Sunday, June 30, 2013

杏子 Anzu Tonkatsu - (Taipei)

 Anzu 杏子 is more often than not highly recommended by most Hong Kong foodies who frequently travel to Taiwan.   A couple of close friends of mine however have secretly told me it is over-hyped up,  so I and a foodie friend decided to check it out as a real test.   I was secretly hoping that this would be a good tonkatsu…



Appetizer -
Some kind of finely julienned pickled veggies,  which was not very authentically Japanese.  ~  4/10



Tonkatsu Sauce -
The sauce was overly thin and you can visually see that when pouring it
.  It was also too fruity tart,  there wasn’t enough of the Worchester sauce influence or depth.   Would say it’s not very balanced and the consistency quite a bit off.   ~  3/10


Side Salad -


Thick Cut Pork Ribeye – [厚切りロースかつ膳] NT 350
The default rosu katsu item is the real litmus test,  no stuffing of mentaiko or cheese this time.  The panko crust wasn’t as evenly pointy as some of the best shops in Hong Kong or Japan.  Although the pork meat was very soft to the point it offered little bite resistance,  it was devoid of ANY pork taste and was obviously so tender by being overly brined,  you will instantly recognize it if you are used to eating brined meat.   ~  7/10


You can visually tell by this photo it’s brined to the point the tissues have broken down,  there’s even water seeping out …
Eye rolling smile



White Rice with Miso Soup -
The rice arrived a bit too wet for my liking.  I am not sure if the miso soup is actually a pork version [豚汁] as it was rather subdued in taste and ingredients.  Not very authentic in taste overall.  ~  5/10



Red Rice – [赤米]
This was much better than the very wet white rice above.   We appreciate that they offered this as an alternative carb for the set meals!   ~  9/10



Taiwan grown Black Kurobuta Pork Ribeye Tonkatsu – [黒豚ロースかつ]
The above normal pork version had zero taste at all,  so we ordered a higher end Taiwanese grown Kurobuta.  Although this fared slightly better, that signature Kurobuta-only ‘sweet potato like fat sweetness umami’ was very faint and this remained way over-brined.   I can see how some people like them as served here.  They are thicker than anything you can get in Hong Kong,  it’s slightly pink in the middle and it is tender – that is it’s advantage.   But ultimately I think it’s not presented very naturally and this approach to tonkatsu isn’t how the top shops in Japan operate either.  The mediocre peripherals and sauce kind of killed my interest to return in the future! 



Price:   TWD $350
Food:  ♕♕♕1/2 to ♕♕♕♕
Ease of Access:  4/5 

Opening Hours:

Address: 台北市复兴南路二段271巷2号, level 10
Fuxing, Sogo Shopping Centre

Monday, June 24, 2013

世界豆漿大王 World Soybean Milk Magnate - (Taipei)

 This shop in Taipei is apparently world famous.  I’ve never developed a real liking for it,  although I am always happy to return back and give it another shot for data-basing.   To understand how influential this awkwardly named Taipei Soybean Specialist Shop is,   one will no doubt notice many shops being named as  Yonghe  永和豆漿  and leveraging off from here as a brand name in both Taiwan and China.    Those are actually fake imitating stores but are thriving as a business model nonetheless.   The name Yonghe actually refers to the specific suburb where  世界豆漿大王 World Soybean Milk Magnate was born and became glorified.  Another irony about here is that their breakfast and supper dishes are Shanghai inspired in the 1st place rather than Taiwanese,  but the goodwill from the namesake is so strong it got re-imported into China..   Taiwan and this shop single handedly put this concept onto the global map indeed… 



Savory Soy Bean Milk - 鹹豆漿
Shanghainese in origin,  this version in Taipei has fried Chinese cruller flakes only,  rather than round crullers.   The soybean curd is a bit broken up liquid,  but it does have pickles and whitebait fish in it.   Not bad but not the best I have had,  but already the best item here.   ~ 7/10



