Category Archives: 4 hearts

indian/tibetan: tibet kitchen (西藏廚房)


date: august 6, 2014
contact: no. 217, sec. 2, heping e. rd., daan dist., taipei city/台北市大安區和平東路二段217號/02.2705.4770
hours: 7 days a week [lunch] 11:30-14:30 :: [dinner] 17:30-21:30
price: 300NT-600NT
rating: ♥♥♥♥ (4 out of 5 hearts)
nearest mrt: MRT technology building (捷運科技大樓站)

I really like Indian food, which I’ve mentioned on this blog before. It probably has to do with my days slinging chicken tikka masala and saag tofu in college. Whatever the reason,  I’m always on the hunt for good, affordable Indian food.

Tibet Kitchen is less than a five-minute walk from MRT Technology Building station on the brown line. Out of the exit (there is only one), make a left onto Fuxing S. Rd. (福興南路) toward Heping E. Rd. (和平東路). Once you hit Heping (which will be the first traffic light), cross make a right down Heping toward the Taipei Fubon Bank and you should reach the restaurant within minutes.

I pass by Tibet Kitchen everyday on my way home from work and there is generally a decent crowd (generally, not always). I don’t think reservations are necessary unless you have a particularly large group of people, as there is a pretty good amount of seating. On a Wednesday at 7pm, other than a large group of about 16 and two tables of four, we were the only ones dining.

The menu at Tibet Kitchen is in both English and Mandarin, with dishes divided into several sections: Indian vegetarian, Indian non-vegetarian, Tibetan non-vegetarian, drinks, sides, starters, etc.

My friend and I decided to do the two person set meal for 899NT (+10% service charge). The meal came with:
– two samosas
– two  pieces of tandoori chicken
– one non-veg item
– one vege item
– two bread items
– two bowls of rice
– two drinks
– two desserts
The non-veg, vege, bread, dessert, and drinks can be anything on the menu. I chose the vege item, palak paneer, and Ariel chose the meat item, chicken jaipuri.

First out were the samosas (印度咖哩餃). They came out hot and fresh with a side of coriander chutney for dipping. The samosa stuffing had a nice yellow curry flavor, but the outside tasted a little too much like fried wontons to me… Not bad, just not my favorite. I probably wouldn’t order these individually.

Next was the tandoori chicken (印度酸乳碳烤雞). With the two person meal you get a drumstick and a breast piece. The chicken itself was decently tender and had pretty good flavor.

For bread options I chose the butter naan (印式奶油烤餅) and Ariel went with the chapati (印式煎餅). Both were okay.

The palak paneer (咖哩菠菜乳酪) was the first out of the main dishes to arrive. Palak paneer is easily my favorite vegetarian Indian dish–I get it everywhere I go. For the most part I thought this was pretty good. It could have been a little heavier on the spices, but overall, I liked this.  While this doesn’t really rank up there with my favorite palak paneers, this definitely satisfied the craving.

The meat jaipuri (霽浦爾咖哩), for which we selected chicken as our meat (you can also choose from beef and mutton), was something neither of us had ever had. I get cliche when I go to Indian restaurants and order chicken tikka masala, so we were both up for something different. According to the menu, this is an “authentic dish cooked with extensive use of chopped onions, tomatoes, and topped with sliced omelette.” I was a little iffy about this dish, not because it wasn’t good, but because I’m not really sure how “Indian” it was. To me, other than the fact that the chicken used was tandoori chicken, the sauce and vegetables tasted like a Chinese dish with onions and bell peppers. Next time, I’ll try the butter chicken or chicken tikka masala.

Desserts were the last thing and by this time we were both pretty full. There are only two dessert items so we decided to get one of each: gulab jamun (印度香甜球) and fruit yogurt. The fruit yogurt was literally just some plain yogurt with some canned peaches thrown in…so…if you’re looking for something special, this is not it. On the other hand the gulab jamun is pretty unique. The menu says it’s a “cottage cheese ball fried and soaked in flavored syrup.” The ball itself was quite small, probably about the size of pingpong ball. The texture is hard to describe, it does taste like fried cheese curds in a way, just soaked in a very sweet honey-like syrup. It actually reminded me of something I recently ate while at a cafe in Little India in Singapore. Really, desserts at Tibet Kitchen can be skipped.

