Category Archives: zhongxiao dunhua (忠孝敦化)

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.

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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.

vietnamese: cyclo noodle & rice (洛城牛肉粉)

date august 13, 2012

contact No. 377, Sec. 4, Renai Rd., Daan District, Taipei City/台北市大安區仁愛路四段377號/02.2752.8666

hours Monday-Saturday [lunch] 12:00-14:00 :: [dinner] 18:00-21:00 :: Closed Sundays

price <300NT (Cash only)

rating ♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall (捷運國父紀念堂站) or Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT (捷運忠孝敦化站)

website http://www.cyclopho.com/

A visiting friend from Sydney, Australia picked Cyclo for dinner based on a recommendation from his friend. I’d actually heard about Cyclo and it’s “LA style” pho from someone else, so being a Southern California girl I was excited to try.

Located on Renai Rd. (仁愛路) you can either take the MRT to Zhongxiao Dunhua (忠孝敦化) and head south on Dunhua S. Rd. (敦化南路) then left on Renai Rd. or take the MRT to Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall (國父紀念堂) and head south on Yanji St. (延吉街). If you’d rather take a bus, get off at Anhe Renai intersection (安和仁愛) and head east on Renai Rd. then left on Yanji. Although the address of Cyclo is on Renai Rd., the restaurant itself is located behind Renai Rd. off Yanji St.

On a Monday night around 7pm the restaurant was pretty crowded. I don’t think they take reservations so it’s just a waiting game.

The inside of Cyclo is pretty small and narrow. Tables run along the entire left side of the restaurant; there is also a long table on the right side near the door. At the very back of the restaurant is the kitchen, which is open so you can see what goes on behind the scenes. Everything inside Cyclo looks pretty new and clean.

The majority of the menu at Cyclo is in English and Chinese. The “For people who don’t eat noodles” and side dishes are only in Chinese, but it sounded like most of the servers speak some English. Note that each person gets their own menu to mark. Their signature dish is Vietnamese pho; however, they do offer three rice dishes, two other noodle dishes, and some side dishes.

We got:
– Beef noodle soup with three types of meat (清燉牛骨湯) 190NT
– Fried Spring Roll (炸春卷) 45NT
– LA style Spring Roll with fried shrimp (洛城生春卷) 65NT

Every table at Cyclo come equipped with a bottle of Sriracha sauce and a bottle of hoisin sauce, as well as a canister of pepper. I was happy to see the Sriracha because I’m pretty obsessed with it.

Since we ordered pho the server came out with two plates of raw bean sprouts, lemon wedges, chili peppers, and basil.

I decided to order the beef noodle soup (清燉牛肉湯) (aka pho) with light broth (淡), rare beef (生肉片), brisket (胸肉), and brisket point (黃金胸肉) for 190NT. Note that if you want to choose 4 types of beef you can for 230NT. You also have a choice between light broth and rich broth (濃); the light is the orignal. In addition you can choose between three types of noodles: rice starch noodles (細河粉), rice flour lath (板條), and thin noodles (細麵). I chose the rice starch noodles. Overall, I think this might be the best bowl of pho I’ve had in Taipei. It really did taste like pho I’d get at home in Southern California, which according to my Vietnamese friends is pretty good. The broth had a good beefy flavor and wasn’t too salty. All the meat was good, too. The noodles were also pretty good. Basically, as a whole, this was a bowl of deliciousness.

Will decided to order a few side dishes, so we ended up with the fried spring roll (炸春卷) for 45NT. One order comes with one fried spring roll cut in half. Stuffed with a pork and noodle mix, Will said it was pretty good.

Will also decided to order the LA style spring roll with fried shrimp (洛式生春卷) for 65NT. We noticed that you can choose what meat goes into the spring roll: fried shrimp (炸蝦) or American lunch meat (美式午餐肉). These spring rolls were pretty tasty. Like the fried spring roll, one order comes with one roll cut in half. While the serving size is small for the price, it’s still pretty tasty. I saw on Hungry Girl’s blog that the “American lunch meat” option is actually spam…not sure how I feel about that.

Overall, Cyclo was pretty delicious. The pho here was tasty and the side dishes were great, too. One thing we noticed was that they seemed to be out of a lot of things. Will had originally ordered the rice flour lath noodles, but they were out. He also tried ordering a variety of drinks that were all out as well. I guess the lesson learned is this: Cyclo is popular so come early to avoid lines and having everything already be sold out.

