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Ballsy Xiao Long Bao in Da’an.

imageMy food fanatic friend A. recommended this place to me that he found during his last Taiwan trip and tonight a colleague helped me hunt it down just across the street from the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Da’an. ‘Hang Zhou’s’ is quite a rustic place with low tables and tiny chairs and still had many customers enjoying their dinner here, despite the late hour we arrived.

We started up with the signature dish, the ‘Xiao Long Bao‘ (小籠湯包). These  were gigantic huge dumplings but tasted quite nice; the dough was a bit thick though and I had better soups as well but overall pretty good and dirt cheap too and I especially liked the big help-yourself-bucket of finely chopped ginger which I loaded up on heavily. The second basket were the ‘Shrimp Shiaomai‘ (蝦仁燒賣) and these were even bigger, maybe even too big and again this fusion of soupy xiao long bao topped with a shrimp which suits me much better than the  shao mai dim sum versions I had before.

imageAs little contrast to all those enormous dumplings we ordered the ‘Marinated Beef Rolls‘ (大餅卷牛肉) which reminded me of a creative adaption of peking duck. They were delicious, slightly dry tenderloin rolled in crispy pancakes, together with some crunchy cucumbers and onions and glazed with a sweetish plum sauce. Actually it was exactly like peking duck, just with beef, ‘Peking Beef‘ so to speak?

Even though I found it quite ballsy of these guys to call the website of their shop “thebestxiaolongbao.com“, I still kinda liked the place – unpretentious, a bit dirty and service along the bare minimum but none in an overly bothering way and most importantly the food was tasty and cheap as well. Thanks for the recommendation dude.

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Hang Zhou Xiao Long Bao 杭州小籠湯包
No.17, Section 2, Hángzhōu South Road
Da’an District
Taipei 106
Taiwan
Tel: +886 2 2393 1757
http://www.thebestxiaolongbao.com

Nothing beats the original.

imageI wasn’t too excited when my colleagues planned on taking me out to ‘Din Tai Fung’ as I did have it quite often before and rather wanted to try things I couldn’t get in Singapore instead. But the table was booked and of course I didn’t want to complain being treated for dinner and so lovely colleagues brought me to SOGO to enjoy some dumplings and noodles.

I was stunned and surprised as the food here was just so much better than in the outlets in Singapore. The ‘Spicy Wonton‘ were amazing, the ‘Xiao Long Bao‘ simply perfect in taste and appearance and the ‘Shiao Mai‘ were much more like xiao long bao themselves, soupy goodness topped with a shrimp and actually the first version that I truly enjoyed. As dessert we ordered the steamed ‘Tapioca Dumplings‘ which I wasn’t really looking forward to but another surprise, they were pretty darn delicious, heavy and stuffing but delicious and not too sweet either. Thanks for a great evening and maybe I’ll suggest a refresher training for the Singapore branches once I’m back.

Din  Tai Fung 鼎泰豐
B2 Fuxing SOGO Department Store
No. 300, Sec. 3 Zhongxiao East Road
Da’an District
Taipei 10654
Taiwan
Tel: +886 2 8772 0528
http://www.dintaifung.com.tw/

Pancake with a view.

imageI was back in Taipei and since besides beef noodles there are also countless Japanese restaurants down here I chose ‘Dohton Bori’ at the Att4fun mall in Xinyi for some proper ‘Okonomiyaki‘ tonight.

I was tempted by the kimchi okonomiyaki but decided to go for the original one with pork. It was pure torture watching them preparing it in front of me  for the next 15 minutes, during which my hunger grew bigger and bigger. When it was finally ready I started digging so fast that the first half disappeared in just a few seconds. It was great, the dough was fluffy and light and I particularly enjoyed the crunchy pickled ginger bits. Just the pork wasn’t nice at all and tasted like old grease so I picked it out and left most of it back on the side of my plate.

Despite the smelly clothes after and the little pork incident I actually quite enjoyed my pancake and the show effect of the live cooking paired with stunning views of the 101 across the street put ‘Dohton Bori’ on my “come back to” list.

Okonomi-Yaki Dohton Bori 道とん堀 / 道頓堀御好燒
5F ATT 4 FUN
12 Songshou Road 松壽路12
Xinyi District
Taipei
Taiwan
Tel: +886 2 7737 8885 ‎
http://www.dohtonbori.com/tw/

Newer isn’t always better.

imageFood hunting did start getting on my nerves running through Ximending with a whole bunch of people who couldn’t agree on what to eat. We finally settled on a modern franchise looking beef noodle shop a couple of streets further in, away from the buzzin’ around the Red House. It even had aircon, how nifty.

I didn’t change nothing and had my usual ‘Spicy Beef Noodles‘ (牛公館牛肉麵) again but what came to the table here wasn’t remotely close to matching any of the great bowls I had during the past few days. The broth itself was just okay but the noodles were pretty ordinary, starchy and didn’t add anything to the flavour and the meat was tough and dry.

One bad bowl out of four is not a horrible hit rate but I was still disappointed knowing what kind of gems are around here and how our dinner could’ve turned out otherwise. Anyway staff was very friendly and the shop is also very conveniently located but unfortunately that won’t be enough to bring me back here again.

