March 28, 2013

Taiwan - Sweets Edition: Dazzling Cafe and Snow King Icecream

I first discovered the whole honey toast (Chinese is known as 蜜糖吐司) ordeal from a Taiwanese travel show. It looked so pretty and yummy through the screen, so I had to mark it down for my future Taiwan trip. The exact name of the cafe/restaurant was not listed but with the help of Google, nothing is impossible with Google, I found the cafe. Through Google, the honey toast extravaganza exploded for me. Honey toast originated from Japan and was first introduced in Taiwan in 2010 by a Taiwanese socialite, and the very first Dazzling Cafe opened in 東區 (Daan District).  It was an immediate success and they only took reservations once a month and it would usually fill up very quickly. Nowadays, they have opened 6 other locations to fill any girl's craving for a pretty and yummy dessert. I visited their original location called Dazzling Cafe Pink and there was still an 1hr wait around 7pm. 

This was a very girly pink cafe, but don't get me wrong, there were still guys in there, most likely accompanying their girlfriends though =P There were also male waiters. There is a minimum charge of one drink per person in addition to whatever else you wish to order. The drinks were around $4-6CDN and the honey toasts are around Demetres' pricing more or less. I would say this is quiet pricey in Taiwanese standards, reasonable in Canada. I was previously told by a local teen saying that ordering one is good enough for 2-4 people depending if you have ate previously and it is very sweet and filling. The drinks were really meh. Now on to the good part, the honey toast. Upon presenting your pretty dessert, the server will let you know that they will come back and serve the honey toast to you once you have taken pictures of the massive toast. Nowadays, camera eats first! That was very considerate of them to avoid any awkwardness of them waiting for you to finish taking your pictures. 

The inside looks like the below once it's dissected by the server. Inside it was filled with sticks of crispy toast. It was funny how we didn't end up using the honey for this "honey toast", it was already sweet enough. It was filled with custard and ice cream. So you take a piece of toast stick and spread some ice cream and custard with a piece of strawberry and VIOLA, heaven~ It was delicious! The toast sticks were toasted to a crispy coating and soft interior. It was not overly sweet since we didn't pour the honey on top. It was AYCE custard, just ask the server for more. I was happy with my first experience with honey toast and I would definitely have it again. In fact, I want to introduce this to Canada. Anyone with me?

One of my favorite foreign food blogs to read is a hungry girl's guide to taipei. I obviously made good use of that while planning to trip to Taiwan. My hotel was in the Ximen area so I looked up all the good food places around there, and upon came this, highly recommended by hungry girl. It's an ice cream shop with 73 flavors everyday.

If you read Chinese, you can see all the cool and interesting flavors they have. All the flavors are house made. For those who don't, some examples are tomato, corn, milk, lotus seed, wasabi, curry, hot pepper, beer, brandy, pig feet and sesame chicken just to name a few.

In the end, me and friend decided to stay safe and picked fruit flavor such as watermelon and lycee. Both were really delicious and tasted like the real fruit. The store owner also advised us to eat the watermelon first and then the lycee since lycee had a stronger taste than watermelon. Check out this ice cream store the next time you are in Taiwan! Do it! Seriously. Hahaha~

March 25, 2013

Korea - Bukchon Ginseng Chicken Soup

I only had 4 full days in Seoul and everyday was jammed packed with activities. My flight arrived in the evening and I had to hang around the airport to wait for my friend to arrive 2hrs later. By the time we checked into our guesthouse, it was late and we were exhausted. This was our first meal in Korea and we were super hungry since we didn't eat anything the night before aside from airplane food. This place was actually discovered by my friend and it's known to have super long line ups. We got up early and got there around 11am, and to our surprise there were already a lot of people eating inside already. We really couldn't waste our precious time in line so we always go early to avoid lineups.

It was funny how once we are seated, the servers didn't even asked us what we wanted and just assumed we wanted to order the most original ginseng chicken soup. She actually spoke Chinese to us since it's known to have lots of Asian tourists here. She said "ginseng chicken soup? ok." We didn't even have a chance to say no, but it's okay, it was what we wanted to order anyways.

You help yourself to the banchans on the table where it was just the simple kimchi and kimchi turnips.
The wait wasn't long and our food was here! Piping hot ginseng chicken soup with sunflower seed and green onion on top. We were given a tiny cup of "I don't know what" soju? so we just left it...

You literally get a whole chicken/hen.