Cold Soy Milk -
Chinese Soy Milk comes in 2 guises for me -  either they are burnt and smoky,  or they should carry a lot of natural soy flavour.   This version doesn’t satisfy both,  it was quite sweet and luckily there was some raw soybean taste at least.   Nowadays it is hard to find a great soybean drink though..  ~  5/10


Crepe Pancake with Fried Chinese Cruller with Pickles and Pork Floss -  燒餅油條
The crullers are as usual from my past visits slightly on the staler and cold side.  The pork floss was barely noticeable but I liked the abundance of pickles.  The pancake wrap was missing spring onions or aroma.   The other famous shop 阜杭豆漿 definitely makes a version which is way superior.   5/10



Fried Turnip and Egg Cake -  蘿蔔絲蛋餅
A signature here.  This was not bad per se,  but nothing in terms of flavours really stood out to be impressive.  It was also a bit too floury and loose.   Definitely worth a try once or twice,  but don’t think anyone will leave too impressed I guess?  ~  7/10




Other Optional foods to pick from -
A little limpy in general if you ask me.  I have also tried Xiao Long Baos here before,  they are also ok edible but barely.



For a Shop which is responsibly and assisted in putting the name of “Yonghe 永和” Suburb onto the Global Presence -
Once again I found the experience to be slightly underwhelming.   Yet local Taiwanese friends love here for some reason and it remains highly rated,  so may be I just don’t feel nostalgic enough to appreciate here?  阜杭豆漿 to me served superior food as an alternative except 1 dish which was better here,  the savory soy bean drink.   Personally,  I did find some of the fake Yonghe shops in China to serve better food too...




Price:   TWD $80-100
Food:  ♕♕1/2 to ♕♕♕
Ease of Access:  1/5  (Need Taxi or Car)

Opening Hours:
24 Hours everyday

Address: 新北市永和區永和路二段284號

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Little London - (Taipei)

I stumbled upon Little London when searching for a famous noodles shop just around the corner.   I love anything to do with London and if you read the welcome sign carefully – it advertises that it not only sells tea and coffee,  but also British culture!   I ventured inside to take a browse and the British owner explained to me how he makes his own sausage rolls,  eccles cake and scones in-house,   he even makes his own clotted cream!   Hardcore.  How can I say No?



Narrow Doorway but you can already tell,
it won’t be a run of the mill ordinary café.




Some of the Ciders and Beers available -
The British owner brings in some artisanal beers as well that aren’t already on this list,
I guess they will be on a 1st come 1st served basis before they run out..



Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale -
Apparently this is a popular style of ale where this is made in UK and I was suggested to have this to see if it matches with the following dessert I ordered.   This beer was definitely different,  it was quite molasse like and thick with raisin notes and nuttiness.  



Imperial Stout also from Samuel Smith’s -
Bought for take-away.   Not as thick and bitter as I had imagined,  it had a slight prune and chinese medicine taste to it.




Eccles Cake with home-made Clotted Cream -
Droollll… with blackcurrant jam inside.  The pastry is buttery enough although a little too flaky-crispy,  almost like a fried curry puff skin and there were sugar crystals on top!   The clotted cream was nice and dense and rich.  Altogether this was enjoyable for this setting and if you remembered the 1st beer above,  they had a similar dark berries tone so it worked together.  ~  7.5/10



Interior is classy -
It will be a great hanging out spot and with home-made British style pastries,  you would wish for one to open in Hong Kong.  Afterall,  Britain used to rule HK but the limited number of shops selling good British food or CULTURE according to here,  is few and far between.  Surprised to find this British café and bar in Taipei instead !