Overall I thought Tibet Kitchen was decent. The drinks were pretty standard. I got cold Indian tea, but it tasted kind of watered down. I would probably give Tibet Kitchen more like 3.5 hearts, but for now the dishes were good enough to make me say I’d go back. There are a few vegetarian items I would like to try, such as the baigan bharta (香炒茄子) and bindi masala (香炒秋葵), and maybe the butter chicken and chicken tikka masala, so I’ll be back, if not for any other reason than I pass by it every day…

taiwanese/snack: xinglong handmade cold noodles (興隆手工涼麵)

outside of xing long handmade cold noodles

date: june 10, 2014
contact: no. 2-1, alley 333, sec. 3, roosevelt rd., daan dist., taipei city/台北市大安區羅斯福路三段333巷2-1號旁/02.2363.0429
hours: 7 days a week 11:00-23:20 (as according to ipeen)
price: <100NT (CASH ONLY)
rating: ♥♥♥♥ (4 out of 5 hearts)
nearest mrt: MRT Gongguan (捷運公館站)

Okay. It’s been about a year since I last updated this blog. Terrible, I know. However, I will try to do better.

It’s June in Taipei, summer is fast approaching, and well, it’s muggy out. Perfect time to eat some cold noodles. The first time I went to Xinglong was sometime last fall. I meant to write something about it then, but obviously that did not happen.

Located near National Taiwan University (NTU [台大]) in Gongguan (公館), Xinglong is located in alley 333 off of Roosevelt Road. If you’re coming from the MRT Gongguan Station, take exit 3 and head north on Roosevelt towards MRT Taipower Building. You’ll need to cross Xinsheng North Road (新生南路) and continue north on Roosevelt–alley 333 will be your first right. When you hit the fork in the road veer right–you should see Xinglong on the right. Alternatively, you can make a right onto Xinsheng (on the side of the street opposite NTU) and make your first left–the “restaurant” will be on the left.

inside xinglong's small shop.

As you can see from the outside shot of the shop at the top of this post, Xinglong is just a little stand on the side of the road. There are a few tables inside and a few outside. In terms of cleanliness, this place is like anything else you expect to find on the side of the street: clean enough to eat at, but I wouldn’t eat anything off the table.

the things we ate:
– Cold noodles with tomato “salsa” (蕃茄沙沙醬涼麵) 45NT
– Braised fried/oily bean curd (油豆腐) 10NT
– Braised radish (菜頭) 20NT

wall menu at xinglong (as of june 2014).

The menu is all in Chinese. Ordering is done through a standard order sheet where you mark what you want. There is also a menu on the wall (also in Chinese). There are a few random photos of food around, but nothing that helpful.

cold noodles with tomato "salsa" 45NT

Really, this place stands out because it has something I’ve never seen before: cold noodles with tomato “salsa” (蕃茄沙沙醬涼麵). For 45NT you get a plate of cold noodles served with shredded cucumber, bean sprouts, and most importantly some tomato “salsa.” Now I put salsa in quotations because if you’re American like me, I’m guessing when you hear the word salsa you start thinking about Mexican food. This is not that. It is, however, fresh tomatoes, garlic, and some other stuff mashed into a salsa-like sauce. Mix it all up, throw on some chili oil if you like (which I do) and eat. On a hot day, this perfectly hits the spot. It’s light and pretty refreshing. The portion size is probably too small to be a meal in itself, but you can order some side dishes to supplement that.

braised fried/oily tofu and turnip (10NT and 20NT, respectively).

We decided to get some braised fried/oily tofu (油豆腐) and radish (菜頭). Again, the serving size is pretty small, but good enough for a nice side dish. Both the tofu and radish were good. Add some chili oil (if you are so inclined)–it adds a nice little kick.

owners hard at work.

