Category Archives: chinese

sichuan/taiwanese/chinese: kiki restaurant – yanji store (kiki 餐廳 – 延吉店)

 date august 11, 2011

contact No. 47, Lane 47, Guang Fu S. Rd., Taipei/台北市光復南路280巷47號1樓/02.2781.4250

hours Monday-Saturday [lunch] 11:50-15:00/[dinner] 17:15-23:00 :: Sunday [lunch] 11:50-15:00/[dinner] 17:15-22:00

price 300NT-600NT (per person)

rating ♥♥♥ (3 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall MRT (捷運國父紀念館站)

website http://www.kiki1991.com/

I’ve been really delinquent on new reviews, sorry. I was back in California for most of July, but I’m now back in Taipei.

I have heard a lot about Kiki over the past year from several friends, but never had the time to go. So when my friend Will asked if I wanted to go I was excited to finally try it out. Kiki has three locations in Taipei, one in Taizhong, as well as a Thai restaurant (Kiki Thai Cafe) and a cafe (Kiki Cafe), both in Taipei. We ended up at the Yanji store (延吉店), which is located near Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall (國父紀念館).

My friend made reservations for 8pm on a Thursday night. When I asked why so late, he said it was because it was all they had. Apparently, Kiki is pretty popular, so making reservations first is a good idea. It looks like Kiki has two floors, but I didn’t go up to see if it’s actually seating; however, according to their website this location can seat 104 people so I’m pretty sure that the upstairs has additional seating.

The menu at Kiki is in both English and Chinese. There are also pictures of a few of the dishes and a spiciness level guide (1-5 stars, the more stars the more spicy). When we asked our server for suggestions he pointed us to the first page of the menu, house specials. Then we asked which specific items he would suggest and he said the house specials were listed in order of popularity. Basically, our server was useless in making suggestions. The three of us decided we’d order four dishes, noodles, and a small dish:

– Crispy Deep Fried Egg Tofu (老皮嫩肉) for 200NT
– Stir Fried Minced Pork with Chinese Chives and Fermented Black Beans (蒼蠅頭) for 220NT
– Steamed Pork with Preserved Vegetables (梅干扣肉) for 270NT
– Stir Fried Chinese Watercress with Chili Peppers (宮保空心菜) for 150NT
– Soft Noodles Topped with Shredded Chicken and Bean Sprouts (雞油伴麵) for 80NT
– Stir Fried Bamboo Shoots with Shredded Pork in Chef’s Special Spicy Sauce (川味竹筍) for 80NT.

I love bamboo shoots so I decided to order the Stir Fried Bamboo Shoots with Shredded Pork in Chef’s Special Spicy Sauce (川味竹筍) for 80NT, which had three stars for spiciness. I though this was pretty good. The bamboo wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked, but it was still good. The “special spicy sauce” kind of just tasted like chili oil with some garlic. For three stars I didn’t think this was that spicy, but if you don’t like spicy food or are sensitive to spice I’d advise against this.

The number one thing on the House Special list is the Crispy Deep Fried Egg Tofu (老皮嫩肉) for 200NT. This dish has no spice for those who don’t like spicy foods. For a name like Crispy Deep Fried Egg Tofu this is not what I was expecting. The outside of the egg tofu was not crispy at all. The tofu was delicious though. It was super soft and almost like a custard. I can’t imagine that this is actually the most popular dish on their entire menu, but either way, it’s pretty good.

For our vegetable we went with the Stir Fried Chinese Watercress with Chili Peppers (宮保空心菜) for 150NT. The Chinese name for this dish says it’s Kung Pao Chinese Watercress, so I think I was kind of expecting something different with a sauce or something. This was better than what I thought it was going to be. The Chinese watercress is simply stir fried with garlic, chili peppers, and salt. Simple and fresh. The menu put two stars next to this, but it wasn’t really spicy at all, just avoid the peppers.

