Showing posts with label tianmu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tianmu. Show all posts

Saturday, June 8, 2019

My favorite Taipei cafes: 2019 rundown

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In the past I've done reduxes of my favorite cafes for atmosphere - which is mostly accurate still, though a few places have moved (such as Nancy), rebranded as restaurants (Anhe 65), are now noisy tea shops (Red House Theater), or closed (Mono Cafe). I've done one for good coffee in Taipei as well - though that's a bit more outdated: My Sweetie Pie is long gone and there is now more than one George House in the Yongkang Street area. I don't think Naruwan Indigenous People's Market is still a thing anymore, either, though I haven't been in awhile.

Both posts are now badly in need of an update - most of the places I mentioned are still open, but I've found new haunts that I like just as much.

To deal with that, I'll leave those old posts as they are (links above) and provide here a new redux of where I'm imbibing right now. This isn't just for folks who live here - when I've traveled to other cities with hopping cafe scenes, I've found blogs in English by committed residents of those cities to be helpful guides as to where to go. So I want to be one of the people who does that for Taipei. Plus, as a grad student, I spend a lot of time in cafes getting reading done or writing papers so my list of good spots has grown.


You'll see some of my old entries repeated here, with new ones added, and I've prioritized places with outdoor seating, as that's so hard to find in Taipei. I've also noted where some cafes are near other good options, as seating can be so hard to come by. There's also a bias towards southern Taipei because that's where I live and hang out. Overall there's simply a lot of bias for "places I actually go to", so there's not much more to unite them thematically than that. No pretension to "the best" or "the top 10" or whatever - just my real world.

Instead of looking up each address like it's still 2010, I've gone ahead and made a Google Maps list, which you can access here. (I realized after I'd made it that I could actually create a map rather than just a list, but I'm too lazy to go back and re-do it, so this'll do for now.) 



Heritage Bakery and Cafe

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This 'newcomer' (opened in 2016) has quickly become a go-to spot in the Taipei Main Station/Ximen area. Pretty much everything about it is excellent - you feel as you walk in that you're somewhere in New York being exceedingly posh in that middle-class hipster sort of way. If that doesn't sound appealing to you - a bit to gentrificationy - don't let that deter you (you're not gentrifying much here - the neighborhood is much the same as it always was). Go for the bright, attractive upstairs seating with exposed brick walls, the very good coffee and other drinks (non-coffee drinkers can choose a variety of teas or fizzy drinks, or beer) and most of all, the desserts.


Oh, the desserts.
Westerners who complain that Taipei doesn't have good dessert options can shove some of this cake in their cakehole - from fluffy, perfect, cinnamony cinnamon rolls which sell out quickly to pink guava cheesecake to sea salt caramel Belgian chocolate cake all in generous or even huge servings, this place knows how to do Western-style desserts. The foccaccia sandwiches are quite good too - try the chicken avocado club.


It's not particularly cheap - drinks, sandwiches and a cinnamon roll for 2 will cost you NT$900 and change - but it's not insane. 90-minute limit on holidays and weekends. Otherwise, pretty much the only downside is that the air conditioner is often on full-blast, which makes it a bit chilly. Bring a cardigan.

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This Cafe ((這間咖啡)


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This is quickly becoming one of my favorite work cafes. Very strong social movement bent (check out the "I Support Taiwan Independence" banner in the back), good wifi and lots of plugs - it's quiet and you can usually get a seat. It's a little dimly lit but that just adds to the charm and isn't a problem if you're on a computer, and the table in back is set under antique Taiwanese milk glass hanging lamps. They have non-coffee drinks including beer, and a small selection of sandwiches and salads which are reasonably priced. I think I also like it because the guy who most often works there knows me on sight and knows my order by heart now. Plus they're open pretty late. There are other cafes nearby, such as Perch (nice, but often crowded) and PuiBui, which I haven't tried yet. 


Cafe Le Zinc


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Set in the back of an old Dihua Street shophouse, Le Zinc can be accessed through the Art Yard ceramics shop from Dihua, or directly from a little lane that snakes around the back. Seating is limited but I've never had a problem, and the well-lit long table has plugs. There's also strong wifi. Windows look out into the narrow courtyard of the old house, where the bathroom is. There's an extensive (but expensive) wine list - house wine by the glass is more affordable - beer, coffee and light food. Music leans toward the jazzy and old-fashioned, which I like. It's a good place to work (on account of the big table, wifi and plugs) and also a good place to meet friends just to chat.

In fact, this whole area is bursting with cafes - if you can't get a seat at Le Zinc, you can surely get a seat somewhere. There are so many that I can't possibly put them all on my map.

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Fleisch

Dihua Street is actually bursting with cafes these days - a huge change from my first few years here when it was a somewhat forgotten corner of the city where you could do a little fabric or dry-goods shopping and check out the old buildings, but not much else. If anywhere in Taipei has gentrified, it's here - and yet the fabric and dry-goods sellers still mostly seem to be in business. Where Le Zinc stands out for its table space and wine/beer list, Fleisch has some unique coffee drinks - my favorite being a latte with dried Mandarin orange (dried citrus slices are fairly common dried goods in Taiwan - they make a nice drink steeped in boiling water.)



Hakkafe

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A very new addition to the Dihua Street cafe scene, Hakkafe was opened by an entrepreneurial Hakka guy named Terry who is friendly and enthusiastic about his mission to create a modern cafe space with a traditional Hakka twist. The space is large, minimalist and quiet, done in shades of black, white, gray and wood. We especially liked the Hakka BLT (with Taiwanese pickled green chilis), and the brownie was wonderful. I highly recommend the Hakka breakfast tea - Terry noticed that England has a 'breakfast tea' culture but Taiwan, another tea-drinking nation, does not. So he set out to blend his own. The results are stunning.

This is the only place on the list that doesn't actually serve coffee, but you won't miss it if you try the Hakka Breakfast Tea.

It's also near funky-looking Chance Cafe (
一線牽), which I haven't tried yet. 
 

