Category Archives: 3 hearts

mexican: juanita burritos & tacos

outside of juanita.

date april 15, 2013

contact No. 51-1, Lane 160, Sec. 1, Dunhua S. Rd., Daan Dist., Taipei City/台北市大安區敦化南路一段160巷51-1號/02.2752.7576

hours 7 days a week 11:00-22:00

price <300NT

rating ♥♥♥ (3 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing Station or MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua Station (捷運忠孝復興站或捷運忠孝敦化站)

All pictures taken with my iPhone 4S.

While sitting at the hair salon with my friend Val, we decided that Mexican food sounded really good. Having seen a post on Juanita Burritos & Tacos on Hungry Girl’s blog, we figured we’d give it a shot.

Disclaimer: Val grew up on homemade Mexican food (as in her dad handmade tortillas as a kid) and I’m from San Diego (basically Mexico); therefore, in terms of Mexican food, we’re hard to impress. With that said, we might be harsher than your average customer.

Juanita’s is located pretty much right in between MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing and MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua. If you get off at Fuxing, you’ll need to head NE out of Exit 4; if you get off at Dunhua, you’ll need to head NW out of Exit 8. In one of the many alleys filled with food, drinks, and clothes in the dongqu (東區) area, Juanita’s is located in Lane 160 off Dunhua S. Rd. (the alley where Sugar & Spice is located).

Upon entering our first impression was, this place is Chipotle. I remember a while back a Mexican restaurant named Oola had opened in Gongguan (公館) that was Chipotle-style as well; however, it has since closed. I never got to try Oola, but it seems like the Chipotle-style Mexican food thing is the way people are going in Taipei.

inside of juanita.

Juanita is pretty new, opened less than a year ago, so everything is still pretty shiny and new looking. Note: the chairs, while they look cool, are terribly uncomfortable. Whoever thought metal chairs with giant holes in them would be comfortable to sit in needs to revisit their idea of comfort.

menu at juanita as of april 2013.

The menu: just like Chipotle you start by choosing whether you want a burrito (波麗多捲), burrito bowl (墨式風味蓋飯), salad (墨西哥沙拉), or tacos (塔可; 1 for 70NT or 3 for 180NT). Then you choose your filler: grilled chicken (碳烤雞肉), steak (碳烤牛排), carnitas (卡尼塔燉豬肉), barbacoa (燉辣牛肉絲), or vegetarian (蔬食). Lastly, almost exactly like Chipotle you get the choices of cilantro-lime rice, pinto or black beans, salsa, cheese, sour cream, romaine lettuce, and guacamole (for 40NT extra).

Comimos:
– Grilled Chicken Burrito (碳烤雞肉波麗多捲) 170NT
– Carnitas Burrito Bowl (卡尼塔燉豬肉墨式風味蓋飯) 170NT
– Juanita Fries (混你塔薯條) 140NT

grilled chicken burrito (碳烤雞肉波麗多捲) 170NT

Val was up first. She opted for the grilled chicken burrito for 170NT. The grilled chicken was described as “free range chicken, marinated in our original Mexican sauce and grilled.”  The burrito itself is a decent size-ish, but Val was saddened by the stinginess of the ingredients: the scoops were tiny and hardly any meat was put in. The grilled chicken itself was a bit dry, which was disappointing. Also, Val specifically asked the guy behind the counter if the black beans were hard, and he assured her they weren’t, but alas, they kind of were. Regardless, Val thought that the burrito was good enough to satisfy her craving.

carnitas burrito bowl (卡尼塔燉豬肉墨式風味蓋飯) 170NT

I decided on the carnitas burrito bowl for 170NT. The carnitas were described as “naturally raised pork, seasoned with various spices, seared, then braised for hours until fall-apart tender.” Like Val, I was disappointed by the amount of ingredients I got. The carnitas were quite disappointing as well…they were kind of tough, kind of dry, pretty stringy, not very flavorful, definitely not “fall-apart tender” as they claim. Basically they were all the things you don’t want your carnitas to be. In terms of salsa, I opted for the spicy salsa, which was rather spicy, which I liked. I also added guacamole, which is supposed to be 40NT, but I was only charged 20NT? I don’t know, I’m not complaining, a little confused maybe, but a discount is a discount? I did quite enjoy their guacamole; it was pretty fresh tasting and rather delicious. All the other ingredients were pretty so-so, nothing was particularly great or terrible.