The Stir Fried Minced Pork with Chinese Chives and Fermented Black Beans (蒼蠅頭) for 220NT is the second item listed under House Specials. I like the Chinese name for this dish, literally housefly heads. Why that is the name, I don’t know. Looking around the restaurant a lot of tables had this so we figured why not. I thought this was pretty tasty. The combination of everything together was pretty good. This dish is kind of salty and would be best with rice or noodles. This dish had three stars and was probably the spiciest of the dishes we had. If you don’t eat the chilies it’s not that spicy, but if you get a chili you’ll probably be reaching for your water. The fermented black beans are pretty salty, so be warned if you get a lot of them in one bite.

Will loves pork belly, as do I, so he really wanted to order the Steamed Pork with Preserved Vegetables (梅干扣肉) for 270NT. This dish was okay. I’ve most definitely had better pork belly (the pork belly pyramid at Shanghai Pavilion comes to mind) that was more tender and more flavorful. The slices of pork belly in this dish are pretty thick compared to most other pork belly dishes like this. I liked that they were thicker because there was more meat, but because it was thicker it wasn’t as tender and melt in your mouth as it could have been. The preserved vegetables under the pork was pretty good; not too salty. Will really liked the preserved vegetables.

I’m not a huge rice fan so we ordered noodles instead. The server told us that one bowl could serve two people, so we figured we’d just get one and order more if we needed; we did not need to. Mike saw the word bean sprouts so we ordered the Soft Noodles Topped with Shredded Chicken and Bean Sprouts (雞油伴麵) for 80NT. When the bowl arrived Mike noticed that there was no chicken or bean sprouts, but Will and I were going by the Chinese name, literally “chicken oil noodles”, so we didn’t notice. The noodles were good, but not like it is described. I’m not sure if the English for this dish is wrong or if they forgot the chicken and bean sprouts, but either way, something was wrong. The noodles are pretty simple; good for eating with the main dishes. The sauce “chicken oil” was had just enough flavor to not make the noodles plain.

Our bill came out to an even 1000NT for three people. I think that we ordered just the right amount for three people; the main dishes are not that big. I thought this place was  good, but it wasn’t super spectacular. The service was not great. It was hard to get anyones attention and our waters were often empty. Also when I asked for a menu, the girl seemed really annoyed. Overall I think because of the hype I was expecting more; however, either way this place was pretty good and I would go back.

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thai/chinese: 雲南小吃 (yunnan restaurant)

date june 5, 2011

contact No. 54, Zhongzheng Rd., Daxi Township/大溪鎮中正路54號/03.388.2249

hours unknown

price <300NT

rating ♥♥♥ (4 out of 5 hearts)

99% of the reviews I’ve done in Taiwan are in Taipei, so here’s one not in Taipei. I went to my hometown, Daxi (大溪) in Taoyuan County (桃園縣), over the weekend to spend some time with my family and ended up at a Yunnan style restaurant with my cousin.

For anyone that has been to Daxi, you know it’s small and rural. There isn’t a whole lot of stuff to do. It’s famous for its bead curd (豆干). My family has a bakery there called Shing Feng Pastry (杏芳食品) that has delicious bread and brownies that they’ve owned forever. I spent my summers working at the front counter with my aunt, cutting bread, and packaging cakes. Daxi is green and there is an “old street” (老街) that is popular for tour buses on the weekends. My cousin and I hadn’t eaten yet so we went on a search for food.

My cousin had remembered that there was a Yunnan style restaurant near our bakery, so we headed over there. The restaurant is literally a giant open space with tables and chairs. We got there around 3pm and it had a few people in it. I think it was the staff’s lunch break because they were getting ready to sit down and eat, but they were very nice and didn’t act like we were bothering them at all. Gotta love Taiwanese hospitality.

The entire menu is in Chinese and I can pretty much guarantee that no one at the restaurant speaks English, as not many do in Daxi from my experience growing up there. You’d be better off with Taiwanese. My cousin and I decided to order the papaya salad (木瓜絲涼拌) for 60NT, sweet pepper sauce chicken (椒麻雞) for 120NT, signature thin pork slices (招牌大薄片) for 100NT, baba noodles (粑粑絲) for 50NT, another type of noodle called 米干 for 50NT, and roti (甩餅一份) for 70NT.

