Friday, December 02, 2016

pop up/asia best 50: MINISTRY OF CRAB POP UP AT REGENT TAIPEI 12/1-12/4



SRI LANKA IS EIGHT HOURS AWAY FROM TAIPEI, BY PLANE. It's a small island on the south side of India, which I didn't know until I looked it up yesterday. Thank goodness for Google. 

Why was I looking up Sri Lanka? Because I was charmed by the enthusiasm, backstory and food of half Japanese, half Sri Lankan chef Dharshan Munidasa, who has two restaurants ranked on Asia's Best 50. He cooked up a storm while a student at John Hopkins, with skills learned from his Japanese mom, and returned to Sri Lanka when his father passed away before graduating from college. Chef Munidasa brought his spices, woks, team and huge crabs from Sri Lanka to Taipei, to do a four day pop up at Regent Taipei from 12/1-12/4.  


From the moment I sat down and saw a bib with a motto to live by "Keep Calm and Crab On," I knew we were going to have a good meal and get our hands dirty. 


The set menu for two is NT$4800 or you could get 1-1.5 kg (2-3.5 pounds) crabs a la carte for NT$2580 or NT$4280, depending on weight. 
 

The tasting started off with a glass of Small Island Ice Tea, inspired by Long Island Ice Tea, with Sri Lankan tea and arrack, which is a coconut flower liquor. It's sweet accompaniment to the stronger flavors on the plate. 


Chili crab and pepper crabs might have been popularized by Singapore using exported Sri Lankan crabs, but Ministry of Crab is the first Sri Lankan restraurant "dedicated to serving the best crabs in their country." They are a "no freeze" restaurant so their seafood isn't frozen, and the crabs at the pop up are also live (up untl they are cooked.) Ofher dishes include OMG prawns and #crabzilla which are crabs over 2kg. Diners can opt for pepper crab (made with crushed Sri Lankan peppers), curry, garlic or garlic chili crab.


The OMG prawns were also delicious and slightly less work to eat. The head was the size of a lobster, which seemed oversized to the shrimpy body.


Jockeying for a shot among all the Taiwan news cameras and reporters. 😁😁 





Luckily several crabs came to the table, so it wasn't too awkward to duke it out for crab. The claws were almost as big as my fist and definitely more satisfying (for meat) than hairy crab, which is tiny in comparison. The black pepper crab wasn't overwhelming and a lot of the sauce came off when you take off the shell. The meat was sweet and I liked both the pepper and garlic flavors I tried. If you don't get the set, I would recommend the OMG prawn over the Curry Tiger Prawns which were slightly over cooked and a tad dried out. Otherwise just get a bunch of crab loving friends and share different flavors of crab. Thanks Regent Taipei for the invitation to the media event and lunch! 



Ministry of Crab's pop up is from 12/1-12/4 at Silk Place, on the 3rd floor in the Regent Taipei Hotel. Reservations recommended (02) 2521-5000

https://m.facebook.com/MINISTRYOFCRAB/photos/a.284603361627863.72624.192288300859370/1026794397408752/?type=3&source=44



Friday, November 25, 2016

Hungryintaipei X Uber Eats Taipei



Hey everyone, I'm excited to announce that you can try a new restaurant (or old fave) from @ubereats_tw and save NT$300 using my promo code HUNGRYINTAIPEI. 

You'll get TWO new-user-trials, each discount up to NT$150, and got NT$70 delivery fee for free. Promo code will expire 11/30/2016. (I'll also get credit if you use my code, hungryintaipei, so if you've ever wanted to thank me for all the posts then it's as easy as trying this out!) The app is pretty easy to use and navigate and they have quite a few eats on there that I want to try out too. Feel free to share the promo! Thanks! 



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

News: where to find Thanksgiving in Taipei 2016



Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Even this year has been a bit overwhelming and we don't know what is going to happen the next year (or four), I do still have a lot to be grateful for. I was able to travel to Paris, Guam, Tokyo, Toba, Tainan and Osaka, all for the first time (except Tokyo which I had visited once before). I was able to spend time with my parents and family in New York, Boston and LA, and hang out with my sister in Japan and Taipei, even if it was brief. I also have a lot of exciting things in the works that I hope to be able to share with you soon. I was able to work behind the scenes as a Taipei fixer for Bizarre Foods Delicious Destinations and the Culinary Institute of America's World of Flavors series, which will hopefully showcase what we already know, which is how amazing Taiwan is as a destination for good eats. 

But the next few days, some of us will be on the hunt for turkey. So here is a list of places for where to find Thanksgiving in Taipei. If you have a restaurant or know of one that's also doing Thanksgiving, please include it below and I'll include it on my next list!


TEXAS ROADHOUSE 德州鮮切牛
Mingsheng (02) 2718-3011
https://m.facebook.com/TexasRoadhouseTWN/
(NT$799 turkey plate, sides, soup or salad with drink until 11/24. I got to try this and it was pretty delicious and filling!! See the first photo. First 30 customers to mention "hungryintaipei" get a free keychain.😊)

PIG AND PEPPER 
0800-887-427
https://www.facebook.com/88kbbq
(I heard there will be turducken this weekend!) 