The Lightened

Formerly Backstage Cafe, which had a student activist/social movement theme (yes, a theme, but the former owner was apparently active in those circles), The Lightened is now associated with Anmesty International Taiwan. Located on Fuxing South Road near the back gate of National Taiwan University, The Lightened is unpretentious, well-lit, there are lots of plugs and good wifi, and you can always get a seat. The coffee is good (and fair trade), there's a small selection of beer and the desserts are homemade. On weekends a spunky black-and-white cat might be around.



Rufous Coffee


Almost directly across the street from The Lightened, Rufous is a bit darker, more famous, and is known for having top-notch coffee. Any of the single origin choices are good, and the Irish coffee is spectacular. That said, non-coffee drinkers won't find much here, and they don't have much in the way of food, either. I like it for its cozy, friendly atmosphere, though it can be hard to get a seat sometimes. Not far away there's a 2nd branch, which is quite close to URBN Culture. 



Shake House (雪可屋)


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 I simply cannot write a post about coffee without including my long-time hangout. I don't know why I go to Shake House. There's no wifi, nor any plugs. The bathroom is tiny and through a dilapidated passageway. Lamps are hanging flower pots with ribbons. The chairs are ancient. But I just love the place - it's like, in every city I live in, I need my student hangout in some old building that's falling apart, and I just get attached to it. That's how it is. The coffee is good, the chicken sandwiches above average, the beer selection excellent (and affordable as cafes go), they're open very late and the music is...eclectic. From odd movie soundtracks to church music to Johnny Cash to John Coltrane to whatever. You just literally never know what you'll get. Also, I know the owners and they know me.


If you really need plugs and wifi, Cafe Bastille is just across the lane (and there are other cafes in the area, including Drop Coffee and its new neighbor).


Drop Coffee (滴咖啡)

Drop is another coffeeshop I always include. On Xinsheng Road just across the street from NTU, the space is a renovated Japanese wooden house. The owner is passionate about coffee and does a mean siphon brew. The dog - 橘子 (Orange, although he is black) - is unfriendly in a comical way. There are a few teas on the menu as well as some desserts but really you come here for the coffee. A new place has opened across the lane which has more space, but I haven't checked it out yet.


Cafe Philo


If you go to any sort of political or activist talks or activities, you know Cafe Philo. They have a space downstairs just for that. Upstairs, they have generous space and a wide menu which includes food. I've been going there recently as I'm taking a course (not related to my Master's - because I'm insane) and I can always get a seat.



8%

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This large black-and-white space on Yongkang Park advertises itself as an ice cream shop, but you can absolutely get coffee here. They have a good deck if you want to sit outside, and the coffee is high-quality. You can get some interesting coffee drinks here that you may not find elsewhere - I had iced coffee in a glass flask that I could pour over a giant ice ball, and my friend had a huge ball of iced coffee that melted as he poured foamed milk over it.


Caffe Libero


Another classic, I've found myself going here less ever since Red On Tree left (they used to sell excellent French-style pastry confections on-site), and they close early on Sundays. But I still love the place for its outdoor seating, quirky indoor decor, cigar selection and more.



Yaboo

Near 8% and Libero, Yaboo has decent sandwiches and - most importantly - cats! Also a nice atmosphere, but it fills up on weekends. A seat is not guaranteed. But the cats are sweet and friendly.


Angle

Another minimalist place, I like it for its weird shape and good coffee (though all they really have are coffee and a small dessert selection). Big windows let the light in, and it's called Angle because it's set in a weird triangular building outcrop on Rui'an Street (Pillow Cafe, which is also good and used to have a corgi, is nearby. They're under new ownership - hence no more corgi - and friendly.) I find myself here on the occasional Sunday as one can usually get a seat, and there are good views from the bar seats.



Slo-mo Cafe

This place has generous indoor seating and an outdoor area partitioned off from the lane - although smoking is allowed outdoors, it's never too overwhelming. The lane is not particularly busy (except at rush hour) - you may know it as the shortcut between Keelung Road where the gas station is and the Far Eastern Hotel or Carnegie's. The only real downside to sitting outside is that there are some mosquitoes - but that's an issue with all of the outdoor options listed. The desserts are standard cafe fare - though I like the lemon cake - and the glass of white wine I once got on a scorching day was pretty good. Even better? This place never seems to fill up.



Beautiful Tree Coffee (美樹咖啡館)

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This place is tiny and odd, run by a friendly older man. I absolutely love it. There's something of a rainforest theme going on, with a little outdoor area that has birds. And a ceiling with faux stained glass skylights! I'm not sure how to describe this place beyond that, it sort of defies description and, like many quirky spots, is in a gussied-up old building. The coffee was fine, and I genuinely liked their ham and cheese sandwich. Not too expensive, either. It's very close to Slo-mo as well as another place called Kaldi that I haven't tried yet. 



A8 Cafe

A8 is one of my favorite workspaces. It was opened by world-famous Taiwanese indigenous pop star A-mei and employs indigenous staff. The space has a sort of industrial decor (concrete floor, warehouse windows, exposed brick) with good lighting, big shared tables as well as individual tables and couch areas (one of which is set under a real potted tree - my favorite spot), quirky decorative elements, plugs and good wifi. They have a full menu of cafe standards as well as meals and alcohol, but they close a bit early (around 9pm, but they'll let you stick around until they really pack up for the night.) They're closed on Mondays and sometimes take business breaks, but nearby 青沐, which is technically a restaurant, will let you order a drink and just hang out if they're not too busy. There's also a nearby place called Pachamama which I haven't been to, but looks cool. 


The FOLKS

I go here because it's near my home - it's not really a workspace but you can sit outside on the little deck, and it's basically a cool, bare-bones espresso bar in a quiet lane. 


Cafe Costumice

The Big Mama of cafes where you can sit outside, Costumice is that cafe everyone knows about, and yet you can usually get a seat (not always outside, though). Its major selling point is the huge front deck (bring bug repellent) which feels like an outdoor urban oasis. Though they are a little expensive, they're worth a splurge. There's a modest but pretty good food menu, wine (including a sparkling white which makes for a decent champagne on a hot brunch-y day) and beer.



