Monday 17 February 2014

Spices: Barbie Cafe (Taiwan)

Pink, pink and more  pink, I've never seen this much pink in my life. This is what greeted us upon making our way to Barbie Cafe in Taiwan. We just had a disaster lunch at another theme restaurant a day before, seeing this much pink, I was bracing myself for another lunch disaster but...

Barbie Cafe

From what I know this is the only officially licensed Barbie restaurant/cafe in the world. This meant that the whole place was plastered with anything to do with the iconic toy doll. Even the food has Barbie logos in it. One has to take note that there is a fee of NT300 per person if you plan to dine here.

A Pink Welcome

A Tea Set Chandalier

A Pink Dining Area

Chairs dressed in Tutus

Dining Area

Orange Juice with a Pink Straw

Barbie and her Macaroons

I've read bad reviews about the service but luckily for us, the server who attended to us was so polite and cheerful. She explained to us that from each main course, we also pick an appetizer and dessert to go with it. The set also came with salad and soup. Complimentary salad was pretty ordinary, a small portion of lettuce, chopped cabbage and cucumber slices with a mayonnaise dressing was served.

Complimentary Salad

Mushroom soup also was ordinary, served with dinner rolls that has the Barbie logo stamped into it.

Mushroom Soup with Bread

We ordered three sets to share amongst us. One can also order additional appetizers or desserts from the menu. The first appetizer we tried was Baked Sausage. Served in a ramekin, the chopped sausage was underneath a chunky mashed potato, a thin slice of sausage and cheese was added on top. It tasted good though I would've like it better if there were more chopped sausage.

Baked Sausage

The Truffle Salmon Mousse was pretty small. It was smooth, creamy, tasted fresh and had hints of truffle, I wished they would just add more truffle oil but nonetheless this was pretty good.

Truffle Salmon Mousse

My personal favorite dish for lunch was the Scallop Mentaiko. Not only was it beautifully presented, it tasted divine as well. The fresh scallop was served on its shell swimming in a delicious creamy lemon butter white wine sauce. On top of the scallops were chopped greens and fish roe.

Scallops Mentaiko

For the mains, we started with the Chicken Toast Box. Served in bread basket, the chicken was cooked in a cream based sauce mixed with red and green bell peppers. Simple and tasted decent, what I like was the fresh bell peppers that still has a crunch.

Chicken Toast Box

The Burgundy Lamb Chop with Red Wine Sauce was a nice surprise, I didn't expected it to taste this well. The meat was tender and it didn't taste gamey, it also was cooked pretty well as it had a pinkish center.

Burgundy Lam Chops

Though I would have liked the arborio rice of the Seafood Risotto to have a creamier consistency, I still enjoyed the dish. All the seafood component of the dish was cooked to perfection, shrimp was plump and juicy, squid was tender and the shellfish tasted fresh.

Seafood Risotto

The three desserts we had were the Macaroons, Hazelnut Tiramisu and Black Currant Mousse Cake. As I expected the desserts would be beautifully presented. All of the desserts were of great quality and I was surprise that each dessert wasn't clawing sweet which I liked.

My favorite was the Black Currant Mousse Cake, it looks nice and pretty plus the flavor of the berry was evident in every bite.

I was bracing for another lunch disaster but I was totally wrong. I initially thought that the menu would consist of food items designed for kids but I was mistaken. The food was not even remotely designed for kids, the menu was very mature. I've read that the resto even hired nutritionist to keep count of the calories of each dish. The dishes found here are the same food items one can find in fine dining establishments, though its not of the same standard, what I like about Barbie Cafe is that they kept it simple.I wouldn't really rave about the food nor rant about it too, it was of good quality and cooked well. Barbie Cafe prioritize being a restaurant first rather than just being a novelty themed dining place.

Barbie Cafe
Address: 2nd Floor, 128 Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da'an District, Taipei, Taiwan
Tel No: 02 27528311 (reservation preferred)

Sunday 9 February 2014

Spices: Modern Toilet (Taiwan)

Ever since I saw a feature on Modern Toilet a couple of years back , I've made a mental note that whenever I'll get the chance to visit Taiwan, I'll make sure that I'd be able to dine here. A huge toilet bowl is placed on the facade of the resto's building, it can be misleading to people who haven't heard of the resto. Good thing for us though, the toilet bowl pointed us to the right direction.

Modern Toilet

A theme restaurant that has everything to do with bathroom, it even has a toilet bowl and a doodie as mascots. It would sound crazy and icky to some but to me its quirky and interesting at the same time.