Price:   TWD $200
Food:  ♕♕♕♕
Ease of Access:  3/5 

Address: 台北市大安區延吉街131巷26號B1
No.26,Ln.131,Yanji St.,Daan Dist., Taipei
Ph: +886 2 8772 2477

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Trattoria La Lupa - (Taipei)

  It wasn’t already on my radar to visit this Taipei Italian trattoria,  but since I kept delaying my departure to stay longer in town,  I managed to move hotels 5 times and somehow noticed this self-proclaimed Roman style eatery,  and it is rated fairly highly online.   Italian food to me is so diversified and personally,  it is one of the most less understood cuisines to me.   I blame it on the amount of fake or falsely advertised Italian foods outside of Italy.   Who would have thought a Spaghetti Bolognese is not from Bologna,  or that a traditional Carbonara pasta of Rigatoni or Spaghetti,  doesn’t use cream and normal bacon nor Parmesan,  spring onions or mushrooms?     Since the Italian chef here assured me they are truly Roman styled,  I succumbed and gave away one of my quotas to suss it out.    


Italian Food -Bastardized all over the world.
Italian food to me is one of the most diversified cuisines and since it is super popular,  restaurants all over the world decide to cherry pick only the dishes that customers will expect,  but ends up losing it’s authenticity and regional spirits.   It is like people arriving into Hong Kong and ordering Peking Ducks and think that is the epitome of Chinese food.   But dude,  go to Beijing if you want the real experience as even the duck is carved totally different!




Italian Chef -
He said to me almost in a hostile way as I bombarded him with questions,  that yes he does his Carbonara in the authentic Lazio/Roman way.  I TRUSTED his words…




Porchetta – Roasted Pork Belly and Loin with Herbs Stuffing
This looked ok decent and was dressed in viscous balsamico vinegar.   The deft herbs input was appreciated as many porchettas are nowadays too simplified.   On the minus side this was served totally cold and the skin was a little sticky to the teeth and not crisp enough.   ~   6.9/10




Spaghetti Carbonara -
Chef promised me this is the authentic Lazio recipe.   When this came,  it wasn’t using proper Guanciale pork jowl,  and it had plenty of cream incorporated when the original versions don’t ever require any cream.   At least they remembered to put copious amounts of black pepper on top.   ~  5/10  



Creamy base beneath -
Not much Eggs taste either nor the Pecorino Romano cheese input.  It was mostly about cream.   I am happy to accept there exists many bastardized versions of Italian foods and it can be just precisely that – not authentic but mutations from the original intentions.   But when I spoke to the Italian Chef beforehand and I believed his words,  that this is going to be authentic Roman food,  I can only say you can fool the crowd once or twice -  but it definitely ain’t going to pass my Food Snob Test easily lol.   Another myth busted although to be fair the food tasted alright overall.   




Price:   TWD $300
Food:  ♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕ 1/2
Ease of Access:  2/5  (Closest to MTR Taipei Arena Station 台北小巨蛋站)

Opening Hours:
Tue - Sun: 11:30 am - 2:30 pm, 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Address: 台北市松山區寧安街7巷7號
No. 7, Lane 7, Níng'ān Street, Sōngshān District, Taipei, Taiwan.
Ph: (02) 2570-1860

Monday, June 10, 2013

朱記餡餅粥店 Zhu Ji - (Taipei)

 Taiwanese shops and addresses are hard to navigate around if you don’t command the chinese language.  In this sense,  Hong Kong does have an advantage as there are more English users and the addresses aren’t as confusing to me.   Zhu ji 朱記餡餅 is quite famous for being one of the shops in Taipei which sell a juicy beef-patty filled pancake.  You can find a similar version in Kowloon City in Hong Kong,  but that would be more spiced and halal based than this cleaner tasting version.  The Taipei alternative is more about natural beef sweetness but with an equal abundance of soup within,  and their soup noodles are also one of the best I have tried too and are better than many other well known beef noodle shops.  


They have a few outlets in Taipei alone -
I have been here before and loved it.  I stumbled upon one again so there weren’t really any excuse to not revisit here.  Let’s see if it is still carrying the same standards!