Overall, this place is pretty great for a light meal or snack on a hot day. Really, it’s pretty good for a non-hot day too. The first time I came here my friend and I split an order of the fried stinky tofu (炸臭豆腐). The tofu was pretty standard fare–not stinky enough for my particular taste, but okay. Really, the best thing is the cold noodles with “salsa.” Very tasty. I kind of love it.

taiwanese: old wangji beef noodle king aka taoyuan st. beef noodle (老王記牛肉麵大王 aka 桃源街牛肉麵)

date september 01, 2012

contact No. 15, Taoyuan St., Zhongzheng District, Taipei City/台北市中正區桃源街15號/02.2375.8973

hours 7 days a week 10:00-21:00

price 180NT per bowl

rating ♥♥♥ (4 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt MRT Ximen Station Exit 4 (捷運西門站4號出口)

All photos were taken with my iPhone 4s.

Sorry for the lack of posts in 2012. Overall, 2012 was a tough year for me: several family deaths and a lot of change. Hopefully 2013 has better things in store, including food! I’ll try to be better this year.

Onto the food.

My friend and her boyfriend wanted to take me to their favorite place in Taipei for beef noodle soup (牛肉麵). Everyone knows about the famous beef noodle shops located on Yong Kang St. (永康街), but this shop is a favorite among local Taipei residents and not at all touristy. From what I’ve heard, this shop has been around for over 50 years. This super busy beef noodle shop doesn’t have a sign or any indicators identifying it as a beef noodle shop, just an open kitchen with bowls of beef noodle soup being ladled out.

Located near Ximending (西門町), the shop’s official name is Old Wangji Beef Noodle King  (老王記牛肉麵大王); however, is known more commonly known as Taoyuan St. Beef Noodle (桃源街牛肉麵), as it is located on Taoyuan St. The shop is only a short walk from exit 4 of MRT Ximen station stop, located on Taoyuan St. (桃源街) between Hengyang Rd. (衡陽路) and Baoqing Rd. (寶慶路). Easiest way to find it is to walk down Baoqing Rd. (the street the Far East Department Store [遠東百貨]) until you hit Taoyuan St., make a left on Taoyuan and you’ll see the signless shop on the right.

The store itself looks kind of ghetto from the outside, but the two-story interior is clean enough, very Taiwanese mom and pop shop-like.

According to my friends, there is often a long line vying for a seat and a delicious bowl of beef noodle soup. Luckily the night we went the line wasn’t too long. Regardless, the line went pretty quick.

One of the first things I noticed, no tourists. Unlike places like Lao Zhang and Yong Kang Beef Noodle I saw no tourists while I was waiting, eating, or exiting. This place is a local spot all the way.

The menu, which can be found on the wall in Chinese only, consists of only 7 items:
1. Taiwanese-style Kimchi (泡菜) – 30NT
2. Pig’s Feet (豬腳) – 110NT
3. Steamed Spareribs with Rice Flour (粉蒸排骨) – 110NT
4. Pig’s Feet Noodles (豬腳麵) – 150NT
5. Soup Noodles (湯麵) – 120NT
6. Beef Soup (牛肉湯) – 180NT
7. Beef Noodle Soup (牛肉麵) [clear or braised broth] – 180NT

We each ordered our own bowl of noodles (I ordered the braised broth [紅燒] beef noodle soup) and a steamed spareribs with rice flour to split.

Note that each table is equipped with a bowl of pickled mustard greens (酸菜) to add to your own taste.

My order of the braised beef noodle soup (紅燒牛肉麵) was pretty standard in size. I thought the broth was pretty tasty. It wasn’t as rich as other braised broths and not spicy at all like other establishments are said to be, such as Yong Kang Beef Noodle, but it was pretty good, a tad oily, but good. The noodles were pretty average: chewy enough, but could be chewier (for me at least). I was a little let down by the beef. It wasn’t as melt-in-your-mouth tender as I’m used to; however, my friends said that it usually is. Either way, the beef was good, just not as tender as I would have hoped. 