The hen was stuffed with delicious glutinous rice and dates. The chicken was tender and the broth was flavorful  I thought it could of used a tiny bit of salt to bring out the flavor a little more. No artificial flavor or MSG here.

There you go, a real ginseng. It didn't taste bad, but it did have a strong ginseng-y taste if you are into that.

Overall, it was really delicious but it wasn't as good as I imagined it to be. I think the salt would of really brought it up a notch.

March 18, 2013

Taiwan - Street Eats Edition

Hi All~~~ This post will exhibit all the street food and nightmarket food I had in Taiwan. To be honest, when I'm in Taiwan, I just prefer to have dinner at the nightmarket. Nightmarket in Taiwan is very accessible and opens everyday around 6pm. The food is delicious and really cheap. I will most comment on the food I had in the caption below the picture. 

Almond Tofu (hot) - it was a almond milk soup with crush almond and the almond tofu had a jello like texture, slightly chewy. The almond taste was really prominent and not the artificial kind, it was refreshing and yummy. It was nothing I ever had before. 
very famous noodle spot located in the popular area of Ximending, no seating available, you will see people just standing around eating
thin noodles with pig intestines - it was really good despite how simple this bowl of noodle 
 The below three pictures were the foods we had at Shilin Nightmarket. For those we have previously visited this establishment, it has been moved to an underground location slightly further down than where it used to be. When I visited in 2009, the nightmarket was located right across of the subway exit in an open but sheltered area. That area is now fenced off for possibly property development. It was quiet stuffy and hot in the underground establishment where A TON of food stalls are located. Air circulation was not ideal.

Taiwanese oyster omelette - done just right with the right ratio of egg, vegetables and flour mixture, the sauce was good too
minced pork on rice - popular Taiwanese dish but it was just alright, not saucey enough for me
coffin toast (cream corn with crispy shredded pork) - this is my absolute favorite at the Shilin Nightmarket, deep fried thick toast to perfection with the top cut off and filled with your choice of filling, crispy on the outside and savory on the inside

green onion pancake roll with egg and soy milk - your typical Taiwanese breakfast sold around the corner, the sauce they put in between is the highlight, wish we had this in Canada as a breakfast option
taro and sweet potato balls with green bean soup - had this at Jiufeng where its known for its taro and sweet potato balls, the taro and sweet potato balls are chewy in texture and refreshing with the cold green bean soup, perfect on a hot summer day
peanuts and icecream crepe - another Jiufeng delicacy made by an old couple, the husband manually grounds the peanuts while the wife assemble this sweet dessert
steamed pig blood cake - yes, I know it sounds disgusting but I absolutely LOVE this, chewy and the peanut and parsley coating makes it so much more awesome, I crave for this everyday!
green onion beef roll - the onion was really sweet but it's like your Japanese beef and scallion roll
spareribs soup with blanched veggies - the soup was really good, not too peppery and the spareribs were really tender, bones removed
Taiwanese sausage - nothing too special 
red bean cake - tons of red bean filling but I thought the outside would of been crispier

March 13, 2013

Clarke's Standard - NYC

Clarke's Standard was the last food stop during my NYC trip. My friend chose this place, but not because it was popular or because it had raving reviews. He chose it because it was close and he wanted a burger.

Their burger prices range from $6.75 - $8.75. Not exactly cheap, but not the most expensive I've seen. 

Brooklyn Au Poivre

You can't really see the contents of the other burger, but it's the standard. It looks like... a standard burger. 

The Brooklyn was pretty good. $7.75 for just the burger is kinda a lot though. There wasn't anything about it that made it stand out from other burgers, but it was still well made. I like the box they put the burger in. 

I was full when I came here, so I didn't order any of their sides. The waffle sweet potato fries were tempting, but my stomach quota was reaching its limits after getting a drink at Jamba Juice (which I'm now a big fan of, btw).


March 12, 2013

Chipotle Mexican Grill - NYC

Major mistake: making this breakfast the morning of your flight.

Not because it's bad - on the contrary, it was quite good. But it's massive and filled with beans. And you know the saying "beans, beans, the magical fruit"? If you do, well... I'm sure you can imagine why that might not be too good when you have a flight later in the day.

the massive burrito

We have this in Toronto too, but my friend wanted to try it. I know the pics don't really show how big it is, but imagine a medium-large hand making a fist. The width was about that big after they packed everything in it. There was so much filling that it spilled out.

after a few bites

Guacamole is $2 extra, but mine doesn't have that. I think it was $8.50 after tax. Neither my friend nor I could finish ours. We could have probably just split one and have been satisfied enough.

