Thursday, March 18, 2010

Taipei March 2010 - Day 2 (More Food Please ... )

Day 1 of my recent Taipei trip was mostly about experiencing the culture by eating my way through it and Day 2 would be pretty much the same. Taiwan was Japanese's first colony during the period from between 1895 to 1945 and its social and culinary cultures have been under much influence up til today. It is quite normal to find many Japanese restos in town with some claiming to be authentic while some are Taiwanese-styled Japanese cuisines which I am yet to try.

For lunch I went to one that claimed to be authentic I think. I wasn't quite sure how authentic it was but all I knew was that their stuff was pretty good and sashimi was extremely fresh! Before I get to there let me start from the moment I got up! HAHA ... My mom and I took a different travel plan so she got up way too early around 7am to head to somewhere far with my aunt while I continued to sleep until 10am. To my surprise, I found a bowl of Flour Rice Noodle 麵線 on the desk! It consisted of plenty of yummy pig intestine and cockles (鮮蚶), yum yum! but the "soup" was rather too thick and flavors were not strong enough but it was satisfying as the first thing in the morning! :) ... ooops, time to brush my teeth!

So after breakfast (and a cup of espresso from the Nespresso machine), it was time for lunch! Instead of taking the taxi, my cousin V and I decided to take public transportation instead. As mentioned, to understand a culture, one has to try to live like a local as much as possible! (scooter would have been my choice if I can get my hands on one!)

One of the first thing one would realize when taking the bus was that in most part of Taipei, buses travel in the middle of the road on a isolated lane! If that can be applied in Hong Kong, would that solve or at least improve the traffic conditions? Possibly! The payment system seems pretty complicated with different payment depending on the travel distance (or sections).

After a short ride, we walked towards our destination. Argh ... really hated the rain especially when I was on holidays!

Wow, street food vendors started working around 11am already!

We arrived a bit too early so ended up at the coffee shop across from the resto. (Honey Coffee on No 49 Nong an St, Taipei)

This place brews their coffee using the vacuum coffee making method and the Batista took her time to make each cup. I ordered a stronger Manhattan blend? (as translated). While strong and intense, it was on the acidic side. Oh did I mention the little milk tin was very cute???

The lunch was held at Mitsui Japanese Restaurant and the group has several outlets with varying theme and decor, definitely maybe worth visiting in my opinion.

My cousins (and her lovely friend W - "it was my pleasure meeting you indeed") ordered a different set lunches than I did. Their was TWD1,000 and consisted of the following items.

Delicious? Oh yes! I order the TWD1,600 set and consisted of the following items. Just look at the uni! OMG! I was speechless when it was served. After the short silence, it was exciting!

The sashimi platter was a little different than theirs with different types of fish, very fresh too!

Lobster was alright, no surprises though.

The following was a steamed fish wrapped with bean curd sheet and it tasted wonderful with the soup containing a rich and intense fish flavors.

Some kind of baked minced fish, interesting texture with rich flavors.

The beef were tender, juicy and soft with an excellent beefy taste to them. Wagyu beef if you ask me.

I was pretty full by now but I still have the soup and dessert. Wow the soup container looked like a piece of art with the colors and it being so spherical. It was a fish clear soup which I really enjoyed especially especially at the end of the meal. Very comforting indeed.

Dessert was simple with green tea ice cream and some fruits.; simple yet very satisfying indeed!


Our next few stops included the new Bella Vista shopping mall and Taipei 101. I wanted to visit Bella Vista because of the buzz I have been hearing about it recently especially with the SALON DE THE de Joel Robuchon Tea Salon on its 3rd floor. To be honest, I find both Bella Vista and Taipei 101 rather BORING! They are just another luxury malls around town, nothing really exciting. According to what I was told, the owner of Bella Vista initially asked her father to invest into her little project of opening a cafe but her generous father gave her this piece of land (and a pile of cash for development) as well. This is one huge cafe indeed! [this is what I heard ...]

It was raining pretty hard outside on this particular evening and we really did not want to head out to find places so we decided to just stay inside Taipei 101 for dinner. We initially wanted to try the their food court which was huge compared to Hong Kong's but it was so crowded at 6pm already!

Look what I found! Dunkin Donuts! So tempted to grab a donuts before dinner but perhaps I should wait.

One would expect most food being offered here would be targeted for tourists and I would have to agree to a certain extend. However, there are still several places that offer semi-traditional Taiwanese cuisine. At least they have items that were new to me. We went to the only Chinese resto on the 4/F of Taipei 101 named Jiu Ru 九如 which specialized not only on Shanghainese cuisine but also some Taiwanese traditional dishes as well.

From Life as a Bon Vivant

We picked a few cold appetizer which included smoked fish, "smoked vegi duck" aka smoked bean curd roll and honey glazed lappa burdock (牛蒡) roots which was worth trying indeed for its crunchy yet gluey texture!

Only reason I ordered the Fried Vegetables with Tree Seed (山蘇) was because of the Tree Seed which I had no idea what it was. Apparent it tasted just like many other simialr greens common used by Chinese.