SPOT TAIPEI 
https://m.facebook.com/spot.taipei/

GALERIE BISTRO 
https://m.facebook.com/galeriebistro/

CAFE BY JUICY DIARY 
https://m.facebook.com/cafebyjuicydairy/

LE BLANC
http://m.facebook.com/leblanctaipei/
(All you can eat prime rib for NT$2000!) 

CARNEGIE's 

RUE 216 
https://m.facebook.com/Rue216/

ON TAP 
https://m.facebook.com/baldfatty/

GRANDMA NITTI's KITCHEN
https://m.facebook.com/cornerofficetaipei/

GRAND HYATT HOTEL BUFFET
https://m.facebook.com/鄉香西餐廳-Jakes-Country-Kitchen-360274272354

BEER AND CHEESE 
https://m.facebook.com/beerandcheese/


The last few years I've been ordering whole turkey to carve at home and make my favorite sides like candied yams and cornbread. If you want to order a cooked whole turkey or ham for Christmas, please check out my round up from a few years ago. Some good options are Lawrys, Sherwood, Ed's Diner and Costco even had frozen Butterball turkeys this year. If you're not a turkey person, you could considered rounding up a group for roast duck, which would be fitting for celebrating Thanksgiving in Asia. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

ramen/japanese: i strongly recommend TOTTO RAMEN



TOTTO RAMEN 鳥人拉麵
 No 9, Alley 5, Lane 107, Fuxing S. Road, Sec. 1
台北市大安區復興南路一段107巷5弄9號
(02) 2778-9866

MRT: ZhongXiao/FuXing

hours: 11:30AM- 2:30PM; 5:30PM-10:30PM (Saturdays 12PM-12AM)

$$ (about NT$250/person)

Kid friendliness: kids will love the chicken broth original paitan, no high chairs spotted and very narrow tight seating so no room for strollers 

Visit reviewed: 10/30/2016 & 6/17/2016



WHAT SETS TOTTO RAMEN APART FROM OTHERS is that its broth base is made from chicken bones stock rather than the more popular tonkotsu pork bone broth. For a first time visit, the server recommended we try the unadorned chicken paitan (NT$200) which is a velvety version of chicken noodle soup, with two slices of charsiu pork and thin al dente noodles. Paitan translates into white soup, so you'll see it's a milky, opaque, almost creamy soup rather than the clear chicken stock Amercians are used to. 


Some of you might recognize Totto Ramen from NYC and the Taipei shop is the real deal. Located in the alleys behind ZhongXiao Sogo, it seats about 20 people in one row of tables and one row of bar seating. On my third visit, I discovered they were more adamant about seating customers after everyone in your party had arrived (which I always find annoying especially since I was one person waiting for one other person and would occupy 1 table) even when the restaurant isn't full and there is no line. 



If you sit at the bar (or are waiting to be seated) then you can spy huge vats of chicken broth bubbling away, to become the base for the ramen broth. 



Totto Ramen's menu has four basic bowls- Chicken paitan, miso paitan, vegetable ramen and mega paitan and then spicy versions of it. There are small rice bowls available and some side dishes like seaweed salad or kimchi tofu. No grilled shisito peppers from their NY menu, as someone asked me on Instagram. You can add extra stuff to your bowl like bamboo or kimchi, or extra noodles for NT$30, or even chicken.




The cucumber (NT$90) is deceptively spicy. 


I always find myself gravitating towards spicy miso paitan (NT$230). Pretty delicious and yes it's the same one as the one in NYC. The chili oil and miso paste is added into the chicken paitan broth, so if I ordered this again, I would ask for the sauces on the side. The last time I had it, it was a bit heavy for me, maybe since I had it after a workout. But if you're looking for a rich spicy miso, this will fit the bill. Another thing to note is that the chicken paitan comes with a slender straight noodle (and no egg) while the miso paitan comes with a thicker wavy ramen and half an egg. I felt the pork was also fattiest on my most recent visit, so I ended up being a bit charsiu deprived after peeling away all the fat. 





For a heartier bowl, the mega paitan (NT$290) comes with more pork (I think three different kinds), and bears the number one label on the menu. If you're hungry, this is worth the upgrade. (Still cheaper than the chicken paitan I had in LA which started at US$12)


Anyways, head over to Totto Ramen before too many people discover it. And let me know if you find any other chicken paitan ramen spots in Taipei. The first place I ever had chicken paitan ramen was at  Afuri Ramen in Tokyo and then here at Totto Ramen in Taipei and then Tentenyu on Sawtelle in LA. The broth reminds me a little bit of the intense chicken soup at G-woo, although this is for a fraction of the cost. I would kind of kill for a bowl of this right now at one in the morning, as I'm finally updating some posts.