Niu Kung Kuan 牛公館牛肉麵
No. 78 Xiníng South Road / 西寧南路78號
Wanhua District
Taipei City
Taiwan / Republic of China
Tel: +886 2 2314 6298

This is “Se One”!

imageThis was the shop I had my first ever Taiwanese beef noodles in – truly an eye opening experience as you might imagine – and it’s also one of the, let’s say older and original places, which easily can be mixed up with dodgy and sticky. No really, the place is clean, just has it’s shining days of glory behind it, what obviously doesn’t impact it’s popularity as it has always been pretty busy around here when I came by.

They didn’t have small or big portions here, just one size, which I reckon came closer to the larger bowls I had. Sure enough I ordered the ‘Spicy Beef Noodles‘ or ‘Hong Shao’ (红烧牛肉麵) and for a change I actually got what I asked for. It wasn’t overly hot but I absolutely loved it, that much that I didn’t even care that the added chilli oil hyped up the calories even more than usual. The noodles here were wicked, long and firm with a great taste to them, that, together with the loads of tender brisket bits made this my favourite bowl of beef noodles in Taipei to date. So good.

Again no polished facade, not even a signboard but friendly enough people, absolutely outstanding simple food and for NT$150 a bowl a total steal as well. How fantastic that our corporate hotel is just down the road from here so I have the chance to come back even if the days at the office get longer.

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Taoyuan Street Beef Noodles 桃源街牛肉麵 / (Old Wang Beef Noodles 桃源街牛肉麵/老王)
No.15 TaoYuan Street / 台北市桃源街十五號
Zhongzheng District (Jhongjheng)
Taipei City
Taiwan / Republic of China
Tel: +886 2 2375 8973

Beef noodles fancy pants.

imageWhat’s the perfect follow up for a great beef noodle lunch? Right, an equally great beef noodle dinner. That settled I met up with a friend at ’18 Cafe’ in a different corner of Da’an district. This place was completely different to ‘Yong Kang’s‘ coffeeshop from this afternoon, modern interior, spotlights over each table, classy almost hip but still with a nice and cosy atmosphere.

As different as the restaurants were, so were their ‘Beef Noodles‘. They take a modern and fusion twist on their food here and the noodles were no exception. They used ingredients I hadn’t seen in this dish before like slightly bitter blanched spinach, fresh cilantro, some tomato chunks and daikon roots and a pretty darn good tasting meatball. At first I was concerned about that one but it was perfectly soft and had a delicious but alien flavour which I’m sure came from mixed in lemongrass. The other more ordinary beef bits were ok too but he ratio of tendon was just a bit too high for my preference. And then there was the strong beef broth packed with super wide noodles that, like so often, were my most favourite part about this. They were thick and chewy and actually reminded more of Italian pasta than your usual Chinese noodles (if there actually is such a thing).

imageJust before the soup, we also shared their ‘Signature Seafood Salad‘ which was top. Everything was super fresh, the greens were crunchy, the prawns and squid had a lovely firm bite, fish was soft and sweet and the chunky avocado added yet another texture to the bunch. The dressing, even though a bit too heavy on the oil, was citrusy and just simple as I like it.

Delicious and apparently award winning fusion Taiwanese cuisine coming up in huge servings; I didn’t hear myself complain and sure will be coming back to this one again during one of my next visits.

18 Café
No.55 Section 1 Anhe Road
Taipei City
Taiwan / Republic of China
Tel: +886 2 2775 5530
http://www.room18.com.tw/

Is Yong Kang really the best?

imageIt wasn’t long until my ‘Beef Noodle‘ marathon began and this time I had to have ‘Yong Kang’s’ noodles which are ranked as the best in Taipei by many local food bloggers. The last trip we couldn’t nail this place down walking the alleys of Da’an around Yongkang street up and down but just couldn’t find it. Even this time together with my Taiwanese colleague it took us some extra rounds to get here and then there was a queue in front despite the rain but thankfully it wasn’t too long ’til we got in.

My spicy version of the ‘Beef Noodles‘ was great even though as usual not spicy at all. The broth was dark and tasted slightly like goulash with a sour touch. The noodles were plenty and shaped like edged thicker spaghetti. The meat was fantastic, it fell apart and the fat just disappeared into nowhere but I didn’t like the free flow preserved veggies here; they were maybe a just a bit too well preserved and tasted bitterish. They also had those awesome little plates you pick from the counter and I particularly liked the garlic loaded snappy cucumbers and roots and for it’s positively weird taste the seemingly caramel soaked sweet tofu.

‘Yongkang’ is like most beef noodle shops in Taipei, oldish, a bit dodgy and ran down, service isn’t really of the heartwarming kind but the food is in focus and here they actually did a pretty good job with it. I’m not sure if it is really the best beef noodle shop in Taipei but it’s definitely up there in my personal top five.

imageYong Kang Beef Noodle 永康牛肉麺館
No.17 Lane 31 Section 2 Jinshan South Road
Taipei City
Taiwan / Republic of China
Tel: +886 2 2351 1051
http://www.beefnoodle-master.com/