juanita fries (混你塔薯條) 140NT

Outside of the restaurant there was a chalk board with some specials on it. Among them was the Juanita fries for 140NT. We figured anything with the namesake should be ordered, so we got an order. After thinking about it, they kind of reminded me of animal-style fries from In N Out, as they had some kind of grilled onion relish deal, “special sauce” and some “premium melted cheddar cheese”. Okay, let’s be real, people, the “premium melted cheddar cheese” tasted like regular ole’ nacho cheese sauce. Either way, the fries were tasty, would have made great drunk food.

specials and ad.

The overall consensus was that Juanita is okay. If you’re really craving Mexican food, it’s good enough to satisfy a craving, just don’t come with expectations of amazing authentic Mexican cuisine, not that Chipotle is either, but at least Chipotle isn’t stingy with their ingredients, nor is their meat dry. However, on the plus, Juanita is affordable and the food is decent enough. We’ve decided maybe we’ll go back to Juanita and try the other meats, give them a second shot. Until then, Juanita,  you are a-okay, but that’s about it.

vietnamese: yinzuo vietnamese cuisine (銀座越南美食)

date july 17, 2012

contact No. 6, Alley 4, Lane 286, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Rd., Zhongzheng District, Taipei City/台北市中正區羅斯福路3段286 巷4弄6號/02.2369.1733

hours 7 days a week [lunch] 11:00-14:00 (14:30 on weekends) :: [dinner] 17:00-21:00 (closed two random days a month)

price <300NT

rating ♥♥♥ (3 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt MRT Gongguan Station Exit 4 (捷運公館站4號出口)

All pictures taken with my iPhone 4S.

I’ve passed by Yinzuo Vietnamese Cuisine many many times, as it’s located two doors from Sawasdee, one of my favorite cheap go to Thai places in Taipei, and every time I think, “I need to try this place.” I finally did.

Undecided on what to eat, Erin and I decided we wanted Vietnamese and this was the nearest place I could think of to my apartment.

Usually when I pass by Yinzuo on my way to Sawasdee it’s pretty full. The random Tuesday night we went was no exception, although the turnover seems pretty quick so I doubt a wait would be long. The inside of Yinzuo is clean enough, pretty typical for the mom and pop type restaurants in the Gongguan/NTU area. Tables here are pretty close together so it might feel like you’re eating with the party next to you, we know we did.

At the back of the restaurant is a self serve area with soup, sauces, and extra tableware/utensils. We didn’t get any soup, but it looked like pretty standard seaweed soup.

Like most of the restaurants in the Gongguan/NTU area, the menu is all in Chinese. Their menu is divided into sections (from top to bottom): appetizers, cold dishes, noodle dishes, rice dishes, and beverages.

Each table has a picture menu under the glass as well. While not all items are pictured, a large majority are. Note that there is no English on this picture menu.

Food:
– Cold rice noodles with chicken (涼拌雞絲米粉) 90NT
– Cold rice noodles with BBQ pork (涼拌烤豬肉米粉) 100NT
– Fried spring roll (越皮炸春卷) 85NT

We decided to get an appetizer of the fried spring rolls (越皮炸春卷) for 85NT. One order comes with two spring rolls that have been cut into three, for a total of six tasty pieces. The skin on these spring rolls is nice and thin and fried so that it’s crispy; they are filled with a noodle, pork, and vegetable mix; very tasty. Be sure to dip it in the accompanying fish sauce mixture.