Even inside the restaurant, the theme was consistent. Toilet bowls are the resto's seats, tubs serves as table stands, lamps are in the shape of a doodie, food and drinks are served in mini toilet bowls, bed pans and urinals.

Inside the Resto

The wash basin was also shaped like a toilet bowl and I took noticed of the dark murky water inside of it. Initially, I thought that it was intentionally made to look that way but when I saw one of the staff cleaning the floor mop in it, I was really shocked, it is unsanitary!!!

Wash Basin

We started with the Fun Platter that consist of Fries, Chicken Popcorn, Chicken Nuggets and Potato Cones served with sweet chili sauce and ketchup. Everything was nice and crunchy but flavors were pretty ordinary.

Fun Platter - NTD250 (around 370php) 

The Italian Chicken Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce was a big disappointment. It was served sloppily and it looked so unappetizing. Not only did it look bad, it taste of it too. Pasta was overcooked and drowning in a runny 'taste like instant' tomato sauce, chicken doesn't taste anything like Italian and even the broccoli garnish was so soggy.

Italian Chicken Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce - NTD230 (around 340php)

From what I know the resto's bestseller is the Modern Toilet Chicken Curry. The curry was served with a side of soup, vegetables and rice.  Served on a huge toilet bowl, I thought that the serving was huge but it wasn't, serving was good for one. I love curry but Modern Toilet's curry is not memorable in any way, it is one of the most boring curries I tasted.

Modern Toilet Chicken Curry - NTD220 (around 325php)

From all the dishes we tried, the only one we kind of  liked was the Japanese Tomato Hot Pot. One can pick from pork, beef or seafood, we chose to go with the beef. The thin slices of beef looked fresh, it was nice and tender when cooked. The hotpot was served with assorted fresh veggies in a tasty rich broth.

Japanese Tomato Hot Pot (Beef) - NTD290 (around 430php) 

Each dish came with a complimentary chocolate vanilla twist soft serve ice cream. It didn't taste of chocolate and vanilla and there were a lot of ice crystals, it was terrible. We didn't even bother to finish the ice cream anymore.

Complimentary Ice Cream

I shouldn't have put much expectations on the food since this restaurant is after all bathroom themed. But still for the food prices they charge and being in a city that is known to have good eats, Modern Toilet has to drastically improve the quality and flavor of their food. The most important factor of being a good restaurant is serving good food, this resto seems to pride for being a novelty and nothing more.

Modern Toilet
Address: 2nd Floor, No.7, Lane 50, Xi Ning South Road (Simending Branch)

Monday 3 February 2014

Spices: The Abundance of Food in TAIPEI, TAIWAN

A year ago, I came across an Internet article by CNN entitled Asia's most sinful cities where the seven deadly sins were assigned to a corresponding Asian country that matches it. ( Being a big foodie, I was so surprised with their choice of Asian city for gluttony. I expected to see Hong Kong, Singapore, Penang or Okinawa but from all the power house Asian food cities that I know of, it was Taipei that was assigned the sin, gluttony. With this in mind, I was so looking forward to check out the food scene in Taiwan and find out if gluttony really fits the description.

The Abundance of Food in Taipei, Taiwan

We arrive in Taipei during the wee hours of the morning. I initially thought that we'll end up in one of the convenience stores to eat but just a few feet away from our hotel were numerous food street stalls serving fresh hot meals.As it turned out this whole area was serving food 24 hours a day.

Street Food Stalls that are open 27/7

We ended up eating fried rice, fried noodles, chicken popcorn and different grilled items. The taste of black pepper was so evident in all of the dishes. The food was nothing fancy, it tasted good and it did it job to fill us up.

Fried Noodles & Rice, Chicken Popcorn, Grilled Items

On our first day, we were so disappointed with our first meal in Modern Toilet. Luckily for us, the resto is in the Simending area. The whole place was filled with a lot of restaurants and food shops, so off we go in search for more food.

Lunch at Modern Toilet

One of the famous food chains in Taiwan is Hot Star Fried Chicken. The queue was pretty long and we had to wait for around 25 minutes before getting our order.

Hot Star

The food shop is known for serving large fried chicken. When they say large, they mean large, you can hide your face behind the rectangular piece of breaded chicken fillet.

A Huge Piece of Fried Chicken

Doused with black pepper and chili powder, it was tasty and crispy but I was disappointed on how little chicken meat was inside. I barely tasted the chicken, the crispy coating was thicker than the chicken itself.

Hot Star Large Fried Chicken

Beside Hot Star was a soft serve ice cream shop where we saw a lady who was carefully and slowly making a Tall Ice Cream Cone. It was about a foot long or even taller.