The Key

I'm including The Key's cafe - The Key is my gym - because I've been spending a lot of time there, and they make a real effort to provide quality fare at good prices (and members get discounts). Strong wifi, plugs, a range of sandwiches and a protein-rich chicken meal if you're keto and a good range of drinks beyond coffee make it a fine place to hang out. It's been useful for me to go to the gym, do a short session on one of the cardio machines, and then head to the cafe to get some grad school work done. There are a few tables outside as well. Just down the road is another cafe decorated with hanging plants which looks promising as well - I think it's where the churro place used to be - but I haven't checked it out yet. 


Coffee Tree (咖啡樹)

This spot near Zhongxiao Dunhua has a range of fattening desserts, beer, coffee and more. The interior decor is interesting, but we go because they have outdoor seating along a lane popular with pedestrians. It's near Quay Cafe which I haven't been to but would like to try. 


Coffeeology

My go-to spot when I'm in the Taipei Arena neighborhood. Coffeeology has truly excellent coffee at great prices. No food - just some cookie-like snacks - but you can get a large latte with Irish cream (real Irish cream, not just a flavor syrup) for very little money by coffeeshop standards. There are a few chairs outside, but the whole space is fairly open so you feel like you're outdoors even though you're technically not. Great beans to bring home at good prices, too. 



Zabu (in its new location)


I actually haven't been in ages because it's quite far from where I live, but if I'm in the north Tienmu area, this is my spot. It's the same Japanese-influenced hipster haven it's always been, with great rice balls, cats, and student-funky decor that it used to be in Shi-da all those years ago before the jerks made that neighborhood boring. 


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Every few months, I teach a six-week course at the Shi-da school of continuing education, on the campus that Yongkang Street hits as it ends. During one of these classes, I have to give my trainees their final exam and then stick around to pick it up, so I go to cat.jpg while they work.

You'll find cat.jpg one lane behind that Shi-da campus, where are a small klatch of cool places, including Bea's Bistro (friendly, but more of a restaurant), Nom Nom (below) and cat.jpg. There's also a local population of yellow-and-white street cats and an urban garden, some of whom are friendly and all of whom seem to be kept healthy and fed by the local community.

cat.jpg has two of their own cats who are sociable enough (one is firiendlier than the other). They have wifi, a big work table and sandwiches on the menu. 



Nom Nom


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Nom Nom is not only a great cafe (and place where you can buy ceramic ware), but also a decent brunch spot. Sandwiches and fried chicken are served with luscious little salads, and there's French Toast on the menu. Try the cumin chicken sandwich with apple and honey for sure. Their milkshakes are straight-up luxurious, served overflowing on lipped coasters so they don't mess up the table. The mint chocolate milkshake is garnished with mint leaves and a dried orange slice and then sprinkled with chocolate bits. Also, the place is Peak Taiwanese Hipster.

 

Classic Coffee (品客經典咖啡)


Classic Coffee, in the Shi-da Road neighborhood which used to be fun, doesn't look like anything special. There's food and perfectly good coffee. But this place has a major selling point - a super friendly old cat who will aggressively love you, and a similarly friendly fat corgi who gets jealous of the cat. It's my favorite cat cafe because that cat is just so in-your-face with the cuddles and snuggles, and it's a fluffy cat, too. 


Notch (Front Station)


I don't typically expect funky, studenty coffeeshops in the Taipei Main Station neighborhood - it's an area loaded with cram schools, cheap shopping, a few government buildings...not a place where students really hang out. But this particular branch of Notch brings it. It's also not particularly far from the Legislative Yuan, so if you need a place to go after a good hearty protest, this is a great choice. When the same-sex marriage bill was passed last month, I spent a period of time here out of the pouring rain, watching the deliberations at the Legislative Yuan on their good wifi (far better than trying to connect alongside 20,000 other people standing outside in bad weather). 


Look Upstairs (上樓看看)


An excellent 'work cafe' in Xinyi near City Hall Station, this place has good drinks and beer. There's food too, but it's a little expensive. Lots of space, good light, wifi and plugs - you can settle in here to get things done, especially upstairs. Some tables and countertops even have desk lamps. 


2730 Cafe

Another cat cafe! This little place in a tiny shack-like building is very close to Liquid Bread and is attached to a vintage store (of which there are not too many in Taipei). I've only had the beer and coffee - they have a DPP beer! Which...odd, but tasted fine! But a big selling point here are the two cats, one black and the other white. It's also easy to get to from Xinyi, an area that isn't exactly known for its great cafes, so it's a solid choice in that neighborhood.



BreakFirst Cafe & Studio (棗點咖啡)

Sometimes we take care of a friend's pets in the Dazhi area, and this is our go-to when we're around there. The main selling point (beyond seats usually being available) is that they have several cats! 



Lion / LineUp Dessert


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I ended up liking this place because I reviewed it for FunNow - but it's a funky little spot in an area not known for cafes (the Zhongshan Elementary School MRT area), with great desserts and solid croque sandwiches. The coffee is just OK, but I go for the desserts.


Jing Xin Cafe (晶心咖啡館)


To be honest, this isn't a place I go to hang out - it's sort of a hybrid coffeeshop and crystal shop in an odd corner of Taipei. But, they roast Taiwanese coffee beans which make great gifts (and they sell them at a reasonable price), so I wanted to include them for this reason. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mexican Food in Taipei: it's getting better!

"Oh, I don't know Mexican food. I only know American food, like tacos."
- my (Taiwanese) friend Michael

I love you, Hungry Girl, and Imma let you finish, but I decided to post this because, as much as I love your blog and what it does for the food scene in Taipei, I just can't abide a page on Mexican food including Chili's and Friday's. I'm sorry, I just can't. Many chain restaurants have things to recommend them, for example, the TGI Friday's in Reagan National Airport will serve you from the bar, anything you want, at 7am on a Sunday, and I love - sincerely, not ironically - the Happy China Buffet in Bangor, ME, but despite that, I am sorry, TGI Friday's does not offer "Mexican food" or even Tex Mex. Chili's has a stronger claim, but still, no. That's not guacamole, that's prepackaged crap from a plastic bag. At its heart it's an American chain restaurant, not "Mexican food". Even Jake's Country Kitchen, which claims to offer Mexican food, doesn't make the cut in my book because they're more famous these days for their fried chicken and their desserts than any cuisine that may have originated south of any given border.