I opted for the cold rice noodles with BBQ pork ((涼拌烤豬肉米粉) for 100NT. For 100NT you get a bowl of cold rice noodles (米粉) topped with BBQ pork, slices of cucumber, shredded carrots, and crushed peanuts. The fish sauce concoction that usually accompanies cold noodle Vietnamese dishes is added before the dish comes out to you. Overall I thought this was good, but not particularly awesome. There was something a little bland about the fish sauce mix, which is strange to me because fish sauce usually has such a strong flavor. The BBQ pork itself was pretty good and the dish comes with a decent amount. All together I guess there was just a certain something lacking in the sauce to noodle to topping ratio that would have made this awesome. Still though, pretty good.

Erin decided to get the cold rice noodles with chicken (涼拌雞絲米粉) for 90NT. With the chicken comes some sliced cucumber, shredded carrots, and peanuts. She had the same thoughts I did about my food: good, but lacking something.

According to the menu, their signature dish is chicken curry (咖喱雞), but for some reason neither of us got it so maybe I should go back and try it. Overall, for the price the food here is pretty decent. There are definitely other things on the menu that looked good and this place is always busy, which is a good sign. Maybe I’ll go back and try something different.

western: nonzero (非零)

date may 06, 2012

contact No.5, Alley 4, Ln. 27, Sec. 4, Ren Ai Rd., Daan District, Taipei City/台北市大安區仁愛路四段27巷4弄5號/02.2772.1630

hours 7 days a week :: [lunch] 11:30-14:30 :: [afternoon tea] 14:30-16:30 :: [dinner] 18:00-21:30

price [dinner] 900NT-1500NT + 10% service charge

rating ♥♥ (3 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT (捷運忠孝復興站)

website http://www.nonzero.com.tw (Chinese and English)

Sorry for the delay in posts. My dad unexpectedly and suddenly passed away on January 26, 2012… I immediately took the first flight back to the States. As a result, I was back in California for the last three months with my mom.

Upon returning to Taiwan a good friend of my mine was getting ready to move back to California. As one of her last meals we ended up at Nonzero (非零), located a short walk from exit 3 of Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station (捷運忠孝復興站) at the Renai-Fuxing S. Rd. intersection (仁愛復興南路口).

The inside of Nonzero is very homey and spacious. The wood tables have mismatched wooden chairs that adds some charm to the place. The decor is also very thrift store-eclectic, which really appeals to my aesthetic.

The menu at Nonzero has three set meals priced at 900NT, 1200NT, and 1500NT; they also have items al la carte. I chose to get the 900NT set meal, which included bread, soup, salad, main course, dessert, and coffee/tea. Ashley chose the 1200NT set meal, which came with the same items plus an appetizer.

First thing out was the bread. There were two types, one of which was a rosemary bread that was the table favorite. Bread was warm and fresh. A good start.

Next came the soups, which were served in these pretty pots. My soup was the Radish with Potato Nutmeg Soup (白玉蘿蔔香料洋芋濃湯) (top right). I thought it was nice and light. There was nice little dollop of creme fraiche on top that added a nice creaminess to it. Ashley’s set came with Chicken Thigh with Chayote and Mushroom Soup (土雞肉佛手瓜蕈菇蔬菜湯) (top left). The broth was pretty good, nice and light. The kind of soup that would be great for a cold winter day.

Following the soups we were presented with a complementary appetizer. The waitress described it as chicken with chicken liver accompanied with pickles and tomatoes. I’m not a huge fan of chicken liver, but this wasn’t bad. Best bite was all three ingredients together.

Salads were next. My salad was a simple Green Salad with Vinaigrette (季節生菜新鮮香草沙拉) (top right). The salad was okay, nothing special. One of our friends thought it was overdressed and a little too acidic. Ashley’s salad was the High Altitude Cabbage Salad with Caraway Seeds (茴香籽高麗菜生菜沙拉) (top right). I only had a little bite and thought it was okay; Ashley enjoyed it.

Ashley’s meal came with Pan Fried Fresh Prawns (煎烤東北角鮮蝦 佐 烤味噌筊白筍). These were very good, nice and tender, kind of melt in your mouth.