The Tallest Soft Serve Ice Cream I ever Saw

I love Roti and the Flaky Scallion Pancake reminded me of it. Also called Chinese Pizza, this little treats is made right on the spot. Starts with spreading a ladle full of rice flour on a circular griddle, whole egg is added with a generous portion of chopped spring onions, folded as it cooks then served. Hot, flaky, tasty and addicting-ly good.

Flaky Scallion Pancake

We saw people lining up at a food store, the name of the store is Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle. Upon taking a closer look, they were serving Misua, a kind of thin rice flour noodle soup. The line was long but the server was scooping up ladle fulls of the soup like an energizer rabbit.

Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodle Store

There were chucks of liver inside the soup and the broth tasted of innards. It was already pretty tasty but people were adding some sort of a sauce in it, we followed. It turned out to be black vinegar, the addition of it plus the wansoy on top made the soup more interesting. The soup is something I would imagine eating when the weather is really cold.

Misua / Thin Rice-Flour Noodle Soup

There has been tea store explosion happening back here, stores has been opening left and right. If you are a big fan of Sweet Tea Concoctions, you'll definitely love Taipei. You can practically find a store in every corner and what's even better are the prices, a tea drink is way cheaper in Taiwan.

Sweet Tea Concoctions

One interesting tea drink that I tried is the Green Tea Heineken. Initially tastes sweet then leaves a slight beer bitter aftertaste.

Green Tea Heineken

After visiting the Gold Museum we headed for Jiufen Old Street. We were yards away from entering the busy alleyway of Jiufen and we could already smell the glorious aroma of food. As soon as we entered, food shops greeted us from all direction. There was so much food to try out. We started with a Stuffed Meatball. Stuffed with cabbage and shrimp,  breaded then fried, the meatballs were delicious.

Stuffed Meatballs

Squidballs cooked in a fiery curry oil, I just had to taste this again. Ever since I tasted this in Hong Kong, I'm always on the look out for this.

Squidballs Cooked in Curry Oil

The Fried Deep Sea Squid looked promising but it was just an artificially flavored starch based piece of squid.

Fried Deep Sea Squid

It was hard to resist not trying out the Grilled Snails. Good thing we did because it was deliciously fresh and tasty.

Grilled Snails

We found an interesting couple who was making a dessert. The husband was shaving candied peanuts off a huge block then places it on top of a lumpia wrapper. The wife puts two scoops of ice cream on top and wraps the whole thing. Tasted pretty ordinary, nothing really special.

Ice Cream with Candied Peanut Wrap

If there is one thing that one must try in Taiwan is, it's Stinky Tofu. Named as such because of its foul smell, its hard to describe how it exactly smells like, to me it smells rotten. Doused with a spicy sauce and topped with pickled cabbage. I love tofu but I'm really not a fan of this, it smells rotten and taste of it too. Maybe it's just an acquired taste because I've heard people swear how good this is.

It Smells so Bad that even the Cook has to Wear a Mask while Grilling it

Grilled Stinky Tofu

That night, we went to Shilin night market and met Achi Angie, she treated us to every must eats found there. First thing she asked was if we were brave enough to try out snake. Without any hesitation, we said yes and made our way to the store that cooks and serves Snake Meat.


The snake meat was cooked in broth with Chinese herbs, just like with anything exotic, this supposed to be an aphrodisiac. It was my first time to eat snake, it was like eating a very thorny or boney piece of chicken meat.

Snake Soup

As soon as we set foot at Shilin's food court, I was overwhelmed with what I saw. The food court was literally like a maze, stalls after stalls were lined up everywhere. It was an overload of all senses, chaos in a good way.

Food Court at Shilin

We settled in one of the food stalls and Achi Angie proceeded to order. First up was a Sticky Soup with Pork, Squid and Vegetables. Broth taste of innards and it had a sour fermented tasted, not really a fan of this.

Sticky Soup with Pork, Squid and Vegetables

Made fresh upon ordering, the Oyster Cake pretty much tasted the same like what you find in Chinese restaurants back here.

Oyster Cake

For our second bout with Stinky Tofu, the tofu we tried this time was fried. The fried version was less stinky and it tasted more pleasant than the grilled version. But still, I'm not a fan, it's something I can eat but not crave for.

Fried Stinky Tofu

We continued walking around and I spotted a store making Coffin Bread.  It starts with deep frying a super thick cut slice of bread,  the top gets sliced off  then stuffed with your choice of filling. The sliced off pieces of bread is place back on top then served. Another way of making and serving a sandwich.

