-Sun 11:00-23:00

pho

Italian at Bianco Taipei

January 7, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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So we keep hearing about this tasty and affordable Italian joint near the big roundabout close to the Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station. It’s called Bianco, and it serves an assortment of freshly made pasta, risott and pizza, as well as brunch selections that the locals just adore. We ended up going there on a very rainy weekday and were lucky to have booked because otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to secure a seat, so that just shows how popular the place is.

The restaurant itself has a clean cut look with decor dominated by white. They do have child seats and the back area is quite roomy so we had little problem just leaving the pram by the table.

Here’s a sample of a page of the menu, which is in both Chinese and English.

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As the bottom of the menu indicates, the prices are a la carte, but you can create a set meal that includes soup, salad, drink, cake and/or gelato for extra. Any two of the above is an additional NT$170, any three is NT$210, any four is NT$260 and you can get all five for NT$290.

We didn’t want to stuff our faces as usual so we just added two items, a soup and a gelato (two scoops) to go with our two mains, their trademark organic risotto with black truffle in cream (NT$410), and a peking duck pizza (NT$320)

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The soup of the day was a minestrone which was very hearty and flavoursome, with lots of fresh vegetables. I wished there was a little more soup though, but that’s just me.
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The organic black truffle risotto was wonderful. Very aromatic, not too creamy, not too salty, just the right sprinkle of cheese and full of truffle flavour. I really enjoyed it and thought it was a refreshing change to the normal truffle risottos you tend to get at other Italian restaurants.

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The Peking duck pizza was pretty good too. If you like Peking duck and hoisin sauce, chances are you will enjoy this. The base was decent, not spectacular, but it was sprinkled with a healthy dose of toppings, including cucumber, spring onions and sauce. It’s actually not the first time I’ve had this type of pizza, and to be honest I actually prefer the one I had back home in Sydney at the Australia Hotel at the Rocks. That one is bigger and has more duck, though to be far it also costs more than twice as much. Still, I enjoyed it, and I doubt I can get it elsewhere in Taipei.

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As for dessert, we chose the gelato. You can go up to the front counter to choose which flavours you want, and we ended up going for the green tea and chocolate. If you pick cake you can also choose the type of cake you want, and you can check out a sample of the type of stuff that’s on offer below.

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The two scoops of ice cream we got were fairly good. The green tea is no Haagen-Dazs, but it was good enough, and the chocolate is better than your average no name brand.

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On the whole it was a satisfying meal and I can see why so many people rate it highly. I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve been to in Taipei, but it’s very good, the prices are reasonable and I can definitely see myself going back there again.

8/10

Details

Bianco Taipei (義大利食材餐廳~白色)

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bianco.fb

Address: No. 19, Alley 112, Section 4, Ren’Ai Road, Da’An District, Taipei (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua, blue line)

Phone: 02 2325 3655

Hours: Monday to Friday 11:30am-10pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am-10pm

bianco

PaPa Gio’s All You Can Eat Pizza!

December 25, 2012 in Food, Reviews

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It’s been more than a year since my first visit to Papa Gio’ (I remember because my wife went into labour that night, probably from eating too much there during lunch), one of the best and most underrated Italian restaurants in Taipei.

Located in the alley behind the Ming Yao Department store near the Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station (blue line),  it doesn’t look all that fancy but oozes an authentic Italian feel with its wood-fire pizza oven and Italy-inspired artworks. The a la carte menu is pricey by Taiwan standards so I recommend the business lunch, which ranges from NT299 (AU$10) to NT$800 (AU$26.50) depending on what main course you get. At the very least, you get an appetizer, a salad, a soup and a dessert, plus three types of all you can eat pizza. The more expensive options include an additional pasta or seafood or steak dish.

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(Note: the last time I went there the lunch special was NT$390 and you get all you can eat pizza + a pasta in addition to the other extras except the appetizer, which is replaced with garlic and pizza bread.)

The bread comes with an olive oil and balsamic dip

The bread comes with an olive oil and balsamic dip

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Pumpkin soup

Pumpkin soup

But let me get back to the pizza, because PaPa Gio’ has some of the best pizzas I’ve had in Taiwan. The choices are different each day, but there are always three types and they are all delicious. The chefs specialize in simple but fantastic topping combinations, and the crust is just sublime.