Val ordered the clear broth beef noodle soup (清燉牛肉麵). I had a taste and thought the broth was pretty good: rich in beef flavor, but still subtle enough to not be too salty . She was fighting off a cold so the clear broth was perfect for her. Again, the beef wasn’t as tender as I would have wanted, but still not bad.

When our order of steamed sparerib with rice flour (粉蒸排骨) came out the first thing I noticed was that it looked a little mushy…Unfortunately, the look was indicative of the taste. I’m used a little more texture in this dish, but this one was just a little mushy. The flavor, however, was pretty good. The best part was the hidden sweet potato at the bottom of the bamboo basket. The sweet potato had become infused with the pork flavor and spices used to flavor dish.

Overall, I liked Taoyuan St. Beef Noodle. In reality, there are so many beef noodle shops in Taiwan that picking the best is impossible. Like all food, “best” is subjective. Favorites are dependent on personal preference and taste. Would I say Taoyuan St. Beef Noodle is my favorite? No. But do I think it’s worth a try? Definitely.

Oh, random note. Since entering the smartphone world I’ve started foodspotting. Want to know what I’m eating on a daily basis? Follow me on foodspotting!

sushi: n.c.i.s (northern california inspired sushi/德相n.c.i.s美式加州壽司)

date july 19, 2012

contact No.17-3, Longquan St., Daan Dist., Taipei City/台北市大安區龍泉街17號之三 (師大夜市內)/ 02.2363.9931

hours 7 days a week 17:00-00:00

price 500NT-1000NT

rating ♥♥♥ (4 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Guting MRT (捷運古亭站) or Taipower Building MRT (捷運台電大樓站)

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

~::~::~::~::~

UPDATE

The Shida location of N.C.I.S is closed, but don’t fret, they opened a new location on Zhongxiao E. Rd!

contact No. 4, Lane 216, Alley 27, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd,  Daan Dist., Taipei City/台北市大安區忠孝東路四段216巷27弄4號/02.2721.6952 

nearest mrt MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua (捷運忠孝敦化站)

~::~::~::~::~

Having walked passed N.C.I.S many times my friend and I decided to check it out after talking to one of the owners (who is from Sacramento) one random night.

Located inside of Shida Night Market (師大夜市), N.C.I.S is located on the main street running down the night market close to Heping E. Rd. (和平東路).

The inside of N.C.I.S is pretty small: about 5-6 tables, plus some sushi bar space.

The N.C.I.S menu is pretty intense, mostly full of rolls, which based on the name of the restaurant I was expecting. The front of the menu has basic rolls, appetizers, sashimi, and nigiri type stuff.

The back of the menu has all their speciality rolls with the names and ingredients in both English and Chinese. There are color coded dots next to the rolls to denote whether or not they are spicy, deep fried, well done or torched. Being first time customers the server introduced us to some of the more popular rolls and rolls that would suit our tastes, after telling him what we liked (which is pretty much everything).

We decided to get three rolls and an appetizer, as follows:
– Stir Fried Onion Cheese Fries (起司炒洋蔥薯條) 200NT
– Marilyn Monroll (瑪麗蓮夢露) 220NT
– Salmonlicious (鮭揨高) 220NT
– Johnny Can’t Walk (約翰走不動) 300NT

Water and miso soup is self serve and can be grabbed on the lefthand side of the sushi bar.

Upon seeing the words “stir fried onions”, “cheese”, and “fries” on the menu, Erin and I immediately looked at each other and said, “we’re getting that.” Freshly fried seasoned fries topped with freshly sauteed  onions and some fake looking nacho cheese makes this Stir Fried Onion Cheese Fries (起司炒洋蔥薯條) appetizer for 200NT super tasty. This appetizer would be great drunk food, but was delicious sober as well. The serving size isn’t very big, but that’s probably good considering this place is a sushi joint, not a place for bar food. I would totally get this again.