The 900NT set comes with two main course choices: pan fried market fresh fish and risotto with wild scallops, tomatoes, and asparagus. I went with the Risotto with wild scallops, tomatoes, and asparagus (加拿大野生干貝蕃茄蘆筍燉飯). I liked the flavor of this, but I personally found the rice to be a little underdone. After watching many seasons of Top Chef, I’ve learned that some chefs (i.e. Sarah from season 9) cook their rice a little more under than others. Two out of three of my scallops were cooked well (not perfect, though) and one was a little over. I’d say this was okay, not great, not bad. I’ve definitely had much better risotto in Taipei.

Both the 900NT set and 1200NT set have Pan Fried Market Fresh Fish (市場現流鮮魚) as an option for the main course. Ashley decided to go with it. The waitress asked what kind of fish she liked, so they must have several options. What she ended up with was a white fish, although I’m not sure what kind. She thought it was pretty good.

By far the standout of the night was the dessert. Each set comes with a dessert, chef’s choice. They had three desserts that night, which was perfect since there was three of us, so they gave us one of each. The desserts for the night were a fruit tartcheese cake, and chocolate hazelnut tart. The presentation of the desserts was really nice, very pretty. The fruit tart was pretty good. There was a lemony cake layer that was pretty tasty. The chocolate hazelnut tart was rich and creamy; I liked it a lot. However, the best thing of the night was the cheesecake.

If there are any Friends fans out there, I imagine the cheesecake from Mama’s Little Bakery, Chicago, Illinois to taste like this cheesecake. Light, creamy, and amazingly delicious. Seriously, one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever had, and I’m not just talking in Taiwan. This cheesecake isn’t a traditional cheesecake, it’s much lighter in texture, but it’s creamy, cheesy, and pure awesomeness.

The meal ended with your choice of coffee or tea. I went with a latte (拿鐵). It was pretty standard, but I did like the pretty heart in my foam.

Overall, I’m a little middle of the line with this place. I thought the food was decent, but nothing particularly stood out, except for the cheese cake that is. I don’t know that I would ever crave anything (other than the cheese cake) from Nonzero again. I think the service was good, and the price for the overall meal was okay, but the food itself wasn’t special, not bad, just not memorable.

italian: casa della pasta (義麵坊)

date october 15, 2011

contact No. 218, Sec. 2, Jinshan S. Rd., Daan District, Taipei City/台北市大安區金山南路二段218號/02.3393.2518

hours 7 days a week [lunch] 12:00-14:00 [dinner] 18:00-22:00

price <300NT (+10% service charge; 150NT per person minimum)

rating ♥♥ (3 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Guting MRT (捷運古亭站)

website http://www.capasta.com.tw (Chinese and English Only)

I’ve been eating a lot of Italian lately…

Ron called me for dinner and said he wanted pasta. I don’t know of a lot of pasta places around Guting, but Ron had passed by Casa Della Pasta on Jinshan Rd. (金山路) near Shida (師大) so we decided to try it out.

Casa Della Pasta (Shida Store) is located right next door to Roxy 99 and Twiice Night Club (formerly 9%). According to their business card they have 4 locations in Taipei.

On a Saturday night at 8pm the restaurant was pretty full, but we didn’t need a reservation for two and were immediately seated. The inside of Casa Della Pasta is pretty nice: pretty cute and homey, nice place for a date maybe. There is a large window at the back of the restaurant into the kitchen so you can see what’s going on. They also have some Halloween/fall decorations up to add some festive zest.

The menu has a lot of variety. I saw pizza, salad, risotto, gnocchi, and other mains in addition to the long list of pasta. All of their pastas come with the choice of spaghetti (細麵) or penne (管麵). You can also make your meal a set meal for an extra 90NT. I think the set meal come with salad and a drink, but I’m not sure; Ron and I both chose to just order a la carte. I asked the waitress for a recommendation and she suggested the Smoked Salmon with Cream Sauce (煙燻鮭魚奶油麵) for 155NT, which she noted is their signature dish. Ron and I both decided to try it.