Monday, November 14, 2016

dessert/japanese: i recommend MYOWA


MYOWA 和茗甘味處
No. 221 JinHua St 
金華街221號
(02) 2351-8802

MRT: DongMen 

hours: 1PM- 9PM

price: $-$$ (minimum one drink or dessert per person)

kid friendliness: lots of desserts or drinks if your kid likes green tea

visit reviewed: 11/11/2016

I'VE PASSED BY MYOWA DOZENS OF TIMES OVER THE YEARS, as it sits discreetly next to the adorable Patisserie La Douceur. But yesrtday feeling the mood for matcha, we stopped by after sushi. 

Inside I spied matcha everything on the tables we passed, as they led us to the seating in the basement. The menu included photos of matcha tiramisu, chiffon cake, lava cake, matcha cheesecake, matcha shaved ice, matcha crepe cake, matcha lattes- basically 10 pages of anything you could imagine in green tea dessert or drink form. The server told us there was a minimum order of one drink or dessert per person and that we would have to order at the cashier and pay first upstairs.  I considered the shaved ice or the hot plate matcha cake (which I really wanted to try), but I couldn't finish it by myself and my friends wanted soft serve which didn't count as an item for the minimum order (annoying). So we ended up not sitting inside and ordering to go. 

TTheir matcha soft serve is pretty tasty (and not too sweet) though I could do without the cornflakes in the sundae. Inside the sundae there's also matcha jelly at the bottom and two mochi atop with a touch of adzuki red bean. I didn't love the mochi (I'd prefer the tang yuan at Tai Yi if we're counting calories), so next time I'd get the plain soft serve cone or the hot plate matcha cake or maybe the cheesecake. If you're looking for matcha galore, I'd recommend Myowa- I've never seen so many matcha desserts in one place. You can also look for shops inside the malls specializing in green tea desserts like Tsujiri and Matcha One (spotted at Breeze and Mitsukoshi), but those are mostly soft serve and ice. Here's the menu for Myowa for your perusal.








OTHER LOCATION:

ZhongXiao branch
No. 40, Lane 31, DaAn Rd, Sec. 1
(02) 8771-7720

Saturday, October 22, 2016

sushi/japanese: i recommend SASA



SASA SUSHI 笹鮨
No. 6, Lane 42, Zhongshan N. Rd., Sec. 2
  • 台北市中山北路2段42巷6號
(02) 2561-1246

MRT: Zhongshan

Hours: 11:30AM- 2:30PM; 6:30PM- 10PM

Price: $$$$ (NT$2000-5000+ per person)

Visit reviewed: 10/2016



SASA SUSHI IS ONE OF THE MORE WELL KNOWN and well regarded sushi bars in Taipei, with fans like RAW's Chef Andre Chiang among its customers. Hadn't been to Sasa in YEARS and only once before when I didn't really pay over NT$1000 for sushi. Now that I'm slightly less clueless about Taipei omakase values and sushi, Sasa is still a splurge, but I was satisfied with taste and amount in NT$2500 (about US$80) lunch set with almost 20 pieces/courses, in contrast to some other sushi bars I had recently tried. Dinner sets can run NT$5000 and up, but I think the same level of sushi would cost even more in the US. Sushi is elegant and straightforward, so that the focus is on the taste rather than the presentation or creative interpretations that I've experienced at other sushi bars. 


Of course it's always more fun to sit at the sushi bar, but for a big group they put us inside another private room, where it's easier to talk to each other (and be loud). Like many sushi bars in Taipei, there is no menu- you let them know how much you want to spend and enjoy the ride. Sasa's omakase offers a mix of sashimi, sushi and cooked foods- if you want just sushi and no cooked foods, you should let them know in advance. They also ask if there's anything you don't eat- for me, I prefer not to eat sushi that have a strong "fishy" taste like sanma or kohada.



Kinmedai, Katsuo, Sawara and Ainame


Tako 


Chawanmushi (steamed egg) with abalone




Ika (squid) - yum! one of my favorite bites of the meal



Grilled Eel (unagi)



Scallop 

Pickled radish, cucumbers and ginger 


Sanma (I didn't get this one since I requested to have less strong fishy fish)


Kue  (so instead of the sanma they gave me this, which I liked)



Ikura (in a mini bowl over rice)






Akami





Uni





For me, Sasa sits in the sushi bar category of "the more you spend, the better service you'll get" which I feel like is true for many of the high end sushi bars in Taipei. This visit, I went with a friend who mentioned that despite going a number of times over the years, she didn't feel like the chef really remembered her until she had spent over NT$5000 several times. If this is the sort of thing that would bother you, then Sasa probably isn't for you. I personally feel like the sushi chefs should treat each customer the same regardless of whether or not they are a VVIP or a new customer coming in and spending the minimum. Sasa certainly isn't the worst offender (I've definitely experienced overt disrespect from a sushi chef elsewhere in Taipei despite spending over NT$2500), I was just reminded of it when I was looking at a customer review on their Facebook page.  Next time I got back to Sasa, I'd like to sit at the sushi bar to see if I have a different experience than before. Advance reservations recommended.

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