Also, an update is in order as Eddy's has moved, Macho Tacos has expanded and Yuma is closed. It's worth it to check out the link above, though, because there are a few places on it I haven't tried. I haven't even seen them, so they're not listed here because I'm not sure they're still open.

So, not-so-humbly, I offer up my own suggestions for where to get OK, pretty OK, even good Mexican food in Taipei.

Eddy's Cantina

No.1, Alley 3, Lane 450, Zhongshan North Rd. Sec 6 (Tianmu)


Very well-known - what's less well-known is that their Danshui location is now permanently closed. Fortunately, the new main location is easier to get to, or as easy as anything in Tianmu is to get to (I don't go up there often due to insufficient MRT coverage) - I recommend eschewing the MRT and grabbing the 285 0r 685 bus to International Square and walking south, or grabbing the 902. You have a few other choices, as well.

I have to say that Eddy's is my favorite of the bunch, by the way. That's why it's first. Although Mayan Grill's drinks have a special place in my heart.

This place makes its own guacamole. It's not always available but when it is, it's fantastic. It's real, it's chunky, it's made fresh and tastes of its own fresh ingredients. A lot of other Mexican places squeeze a smoother, less real-tasting guac out of squeezey-tubes and that's just not OK with me.

The yellow cheese is clearly processed in some way, but the good white cheese and other flavors make up for it (although given a choice I'd take a more obviously real sharp cheddar, even though I realize that this is very Tex-Mex and real Mexican food isn't exactly heavy on the cheese).

Also, good margaritas and a strong beer selection. It's a good, casual place to go with friends.


Mayan Grill 
#6, Ln 65, Zhongshan N. Rd. Section 2 (near MRT Shuanglian/Zhongshan, behind Ambassador Hotel)

We have only been here once, and it was for a group event and came with a set meal, so I feel I can't rate this place fairly just yet. What we had was good, but it was at its core a set meal and I do believe that if we went on our own and ordered off the full menu we'd get something really memorable. They clearly put a lot of effort into good drinks: they top off the sangria with soda just before it's served so it won't be flat, and they use good tequila in their Mayan Margaritas, so I have high hopes for the food. The atmosphere is more high-end - this is where you might go for a small group dinner or a fancier date.


Macho Tacos
#3 Lane 126 Yanji Street / #15 Pucheng Street (Shi-da)

I've eaten at both the Yanji Street location and the Shi-da location. I was happy with the food at Yanji street: the salsa was good and fiery, the nachos were generous, the burrito filling. I got the soft tacos at Shi-da and found them dry, and the sour cream and guacamole had a too-smooth, liquid consistency when they should have been chunky and thick (the guac) or just thick and creamy (the sour cream). I intend to go back, though, to see if they've stepped up their game on the toppings. On the upside, they are generous with the jalapenos and as I said, the original location impressed me quite a bit. I hope to go back and have my mind changed about the Shi-da restaurant. Very informal setting. Good place to grab some spicy food and knock back a few Coronas, especially if you don't feel like going all the way up to Tianmu.


Jake's Country Kitchen
#705 Zhongshan N. Road Sec. 6 (Tianmu)

This place bills itself as "Mexican" but...no. Go here for fried chicken or their luscious-looking desserts, but don't come here for Mexican. It's very close to Eddy's (at least the location I know of), go there instead.


Tequila Sunrise
#42 Xinsheng S. Road Sec. 3 (Xinsheng and Xinhai Intersection)

I went here years ago and was sorely disappointed. I got a sizzling fajita platter, and it arrived not sizzling at all, in fact the meat and vegetables were a bit sad and limp. It wasn't spicy - it was barely even spiced. Pretty storefront and nice atmosphere but don't bother; the food isn't nearly as good as it needs to be.


That taco stand in Gongguan that I haven't been to yet
10-2 Lane 75, Xinsheng S. Road Sec. 3, next to Dako which used to be good (and sadly, isn't anymore)


...but I intend to try. It's there, it seems popular, it's tiny, it's clearly aimed at fast-food style eating, and I figured I should mention it. I'll come back and update here once I try it for myself.


Bongo's
#3 Alley 5 Lane 74, Wenzhou Street (Gongguan)

I don't know why I'm bothering - Bongo's has its strong points - wrap sandwiches, the sticky toffee pudding dessert, used books, cats. A lot to recommend it if you want a casual place to go and eat Western food with friends. Mexican food, however, is not one of them. I was really disappointed with their fare in this area: stick with some of their other menu items, instead. It wasn't spicy, it wasn't Tex-Mex cheesy, it wasn't sizzling, it was just meh.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More Clothing Options for Western and Plus Size Women in Taiwan

About a year and a half ago, Catherine wrote a great blog post on finding plus size clothes in Taipei with a link to an article she wrote on various options.

I want to add to that today with a find and in my next post, a suggestion. The find:

Best Buy
Taipei, Shilin District (Tianmu), Zhongshan N. Road Setion 6 #764
台北市士林區(天母)中山北路6段764號
(02)2876-8550

It’s on the east side of Zhongshan and a short walk south of International Square and the American School (as well as a short walk north of the Community Services Center and some other schools), right underneath where Whose Books used to be.
Basically, they sell American clothes that either fell off the truck, were slightly imperfect or were overstocked from American shopping malls. This means that:

1.) 80% of it is horrible – stuff you’d never wear, but…

2.) …the 20% you would wear is well worth searching for because it’s made to American body shapes. There is a men’s section but women will find this the most useful as our body types have much greater disparities.

In the USA I never had to shop in plus size stores, but I’m used to it here, because I do realize the size and body type differential here. My issue with the other plus size stores in Taiwan is that, while great to have around, they’re meant for plus-size Taiwanese women…which is fantastic, except I’m not a plus-size Taiwanese woman.