I liked this dish. The cream sauce was pretty light and they weren’t heavy handed with it, which I liked. The sauce had a nice garlicy taste to it, but wasn’t overpowering. The smoked salmon cooks a little while on the hot pasta. The waitress told us when ordering this that the salmon would not be cooked all the way, which to me was a given, but nice to be warned just in case. The pasta was cooked well; a nice al dente. I’m pretty sure both the pasta and smoked salmon are not made in house. The pasta didn’t taste like it was freshly made and for 155NT I doubt it is. There was also a small piece of french bread and shredded parmesan that accompanied the pasta. Overall, pretty tasty. I’d get it again.

For the price this place isn’t bad. I’m curious about their meat sauce because that’s usually what ends up being most disappointing at Italian restaurants in Taiwan. The service was good and one of the waiters speaks very good English for those who don’t really speak Mandarin.

In comparison with Luna D’Italia and Papa Gio’ this place is less authentic and less fancy, but the price reflects that. I’d say the average meal at Casa Della Pasta only costs around 300NT if you decide to get the set meal, cheaper if you order a la carte like we did. Would I come back here? Yeah, I’d give it another go. Was it super spectacular? Not really, but it’s good enough.

western/american: forkers

date september 14, 2011

contact No.8, Alley 10, Ln. 223. Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Daan District, Taipei City/台北市大安區忠孝東路四段223巷10弄8號/02.2771.9285

hours 7 days a week 12:00-23:00

price 300NT-600NT

rating ♥♥ (3 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT or Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT(捷運忠孝復興站或捷運忠孝敦化站)

website http://www.forkers.com.tw/ (Chinese and English)

I’ve heard about Forkers and passed by it several times, but just never found a time to go. Since we were in the area we ended up at Forkers to get out of the rain.

Forkers has two stores: the Zhongxiao store (where we went) and the Zhongshan store (No. 15, Ln. 16, Sec. 2, Zhongshan N. Rd., Zhongshan District, Taipei City/台北市中山區中山北路二段16巷15號). The Zhongxiao store is located between Zhongxiao Fuxing (忠孝復興) and Zhongxiao Dunhua (忠孝敦化) MRT stations.

The inside of Forkers is nice and seats a decent amount of people. It has a nice laidback atmosphere. We ended up there on a Friday night and didn’t need reservations.

They have menus both in English and Chinese. They originally gave us all Chinese menus, but Michael was being lazy and requested an English menu, which we all ended up looking at anyways.

All of their burgers come with two sides and a drink. They have a list of sides you can choose from on the menu that range from a garden salad  to cajun fries to macaroni salad. Between the four of us we ordered:
– The Hack Burger (海客漢堡) 290NT
– The Monster Burger (漢堡怪獸) 270NT
– The Mexican Burger (墨西哥漢堡) 270NT
– Creamy Bacon Burger (酸奶培根漢堡) 280NT
– Dijon Dill Potato Salad (蘿勒馬鈴薯沙拉)
– Hawaiian Pasta Salad (夏威夷沙拉麵)
– Salad of the Day (每日特製沙拉)
– Cajun Fries (紐奧良薯條)
– Hand cut Fries (手工薯條)
– Garlic Fries (蒜味薯條)
– Strawberry Chocolate Cheesecake (草莓巧克力起司蛋糕) 140NT

First things to come out were the “salads”.

Michael got the Dijon Dill Potato Salad (蘿勒馬鈴薯沙拉). No one really got any hint of dijon at all, but we did all get a lot of dill. Like, a lot of dill. I personally liked that there wasn’t much mayonnaise in it since I don’t like mayo, but other than that, this was mostly just mashed potatoes with dill.I decided to attempt the Salad of the Day (每日特製沙拉) which ended up being some sort of beet and green bean salad. I don’t generally like beets, but this salad wasn’t bad. It tasted like it had been tossed in some sort of creamy dressing, but I couldn’t really pin point what kind.

So the dijon was missing from the dijon dill potato salad, but it was not missing from the Hawaiian Pasta Salad (夏威夷沙拉麵). Nothing really made this “Hawaiian” except for the random pineapple thrown on top. This wasn’t great.

Michael ordered The Hack Burger  (海客漢堡) for 290NT and got Cajun Fries. The Hack Burger is described as “Crazy like the man. This burger is topped with cheese, chicken finger slices, bacon and smothered with honey mustard sauce.” This burger looked intense. I didn’t try any, but Mike said he liked it. I liked the cajun fries the best of all the fries. Salty and seasoned, but that’s kind of how I like my fries.