The Marilyn Monroll (瑪麗蓮夢露) for 220NT was listed as having fried shrimp and crab mix inside the roll topped with avocado and scallops. First impression was, where is the avocado??? To be honest, I was a little let down by this roll. When you describe something as being topped with avocado and scallop, I expect to taste both the avocado and scallop, or at least be able to see it. Upon further inspection I realized the avocado was  the green stuff spread on the top of the roll; it was not slices like sushi rolls usually have and would probably have been completely overlooked had I not looked for it. The fried shrimp inside tasted like prepackaged frozen fried shrimp from Costco, which while isn’t bad, isn’t great. This roll wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. I wouldn’t get this again.

Salmon is my favorite raw fish so the Salmonlicious (鮭揨高) for 220NT was an obvious choice for me. Described as smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber on the inside (a basic Philadelphia Roll) topped with fresh salmon and lemon. Erin was afraid there would be too much cream cheese, but there wasn’t, just enough to get the taste.  This roll had a nice fresh taste to it thanks to the nice sliver of lemon on top.

The last roll we ordered was the Johnny Can’t Walk (約翰走不動) for 300NT. Described as spicy tuna, crab mix, and shrimp topped with seared tuna and bbq eel (aka unagi), this roll is torched, although it’s not marked on the menu.  This roll was recommended to us by the server, it is also one of two 300NT rolls, the most expensive on the menu. This was probably my favorite roll of the night, not because I could single out any one particular flavor (which you can’t), but because I was in the mood for the kind of saucey jumbled roll that I’d find at home (being San Diego) and this fulfilled that. You do taste the unagi, but other than that, all the sauces and flavors just meld together.

Overall, N.C.I.S is not bad. They have a lot of other rolls on the menu that I’d like to try. In terms of price, it’s pretty average for a place that sells American style rolls (150NT-300NT). I don’t know how their nigiri or sashimi is, but considering they specifically market California style rolls, I’d probably stick to rolls. I think that N.C.I.S fills a niche that the Shida area needed to be filled and I appreciate it’s proximity to my apartment. Based purely on the American style sushi roll angle I like N.C.I.S; it makes me feel like I’m eating sushi at home.

thai: thai ya thai food (泰亞南洋料理店)

date June 30, 2012

contact 1F, No. 47, Lane 313, Fuxing N. Rd., Songshan District, Taipei City/台北市松山區復興北路313巷47號1F/02.8712.7788

hours 7 days a week [lunch] 11:300-14:00 :: [dinner] 17:30-21:30

price 600NT and up

rating ♥♥♥ (4 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Zhongshan Junior High School MRT (捷運中山國中站) or Songshan Airport MRT (捷運松山機場站)

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

All pictures were taken with my iPhone 4S.

After an extremely long overdue reunion with an old college classmate we decided on Thai food for dinner. Her boyfriend said he knew of a good place so off to Thai Ya Thai Food we went.

Thai Ya is located about a 5-10 minute walk from Zhongshan Junior High School MRT (捷運中山國中站) and Songshan Airport MRT (捷運松山機場站). Note that it is easier to find from Zhongshan Junior High School MRT.

According to Thai Ya’s website they have seating for 85. We got dinner around 7:30pm on Saturday evening and the place was pretty packed. I would suggest reservations just in case to avoiding waiting around.

The menu at Thai Ya is pretty extensive and should have something for everyone. It is in both Chinese and English, and there is a picture for each item on their menu. In the back of their menu they have set menus (套餐) for parties of 2 and up. For the three of us we decided to get a set menu for 2 and then order some other stuff a la carte. The waitress allowed us to modify our order to have each dish be a smaller portion so that we could get more stuff. Pretty awesome.

Unfortunately since I didn’t order, I’m not actually sure what we ordered or how much it cost, but I’ll do my best.

As with most Thai restaurants, rice came with the meal. We all appreciated that it was short grain sticky rice vs. long grain jasmine rice.

First out wast the cold pork, which was accompanied by a type of spicy chili vinaigrette. It was pretty good and the pork had a nice “crisp” to it.

I happen to really love pepper chicken and Thai Ya’s Yunnan pepper chicken (雲南椒麻雞) is pretty good. Lightly coated and crispy, it’s not too spicy, vingary, or salty.