The clothing at H&L, MiniMe and 5XL is made in larger sizes, sure, but it’s made for women who are shorter, less curvy, straighter-hipped and smaller-chested and narrower-shouldered than Western women, meaning that while it all “fits” me around the waist, it doesn’t “fit” me in other ways – busts are too small, shoulders too narrow, hemlines too short – plus size Taiwanese girls are still not necessarily 5’8”! So yes, there are places to shop at if you are a US14, but they won't help much if you've got height and curves to match.

That, and the clothing often follows Taiwanese fashions, which are sometimes fine but sometimes…just not my style. I’m not into the “let’s add lace and some glittered English words that say things like “HAPPY LOVE!” and SEQUINS, oh we need SEQUINS and this top needs at least twelve more ruffles and puff sleeves and ooh, let's take this romper, stick some tights on it, add a few extra lapels, rough it up a bit and add some raggy bits of fabric hanging goodness-knows-where and a zipper that can't be used” look.

Best Buy, after you sift through the stuff you’d never purchase, has more American looks – there are horrid ruffled tops but there are also unadorned necklines, hems that are realistic for taller women, and a dearth of glitter.

They also sell interesting costume earrings and some cool scarves.

It also veers away from the all-too-common “this shapeless shift tunic fits you! You can buy it! It fits you!” (yeah, because it’s a sack that allows for absolutely no waist definition - thanks but no thanks).

Other choices where I've had luck:

Danee/SkinJoy 100% Silk
Locations all over Taipei - there's one on Changchun/Songjiang and one at Roosevelt/Jingmei MRT Exit 3.

Don't go here looking for high fashion - go here for soft pure silk cardigans, camisoles and blouses (they do sell skirts, pajamas, pants and other items as well) for work if you work in an officey environment or want to buy something in your size that is high-quality and comfortable - great for under-pajamas clothing in the cold winter months with no central heat, and great for basic button-down cardigan-style shirts for work and blouses to go under suit jackets.

Wuchang Street Market Indian Import Store

Ximen/Taipei Main area off Wuchang Street near Bo'ai Road

From Zhongshan Hall (Ximen/Hengyang Road) facing Bo'ai Road, turn left and you'll come to Wuchang Street - down past Ximending this turns into a cinema street, and closer to here you can find Taipei Snow King. Cross Bo'ai and follow Wuchang until you see the entrance of a small covered market. A little ways in and on the left is a small Indian import store (you can tell by all the bellydancing stuff). The racks here are laden with good finds for women of all sizes. I bought one of my favorite skirts here and another friend bought a cool, embroidered-collar rust-colored wrap shirt.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Indian food in Taipei

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MIK-6 hookah bar and restaurant

What is this? Places to go for your real (not Japanese-style) curry fix...especially if you know what real Indian food should taste like. I'm putting it all together in one post for easy reference, updated every few years as restaurants come, go, change management or experience and uptick or downturn in quality. I do think I'm qualified to review Indian food in Taipei, having lived there for a semester in 2000 and cooking it myself, often, to some acclaim.

This is not a complete list, but I think it comes pretty close. I can't possibly find and keep track of every single place offering Indian (or claiming to) in Taipei, so if there are any I've missed or you've been recently and want to add your comments, please do so. I also can't visit every restaurant, so some are listed but have not been tried - I'm happy to add reader comments to these. We can keep this going together!


Mayur Indian Kitchen

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My birthday party at MIK-6 hookah bar and restaurant
6 locations - here are a few:
#350-5 Keelung Road Sec. 1 (the original)
#38 Sec. 1 Xinsheng N. Road
#103 Sec. 3 Minsheng E. Road

MIK 4ever (their fourth location) at Tonghua St. Lane 171 #34
MIK-5 in Dazhi: Bei-an Road #630)

MIK-6/mik'sutras: Songjiang Road #1-1 (on the corner of Weishui Street)

They have idli-dosa (at most but not all locations - Keelung Road and mik'sutras don't), and other regional specialties! Most Indian restaurants (OK, all other ones) seem to go for the "three types of meat four ways, and some vegetables" style of Indian food. Mayur actually cooks regional recipes from various states in India. My current favorite. VERY highly recommended.

MIK-5 in Dazhi stands out because it's a bit fancier, more of an upmarket dining experience (the Tonghua Road location is also more upmarket), and MIK-6, also called mik'sutras, is more of a live bar/hookah lounge with Indian food, which we visited recently.


Amma's Kitchen
Roosevelt Road Sec 3. #100-93, 2nd floor
臺北市中正區羅斯福路三段100號之93

I think this is one of my new favorite Indian restaurants! It's absolutely tiny (enough room for one row of maybe 5 tables) in a decrepit old building that looks half-abandoned, down a creepy hallway you get to by climbing some creepy, dirty stairs.

IMG_0913
Onion uthappam at Amma's

That sounds horrible, but it's actually great. Because I say so. When you enter this restaurant that is little more than hallway-sized in width, it's clean, friendly and inviting. Run by a bunch of South Indian guys (if the name "Amma's" didn't tip you off), and has the best - and cheapest - South Indian menu in Taipei. Yes, idli, yes vadai (two kinds - medhu and masala - I like all vadai so that's great), yes, dosa. A variety of dosas in fact. And "Chettinad chicken", which they say is their specialty (haven't tried it yet but will soon). I love a good South Indian curry beyond the usual idli-dosa, so that's just...I mean it's great.

The food reminds me of home cooking. You aren't going to get Udupi restaurant-quality dosa here, and the sambar also tastes homemade (I love whatever it is that they do to the coconut chutney, though - I think it's a mix of coconut and tomato). It's South Indian home food for South Indians, and I am totally on board.


Balle Balle Indian Restaurant
#12 Guangfu N. Road, Songshan District

Balle Balle focuses on Punjabi cuisine (hence the name, which is an expression of happiness in the Punjabi language) and is quite good, with extremely accommodating and friendly service. I go to Mayur for regional foods that I like, but will go to Balle Balle for my Punjabi cravings. See my review here.