As I have mentioned many times, I love papaya salad. This one is among the best I’ve had in Taiwan. It tastes a lot like the one near my office, which is my favorite and tastes most like the ones I’ve eaten in Thailand; this is a very close second. The shreds of young papaya, cucumber, and carrots along with cherry tomatoes and peanuts in a balanced sweet, sour, and spicy sauce was delicious!  The portion was a decent size for the price, too. I would definitely get this again.

I also love sweet pepper sauce chicken. This one was pretty good. The chicken was tender and it wasn’t overly battered. The sauce was a little more on the vinegary side than I’m used to, but it was pretty good. One thing that I really loved about this was the thinly sliced onion under the chicken. I love onions and because the onions are so thin they get pickled in the sauce under the heat of the chicken. Delicious!

The signature thin pork slices were okay. I’m not a huge fan of  this kind of meat, which I was told was pork by my cousin, but she loves it. What I did like was the garlic chips on top. That was my favorite part.

The noodles that we got were “dry” noodles, meaning without soup. I liked the baba noodles because they were thinner and pretty chewy or “qq”. The noodles my cousin got, which were thicker, were okay but too thick for my taste.

The roti or 甩餅 was more like shredded pancake or thousand layer pancake (抓餅). It was pretty good, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. They drizzled condensed milk on it which as nice, but this was not roti, so don’t expect roti.

Overall, I liked this place. I rarely eat out when I’m in Daxi because my aunt usually cooks and she’s an amazing cook, but it’s good to know that if I do have to go out and eat there is good Yunnan style food less than five minutes away.

chinese/sichuan: chili house (川饌美食館)

date february 12, 2011

contact No. 250-3, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao East Rd., Daan District, Taipei/02.2788.9637/台北市大安區忠孝東路四段250-3號

hours 7 days a week [lunch] 11:30-14:30 [dinner] 17:30-22:00

price 300-600NT per person

rating ♥♥♥ (3 hearts out of 5)

nearest mrt Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT or Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall (忠孝敦化或國父紀念館捷運站)

website http://www.just-hot.com/

As a lover of spicy foods, Chili House was recommended to me by Stephanie. I always want to do Chinese food, but it’s really only good if you have a group to go with since it’s family style. So, for my birthday I decided then was as good a time as any. Chili house is located right off of Zhongxiao East Road. It’s in one of the alleys, so look out for it. The restaurant is located between two MRT stations, so you can take either one and it’s about the same distance. If you’re coming from Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT it’ll be on the right side of Zhongxiao E. Road. If you are coming from Sun Yat Sen MRT it will be on the left side.

I made reservations the day before for Saturday night at 7pm for 10. When we got there Saturday night there was quite a wait. Even though I had made reservations, we still were not sat until 7:30pm. It seems like the reservations are more of a call a head waiting deal; all the other people with reservations were also waiting. Either way, I would recommend calling in for reservations.

The inside of Chili House is a pretty decent size. There are probably about 8 or 9 large round tables that can fit 10-15 people and maybe 8 booths  that can seat 6-8. Basically you can fit a lot of people in here.

I noticed while we were waiting for out table that there were a lot of foreigners; lots of japanese people and random western businessmen. This is good for those who do not read or speak Chinese. Not only is their menu in Chinese, Japanese, and English, it’s also a FULL picture menu. Literally every item on their menu is accompanied by a picture.

We decided to order the steamed spicy pork ribs with yams and rice (粉蒸排骨) for 130NT. The only other place I’ve had this is at Yong Kang Beef Noodle. This was pretty great, but not really that spicy. It had great flavor and the pork was fall off the bone tender. My favorite part was probably the yam buried under the rice and pork. From being buried under the rice it soaks up the spicy and pork flavor. So good. For the price this is kind of small, but it’s pretty tasty. It tastes about the same as the one at Yong Kang Beef Noodle, I think (it’s been a while since I’ve had it there).

There were some out of town visitors at this dinner and one was a little less adventurous than the rest of us. As a result, she decided to get one safe dish. The sauteed spicy shredded beef with celery and carrots for 320NT (乾煸牛肉絲) was not something I would get again. It was kind of dry and less than stellar. Kind of tasted like something you’d get at Panda Express. Also, for something with the word spicy in it, it didn’t taste spicy. This wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t special in anyway.

