Category Archives: vegetarian.

dessert/night market: sesame peanut mochi shaved ice (芝麻花生麻糬冰)

date august 8, 2014
contact Ningxia Night Market in front of No. 35, Ningxia Rd. (in front of Family Mart)/台北市大同區寧夏路35號前(全家便利商店斜對面)
hours 17:00 to 01:30 (closed tuesdays)
price 70NT for shaved ice with two mochi balls
rating ♥♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)
nearest mrt MRT Zhongshan Station exit 2 (捷運中山站2號出口) 
website Linji’s ipeen page (Chinese only)

One of the things I love about Taipei is that there is always something kind of random, but totally delicious to try. On the recommendation of a friend, my out-of-town friend and I went in search of the sesame peanut mochi shaved ice at Ningxia Night Market.

To get to Ningxia, take the red line (Tamsui 淡水) to MRT Zhongshan station (捷運中山站), which is only one stop north of Taipei Main Station. Exit out of exit 2 and make a right, heading west down Nanjing W. Rd. (南京西路), toward the Starbucks. Continue down Nanjing W. Rd. for about 10 minutes until you hit Ningxia St., where you will see the entrance to the night market.

Ningxia is predominately a food night market. So, if you’re looking for something savory before the sweet, have a look around, there is plenty there.

The mochi shaved ice is located at Linji Mochi (林記燒麻糬), which is stand number 97. According to Linji’s ipeen page (the Taiwan equivalent of Yelp), the stand is located in front of No. 35, Ningxia Rd., directly in front of Family Mart. When we found it, the stand was located near Family Mart, but on the other side of the street. Either way, you’ll need to keep an eye out for it.

The stand sells mochi and shaved ice, as well as other traditional Taiwanese-type desserts (i.e. peanut soup [花生湯] and red bean soup [紅豆湯]). However, we went with one very specific mission: sesame peanut mochi shaved ice (芝麻花生麻糬冰). The menu is on the stand and pasted onto the tables in Chinese and Japanese (no English)  with pictures, which should make ordering easier for non-Chinese/Japanese readers.

Based on what I could gather when ordering, how big the portion of ice is depends on how many pieces of mochi you get (refer to the menu photo). The more mochi you order, the larger the portion of ice. I think this is because they base the portion off one mochi per person. We opted to get two pieces of mochi (one sesame, one peanut), which cost us 70NT. If you choose the one mochi, one flavor option, it looks to only be 40NT. You can choose between sesame and peanut flavor. Which ever flavor you choose will determine what is sprinkled atop your ice. The mochi, which you can see being boiled at the stand, is quite large and is cut up into smaller pieces before being served. The ice itself is a milk ice, so it is a bit sweet, but we both thought this added to the richness of the overall dessert, which is one of the reasons it is so good.

Basically, I highly recommend giving this a try if you: a) like mochi, b) like shaved ice, or c) you want to try something a little special. I would recommend getting a mochi of each flavor so that the ice is half sesame, half peanut, but really, do whatever your heart (stomach) tells you, you can’t go wrong.

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…

food at a glance: vegetarian mushroom congee (香菇粥)

photo

date july 30, 2014
contact No. 381, Sec. 1, Neihu Rd., Neihu Dist., Taipei City/台北市內湖區內湖路一段381號
hours [weekday lunch] around 11:30-14:00 (or when sold out)
price small bowl 35NT :: large bowl 45NT
rating ♥♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)
nearest mrt MRT Xihu Station (捷運西湖站)

I love congee. I grew up on it and I can be quite picky about what kind I like. For instance, I prefer traditional Taiwanese-style congee with just rice and sweet potatoes to Cantonese-style congee loaded up with century eggs (皮蛋) and what not. Despite this, I must say I really like the vegetarian mushroom congee from the little vegetarian cart near my office in Neihu.

At MRT Xihu station, take exit 1 and head east on Neihu Rd. (內湖路)  towards the Cosmed and Starbucks. The unnamed vegetarian stand sits between Hearty Dental Clinic and Pizza Hut (which is No. 381). You’ll see a table out front and a sign in Chinese with the character 素 (sù), which means vegetarian.  Aside for the congee, they also have vegetarian mushroom mianxian (香菇麵線), which I get quite often because it’s delicious, as well as rice dumplings (素食粽子), curry rice, miso soup (味噌湯).