The Brass Monkey
台北市中山區復興北路166號
166 Fuxing North Road,
Zhongshan District Taipei, Taiwan 110
Just north of MRT Nanjing Fuxing
(02) 2547 5050
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Chicken korma and pork vindaloo with rice (that's food coloring, not flavoring in the rice) from Brass Monkey

All of the other restaurants on this list are Indian food - the Brass Monkey is a large British-style pub that specifically offers the cuisine of British curry houses. If you're missing Hyderabad, this isn't quite going to do hit that note. But if you're missing Swindon...it absolutely will. And that's intentional - the point was to offer a British curry house experience, not another "Indian restaurant in Taipei". You can eat in or get takeaway (which you can call ahead for).


Flavor of India
#34 Heping East Road Section 3 (MRT Technology Building/Liuzhangli)
In the same location as the old Fusion Asia


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Shahi paneer and channa masala at Flavor of India

Hey, this place - which replaced the old Fusion Asia (which was fantastic) - is great! It's vegetarian, but everything we got was excellent. They hit all the right spots: both tamarind-date chutney and green coriander chutney, perfectly spicy food, channa masala made with green chilis - these guys know what they're doing. Excellent masala tea. We got samosas, shahi paneer and channa masala - all highly recommended. A lot of places put Kingfisher (a not-very-good Indian beer that I love drinking with Indian food) on the menu but never stock it - these guys do! The only thing I think is a bit odd is that it's a vegetarian Indian restaurant that doesn't serve pure veg south Indian. Usually veg places do. But I'm not complaining too much. Oh, the naan is tasty and soft (though the garlic naan could use a little more garlic), but the puris are a little greasy. Still good, though.

Don't worry too much about Fusion Asia being gone, as the owners have opened a new place in Tianmu called...


Jai Ho
#22-1, 1st Floor, Lane 50 
Tianmu E. Road (Shilin Dist., Tianmu)

The old owners of Fusion Asia on Heping E. Road (now Flavor of India vegetarian restaurant - see review below) have relocated to Tianmu with their Punjabi-centric menu. The location is smaller but also better-decorated, with outdoor seating and very close to the Tianmu Shinkong Mitsukoshi. We went here recently and I dunno...the food was all well-made to a high standard, with some interesting menu flair. There's homemade gulab jamun! There's paan flavored kulfi - which takes some getting used to because it, as my husband put it, "tastes like soap smells", but I've cultivated a taste for it. There's masala lassi (salty not sweet). But...

Well, I asked them to make the food good and spicy except for the butter chicken, which isn't meant to be particularly fiery. And they just...didn't? I did say I'd lived in India once upon a time, and was quite clear that everyone eating with me could handle real heat, but even the lamb rahrah (probably my favorite dish by this particular chef) was just missing that fiery kick with that warm after-dinner mouthfeel. I said something about it - especially as all of our dishes were clearly made well and the other flavors were well-balanced - expertly even - and the waitress confessed she'd just told them to make it "中辣" or "medium spicy", which is not what I asked for. 

I don't mind too much if a restaurant doesn't get it quite right because I didn't specify, but I have a huge pet peeve about specific requests being disregarded for no good reason.

I liked the food and would return, but I can't say I'm too happy about paying a lot of money for Indian food that just isn't spicy enough.

Out Of India
#26 Lane 13 Pucheng Street (in Shi-da)

An old stand-by in Shi-da, the same owner now runs 3 Idiots Toast and Curry. I don't know if they still have a branch at the old location of Bollywood Indian Pizza, and I don't know if their third branch in a lane across from NTU (the back entrance - if you go to where Fuxing meets Xinhai, then when facing the NTU entrance from across Xinhai turn right, it's the first lane on the right. The lane runs north-south, the other Out of India is near the southern end closer to NTU than Heping Rd).

In any case, this is sort of the bog-standard choice for Indian food. The curries are pretty good (though in recent years I've had to tell them to make it "India spicy" because they've been making it blander for the local market) and it's an okay option if you're in the neighborhood.

A word of warning, unless you specifically ask, their garlic naan comes spread with that absolutely disgusting sweetish garlic-margarine spread, the ones you can buy in tubs in Wellcome. It's so gross. But if you ask they'll make you real garlic naan.


Masala Art
Maji Maji (MRT Yuanshan)

Rather like Jai Ho above, the food here was well-made, and I like that they have both gulab jamun and falooda on the menu (a good dessert menu can make or break Indian for me, and so many restaurants leave it off entirely). We got butter chicken and channa masala with garlic naan, and samosas.

The samosas were great - I liked the crispy shells, and the potatoes were well-spiced (I would have preferred both tamarind-date (red) and coriander (green) chutneys but we were only offered green, though. The butter chicken was very good (though all white meat? I prefer a mix of white and dark in my butter chicken). The sauce was spot-on though. Just how I like it - with a nice red warmth, but also creamy and a little sweet in the way tomatoes can be. Almost like you caramelized the tomatoes.

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Samosa at Masala Art

The channa masala, though, just...well, like Jai Ho again, it wasn't spicy enough. Good channa masala has a hot kick from mashed green chilis, which can be heightened with the addition of red chili powder (which I never say no to). It has an afterburn - not quite as hot as lamb rahrah or a vindaloo but righteous in its own way. I said I wanted it hot, like India hot, and I got...not. Not hot. It was a bit warm, to be sure. For maybe 5 minutes after I felt a nice warmth in my mouth. But the right kind of heat gets you a little high and stays with you, and it didn't.

Big fan of the falooda though. Good choice if you are near Maji Maji. I have heard this is the "best in Taipei" but, while not bad...no, it's not the best.

Oh...no beer. But there are places nearby to get it, and I'd guess they allow BYOB.

(Finally, the garlic naan is nice and thin the way I like it, but they use garlic powder, not fresh garlic.)


Azeez Indian
Maji Maji

This is more like a food stall in a whole row of international eats at Maji Maji, not a full restaurant the way Masala Art is. We haven't eaten here but plan to soon.