In October I got this dish at a different restaurant and since then have been obsessed with it. The braised pork ribs in brown sauce for 520NT (蔥燒嫩玉排) was really tasty. It comes with these steamed buns that you put the pork, sauce, and veggies into to create a little sandwich. The pork is well seasoned and really  tender. The steamed buns came out nice and hot, kind of like mantou almost. I do like making the little sandwich and getting a bite of every ingredient, but I actually just like eating the pork by itself. Would totally get this again.

When I’m in the US I almost always get the 乾煸四季豆. This was not what I’m used to. It was served with a doughy wrap bread that was super tasty. You’re supposed to put the green beans inside the wrap and eat it together, but I preferred to eat them separately. The hot wrap was really tasty; I don’t even really know how to describe other than it’s like the wrap you get when you order Peking duck. The beans itself were on the salty side, which is why you’re supposed to wrap it. I liked the wrap better than I liked the green beans…which I feel is not what was supposed to happen. The beans were just kind of lacking something. They were a little too dry and too salty.

One of Chili House’s signature dishes is their wontons in red chili oil (紅油抄手). For 70NT you get a small bowl of about eight wontons. These were good, but not anything spectacular considering it is a signature dish. The meat was good inside, well seasoned, and the chili oil sauce was okay, I just feel like I’ve had better. I really love wontons in red chili oil so I get them almost every time I see it on the menu. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of it, and this one kind of just fell in the middle of the ones I’ve had; not great, not bad, just average.

Overall, I thought that Chili House was okay. I think we just didn’t order the right dishes. This place was packed with people, so it must be good, I think we just didn’t order right. Actually, we didn’t really get anything spicy…I definitely want to go back and try other things, but based on this visit I was left with a pretty neutral feeling about it.

chinese: hangzhou soup dumplings (杭州小龍湯包)

date November 18, 2010

contact No. 17, Section 2, Hangzhou South Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City/台北市杭州南路2段17號/02.2393.1757

hours 7 days a week 11:30-21:30

price <300NT

rating ♥♥♥ (3 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt CKS Memorial Hall Station

I had heard a lot about the “dumpling place that is just as good as Ding Tai Fung, but cheaper”. My friend was in town from San Francisco and he happens to love soup dumplings, so I figured, now is as good a time as any to give it a try.

When we got there around 1pm on a Thursday it was pretty full. Lots of business people there on their lunch break and lots of tourists. They had a picture menu with some English on it, however, it was not the full menu, just their most popular items. We decided to order the regular pork soup dumplings, the crab soup dumplings, green onion pancakes, pumpkin cakes and cabbage.

Price-wise this place is much cheaper than Ding Tai Fung. The regular soup dumplings (小龍湯包) were only 90NT. There are 8 dumplings per order, unlike the 10 at Ding Tai Fung. When I asked one of my friends how it compared she said it was good, but different. She was right: it was good, but different. I found them to be less juicy and the skin thicker. I prefer the thin skin of Ding Tai Fung’s dumplings better.

The crab dumplings (蟹黃湯包) were probably my favorite thing we ordered. For 160NT, the crab meat and roe soup dumplings were juicy and flavorful. I think I said something like, “it’s like a spoonful of the sea,” or something equally lame, but it’s true. While I still prefer the crab soup dumplings at Ding Tai Fung, these ones were very good. I’d most definitely order these again.

For veggies we decided to order the steamed cabbage (蒸高麗菜) for 100NT. I feel like this looked better than it tasted. I expected it to have more flavor, but it was actually rather bland. I needed more salt, more flavor.

My friend told me I’d really like the pumpkin cakes (南瓜糕), so I had to try them. For only 80NT, these were delicious. They were filled with red bean, and while they did not taste like pumpkin at all, the soft mochi like outside shaped like little pumpkins was great. They are not very sweet, so they are not really a dessert, but they most definitely are not savory.

The green onion pancakes (蔥油餅) were pretty good; a little thick, but I like it when they’re a little on the thicker side.