The congee comes in two sizes: small for 35NT and large for 45NT. Inside the congee is black wood ear, shitake mushrooms, taro, tofu, carrot, pickled daikon radish (菜脯), etc. If you like spicy foods, like I do, ask them to add some chili sauce (加辣)–you only need a little, as a little goes a long way.

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.

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.

updated/sushi: n.c.i.s (northern california inspired sushi/德相N.C.I.S美式加州壽司)

n.c.i.s (northern california inspired sushi)

date March 09, 2013

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

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

price 500NT-1000NT

rating ♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, Exit 3 (捷運忠孝敦化站3號出口)

website http://www.ncisushi.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/ncisushi

You know how they say food is the way to a man’s heart? Well, sushi is the way to mine.

For a ladies night out, a college friend (a Santa Barbara native) requested some California-style sushi. Since she was getting her hair done across the street, literally, we decided to meet at 德相N.C.I.S.美式加州壽司. This was my first trip to their new location off Zhongxiao E. Rd.; I had previously been to their Shida Night Market location.

inside ncis.

On a Saturday night around 8pm the restaurant was pretty full. We managed to grab the last open table. The new location of NCIS is noticeably  roomier than their previous location at Shida.

menu at ncis as of march 2013.

We were quickly sat and handed menus. I noticed that the prices for some of the rolls have gone up, but nothing too drastic. Menu is still in English and Chinese. Speciality rolls range from 200-300NT.

Itadakimasu:
– Seasoned Soy Beans (椒鹽毛豆) 70NT
– BBQ Eel Nigiri Sushi (aka Unagi/鰻魚) 100NT/2pcs.
– Halibut Fin Nigiri Sushi (比目魚緣側) 160NT/2pcs.
– Toyota Roll (豐田) 200NT
– Sofa-King-BOMB Roll (沙發王棒) 280NT
– Spicy Ji Jimmy Roll (辣吉吉米) 300NT
– Johnny Can’t Walk Roll (約翰走不動) 300NT
– Geikeikan Sake (月桂冠) 250NT/250ml

complementary soup.

Complimentary soup was the first thing out. Tasted like some sort of light miso broth with salmon.

First things out were the Toyota Roll (豐田) for 200NT, Sofa-King-BOMB Roll (沙發王棒) for 280NT and Johnny Can’t Walk Roll (約翰走不動) for 300NT.

IMG_2062

The Toyota specialty roll was described as fried shrimp and cream cheese on the inside, topped with smoked salmon and avocado. I liked this roll. Cream cheese and smoked salmon are a natural combination (a la cream cheese and lox and the standard Philadelphia roll). With the added sauce, fish eggs, and green onion this roll was delicious. We particularly appreciated was that they aren’t too heavy handed with the cream cheese. As much as I love cream cheese, too much in sushi drowns out all other flavors.

johnny can’t walk (約翰走不動) 300NT.

The only thing we ordered that I had previously ordered on my last visit to NCIS was the Johnny Can’t Walk specialty roll. Described as a roll of spicy tuna, crab mix, and shrimp topped with seared tuna and bbq eel (unagi), this was easily one of the favorites of the night. I had suggested it since it was our favorite roll from my last visit. My friends liked the slightly charred tasted from the searing and in general just liked the combination of flavors. I think I liked the roll better this time than I did the last. Last time there was a lot of random sauce on the plate. While for presentation sauces can be pretty, I’m kind of the opinion that what is put on a plate should compliment the dish and be edible. It’s like that idea of random ass sprigs of parsley on a plate: don’t put it on my plate if I’m not supposed to eat it. Especially with sauce, since if it gets on the food you can’t really just wipe it off. Okay, end tangent.

sofa-king-BOMB! (沙發王-棒!) 280NT.

Before being moved to the bar, Val and I spotted some roll with salsa on it. We immediately asked a server what it was because we wanted it! The Sofa-King-BOMB! specialty roll is a fried roll with chicken strips, cream cheese, and smoke salmon topped with salsa. At first the idea of chicken strips in my sushi was unappealing, but I actually liked this roll. Something about the combination of the fresh salsa with the saltiness of the chicken strips and salmon and the creamy cheese was tasty. This roll wasn’t as popular with my friends, but I liked it.

spicy ji jimmy (辣吉吉米) 300NT.