Coffin Bread

We headed back up to the streets to continue to look and eat more food. One of the famous and favorite stores that always has a long line, is this store that sells Black Pepper Buns.

Famous Black Pepper Bun Stall

The buns are made and cooked right on the spot. The dough are stuffed with beef and spring onions then baked in a tandoori oven.

Baked in a Tandoori Oven

I enjoyed the Black Pepper Buns so much that I wolfed down two easily. The bread was flaky, beef filling tender and I loved how it really taste of black pepper. Too much of the spice can be unpleasant in the mouth but this buns has just enough kick and didn't overwhelm the flavor of the filling.  A must try!

Black Pepper Buns

One thing I also enjoyed so much is the Steamed Meat Buns, it's very similar to the fried siopao found in Binondo. Stuffed with a huge tasty meatball, the buns were soft and moist with a browned crunchy bottom. Another must try!

Steamed Meat Buns

An interesting find is the Fried Milk Balls, the balls had a crunchy crust and a sticky sweet milk filling inside.

Fried Milk Balls

We wanted to check out the bar scene and try out their local beer. There wasn't much of a bar scene, it seems that the locals prefer to drink right on the tables set up on the streets. The people we were drinking with at the bar where mostly expats. The Taiwan Beer was light and sweet, it's the type of beer that you can chug down in one go.

Taiwan Beer

The next day, after having a wonderful lunch at Barbie Cafe, we were off again to look for more things to eat. We headed to another famous night market,  Raohe. One can practically find the same food stuffs in Shilin and Raohe so we looked for things we haven't tried the night before.

Pana Cota at Barbie Cafe

One of the most common thing you can find around is Sausages, I went to a stall and found out that they were selling two kinds of sausages.

Sausage Stall

The first sausage was typical made of meat. It was pretty good, taste of five spice and you can opt to ask for cabbage to be put in the middle, reminding me of sauerkraut. The second sausage was made of rice, it's the first time I've ever seen something like it. As I was told by the vendor, you should hold each sausage on each hand and take bites alternately. It's like having a complete meal on skewers.

Meat Sausage and Rice Sausage

It looked like french fries but when I took a closer look, it was Sweet Potato Fries. I bought a pack and upon first bite, we were blown away how deliciously sweet it was. Crunchy with a soft center, the fries were doused with black pepper to give it a kick. Must try!

Sweet Potato Fries

One of our favorite food finds in Taipei is one of the best if not the best custard I ever tried. The custard's brand is Porcini, I'm really not sure if this is a Taiwanese or international brand. Texture was perfectly smooth and creamy and it wasn't clawing sweet.

Porcini Custard

There are different flavors and the one that I liked the most is the Green Tea Custard, it smell and taste of green tea.

Porcini's Green Tea Custard

On our last day, we were supposed to dine at Din Tai Fung but the resto was packed with so much people. Achi Angie decided to buy a variety of Dimsum for  take out and so we can eat it at a food court. Everything looked so pretty and it would have tasted better if we ate them fresh and hot. Though not hot, we still we enjoyed every little piece of dimsum, wiping out everything in minutes.

Assorted Dimsum from Din Tai Fung

Ahia Charlie made us try their version of the Taho or Beancurd Pudding, it seems that in Taiwan they eat theirs cold. Served with a watered down syrup and crushed ice, one can have it plain or choose from different toppings like beans, peanuts, bubble pearls, etc.

Taho / Beancurd Pudding

Before heading for the airport, Ahia Benjie treated us to dinner before going home. We went to dine at Dumpling Tiger Northern Delicacy Restaurant (such a long name for a resto!). Thanks to Ahia Benjie, everything he ordered was delicious. The Xiao Long Bao wasn't as pretty as Din Tai Fung's but we enjoyed this better since we ate it fresh and piping hot.

Xiao Long Bao
The Beef Noodle Soup had a clear tasty broth, tender slices of beef and the noodles still had a toughness when you bite into it.

Beef Noodle Soup

We had another chance to try the Flaky Scallion Pancake but this time around there were shreds of tender beef fillet and vegetables in the middle. So good!

Flaky Scallion Pancake with Beef and Vegetables

After eating our way through Taipei, I understood why Taipei was assigned the sin, gluttony. Literally anywhere you go, you'll find someone selling food. Restaurants, food shops, food stores, food stalls are everywhere, most of them are even open 24/7. But what's even more surprising and mind boggling is seeing a lot people eating during the wee hours of the morning. From breakfast to midnight snacking, it seems that the people here never stops eating. Taipei, Taiwan is definitely a food paradise, a place where you'll eat your heart out and become a glutton yourself.