Overall this was a good meal, but not a special meal. I heard they have really good 小菜 (side dishes). Since this was Mark’s last day in Taipei, Flavors was our dinner destination, so we did not want to get too full. Maybe I’ll go back and try the steamed stinky tofu and side dishes, and of course get more crab soup dumplings.

chinese/shanghinese: shanghai pavilion.

date November 13, 2010

contact 38F, No. 89, West Section, University Road, Tainan City/台南市大學路西段89號38樓/02.2628.2638

hours 7 days a week 11:30-14:30/17:30-21:30

price 1000NT-1500NT (excluding drinks)

rating ♥♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)

website http://www.shangri-la.com/en/property/tainan/fareasternplaza/dining/restaurant/shanghaipavilion

Crappy weather and a failed trip to Huayuan Night Market on our first night in Tainan ended happily with a delicious meal at Shanghai Pavilion at our hotel, the Shangri-la. Never in my life had I stayed in a 5 star hotel (I highly recommend this hotel if you’re in Tainan) and it was quite the experience. Since it was raining and we were hungry we decided, let’s just eat at the hotel.

Restaurants at 5 star hotels are very accommodating. We made reservations, although we didn’t need them, and were sat down immediately at a table near the window on the 38th floor. Had the super crap weather not been super crap, it would have been a beautiful view of Tainan. We decided we needed drinks. Not realizing that they did not have a full bar at the restaurant we ordered martinis. Apparently they called down to the bar on the 2nd floor, and had them sent up.

Shanghai Pavilion has set courses along with a la carte options. Since we were only two people, we went a la carte and ordered the pork belly pyramid, king prawns, their special fried rice, bamboo shoots with baby shrimp, and two desserts.

The pork belly pyramid is one of their specialties and oh my god, it was amazing; gluttony at its finest. It may be one of my favorite things I’ve ever eaten. The pork belly was tender, juicy, flavorful and delicious. We were trying to figure out how it was holding it’s form and found that underneath were pickled vegetables. The vegetables were the perfect match for the pork belly. The flavors matched perfectly, and the vegetables helped to cut the fat from the pork belly. The best bite was a little bit of everything: pork belly, pickled vegetables, slathered in sauce. Surprisingly this dish was not too salty. With the pork belly, pickled vegetables and brown sauce, it looks like it’d be too salty. While this dish was rich, it was not too salty. In fact, it was pretty balanced, to me at least. Simply amazing.

The king prawns were another one of their specialty dishes. The dish comes with four king prawns, each lightly battered and flash fried, slathered in a creamy citrus sauce, served on a slice of carrot and orange. This too was delicious. All together the flavors worked together. I loved all the citrus and the slightly crisp outside of the prawn. The prawn was meaty and cooked perfectly. Again, like the pork belly, the best bite was when you got a little of everything.

Our vegetable for the night was bamboo shoot. I love bamboo shoots and these were great. Crispy and juicy, just the way they should be. The sauce tasted like a generic brown sauce, salty and sweet, neither too overpowering. It said that there were baby shrimps, but I don’t remember seeing any. Doesn’t really matter because we wanted the bamboo shoot. There were some leafy greens under the bamboo which were good as well.

We decided we needed either rice or noodles, so we got their specialty fried rice. When I asked what made it different she said it was dryer than most fried rices. Inside was green onions, meat, egg, and maybe some other stuff we couldn’t make out. Either way, this rice was great. Even though it looks like it would be salty, it wasn’t. In fact, it was perfect for our other dishes. I like the “dryness” of the rice. It had a good texture and the flavors were great.

For dessert we didn’t want to go too sweet, so the waitress suggested these cute little pumpkins. The outside was like mochi, there was no pumpkin flavoring, it was made to look like them. The date paste inside was the perfect sweetness for us, since we weren’t look for anything very sweet.

I decided I also wanted to try the mango sago. It was sweeter than the pumpkins, but it was not too sweet. The mango “soup” was great. It tasted like freshly pureed mangos and cream. The sago inside  was good too, nothing special, but overall this was a tasty dessert.

Everything about Shanghai pavilion was great: the food, the service, and the view. I want to go back and eat multiple pork belly pyramids, but I won’t because I’d probably clog too many arteries. So instead I will go back and eat one pyramid, and honestly, I’d re-order everything we got.