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.

italian: papa gio’ (喬爸爸義大利美食餐廳)

date september 08, 2011

contact No. 22, Alley 6, Ln. 170, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Daan District, Taipei City/台北市大安區忠孝東路四段170巷6弄22號/02.2711.8720

hours 7 days a week [lunch] 11:30-14:00 :: [dinner] 18:00-22:00

price 300NT-600NT (plus 10% service charge)

rating ♥♥♥ (4 out of 5 hearts)

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

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

My fellow food loving food blogger friend Estella planned a lovely dinner at Papa Gio’ a few weeks ago. A lot of my friends complain about how hard it is to find good authentic Italian food in Taipei and I agree. Estella told me that the chef at Papa Gio’ is actually Italian and specializes in making authentic homestyle Italian food.

Papa Gio’ is located right out of Exit 5 of Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT (忠孝敦化).

I feel like it’s always a good thing when you walk into a restaurant and people of that country’s cuisine are there. There were a lot of Italian’s at Papa Gio’, so on first glance I knew that this place had to be at least decent. I would recommend reservations before going to Papa Gio’. We went on a Thursday night, and while when we arrived it was empty, it quickly filled. Papa Gio’ has a good amount of seating and a few “private” rooms. I say “private” because there are several tables inside these rooms, but they are rooms with doors that close. Being a bunch of loud obnoxious American’s, they ended up closing the door to the room we were in.

The menu at Papa Gio’ is in Italian, Chinese, and English. There are no pictures, but there are descriptions of all the dishes. Estella had been to Papa Gio’ several times before and recommended that we get items from the “handmade special pasta” section. As a table we decided to get a few appetizers to split on top of the entrees we each got. All together we ordered:
– Calamari e Seppioline in Umido alla Veneta su Crostone di Pane (威尼斯風格燉小墨魚佐麵包片/Small squid and small cuttlefish in Venetian style with bread crouton) 300NT
– Carpaccio di Manzo con Grana (義式生牛肉佐洋菇及芝麻菜/Thin slices of beef fillet topped with parmesan cheese, button mushrooms, extra virgin olive oil, and rocket salad in Italian style) 350NT
– Penne alla Cubana (辣味番茄蘑菇筆管麵/Penne with tomato sauce, fresh mushrooms, in spicy cream sauce) 280NT
– Lasagna alla Bolognese (手工肉醬千層麵/Homemade pasta layered with meat sauce and bechamel sauce) 400NT
– Ravioli di Manzo al Burro e Salvia (手工義式牛肉餃/Dumpling filled with minced meat, butter, sage, and parmesan cheese) 400NT
– Ravioli di Zucca al Burro e Salvia (手工義式南瓜餃/Dumpling filled with pumpkin in sage cream sauce) 400NT
– Spaghetti alla Vongole (白酒蛤蜊麵/Spaghetti with clams in white wine sauce, garlic, and basil) 280NT
– Heineken 140NT

Ron decided we should get the Calamari e Seppioline in Umido alla Veneta su Crostone di Pane (威尼斯風格燉小墨魚佐麵包片/Small squid and small cuttlefish in Venetian style with bread crouton)  for  300NT. I thought this was pretty good. The squid was really tender and the tomato sauce had good flavor. The portion is pretty small for 300NT though.

Candice picked the Carpaccio di Manzo con Grana (義式生牛肉佐洋菇及芝麻菜/Thin slices of beef fillet topped with parmesan cheese, button mushrooms, extra virgin olive oil, and rocket salad in Italian style) for 350NT. I thought this was pretty good. Everything tasted fresh and as long as you didn’t get a piece with too much seasoning it was pretty well balanced. I did, however, get a piece or two where the combination of everything kind of wiped out the beef taste, but either way, it was still pretty tasty.

Candice ordered the Penne alla Cubana (辣味番茄蘑菇筆管麵/Penne with tomato sauce, fresh mushrooms, in spicy cream sauce) for 280NT. This was under the “pasta classica” section of the menu. The pasta in this section is not made in house, which is probably why it is significantly cheaper than the “homemade special pasta”. I had a bite and thought it was pretty average. Let me rephrase, average for Italian in the US, better than average for Italian in Taipei. I thought it had a good amount of spice and thought the sauce tasted pretty good. I think most people complain that pasta sauce in Taiwan is too watered down, particularly tomato sauces. The pasta sauce at Papa Gio’ is not like that, it’s the kind of “thick” sauce we all know and love.