Masala House (formerly Exotic Masala House?)
#6 Lane 269  Roosevelt Road Sec. 3 (in the Shi-da neighborhood)


I can't for the life of me figure out if this place in Shida is still open, but their TripAdvisor and Facebook pages seem active and as of 2015 Forumosa says they're still open (closed Wednesdays). I have heard from multiple sources that the newer "Masala House" is simply Exotic Masala House under an abbreviated name - same management. I can't remember if the location is the same. I haven't gone back to check because I was not that happy with the food the last few times I went several years ago, so I haven't returned. We really liked this place in its early years and I even had one of my Thanksgiving gatherings there, but the food got steadily worse and we stopped going. I have no idea how it is now. 


Calcutta Indian Food
#70 Xining S. Road (B1 level)

This place used to be good. Now it's terrible. They were still really good - and the mutton samosas are still great - after moving to the bottom of the U2 building in Ximen. We've been back recently, and...wow. No. Every curry seemed like it was cooked in the same sauce, nothing was remotely spicy (even butter chicken needs a bit of warmth - nothing - it was weirdly sweet?), and the "aloo gobi" was made with broccoli, not cauliflower! Unacceptable! What's more, aloo gobi is a dry, brownish curry where the cauliflower (NOT BROCCOLI) is fried in spices, onion, garlic, and just a bit of sauce. This was served in a big gravy-full tureen of red, tomato-based curry sauce which is simply not what aloo gobi is meant to be. It was just...the wrong curry.

Sometimes restaurants make mistakes yet should not be written off completely. However, this was unforgivable. They didn't even respect their customers enough to make a curry with the correct ingredients, from the vegetable to the sauce. I will never return.

Avoid. 


Ali Baba's Indian Kitchen
Nanjing E. Road by Jilin Road (you can walk from Zhongshan MRT or take a bus a few stops from there) across from poorly-named Silverfish Thai. Very cos

This place is actually run by Pakistanis and offers halal food - they are best at tandoori and other Punjabi treats (there is a dish that is basically butter chicken under a different name) as well as more Muslim-influenced fare such as seekh kebabs and other dry meat dishes. Great food though the spice level varies. We went once, ordered vindaloo, and nearly got our taste buds blasted off - OK in my book! - and yet another friend claimed that their spices were tame. Ask for spice and you'll get spice, don't and you'll get mild, I suppose. The veggie-covered papadam is fantastic, as is their masala chai. The kheer is good but the gulab jamun comes from a can. This is the only place in town that offers kheer. As they're Muslim, there's no beer available. But, they allow BYO alcohol!

We don't go as often anymore as it's not convenient to where we live, it's kind of expensive and there are more convenient options, but I don't dislike them at all. 


Saffron
Their Facebook says it's at:
#38-6 Tianmu E. Road (behind Shinkong Mitsukoshi in Tianmu)
But I suspect there's a mistake in the address - it's next to The Spice Shop


Saffron is upscale and chi-chi looking, which is why I haven't eaten there yet. But they seem to have Indian cooks and the place smells nice - and my friends say its excellent - so I'll give it a try someday. I just don't go to Tianmu often. I do have a student (one who has been to India) who has been there, and her review? "Meh". I know Hungry Girl recommends it, as does the Taipei Times, though. More coming when I try it for myself.


The Spice Shop
On one hand, I remember this place being next to Saffron (above)
But, tbeir website says it's at #6 Lane 50 Alley 10, Tianmu E. Road, which seems like a different place?



At The Spice Shop in Taipei
Expensive but very good Indian food with a 1950's funky wallpaper feel that brings to mind curryhouses of the UK. I've never had a curry I didn't like here, but I've always paid through the nose for them. No Indian beers though, and they don't seem to know the difference between mango chutney and mango pickle. Good thing I like both.

This place is one of my favorites, and we always choose it over Saffron because we know the food is good and the decor is more our style. We don't go often, though, because they're at the opposite end of Taipei. In fact I don't think I've been since I first wrote this post in 2008.


Abad Indian Restaurant

#130 Guangfu Road (just north of Nanjing-Guangfu), Songshan District

I...don't know what to make of this place. They advertise themselves as South Indian but they are definitely not. There are a few dosas on the menu, but no masala dosa, which is odd. Why offer paneer dosa etc. but not standard masala dosa? No idli, no vadai, none of that. No upma, no idiyappam, no Kerala fish curries or Hyderabadi lamb biriyani (for the places that aren't pure veg). It's just not south Indian. Putting a few non-standard dosas on the menu doesn't make you something you're not.

The service is friendly and I genuinely like the folks who run the place, I mean, insofar as I can know what they are like as a customer. Whoever is making the food clearly has cooking skills - the texture of the samosas was perfect with a flaky, moist but not greasy pastry and perfectly cooked potato filling. The lamb biriyani was well-cooked, too.

And they have falooda. I love falooda and this might be the only place in Taiwan offering this unique dessert. Yet again this shows that they are not a South Indian restaurant - I associate falooda with Mumbai and points north.

But...oh...it's not spicy. It's just not spicy at all. The samosa was plain potato, served with ketchup. No masala. No spices. It was the color of a croquette. The lamb biriyani was moist with excellent quality chunks of lamb (though a very small serving for a high price), but it wasn't spicy. The paneer dosa, something I never ate while actually in South India, was midly warm, but not spicy, not really. I just...how can I recommend this place when their food isn't spicy? It's not even flavorful-spicy. It's just...nothing.

I mentioned the unspiced samosa - I was so disappointed - and they said it was because "Taiwanese don't like spicy food". But...come on, they expect at least some heat, yes? Something? Anything? Even so, if you distort your own cuisine that much to cater to local tastes you cease to be an Indian restaurant.

I can ask them to make it spicier for me, but...you can't make a samosa spicier. They aren't made to order. And at some point it's just not worth it to ask.