I thought we had ordered green curry chicken, but I think we ended up with the coconut chicken, which we had ordered first, but “cancelled” when we ordered the green curry chicken. My friend can’t eat spicy food, so we ordered this sans chilis. The chicken was incredibly tender, but the coconut sauce was not quite coconutty enough for me. While it was good, it could have used a little more coconut flavor.

I know that I’ve mentioned about a zillion times how much I love eggplant, but it’s because I do. I thought this eggplant with meat was very good. It wasn’t too oily, as eggplant dishes often are, or too salty.

Chinese water spinach or water morning glory or whatever you want to call it (I prefer to just call it kong xin cai), is probably my favorite leafy green vegetable. This plate of water spinach (空心菜) was quite delicious. Pretty standard, but nonetheless not overcooked, still crunchy and not over seasoned.

We decided to get another cold dish and based off our server’s suggestion we got the cold seafood salad (涼拌海鮮). Seafoodwise there was shrimp, squid, clams, and fish. If there was more, I missed it. There was also cucumbers, onions, and cherry tomatoes. All the seafood was nice and tender and the dressing on this had a nice tartness to it.

The shrimp pancake (月亮蝦餅) was pretty tasty, pretty standard. We ordered a small portion, which came with four slices, so I’m not sure what a normal comes with.

I’m generally not a fan of bittermelon (苦瓜), but this soup wasn’t bad. This  bittermelon soup had mushrooms and green onions in it. I’m not sure if there was any meat in it, but if there was, I didn’t get any. The broth was pretty good, maybe a little salty for some, but I have a pretty salty palette, so I thought it was fine.

Since we had ordered a two person set meal we got to choose two desserts. These were the low points of the night. We ordered one mixed whatever with sago and other various things, and one with just sago. The coconut soup in both of these were both super watered down and pretty tasteless, which was disappointing because I love sago in coconut soup.

We also ordered a small pitcher of thai iced tea that was not that small. The waitress said that it could pour about 2.5 small cups per person in our party of three, but we think it was way more than that. The tea itself was not bad, a little watered down from what I’m used to, but okay.

Overall, this place is pretty good. Lots of variety, and with the exception of the dessert, nothing was bad. Service was pretty good, too. This place is definitely best for large parties, or small parties like us that like to eat a lot. Based on the prices I saw on the menu, everything is reasonably priced, about 200-300NT per dish, unless you get something super fancy. Thanks to my friend’s boyfriend, who decided to treat us ladies to dinner, I’m not sure what our total was; however, I feel like you could easily eat here for about 1000NT (maybe with less variety than we got) total for a small party of 3-4.

vegetarian: 舒果 (shū guǒ)

date january 07, 2011

contact No. 65, Sec. 2, Nanjing E. Rd., Zhongshan District, Taipei City/台北市中山區南京東路二段65號/02.2541.2511

hours 7 days a week [lunch] 11:30-14:30 (last reservation at 14:00) :: [dinner] 17:30-22:00 (last reservation at 21:00)

price 398NT (+10% service charge)

rating ♥♥ (4 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Songjiang Nanjing MRT (捷運松江南京站)

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

Sorry being completely MIA for over a month. Complete fail on my part. I should make it a New Year’s resolution to update at least once a week. Let’s see if I can do that.

This was actually my second time to Shu Guo; I took my mom who is vegetarian in December, but forgot my camera. Anyways, my friend Andrew is in Taipei from Berkeley and since he’s a vegetarian (newly a pescatarian) I figured perfect time to go back WITH my camera.

Shu Guo has three locations in Taipei and other various location around Taiwan. We went to the location on Nanjing E. Road (南京東路) near Songjiang Nanjing MRT station Exit 8 (捷運松江南京站). I’ve also been to the location on Roosevelt Road (羅斯福路) near Guting MRT station Exit 3 (捷運古亭站); located on the third floor above the steak house Tasty.

MAKE RESERVATIONS! We originally wanted to eat at the Roosevelt Road location, but when I called in Friday afternoon for a reservation, they were booked for Saturday.