Kelvin opted for The Mexican Burger (墨西哥漢堡) for 270NT with regular fries. The Mexican Burger is described as “Fajita spices, sauteed onions & peppers, guacamole, cheese, jalapenos, salsa and FORKERS burger sauce.” Kelvin said he liked it, but that it was spicier than he expected, which I’m guessing was from the jalapenos.

Will went with the Creamy Bacon Burger (酸奶培根漢堡) 280NT. This burger was described as “A flavour explosion with cheddar cheese, bacon, crisp onion strips, sour cream, lettuce, onion, tomato and Forkers burger sauce.” The description sounded pretty good and Will said that he thought it was pretty good.

I got The Monster Burger (漢堡怪獸) for 270NT with garlic fries. The Monster Burger was described as “Spicy Red Hot sauce, blue cheese, fried onions, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and creamy ranch dressing.” What ultimately made me get this burger was that it was supposed to be spicy, had blue cheese, and fried onions. I thought this burger was okay. I actually don’t remember there being ranch dressing on this…which is sad because I love ranch dressing. This burger was in no way spicy at all, which was disappointing. Also, I could have used more onions. I did like that they use wheat buns, but overall I found the meat patty itself to be rather average. It wasn’t as juice as a good burger should be. The garlic fries were not really garlicy. I was hoping they’d be more like garlic fries you’d get at Gordon Biersch with minced garlic. Instead I think they just powder on some garlic salt/powder.

Will and I decided we needed to order dessert, so we decided on the Strawberry Chocolate Cheesecake (草莓巧克力起司蛋糕) for 140NT. I’m kind of always on the search for good cheesecake, unfortunately this did not fall into that category. I found the cheesecake to be dense and dry. Also, if you describe something as strawberry cheesecake I want more than tiny specks of strawberry in the cake itself. They put two sauces on the plate. STAY AWAY FROM THE GREEN SAUCE! When we got it we were like, what is this. Mint. It’s mint sauce. Personally, I don’t think sweet minty sauce goes with strawberry chocolate cheesecake at all, and my friends agreed. I think the other sauce was a raspberry sauce, which I like, but the raspberry completely overpowers the already light strawberry flavor of the cheesecake.

Overall, I thought Forkers was okay. I love a great burger, and I don’t know that I’d classify Forkers as great, but it’s not bad either. Just average I guess. It would not be my first choice for a burger in Taipei, but at the same time I wouldn’t be opposed to coming back to Forkers.

bar/lounge: dazzling champagne dining bar

date september 17, 2011

contact No. 28, Songshou Rd., Xinyi District, Taipei City (enter through the first floor of Neo19 on Songren Rd.)/台北市信義區松壽路28號(Neo19一樓請由松仁路入口進場)/02.2723-0068

hours Sunday-Tuesday & Thursday 17:30-01:00 :: Wednesday & Friday-Saturday 17:30-02:30

price 300NT and up

rating ♥♥♥ (3 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Taipei City Hall MRT (捷運市政府站)

website http://www.dazzlingdazzling.com (Chinese Only)

I realized that I’ve never done a review for a bar/lounge. So here it is. I ended up at Dazzling Champagne randomly with friends on Saturday night. After trying to figure out where to go we ended up at Neo19 and then at Dazzling Champagne.

Dazzling Champagne is located at Neo19 near the entrance to the club Room 18 on Songshou Rd. (松壽路) and is right next to In House; it is at the old location of Roxy Roots. For those who have enjoyed honey toast at Dazzling Cafe, this is the bar/lounge branch of the Dazzling chain and has just recently opened up.

The bar at Dazzling Champagne runs along the entire back wall of the premises. They seem to have a decent selection of alcohol, which is displayed along the wall. They also have Hoegaarden and Guinness on tap.

There is a decent amount of space inside the bar/lounge. Lots of tables and a lot of standing room. I’m not sure what the minimum is for a table, or if they have one since it is also a restaurant, but all the tables were full when we were there.