Both Ron and Estella ordered the Lasagna alla Bolognese (手工肉醬千層麵/Homemade pasta layered with meat sauce and bechamel sauce) and 400NT. I had a bite and it was delicious! Eat it while it’s hot before the cheese solidifies and the pasta gets a little stiff.

Mike ordered the Ravioli di Manzo al Burro e Salvia (手工義式牛肉餃/Dumpling filled with minced meat, butter, sage, and parmesan cheese) for 400NT. I didn’t have any, but he said it was good.

My choice was the Ravioli di Zucca al Burro e Salvia (手工義式南瓜餃/Dumpling filled with pumpkin in sage cream sauce) for 400NT. I love pumpkin and all things flavored pumpkin. For 400NT you get eight delicious pumpkin raviolis. The cream sauce was light with a subtle hint of sage. The pasta was a nice al dente, just they way I like my pasta. The pumpkin filling was delicious! It didn’t taste like there were a whole lot of additives to the pumpkin filling which really allowed you to get a rich full pumpkin flavor: slightly sweet, as pumpkin is, but still savory. Eat them while they’re hot for optimal taste or the pasta will stiffen.

Just for reference sake, here is the inside of the pumpkin ravioli.

We had a few late comers to our table. They both ordered the Spaghetti alla Vongole (白酒蛤蜊麵/Spaghetti with clams in white wine sauce, garlic, and basil) for 280NT. I didn’t taste any, but they both thought it was good.

Overall, I thought this place was pretty good. Price-wise it isn’t bad either considering the quality. The service was okay. After our plates were dropped off I kind of felt like they forgot about us. We ended up stealing some water from outside of the room they closed us into since they didn’t come to fill our waters. Basically, if you’re looking for tasty Italian in Taipei, Papa Gio’ is a good place to try.

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.

japanese/sushi: sumi sushi (澄壽司)

date june 21, 2011

contact No. 17, Alley 248, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Taipei City/台北市忠孝東路四段248巷17號/02.8771.9986

hours Monday-Friday 11:30-14:30, 17:00-21:30/Saturday 12:00-14:30, 17:30-21:30 (closed Sundays)

price 300-600NT per person (+10% service charge)

rating ♥♥♥ (4 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT or Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall MRT (捷運忠孝敦化站或捷運國父紀念館站)

website http://sumisushi.pixnet.net/blog

For our last dinner with Lydiana before she heads back to Sydney we ended up at Sumi Sushi. After trying to think of a place to eat, we narrowed it down to Japanese or Korean. Jamie remembered a sushi place being in the area and I had remembered seeing it on hungry girl’s blog, so to Sumi Sushi we went.

Sumi Sushi is located on the same alley as Chili House and one of Dazzling Cafe’s locations between Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT (捷運忠孝敦化站) and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall MRT (捷運國父紀念館站).

Sumi Sushi has two floors: the top floor where the sushi bar is located and a basement floor where there are a few tables (where we sat). We got there at around 8pm on a Tuesday night and didn’t have to wait for a table for five.

The staff suggested that our group of five sit downstairs. The downstairs is small, but has a lot more room than the sushi bar on the first floor.

The menu at Sumi is in both English and Chinese. There are no descriptions for the rolls or pictures, but the waitress was very nice and told us what was in the rolls when we asked.

While their menu does not have pictures, they do have photos of their rolls on the first floor.

The sub-heading of Sumi Sushi’s name is California Roll. With that in mind, I was expecting the kind of sushi place I’d find in San Diego or San Francisco; lots of rolls, not a whole lot of sashimi or nigiri. I was right. Sumi has all the typical kinds of sushi rolls you’d expect to find in the US: Dragon Roll, Rainbow Roll, Alaska Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, Philadelphia Roll, etc. They do have sashimi, but only salmon and tuna, and they do have a few other sushi items, but their main items were rolls, which ranged from about 100NT-300NT. The menu also had appetizers, salads, and rice bowls. We asked the waitress for suggestions and she gave us a few. We ended up with eight rolls for 5 people (each roll had 5-6 pieces).