Shu Guo’s Nanjing E. Road location is three stories: the first story is the greeting area, the second story is a dining room, and I’m not sure about the third floor, but I saw people going up and down the stairs.

The inside of Shu Guo is really clean. The tables are a little close together to maximize the number of people that can dine, but it’s not like you’re eating with your neighbor, you’re just kind of close to them.

The menu at Shu Guo is in Chinese only, but luckily there is a picture for every item.

First course to come out is the appetizer course, which is made up of (from left to right) konjac with tomato (蒟蒻蕃茄), water lotus with pepper sauce (彩椒水蓮), and mountain yam with blueberry sauce (藍莓山藥). The first time I was told to eat from left to right, lightest to heaviest in flavor. The konjac has a pickled plum flavor that I’m generally not a huge fan of, but it’s not bad. I really like raw mountain yam for its crunchiness and sliminess; also, I think the blueberry sauce works well with the mountain yam.

The rosemary bread sticks (迷迭香火柴麵包) came out at the same time the appetizer did. They were warm and accompanied with a small shot glass of a ranch dressing-like dipping sauce. The bread was good, but nothing particularly outstanding.

The next course after the appetizer is the salad, which has two choices: seasonal vegetable sticks salad (時蔬棒沙拉) or yogurt fruit salad (優格水果沙拉). I opted for the seasonal vegetable sticks salad. All the veggies were fresh, cold, and crunchy. The sauce in the middle is a thousand island dressing. Best part of this dish is the little lettuce wrap in the shot glass. The dressing in the shot glass is some kind of sesame dressing. It’s delicious. I’d suggest eating the lettuce thing and then using the remaining dressing to dip the other veggies into.

Andrew opted for the yogurt fruit salad. He said it was good.

After the salad comes the soup. There are four choices of soup: Italian style stew (義式燉蔬煲), Milan pumpkin soup (米蘭南瓜濃湯), green bean mushroom soup (青漾蕈菇濃湯), and burdock cashew broth (牛蒡腰果清湯). I opted for the Millan pumpkin soup. The soup is delicious, very lightly seasoned so what stands out is the pumpkin flavor. Tasty! Andrew opted for the burdock cashew broth. It was really good and really flavorful. Inside the broth was burdock, cashews, lotus root, etc.

Right before our main course came we were served with the “non-staple item” which is five-grain rice (果香五穀炊飯). I thought this was pretty good. There are also mushrooms in the rice so it has a nice mushroom flavor.

There are a lot of choices for the main course. The first time I went to Shu Guo I got the calzone (卡洛佐尼枕頭披薩), which was delicious and big enough to share. This time around I opted for the king oyster mushrooms with twice baked potato (花香杏鮑菇[佐洋芋盅]). The king oyster mushrooms are served on top of an italian sauce with some sweet potato mash. The mushrooms were really good: tender and juicy. The twice baked potato was kind of dry and not hot…although, still good. The potato is filled with a mushroom and tomato mix. I would get this again.

Andrew went with the baked vegetable cheese macaroni (烤鮮蔬芝士通心粉). This was pretty good. I liked the cream sauce and baked cheese is always good.

Lastly is dessert and a drink. I chose the angel cheese mousse (天使起司慕斯) and chamomile pomelo tea (洋甘菊香柚花茶). I love cheesecake and this cheese mousse is like a really light fluffy cheesecake. It’s pretty delicious. There is a thin layer of chocolate cake at the bottom and some berry flavored mousse in the center of the cake. I’ve gotten this both times I’ve been and will likely get it next time I go. The chamomile pomelo tea is nice and light in flavor, so if you’re looking for something hot and not sweet, this is a good choice.

Andrew went with the sesame walnut milk pudding (芝麻核桃奶酪) and ashitaba aloe vera drink (明日葉蘆薈露). If you’re looking for a dessert that isn’t very sweet I think the sesame walnut milk pudding is a good choice. The milk pudding is really smooth and pretty tasty. The ashitaba aloe drink was interesting. I only had a sip, but it seemed pretty good.