I'd recommend Abad, if the owners read this, focus on what they do well - perfectly prepared, perfectly textured Indian food - and quit trying to "market" themselves as something they're not. They're Indian chefs - make it taste like Indian food. They can do at North Indian cuisine - make that. They could do a lot better. 


Tandoor
#10 Lane 73 Hejiang Street, Taipei
Minsheng E. Road near Zhongshan Junior High School MRT 

We ate here years ago and it was pretty good. The food is solid and we enjoyed everything we ate, except for the very lackluster samosas.  Kind of small and deflated. The only reason we don't eat here more often is that it is rather expensive.

As always, you need to specifically ask for truly spicy food.


Alla-Din Indian and Pakistani Kitchen
#101 Raohe Street, Songshan District (in Raohe Night Market)


I used to get take-out from this place often, and the food was fiery hot - which I love - and spiced with depth and care. We often got the chicken or lamb rolls, and the kebabs we've had while eating in were also great. It's a solid choice in Raohe Night Market. The only complaint I have is that while the rolls are affordable, the curries can get very expensive.

Or at least, it was good. We returned at one point and got what I can only describe as mildly-flavored Indian food slathered in chili paste. No depth, no care, just heat. We haven't been back so maybe that was a one-off, but I just don't know. 


#26 Lane 81 Fuxing N. Road, Taipei

Yum yum yum yum yum. While this place has more than just Indian food, there are plenty of curries on the menu, not to mention samosas, really nice lassi (yoghurt) drinks and other tasty treats. I can't really place where the food is from - there are Southeast Asian dishes that you'd swear were Burmese, Indonesian or Thai, Indian food, Pakistani food, even Middle Eastern staples like hummus and I swear a few Chinese offerings. I've never had a bad meal here, though, and strongly recommend the lassi and samosas.


Cafe India
Core Pacific Living Mall B3

I haven't been here, so I can't give an opinion.


Tibet Kitchen
#217 Heping Road Sec. 2 (very near Technology Building MRT)

This restaurant specializes in Tibetan food (the way that Kunming specializes more in Burmese-Muslim fusion), but still serves up pretty decent Indian food. I'm including it here because it's a great restaurant that deserves your patronage, and does offer Indian dishes, but if you go I would recommend ordering Tibetan food.


Khana Khazana
#366 Section 1 Keelung Road (north of Xinyi and south of the original Mayur Indian Kitchen).

We've eaten here and I can confirm it's good. Pretty typical north Indian food with an emphasis on Halal (as with many Indian restaurants in Taipei the owners are Muslim and many are actually from Pakistan - I don't care where you're from as long as the food is good though). But still, good, a solid choice in Xinyi. Well-decorated with cushy velvet chairs.


Sagar Indian
2nd floor #195 Sec. 2, Xinyi Road Taipei (near Yongkang Street)

Not sure if this place is still open, actually - it's the same address as Saathiya below. We haven't eaten here, but the TripAdvisor reviews are good. However, a friend of mine did eat there along with her husband who is a chef, and they said "the curry was watery and my husband's tasted weirdly fermented. He felt sick after." So I'm not that excited about trying it...


3 Idiots Toast and Curry
#28 Lane 293 Roosevelt Rd. Sec 3
Another location is near Ren'ai Hospital on Da'an Road
Also #318 Changchun Road, Zhongshan District



Multiple locations - I haven't been here yet but will try it soon and let you know. Run by the same folks from Out of India.


Moksha
Zhongshan N. Road Sec. 6 #138 (Tianmu)
台北市士林區中山北路六段138號


Because Tianmu didn't already have enough expensive Indian restaurants...there's this one. A few of my friends have checked in here, and it looks nice. Huge menu, includes South Indian (but expensive). We'll go at some point.


Namaste Indian Cuisine
#30 (or 32 - Google Maps and Facebook don't agree)
Lane 3

Jiuzhuang St. (舊莊街) Section 1 (in Nangang)

This place also advertises itself as South Indian, and the only reason we haven't been is that it's way out at the ass-end of Nangang by Academia Sinica. That's really far and inconvenient...but we'll make it out there eventually. I do want to try this place and give it a review.


Taj Indian Restaurant#1 Lane 48, Civic Boulevard (市民大道) Section 4
Where all those popular restaurants are on Civic


I have to admit I didn't even know this place existed until I googled "Indian restaurants in Taipei" and it showed up. Haven't been, don't know how it is, will try at some point.


Oye Punjabi
#121 Yanji Street

Again, have not been here, so can't comment. Will try - it's not too far from us.


Janny Curry House
#4 Alley 1 Lane 199
Jinhua Street (near Yongkang Street)

I haven't been here but I know the owner's daughter on Facebook, so I'll be trying it very soon.


Saathiya
#195 2nd Floor
Xinyi Road Sec 2 (near Yongkang St. MRT)

Same address as Sagar above, and also gets a pretty bad review from the Taipei Times. I suspect they might be the same restaurant.


Joseph Bistro
#13 Lane 69 Songjiang Road

I haven't been here, and didn't know it existed until I did a search. The pictures don't look like Indian food but people on Trip Advisor are saying it's "good Indian food" or "we liked the naan" so I'm not sure what to make of that? I've also heard it's "unique" so I'm sure I'll check it out at some point.


India Palace (or something)
Taipei 101 B1 level food court

As a rule I avoid food court curry, but Brendan has been here and says it's serviceable. There's another Indian Palace on Taiyuan Street (#103, B3 level?) and another on Chengde Road (#1, Sec. 1) which is very confusing. I'll have to walk around a bit in that area and try to figure out the situation on the ground.


And this post would be remiss if I didn't mention...

Trinity Superstores (import store) #23 6th Floor (ring up), Ren'ai Road Sec 3 Lane 143 (Zhongxiao Fuxing)
(or)
#35 Zhongxiao E. Road Sec 5 Lane 71 (City Hall)
(or)
#535 Zhongshan N. Road Sec. 5 (Shilin)

They now have three locations - one just south of Zhongxiao Fuxing/green Sogo, one at City Hall and one in Shilin. Their own information online is confusing so I'm putting it here for you - a good place to buy Indian spices and ingredients.