Another first for me was the Baked Mullet Roe with Garlic Sprout (烏魚子) which was very salty and texture was like preserved ham. This delicacy is famous in Taiwan and the supply is decreasing due to the disputes of the sea boarder with neighbouring countries as well as failure in controlling the already depleting reserves.

Deep Fried Pork Intestine was not for everyone especially with the overly visible fatty layers. The outer layer was crunchy and the placement of the green onion inside the intestine was great, giving every bite a more balanced flavors. I skipped the pepper salt because I didn't want to dehydrate myself!

Double Boiled Chciken soup with Yunnan Ham, Bamboo Shoots and Bean Curd Roll was alright, no surprises. Flavors of soup can be more rich in my opinion.

Another not for everyone kind of dish, it was the Deep Fried Frog Leg with Fragrant Salt which I enjoyed very much. Tasted like chicken but it was too dry could have been more juicy I think.

Deep Fried Buns looked nice but they were too hollow inside and very dry as well even after dipping into the condensed milk.

I really think I have two stomachs because otherwise there was just no way I can fit so many food inside me! No more food for tonight because I was literally stuffed! But guess what, I went down to the Hotel Lounge area later that night to grab some fruits ... I think my digestive system is in pretty good shape :)

We actually went to bed quite early (with a full stomach of course) because we got to get out at 8am on Day 3! It was an outing event to Yiland 宜蘭 (an hour drive from Taipei) for lunch! Zzzzz ... time to sleep!

Day 1 >> Taipei March 2010 - Day 1 (Eat, Eat and ... Eat)
Day 2 >> Taipei March 2010 - Day 2 (More Food please ... )
Day 3 >> Taipei March 2010 - Day 3 (I have a 3rd Stomach!)
Day 4 >> Taipei March 2010 - Day 4 (More Food and Cuties Spotted!)

Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4

- End of Day 2 -


Beef No Guy said...

Yeah Taipei's public transit is quite convenient, they have this "yoh yoh" card which is similar to Hong Kong's Octopus card, you can use it anywhere (even at Taipei Zoo). Bella Vista must be brand new as I didn't even hear about it until over a month ago (I was last in Taipei 12/09), will have to check that out next time. 101 is probably only fun during New Year's Eve when you watch fireworks shoot out the side of the building, but I agree, nothing memorable.

Jason said...

@BeefNoGuy: I was rather confused with how one has to pay first upon entry or pay upon departure depending how far you are traveling on the bus because of the different fares. (and the opening of both exits vs just the front ... HAHA)

yeah! I think Bella Vista opened soon after your last visit. It is just another upscale mall + office + residence if I am correct. (have to confirm on that one)

Isabella Pang said...

We went to Mitsui Japanese Restaurant as well when we were in Taiwan in was AMAZING! Foie gras AND uni in the same yummy! The sashimi was so the sashimi we get here in California! So good!!!

Beef No Guy said...

Isabella, it's definitely no comparison. Taiwan/Taipei is so much closer to Japan with regards to importing fish, probably 4 to 5 hours flight vs 13 to 16 between JPN and CA/USA. On top of that, Taipei is within easy reach to local seafood (prawns, salmon, tuna, swordfish, even needlefish) and it easily surpasses California's or Pacific Northwest USA.

Mitsui was also recommended to me by at least 4 to 5 other food friends who have been there. It's a nice balance of traditional, fusion, with a upscale feel. Japanese food in Taipei is generally of a very high standard, whether it is localized, izakaya, ramen.

Beef No Guy said...

Also, NT$600 more and you get kinmedai 金目鯛, toro, uni in the sashimi course? That's a nice upgrade!

Jason said...

@BeefNoGuy & @Isabella, compared with Hong Kong, the price and quality ratio of Japanese cuisine in Taipei is extremely good!

I heard that the Taiwanese-styled Japanese cuisine is another must try category in Taipei and I am yet to give it a try ...

Jin said...

i LOVE mitsui! and not just because it takes me 2 minutes to walk there from where we live. everything is so fresh and beautifully presented. next time, try their sushi bar across the main restaurant for a different experience. the place is tiny but you see the chefs in action and they'll make you whatever you want. it's very personalised. :)

and nong an street market?? that's the reason why i never learned to cook in taiwan. i'm on first name basis with all my favorite vendors there! hahaha!

Jason said...

@Jin: Next time I go, can I just tell the vendor I am a friend of Jin's and get an extra scoop of everything??? HAHA

S.Cheung said...

Very niceeeeeeee.


Nice write-up of everything! Can't wait to see the rest of the 2 Day's reviews :P

1,600 btw, for that meal at Mitsui is quite affordable!

I think my Omakase course at night was like 3,200 or thereabouts. Had not a piece of Uni in it, only some good quality Toro and the triangular top cut of the Kama-toro (grilled). Ended up paying like TWD500 for an extra Urchin Handroll! (Great though!) :P

Jason said...

arhg @Babedophin you just made me want to return sooner than I should!

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