Last time I was here, my mom got the lemon apple pie (香檸蘋果派), which is served warm. It was pretty delicious. I’d definitely get it again.

Overall everything here is pretty great. It’s clean, the service is good, the food is good, and it’s totally affordable. There are a lot of other main dishes that I want to try so I’m sure I’ll be back. If you have a vegetarian friend or family member, or just want some veggies I’d definitely recommend Shu Guo.

hotpot/all-you-can-eat: tian ma mongolian hot pot (天麻蒙古鴛鴦火鍋專賣)

date november 22, 2011

contact No. 295, Sec. 3, Tingzhou Rd., Zhongzheng District, Taipei City/台北市中正區汀州路三段297號/02.2364.6215

hours Monday-Friday 11:30-04:00 :: Saturday/Sunday 11:30-05:00

price [lunch] 399NT 11:30-16:00 :: [dinner] 499NT 16:00-04:00 :: [Saturday/Sunday] 499NT 11:30-05:00 (+10% service charge)

rating ♥♥♥ (4 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Gongguan MRT (捷運公館站)

One of the things I like to take out of country visitors to eat is all-you-can-eat “mala guo” aka spicy hotpot (麻辣鍋). Usually I like to go to Ma La (馬辣), which has two locations: one in Gongguan and another in Ximending (西門町), but if you don’t make reservations a few days in advanced, you’re likely to only get reservations for after 9pm. My neighborhood backup all-you-can-eat hotpot place is Tian Ma Mongolian Hot Pot (天麻蒙古鴛鴦火鍋專賣), which is under the same group as Ma La.

Tian Ma is in Gongguan actually right down the street from the Gongguan location of Ma La. I would recommend reservations a few days in advanced, just to be safe, but usually you can call Tian Ma the day of and get reservations around the time you want. Be aware that the colder and rainier the day, the harder it will be to get a reservation.

Tian Ma has two floors. I think I’ve only ever been seated on the first floor once. All other times I’ve been seated on the basement floor. Like your typical hotpot place, each table is equipped with a burner for your hotpot. The basement floor tables are equipped with electric burners, while the first floor tables has gas burners. Really, I don’t think the type of burner you have makes a difference. The only reason I kind of prefer sitting on the first floor is because that is where all the food is.

First thing you do when you sit down is order the type of broth you want in your hot pot. You can either get one huge pot of one broth, or you can get a split pot of two flavors. We got the Healthy Mongolian Pot (蒙古養生鍋) and the Sichuan Spicy Pot (四川麻辣鍋). Be warned, if you like spicy, but can’t handle super spicy the Sichuan Spicy Pot is really spicy, and also my favorite.

Everything at Tian Ma is self serve except for the meats and hotpot broth. When you sit down you can order up to 5 different types of meat at a time. They have beef, pork, lamb, and seafood to order via waitstaff. All the meat is pretty tasty.

They have a pretty good selection of vegetables, seafood, meatballs, tofu products, etc. to choose from. They are also pretty good at keeping everything well stocked. In the event what you want is out or running low, just tell the waitstaff. Among my favorite things are the enoki mushrooms (金針菇), fishball with fish eggs (魚包蛋), tofu skin (豆皮), pumpkin (南瓜), and baby corn (玉米筍).

There are a lot of options for drinks. You can drink juice, tea, or coffee.

You can drink various types of Coca-Cola products.

Or you can help yourself to all-you-can-drink Taiwan beer.

Don’t forget to mix your sauce! I usually end up with a garlic, onion, green onion, chili pepper, soy sauce concoction.

For dessert they have a fridge filled with various fruits and desserts. I love the milk pudding (鮮奶酪), so creamy and delicious!

They also have all you can eat ice cream! I think the only difference between Ma La and Tian Ma is that Ma La has Häagen-Dazs ice cream, and Tian Ma does not. Tian Ma carries Mövenpick, 卡比索, Meji, and Sentia brands of ice cream.

I very much like Tian Ma. If you go on a weekend it ends up being about 550NT per person and it’s totally worth it.