The DJ is right at the entrance. I’m not sure if the area in front of the DJ is supposed to be a dance floor or if patrons just turned it into one. The music on Saturday night was a house/hip-hop mix. Not bad, not great. It was loud, which doesn’t make Dazzling Champagne a great place to sit and have a conversation, but then again most popular lounges aren’t.

They have drink menus strewn about the bar top that are tiny and cute. Inside the menu are all their signature drinks, which are all girl names, with pictures, prices, and drink ingredients. All of their specialty drinks ranged from 300NT to 450NT. After already having a few gin based drinks at Marquee, I decided to stick with gin and ended up with Christina for 350NT. Christina is made up of Hendrick’s Gin (one of my favorite gins), Cointreau, lemon juice, grapefruit juice and a sprig of rosemary for 350NT. I thought the drink was okay. I didn’t really get much of the grapefruit flavor, which was kind of disappointing. Also, I think the rosemary was just there for looks because I didn’t get anything from the sprig that was placed in my drink. I did like that this drink was not very sweet, more citrus because I don’t like sweet drinks (I’m more of a savory girl). With all that said, I don’t know that I’d ever feel the need to get this drink again. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great. It was just another drink.

Michael ended up with Jennifer which had Stoli vodka, Japanese green tea, and simple syrup. Jennifer is the cheapest drink on their specialty drinks menu at 300NT. I personally was not a fan. It was too sweet for my liking, but then again I generally drink dirty gin martini’s. The drink itself was a pretty intense looking green. It looked like they used matcha green tea powder because it tasted like it, too. However, Michael and his friend thought the drink was okay. I would say that if you like sweet drinks and like green tea flavoring this is the drink for you.

They have a lot of food on the menu, some of which sounds kind of interesting. Starters ranged from around 200NT to 1000NT. The entrees looked like they ranged from about 500NT-1500NT.

Overall I thought that Dazzling Champagne was okay. The guys got two tequila shots (house tequila looked like El Jimador), which came out to be 500NT (250NT a shot). I noticed that at the bottom of their menu they had this warning, “According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. Excessive drinking endangers health.” Pretty sure they swiped this from some American product. Anyways, I don’t know that I’d ever feel like I needed to come back to Dazzling Champagne, although they did have several champagne cocktails that looked good. Specialty drinks ranged from 300NT to 450NT. If you’re looking for something divey, this is not the bar for you. If you’re looking for something more trendy and popular, this place is kind of cool to check out.

western/dessert: melange cafe (米朗琪咖啡館)

date august 31, 2011

contact No. 23, Ln. 16, Sec. 2, Zhongshan N. Rd., Zhongshan District, Taipei City/台北市中山區中山北路二段16巷23號/02.2567.3787

hours Store 1: Weekdays 07:30-22:00 / Weekends 09:30-22:00 :: Store 2: Everyday 09:30-22:00 :: Last call 40 minutes before closing.

price <300NT (10% service charge)

rating ♥♥♥ (3 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Zhongshan MRT (捷運中山站)

website http://www.melangecafe.com.tw/ (Chinese Only)

For a mini reunion dinner with out of town friends we decided to try Melange Cafe outside of Zhongshan MRT Exit 2 (捷運中山站2號出口). I had never heard of Melange before my friend suggested it, but as soon as he said waffles I was sold.

We didn’t get to Melange until about 8pm. Apparently this place is really popular and usually has a really long wait. On Wednesday night at 8pm there was no wait for a party of 4. Melange has two stores basically next door to each other. They originally asked us if would mind sitting at an 8 person table and sharing with another group. We didn’t care, but luckily when we walked into store 2 a party of 4 had just left.