牛肉餡餅 – Beef Pancake
The signature dish here and the shop is named after this.  This visit was as good as my last visit,  it was juicy within but well crispened up on the outside containing shell.   It has more spring onion than the Halal versions served in HK and is less spicier.  I appreciate the natural beef jus and sweetness here as a comparison,  so adorable.   ~ 8/10



Minced Pork and Vinegar with Hand Cut Noodles - 醋醬刀削麵  NTD 90
The noodles here have always been my favourite and after this revisit I still stand by that statement.  They are bouncy but not too gluten chewy nor under-cooked or over-cooked,  about just right.   The minced meat on top was more on the savoury side than I’d imagined for the vinegared menu description.  Overall with the cucumber shreds,  this was still very enjoyable.  ~  8/10



Red Braised Beef in Hand Cut Noodles –  牛肉刀削麵 NTD 140
Served with pickles and vegetables.  Their version here is not meant to be famous apart from their pancakes above – but guess what?  This was so good once again on a revisit and the soup had depth,  the noodles well cooked,  the beef flavourful and tender.   A lot of beef noodles in Taiwan are decent,  but not necessarily amazing!   This version still belonged to the latter to me especially having tried or re-tried some of the best ones in town.  Very addictive and I can’t really think of a better version of Red Braised Beef noodle right now..  Kind of surprising from a pancake shop  ~  9/10




Price:   TWD $300
Food:  ♕♕♕♕♕
Ease of Access:  5/5

Opening Hours:
Mon to Sun 11:00am to 21:00pm

Address:  (Many outlets)

Friday, June 7, 2013

HAAYA’s Coffee - (Taipei)

 I find that I am not so much of a coffee hound these days -  because after chasing after the big names for a while everywhere,  it’s startling how many bad coffees you will still manage end up drinking.  If disappointment is going to set in even with immaculate forward planning,  I might as well visit cafes randomly and hope for a miracle or upside surprise.   Unfortunately while HAAYA’s group might be famous in Taiwan,  the coffees I drank were just slightly north of Starbucks standard.


Japanese themed Café in Taipei -




Reading the so many Single Origin Coffees menu -
It would have you quite excited.  Until… ?




Natural Panama ‘Kotowa’,   Typica & Caturra varietals -
This small farm’s coffee has won 1st Place in Panama competitions and is revered by Japanese brewers,  such as here.  For a hand drip coffee this was very dark and it is not typical for this bean to be so brood and even bordering on bitter,  harsh on the palate.  Can’t detect much sun dried coffee beans typically compacted funky aroma and sweetness either   ~  5/10



Panama La Valentina Geisha -
The above Panama coffee and cultivars was disappointing, so I headed straight to a Panama Geisha variety to form my next baseline of judgment.   This might be a little brighter,  but it was still broody in the back ground.   Seems a little too roasty for me and also took too long to extract,  which brought out bitterness again.  It spoiled the whole cup.   ~  5/10


Kenya Kirimara Bourbon -
On to my 3rd cup,  and this even took levels to a new low and was the worst cup.   It was all ashy and slightly bitter.   Totally different to what I expected reading the farm and it’s information.  ~  3/10



As mentioned in my  4Mano Caffe (Taipei) review:
HAAYA’s Coffee also supplies to them and they have graduated some barista champions and world coffee contenders.  With the benefit of hindsight,  the 4Mano coffee elsewhere turned out to be the best of the HAAYA’S coffee I tried.   With access to some of the best micro-lot batches of coffees in the world,  however, I have not only been not set on fire by HAAYA’S Coffee on this visit,  they somehow managed to curb all of my expectations about good coffees once again..



Price:   TWD $800
Coffee:  ♕♕ 1/2 - ♕♕♕
Ease of Access:  3/5

Address:  105台灣台北市松山區敦化北路307號
GF, Tun Hwa North Road, Taipei 105, TAIWAN
Ph: +886 2 2715 1646

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sadaharu Aoki - (Taipei)

 Sadaharu Aoki might have a Japanese name but it first started in Paris.   My review of my last visits can be found here: Sadaharu Aoki,  Paris.   Surprisingly Taipei also has a few branches – and the to-visit shop is definitely the Regent Hotel outlet as there are some 'Regent Hotel’ specials here.   The pastries and viennoseries are made locally in Taiwan,  whilst the macarons and chocolates are imported from Paris directly. 