Still hungry we asked for a recommendation. Sitting at the bar we got to watch everything come out, including the Spicy Ji Jimmy specialty roll, which ended up being recommended to us. A roll with fried shrimp and spicy tuna topped with bbq eel (unagi) and avocado, this roll was probably the favorite of the night. With some spicy mayonaise sauce, and sriracha on the sides, this roll was only mildly spicy, but delicious. So delicious, in fact, that Xiao Yan got one to go.

[top] bbq eel (unagi) nigiri sushi (鰻魚) 100NT/2pcs. :: [bottom] halibut fin nigiri sushi (比目魚緣側) 160/2pcs.

On the nigiri sushi side we got two orders of BBQ eel (unagi) nigiri sushi and one order of halibut fin nigiri sushi. The unagi was pretty standard, nothing special. Xiao Yan ordered the halibut fin. Neither Val nor I had ever had it before, but I must say, it was quite delicious. Halibut fin (engawa) is apparently the “thin muscle of the dorsal fin”. The halibut fin had a bit of a chewy fatty texture, and the slight searing helped to bring out the flavor in the fat. Very delicious. Also, the sushi chef was kind enough to give us an extra piece since there were three of us.

seasoned soybeans (椒鹽毛豆) 70NT.

Val wanted something to break up all the sushi, so we got an order of the seasoned soybeans. The seasoning on the soybeans kind of tasted like some sort of italian herb seasoning with chili flakes. Kind of interesting on the soybeans, but not bad at all.

We also ordered some sake. Pretty standard tasting sake; served cold.

Our only complaint would be regarding the servers. The female servers seemed a little clueless as to what was going on and not particularly warm or friendly either. When we asked one about what roll a table had ordered, after looking at it she still had to go ask one of the chefs what it was. Maybe we’re harsh since we’ve both worked in food service, and maybe I’m a little extra critical because I served in sushi restaurants for 7 years, but if you can’t tell what a roll is by the look of it, I think it’s time to do a little homework.

Overall, I much enjoyed NCIS. It was a nice taste of home for two California girls and fun to introduce our Taiwanese friend to California-style sushi. Rolls were great and decently priced. Our bill came out to about 1700NT or so, so between the 3 of us, about 600NT (~US$20) each. Sitting at the bar we got to talk a little to the owner, who introduced himself as Jo, from Sacramento. Even while busy he still managed to make conversation and seems to genuinely like what he does. We also overheard him say that if we had requests for other types of sushi not on their menu we could ask them to make it, which we will definitely do on our next visit.

indian: saffron (香紅花印度美饌)

date july 16, 2012

contact No. 38-6, Tianmu E. Rd., Shilin District, Taipei City/台北市士林區天母東路38之6號/02.2871.4842

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

price 1000NT+

rating ♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Shipai MRT (捷運石牌站)

All pictures were taken with my iPhone 4S.

Having worked in a boba tea house turned Indian cafe (weird, I know.) in college, I have a soft spot for good Indian food. I have literally been wanting to go to Saffron for years. Finally, after much anticipation a friend and I made it out to Tianmu to try.

Tianmu is not exactly the most convenient place to get to. From Gongguan (公館) we were able to take the 606 directly to San Yu Temple (三玉宮), a 45 minute bus ride, which is only a few minute walk to Saffron. Via MRT, get off at Shipai ( 石牌) on the red line (Tamsui Line) and take any bus that goes to San Yu Temple (606, 645, and 646 all go).

Saffron is hidden behind Tianmu E. Rd. (天母東路) on the side of Shin Kong Mitsukoshi (新光三越). If you’re coming from San Yu Temple bus stop, head east on Tianmu E. Rd. and make a right down Lane 22, Tianmu E. Rd. From there make your first left and you’ll see Saffron on your lefthand side.

I had originally tried to make reservations for a Saturday night, but having not called far enough in advanced, there were no open seats. Monday was the first available seating before 8pm, so I made reservations for two at 6pm. Basically, make reservations, it’ll make life a lot easier.