We decided to order the two types of sashimi they offer: salmon (鮭魚) for 300NT and tuna (鮪魚) for 350NT. Realistically, this was not worth it. I mean, it is over priced especially for what you get. Not to say that the fish was bad, it just wasn’t of the highest quality and was definitely not worth the price. If you want sashimi I would not recommend this place. I would instead go to A-Plus, Sashimiya, or Tsukiji Market.

In total we ordered eight rolls. Salmon is my favorite fish and I love spicy things, so naturally we ordered the Spicy Salmon Roll (辣鮭魚捲) for 150NT, which was the first to come out. The roll had salmon, avocado, cucumber, and wasabi inside and was sprinkled with chili flakes and green onion on top. This was not bad, pretty standard in terms of what you’d expect of a Spicy Salmon Roll. It was not really spicy at all, just a little kick from the wasabi, but other then that pretty mild. There was a squirt of sauce on the side that tasted like a sriracha mix, though.

I feel like if you go to a restaurant and they have something on the menu that has their name in it you have to get it. The Sumi Roll (澄捲) for 250NT was cut into 5 pieces and had imitation crab, tamago, avocado, cucumber, and possibly some other things inside and was topped off with tobiko, sesame seeds, and what tasted like unagi sauce (the sweet brown sauce that almost tastes like a sweeter more condensed teriyaki sauce). This roll was okay, nothing particularly special.

The Jump Jump Roll (跳跳捲 literally translated as jump jump roll) for 250NT was recommended to us by the waitress and is one of their newer rolls. The roll itself was a standard California Roll (crab meat, avocado and cucumber) but it was topped with a scallop and tobiko mix with some spicy mayonnaise. This was probably one of my favorite rolls we had. I really love scallops and the scallops on this roll were pretty good.

Another recommended roll was the Avocado Smoked Salmon Roll (酪梨燻鮭魚捲) for 250NT which came in 6 pieces. This was another roll I really liked. The roll itself had crab meat, avocado and cream cheese in it and was topped with smoked salmon, avocado, sesame seeds, a touch of mayonnaise, what tasted like ponzu sauce, and some chili flakes. The combination of all of it together was pretty tasty.

Another recommended roll was the Special Fried Shrimp Roll (特製炸蝦捲) for 250NT for 5 pieces. This roll had shrimp tempura, avocado, and cream cheese inside and was topped with tobiko and sesame seeds. There was some sauces around the roll on the plate, but not actually on the roll. Either way, this roll was good, nothing amazing, but good enough.

We got a Dragon Roll (龍捲) at 200NT for 6 pieces. I mean, who doesn’t love a Dragon Roll? This one was your typical Dragon Roll: standard California Roll topped with unagi (fresh water eel). Nothing spectacular, but a good staple. The unagi was baked just right so that it was flaky and tender, as unagi should be.

After we finished our first round of roll, we decided we needed to add more. We added the Volcano Roll (火山捲) 300NT. This roll was 6 pieces of who knows what. I want to say the inside was a California Roll that was topped with a scallop mix and crap tons of sauces. I mean, the sauces really kind of drown out everything else; everything just gets really muddled, but I still liked it. This is not the type of roll you want to get if you’re trying to enjoy the flavor of fish. However, if you want a roll with lots of crap on it, this is your roll.

The last roll of the night was a Soft Shell Crab Roll (軟殼蟹捲) for 300NT. The 5 piece roll had soft shell crab, avocado, and cucumber in it and was topped with tobiko and ponzu sauce. The soft shell crab in this was pretty meaty, which was nice. Overall this roll was your standard soft shell crab roll.

All in all we ordered eight rolls and two plates of sashimi for five people. Our bill came out to about US$90 (2710NT) which included a 10% service charge. At one point my friend Jamie mentioned that after a while all the rolls started tasted the same because they all had the same sauces. In general I feel like that’s true of a lot of rolls, in the US as well, because they seems to all have the same sauces that drown out a lot of the fish flavors. I liked this place as an American style sushi restaurant. The prices are decent and the sushi is good enough for me to want to go back. Sushi is my favorite food and I do crave different kinds of rolls like they have in California. Sumi Sushi is the perfect place to satisfy that type of craving. However, if you’re looking for high quality sashimi/nigiri, Sumi is not the place for you.