On this day we had a potato pizza, another one with ricotta, roma tomatoes and spinach, and a third with mushrooms and caramelized onions. None of these are on the regular pizza menu. I was surprised that I enjoyed the spinach one the most, but all of them were excellent and I had far more slices than I should.

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We also got two pastas — a cheese risotto and a vegetarian tomato spaghetti. Both were simple but tasty, and a perfect complement to the pizzas.

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We finished off with dessert and a beverage. The dessert today was a panna cotta, and it tasted better than the photo suggests.

In all, a hugely satisfying experience. I am honestly shocked that the place is not fully packed out every weekday during lunchtime. That said, it’s probably still better to book in advance.

9/10

Details:

PaPa Gio’

Address: No. 22, Alley 6, Lane 170, Chung-hsiao East Rd. Sec. 4, Taipei (Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT Exit 5)

Tel: (02) 2711-8720

Fax: (02) 2711-8721

Email: [email protected]

Website: http://www.papagio.com.tw/main.html

Business Hours

11:30am – 14:00pm

18:00pm – 22:00pm

Casa Della Pasta in Taipei

December 16, 2012 in Food, Reviews

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Casa Della Pasta is one of those places in Taipei that I keep hearing rave reviews about, so I decided to check it out one night at the store on Jinshan South Road in the Da’an district.  Bear in mind, though, this visit occurred last year (shows how far behind I am in my reviews), and for some reason I can no longer find this branch on the restaurant’s official website, so it’s possible that the store may have closed down. That said, it still has at least three other locations, so this review should still be relevant from a food perspective.

Anyway, the branch that we went to was huge and beautifully decorated, giving a sense that you’re walking into some high class joint that will burn a hole in your wallet. That was supposedly the charm of Casa Della Pasta — it only looks that way but the prices are very family friendly.

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I’m not sure about the prices being super cheap, but they are very competitive for Italian food (around NT100-200 per dish). The biggest draw of the restaurant, in my opinion, is the sheer variety of dishes they have on offer. Seriously, the menu is huge and there are all kinds of appetizers, pastas and pizzas. Granted, most of them are just variations of each other — eg, pick a meat, a type of sauce and a type of pasta — but combing through the menu and deciding on what to order can be a time consuming process.

In the end, with just two people, we went with a pizza and pasta to share. The pizza was their popular pineapple with smoked chicken (see below). I’ll be frank — it was hugely disappointing. The toppings and flavour were okay but the crust tasted no better than those you get from frozen pizzas. And the size was not overwhelming either.

Pineapple and smoked chicken pizza

Pineapple and smoked chicken pizza

But hey, it was relatively cheap, and the place is called Casa Della PASTA, so I assumed the second dish, the pesto chicken spaghetti, was going to be significantly better. Well, it was better, but nothing that blew my world. The chicken pieces were a tad large for my liking and the chicken was on the chewier side. The pesto sauce was very rich and creamy, which is good for a while but I soon found myself getting sick of it.

Chicken pesto pasta

Chicken pesto pasta

Lastly, the dessert — a layered cake, the kind you’d find at most cake stores in Taiwan. Again, it was OK, but nothing spectacular.

Dessert

Dessert

On other thing I remembered about this place was that the service was excruciatingly slow. In all it turned out to be a fairly average experience. Not horrible for the price, and I can imagine with its ambiance and variety it would be a nice place to hold a group gathering or family outing, but as far as taste goes it didn’t get the job done for me.

6.5/10

Details

Casa Della Pasta

Website: www.capasta.com.tw/

Lunch: 12pm-2:40pm; Dinner: 6pm-9:40pm

Stores:

Banqiao — No. 136, Section 1, Zhongshan Road (02-29546133)

Zhongxiao Dunhua — No. 23, Lane 233, Section 1, Dunhua South Road (02-27717869)

Zhongshan — No. 7-1, Lane 11, Section 2, Zhongshan North Road (02-25678769)

Bade — No. 1, Section 1, Bade Road (02-23957117)

 
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