The menu at Melange is in Chinese, English, and Japanese. There are pictures of some of the items, but not all. It looked like all of their entrees are under 200NT, but they have a 100NT minimum drink order per person. We decided we’d share a bunch of stuff so we ended up with:

– Smoked Chicken Sandwich (燻雞肉三明治) for 130NT (?)
– Egg Salad Sandwich (蛋沙拉三明治) for 120NT
– Smoked Chicken & Ham Pizza (香燻雞肉火腿比薩) for 130NT
– Strawberry Cream Waffle (草莓奶油鬆餅) for 150NT
– Caramel with Ice Cream Waffle (焦糖香草冰淇淋鬆餅) for 130NT
– Cold Green Tea au lait (冰宇治抹茶歐蕾) for 120NT
– Chocolate Calda alla panna (歐式熱巧克力) for 170NT
– Mango Soda Float (芒果蘇打) for..I don’t remember.

The guys both got the Mango Soda Float (芒果蘇打). They seemed to have differing opinions about whether or not they liked it. Wes said he thought the ice cream was good, but the soda was blah. Eddie thought it was okay. Both agreed that it was unnecessary to have ice in an ice cream float.

Debory got the Chocolate Calda alla panna (歐式熱巧克力) for 170NT, aka hot chocolate. This hot chocolate was really rich and thick. It tasted like dark chocolate because it was pretty bitter, but I actually liked it better that way. Really an entire cup of this might have been kind of intense, but a few sips was nice.

I ordered the Green Tea au lait (宇治抹茶歐蕾) for 120NT. I thought this was not bad. You can get it hot or cold. Might have better hot. I found the green tea flavor to be kind of light. I would have preferred it to be a bit stronger.

Eddie decided to get the Egg Salad Sandwich (蛋沙拉三明治) for 120NT. It looked like there was a piece of ham, tomato, cucumber, egg salad, lettuce, and mayonnaise inside the sandwich. I did not have any, but the other members of my party all decided that it was pretty bland.

Wes ordered the Smoked Chicken Sandwich (燻雞肉三明治). I thought it was funny that the sandwich came with four Pringles stacked in the center of the plate. The sandwich itself had smoked chicken, scrambled egg, ham, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, and mayonnaise. Everyone agreed that this was the better sandwich. The chicken was pretty tasty; it was tender and had a slight sweet flavor, almost like a teriyaki.

Debory and I decided to share the Smoked Chicken & Ham Pizza (香燻雞肉火腿比薩) for 130NT. Although they call this a pizza, this is obviously not a pizza. However, there is a picture on the menu so we knew what we were getting. This is basically a thick piece of toast with tomato sauce, cheese, smoked chicken, ham and tomato on it; it also came with a side of egg salad. The “pizza” was pretty good, for what it was. It tasted like a pizza, but on toast, which is what it was. The egg salad was pretty much just mashed hard boiled eggs; it didn’t really seem like they added anything to it, which is probably why the Egg Salad Sandwich was so bland. I think I would get this again.

The main reason that people come to Melange is for the waffles. I had read reviews online prior to coming and every single review talked about the Strawberry Cream Waffles (草莓奶油鬆餅) for 150NT. Reviews said that the waffles were tasty; thick, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. I agree. I thought the waffles were pretty good, but at the same time, because they were so thick, they were pretty dry if you ate it alone. The strawberries and cream were pretty tasty. The strawberry sauce was little sweet, but the cream was pretty light, so together they balanced each other out. Best bite is a little of everything: strawberry, sauce, cream, and waffle. This is definitely something to be shared. The four of us shared two waffles and still ended up taking some of it home.

The second waffle we got was the Caramel with Ice Cream Waffle (焦糖香草冰淇淋鬆餅) for 130NT. I think I might like this one more than the strawberry one. The Caramel with Ice Cream Waffle came with drizzled caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream, walnuts, almonds, and some kind of sweet powder. Something in this tasted like coffee, but I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. The only downfall of this waffle is that again, like the Strawberry Cream Waffle, if you don’t get a little of everything it’s pretty dry. The best part of the waffle was under the scoop of ice cream because it had soaked up the ice cream.

Overall I liked this place. The menu says that there is a two hour limit, but since there was not wait, they let us stay for as long as we wanted. Compared to other waffle places in Taipei, or so I’ve heard, you definitely get more for you money at Melange. I liked the waffles even though they were kind of dry alone, but the entrees were only okay. I would come back for the waffles, maybe not the entrees though.