Rating: ½ 

Octagon Restaurant

This post was intended to be publish before my trip, but somehow I never managed to finished. Now that I'm back, I can finally publish this post. Please stay tune for my upcoming posts on the foods I had in Taiwan and Seoul~
a very old school environment

The garlic bread was slathered with butter and raw minced onion on top. The bread was nice and crispy and was very oily due to the amount of butter.
garlic bread

pickles, olives and hot peppers
The lobster bisque was very good. It was hot despite the speed this dish was delivered. Shortly after placing our order, the soup was brought out. The speed of the service was faster than an licious events. There were lobster meat in every mouthful and it was delicious.

lobster bisque 15.95
A minimum of 2 order must be placed for the tableside prepared caesar salad. I found the dressing contained way too much garlic. The garlic taste lingered for a long time and I could still taste it when I got home. It was quiet spicy compared to the one at Jacob's. Overall, it was good aside from too much garlic.

caesar salad prepared tableside 14.50/pp
I was pretty full after eating the soup and salad and when my entree came, I was full. The sight of this large piece of meat made me REALLY FULL. From this, I came up with the perfect diet plan for myself called "the look at meat" diet. As you all might know, I'm not a carnivore. The sight of any large piece of meat makes me lose my appetite. So, if I ever want to lose weight, look at large pieces of meat and I dont think I will be hungry anymore. I pretty much ate most of this the next day for lunch. There was a lot of crabmeat and they were not shy on that. I felt the chicken was dry, possibly I microwaved for too long.

chicken neptune 26.95
The garlic mashed potatoes were kind of dry and bland. Some gravy would of helped.

garlic mashed potatoes
The grilled vegetables were delcious, sweet and tender.

grilled vegetables
Here is my fd's New York strip steak. It was cooked to perfection, but meat is not my thing. The side mushroom was really good according to my fd.

12oz new york strip steak 45.95
The dessert was well done, no complains here. Perfectly caramalized sugar on top with creamy custard in the bottom.

creme brulee 11.95

tea 3

Overall the the dishes were very solid and service was good. Our water glass were constantly being refilled. However, the dishes came out too fast! I felt like we were being rushed when there weren't even that many people.

Final Verdict: Above Par

Octagon on Urbanspoon

March 11, 2013

Obao - NYC

This place is a Thai Viet Asian fusion restaurant. I had a couple of Thai restaurants on my list of places to try. This was not one of them, but it was close enough to our hotel. And again, when you're tired, convenience trumps reputation.

Not that this place had a bad rep or anything.

We went at night, so the restaurant was rather dim. There were candles at all of the tables, and other than a few tables near the entrance, the restaurant was full. That was a pretty good sign, though it also meant we had to sit near the entrance and have the cold wind hit us every time the door opened.

To start, we ordered some drinks. My friend really likes Thai iced tea (he enjoyed it in Thailand and has been looking for some of equal quality since), so he got that. I ordered pineapple juice.

Thai Iced Tea to the left, Pineapple Juice to the right

The pineapple juice was sweet. Most of the time, when I have pineapple, it's sour and not so enjoyable. I've only had sweet, delicious pineapple juice one other time before at a festival. This was almost as good as that. 

(My friend said the Thai iced tea was pretty good here.)

Pad Thai

For our mains, I had the shrimp pad thai (what I usually order). They only had a shrimp option here, which I don't mind, but may be problematic for those who don't want it (I'm sure they could substitute, but they'd probably charge the same amount, and shrimp pad thai tends to be a bit more expensive that chicken, beef, or tofu options). 

The pad thai was served in a wok-like bowl, which was nice for presentation purposes. It came with a soft egg in the middle that I wasn't too fond of, but everything else about it was fine. $11 during dinner, $10 during lunch (with a free starter at lunch too).

Obao Chicken with Coconut Rice and... some kinda sauce

Obao Chicken with some soup

My friend got the Obao Chicken special, which is listed as $8 on the lunch menu, but he was charged $10 for it as a dinner option. They have 20 of these a day apparently and no more than that. I'm not sure if it's a gimmick or if they actually make only 20 each day, but it was pretty good. The chicken had a lot of flavour and it went well with the coconut rice.

The service here was pretty good. Our waiter was attentive without being too chatty, and they brought out a portable heater to keep us warm since our seats were right next to the door. 

I liked it, and if I lived in NYC, I'd come back.

Rating: ½

I don't like it when restaurants charge different amounts for lunch and dinner for the same food item, but I still enjoyed my meal here.