Chicken in Bok & Beer
With the controversy still roiling regarding overcrowding in Shi-da night market and the nearby "Exotic Cuisine Street" (Pucheng Street Lane 31), I figured I'd go ahead and review one of the restaurants on that street.
This place serves exactly what you think - fried stuff and beer. Mostly chicken, but you can also get fries, onion rings and fried tteokbokki as well as soft drinks and beer. It claims to be original Korean fried chicken.
Well, I didn't get to try to garlic chicken but the consensus regarding what we did get was that the sauce-less original flavor (above) was good enough but not fantastic - I found it a smidgen dry and lacking sufficient salt - but the ones in sauce (also above), both the "sweet" and "spicy" varieties, were awesome. I would totally go back for the spicy sauce crispy chicken. It's got a real kick of spice, it's not just sweet-and-sour sauce (although yes, I realize that that's what it looks like) and yet does retain some level of crispiness.
The fries are good by Taiwan standards, but they won't blow your mind. The draft beer appears to be Tsingtao, which is unexpected. I've developed a taste for Taiwan Draft Beer (台灣生啤酒) but I'll take Tsingtao. As long as they don't give me Coors or Hite I'm generally OK. Draft beer is NT$100 a glass, and the glasses are fairly large.
A half chicken - which is one large serving - is NT $230-$260 or so. A full chicken is roughly double that.
Each order comes with a free "salad" - I ate it more out of pity for its continued existence, than anything. I considered it humane euthanasia to put that sad, limping salad out of its misery. It's basically shredded iceberg lettuce, a few corn kernels and thousand island dressing. Don't let it put you off, get it out of the way before the actual food comes. It's sad but it is not an omen as to the quality of the chicken.
Final verdict: pretty good, didn't tilt the world on its axis, would go back but only for the spicy sauce chicken.
If you want some really good Korean fried chicken, by the way, try the guy near the far end (far from Keelung Rd) of Tonghua Night Market who shares space with the Taiwanese meatball people. Portions are small but cheap, and his Korean fried chicken is great. He's actually Korean, by the way.
About that Shi-da dust-up.
I don't have an opinion about the controversy itself - both the residents and the restaurants have good points - but I do agree that the government has handled it very poorly. Can't expect much better from Muppet-in-Chief Hao Lung-bin. (No, seriously, the guy looks like a muppet, and is about as smart as one).
If I had to come down on one side, I'd side with the restaurants, even the ones I don't like (more on that below). They've been allowed to be there for ages, been officially inspected, have operated openly and have been given no reason to believe that what they were doing was illegal (even if it technically was). Sending a form letter does not equate to "communication" on the government end and I don't believe the government is trying even remotely hard enough to solve the issue.
While I do feel for the residents - I know how noise can impact quality of life - the apartments in that neighborhood can go for quite a lot of money. If I lived there, I'd rent mine out to students (who don't care as much, in my experience, and will love living so centrally) and use the rent money to rent myself a nearby apartment in a quieter lane. Or, I'd move. My issue would be roaches from all the food and crowds, though.
I know, I know, nobody should feel they have to move, but then that also goes for the stores and restaurants which have been operating with government blessings for years, and have even been promoted.
I also feel that while I still enjoy Shi-da, I don't like it as much as I used to. On Exotic Cuisine Street, Exotic Masala House has gone way downhill, I stopped eating at Out of India when they once served me garlic naan swathed not in fresh butter and mincedgarlic, but that nasty margarine-based "garlic butter" you get on toast in middling cafes. Seriously, as though I wouldn't notice. They must not think much of their clients that, if they'd run out of butter and garlic they couldnt've sent someone to the nearby Wellcome. That was years ago, maybe they've reverted back to real garlic and butter, but I'm scarred for life. I've never been a fan of the Tibetan restaurant, and I didn't think the famous Korean one was all that authentic (Korean Village closer to Roosevelt in a lane on the other side of Shi-da Road is worlds better).
I'd hate to see My Sweetie Pie go out of business, though, and while there is better Western food on offer in Taipei than Grandma Nitti's, I *heart* their caring for animals and their American Diner-style coffee.
I guess what I'd like to see are some genuinely good restaurants open up in this lane or nearby - I don't eat here often because I'm genuinely not that enthused by what's on offer.
The main part of the market, the one that's so crowded you can barely walk, isn't much better. I used to enjoy it, now the crowds make it not worth it. Most of my favorite places (like the store with cats that sold interesting Chinese-style "vintage" looking gifts, jewelry, clothes, home decor items and postcards) are gone, I don't think the food is as good as Raohe, Ningxia or Tonghua Night Markets, and I'm not interested in the new stores popping up selling low-quality size-negative-two teenybopper clothes and gold tone jewelry.
I still stop by the guy who sells enamel Chinese-style earrings though. I'm buying him out before he disappears forever.