1-photo 3 (2)
The Regent Hotel shop -
Has some Taipei only ‘Regent Hotel’ Signatures…   it also changes every year.  
At any time you can order the past 3 years of the Regent signatures.




1-photo 5
Other Pastry Cakes -




Unlike the Paris shop,  you can also order a Sampler platter -
If you want to try out a few flavours all at once.  




2013 Regent Hotel x AOKI Signature Cake -  IVROGNE
Made with Black Currant.  This looks a little like the Cassis one I ate in Paris before.  Quite nice with the berry fruitiness and jellies.  ~  7.5/10




Choux Crème -
Choux pastries are famous in the original Paris Sadaharu Aoki,  especially their unbeatable eclairs.  This choux crème was equally impressive even in the Taipei shop,  very crisp on the outside and the crème patissier was very custardy and full of aroma and vanilla essence.   (I bought some back to HK to share with friends,  but the crème lost it’s fragrance by a factor of around 300%.  The choux obviously got much softer.  It doesn’t travel well…)  ~   10/10




A visit to AOKI -  Always order their Apple Tea
It has caramel in it as well.  The same teas I drank in Paris was better than this however,  this lost a lot of it’s dried apple and tea aroma intensity.  A bit disappointed as the one in Paris is amazing.  ~  6.5/10




Almond Croissant -
The Taipei Aoki cakes visually and by taste, are definitely slightly off Paris’s standards but not by a large margin.   But the viennoseries items here are definitely way worse…   They are not even close in standards.   If Paris items are 9/10 quality,  here it wouldn’t even get a 4/10 from me in comparison.



Matcha,  Earl Grey,  Peach Cinnamon, Salted Macaron -
During 1 trip to Paris,  I actually thought AOKI made the best macaron gerbets.  A later revisit and the shells were a little too hard and too sweet again.   These macarons surprisingly tasted 90% similar to the best of conditions AOKI macarons in Paris.  Seems like they survived the flight!   Yummy.  ~  8/10



Yuzu,  Earl Grey and Genmaicha Macarons (Back to Hong Kong) -
After going from Paris to Taipei and then Hong Kong,  these macarons finally started losing some flavours and the shell hardened up to be crispy.   Sweetness level also increased as flavours begin to evaporate.  But these were still pretty decent,  considering they travelled all around the world.  ~  7/10



Lemon Tart -
The lemon curd was very good and tangy,  it could do with a bit of lime flavour as well though.  The pastry shell was too hard however.   Liked this except for the short crust pastry.    ~  7.5/10




Caramel and Matcha Cake -
The texture of this was good but AOKI’s tray cakes are getting a little tired for me personally.  The matcha flavour was there but could still be stronger to offset the caramel.   ~  7/10



Caramel & Pear Tart (Front) -
I love pears in cakes,  this seems to be a version I haven’t seen on Paris side.  Pretty tasty and the fruit cooked just right.   ~  8/10




Salted Caramel Tart -
One of the AOKI Signatures.  This was quite salty and the caramel was just right and not bitter,  but somehow reminded me more of butterscotch.   The tart pastry was better than the lemon tart above too.   ~  8.5/10




1-photo 2 (1)
Fraise Éclair -
The macarons here due to flying in from Paris will suffer slightly but I was still surprised they were nearly as good as the original,  though carrying them back to HK they definitely started to deteriorate.   Certain items here are definitely not as good as the Paris stores – this éclair looked quite dry and crackly in comparison.  The croissants and breads were quite a way off the original.  But having said that,  I was generally happy with the sweets section!




Price:   TWD $500
Food:   ♕♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕♕♕
Ease of Access:  4/5

Opening Hours:
Mon to Sun  11:00am to 21:00pm

Address:  台北晶華酒店, 台北市中山區中山北路二段41號B2
Ph: 2511-5000


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