We were greeted at the door by a server and shown to our table. Saffron is only one floor with maybe about 12-15 tables. The decor is very nice, something I imagine fitting in very well in San Francisco, but not as pretentious.

We were seated at the table along the front window of the restaurant, right next to glass room where the tandoor is. It’s pretty cool that the area is glass so that you can see in and watch the tandoor chef in action as he makes salads and mans the tandoor, making fresh naan, papadum, tandoori chicken, etc. all night.

We were handed both a beverage and food menu, both of which are in English and Chinese. After much deliberation we decided to order:

– Methi Pakora (什蔬金錢餅) 190NT
– Murgh Tikka Masala (碳烤雞肉咖喱) 410NT
– Sag Paneer (菠菜泥燴乳酪) 320NT
– Plain Naan (烤餅) 80NT
– Butter Naan (奶油烤餅) 90NT
– Kulfi (印度傳統冰淇淋) 180NT
– Lassi (傳統自製優酪乳) 140NT

The server brought us a trio of two types of raita (coconut and mint) and pickled onions, along with some papadum. I thought both the coconut raita and mint raita were pretty tasty: light and not too thick. The papadum was freshly made by the tandoor chef right behind us and was crisp and warm.

We decided to order a plain Lassi (傳統自製優酪乳) 140NT. The consistency was perfect, not too thick or thin. Also, it had just the right amount of tartness.

For an appetizer we ordered the Methi Pakora (什蔬金錢餅) 190NT. Described as a “mix of chopped fenugreek, onion, potato and green chili deep friend in ground chickpea batter”, one order comes with four 2″ disks. We were told that the raita we were given earlier could be used to accompany our methi pakora. I thought these were pretty tasty: lightly fried, crisp around the edges, but still tender in the middle. I got a pretty strong cumin taste, but nothing that was over powering. Eat them while they’re fresh or they’ll start to get hard.

For a meat dish we decided to go with the Murgh Tikka Masala (碳烤雞肉咖喱) 410NT (aka Chicken Tikka Masala). Described as “boneless chicken breast cooked in clay oven then finished in thick gravy flavoured with cumin seeds”, this chicken tikka masala was a little thicker and chunkier than what I’m used to. Regardless, this chicken tikka masala was delicious! The chicken was super tender and the flavors from the sauce were rich and tasty. You can change the spiciness of this dish to fit your palette. Erin and I decided to go with medium spice and thought it was just right, enough spice to taste it, but not spicy enough to kill your taste buds or numb your lips. I would absolutely get this again.

For our vegetable dish we went with one of my favorites, Sag Paneer (菠菜泥燴乳酪) 320NT. Described as “finger cut cottage cheese cooked with spinach puree”, this sag paneer was creamier than I’m used to; however, like the tikka masala, it was delicious. Creamy, but not too rich, this was exactly what I’ve been craving for the last year (yes, I said year.).

To go with our main dishes we got two orders of naan: one Butter Naan (奶油烤餅) 90NT and one Plain Naan (烤餅) 80NT. Note that each order comes with a single piece of naan. The naan at Saffron is delicious, fresh, and soft.

For dessert we were between the apple halwa (finely grated apple slowly reduced in thickened milk flavoured with traditional dessert spices, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream) and kulfi (traditional Indian ice cream flavoured with pistachio and saffron). Ultimately we went with our server’s recommendation and ordered the Kulfi (印度傳統冰淇淋) 180NT. The kulfi came out bright yellow served in a martini glass. At first taste I was a little unsure of what I thought because it was almost savory and the texture was unlike any ice cream I had ever had. But my hesitation was brief and I quickly was obsessed with it. The “ice cream” is denser than Western style ice cream, fattier. It reminded me of what whipped cream would taste like if denser and frozen. The saffron taste is strong, but the pistachio taste comes through (there are also bits of pistachio in the kulfi). I would definitely recommend trying this if you’re up for something a little different.

Overall, I loved Saffron. The food is great, prices are reasonable, and the service is pretty good. Our total bill came out to just over 1,550NT (10% service charge included). We thought we ordered a good amount (maybe a little much) for the two of us. The serving sizes don’t look that big, but they are bigger than they look: the dishes are deeper than they seem. In the end, even though Tianmu is a little out there, I definitely think it’s worth the trip if you’re craving some good Indian food.