for July, 2011
Overwhelmingly cute, Hello Kitty Sweets is known for its Hello Kitty themed everything – that includes furniture, decoration, staff uniforms and of course, the food. I don’t have a particular affinity for Hello Kitty but I did think that going to this restaurant would be an interesting experience worthy of blogging about.
We made reservations at Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne, one of the several celebrity restaurants at the Shoppes at the Marina Bay Sands. For your information, their roster includes Mario Batali’s Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza (actually tried to make reservations there but they were booked up for the next two days), Tetsuya Wakuda’s Waku Ghin, Wolfgang Puck’s Cut and Guy Savoy’s self titled restaurant.
Nakhla Shisha is by far the classiest shisha joint I’ve ever been to. Instead of the usual cramped and smoky fare I’m used to in Montreal, the decor channels a hip modern cross between Indian, Arab and Asian style. The place offers just under two dozen different flavors for shisha including green tea, jasmine, mint, watermelon and lychee – we ordered the latter two for the seven of us to share.
From what I gather, Sadaharu Aoki is currently the most popular Japanese chef in Taiwan. His minimalistic patisserie shops have been catching my eye since ever I’ve been in Taipei (once in the Regent and the other when I passed by Joel Robuchon’s Salon de The in Bellavita) so I was happy to finally stop by and pick something up at the location in the B2 level of the Bellavita complex. Everything looks amazing… good enough to make you actually semi-seriously contemplate buying one of each dessert and worrying about the calories later. We got one Valencia with candied orange and sugar on top and one chocolate cake. Pictures speak for themselves.
Shia Bia is at the midpoint of a climbing windy road leading to the top of a mountain overlooking the merging of the freshwater Danshui river and the Pacific Ocean. Part of a resort for golfers, the Chinese restaurant is equipped to handle a capacity of at least 200 diners in its spacious hall.
Located in the basement level of the prestigious Regent Hotel (incidentally where Lady Gaga chose to stay when she came to Taipei for a show several weeks ago), the Brasserie is an upscale all-you-can-eat buffet style restaurant with a selection of foods wide enough to make your jaw drop. The sushi/sashimi bar features freshly caught lobsters, crabs and oysters, king mackerel, swordfish, yellowfin tuna, sea urchin among other premium raw seafood. The Japanese section also had cold soba and oolong noodles prepared on demand, just fried tempura (fish, potato, taro, shrimp), miso soup among many other choice selections.The “American” section featured some typical foods you would expect which for some foreigners may be a welcome relief from the rather different Asian foods you find most places in Taipei.
A chain store located all over Asia – mostly in fancy department stores and malls (the one I visited was in the basement level of the Ion Orchard in Singapore) – Awfully Chocolate attracts customers by advertising their most interesting item: poached chocolate. The sales associate kindly explained the process to me which involves the process of deep freezing the chocolate and letting it readjust to a reasonably cool temperature. I tried the Kahlua and Bailey’s poached chocolate on her recommendation as it was the bestseller of the house. To be totally honest, I was attracted to the shop due to its aesthetic appearance and tried the poached chocolate purely out of curiosity. Even after the first bite, I knew immediately that I wouldn’t be able to finish it alone due to its super rich texture and heavy chocolatey flavor. No one else I was with was interested so I had regretfully to leave half of it behind. Awfully Chocolate really is awfully chocolate – I would recommend it exclusively for hardcore chocolate fans.
Walking into 313 – the newest mall on Orchard Road – we stumbled upon Honeymoon Dessert on the fourth floor just below the Food Republic. Attracted by the beautiful photo slideshow of traditional Chinese desserts with a modern twist, we decided to give the place a shot.
Boudin Sourdough Bakery is a staple of Fisherman’s Wharf, one San Francisco’s many lovely tourism cesspools. Although you may be too cool to enjoy Fisherman’s Wharf, you may as well eat delicious food while being surrounded by tourists. It’s a simple concept of course. Fresh and delicious sourdough bread baked on site and transported around a busy restaurant by a series of moving ceiling trams and bread baskets on hooks… did I say simple? Although I’d never heard of Boudin, everyone else in line certainly had and were ferociously snatching up mugs, t shirts and other memorabilia from the gift shop.
Calling San Francisco’s financial district home is just the first of many unconventional characteristics of Wayfare Tavern. I came in early (6pm) on a Wednesday evening – without a reservation –
thinking hoping that I would be spared a walk in place at the bar, a table, the floor… anywhere. Not recommended! This place is extremely popular right now and was packed to the brim as soon as I set foot inside.
The number of high tea places in the Shoppes at the Marina Bay Sands seems endless. After our pleasant foray into the world of high tea in Singapore with TWG, we decided to check out High Society. Featuring plush red velvet seats and curtains, gold colored chandeliers, black and white tiled floors, a bar full of nothing but Veuve-Cliquot and Moet, the place definitely gives off a more fancy and uppity air. Despite the setting, the service isn’t snobby at all and you can really enjoy a nice cup of tea or coffee and a dessert quite comfortably.
Clearly influenced by their former British colonizers, TWG Tea, otherwise known as The Wellness Group is a Singaporean tea house primarily known for its impressive selection of teas (well over 100!) and delicious desserts. The loose leaves of the different blends are held in pots that are clearly identified by number and name and are placed on shelves that slide back to reveal more tea several rows deep.
Pourhouse Irish Pub is a restaurant and bar in the heart of Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood. I stopped in recently for a business lunch and we all ordered the Po’ Boy Lunch special which is a sandwich, side and beer for 12$. The above was a beef brisket sandwich with salad side. The beef tasted tender and smoky and tasted great along with the crunchy pickle and salad. Pourhouse has a number of taps with rotating regional beers to pick from.
Two hours away from Taipei (one if you drive quickly) there is a beautiful little restaurant off a back road called Wu Zhu Ju. The entranceway winds through a small garden full of bamboo shoots, a little stream and a tiny bridge. It is full of greenery and exotic flowers and it is also very quiet and zen-like. Natives that I went with truly appreciate the place for the authenticity of the Hakka style food as well as the chance to be around nature, a sort of getaway from the hustle and bustle of Taipei city.
About an hour away from Taipei, the Sunrise Villa is tucked away off a back country road – to a foreigner (yeah, me), maybe a little difficult to find. Popular in its own right, people travel from all around the country to taste their authentic Hakka style food. With an enviable feng shui arrangement, the natural space around the buildings are in perfect harmony – the mountains behind the restaurant serves as a strong support, the body of water in the front promotes fluidity and the green space in the middle of the lot for new life.
Big Smoke Burger was formerly known as Craft Burger and has three locations throughout Toronto. We visited the location at 830 Yonge Street just North of Bloor. The service was extremely fast and it had a pleasant lunchtime vibe to it. I ordered the Fresh Ontario Lamb Burger with cilantro-feta spread, tomato and lettuce and an Arnold Palmer mix of Arizona Iced Tea and Lemonade. This is the first time I’ve seen this drink available outside the U.S. and it tastes pretty much how you would expect it to. The Lamb Burger was simple, light on the dressing but delicious. The lamb flavor came through strong and went well with the feta cilantro spread. Beer drinkers note: They don’t serve any alcohol (hence the iced tea).
At the corner of Mont Royal and Hotel de Ville, La Cantine bills itself as a Bistro Boutique. Word of mouth reached us of its weekend brunches so we decided to check it out for ourselves. The seating area is separated into two mid sized rooms, one feeling slightly more formal the other.
Not too far away from the SoGo department store in the Zhongxiao Dunhua district is the unique VVG Bon Bon (13, Lane 161, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei 台北市敦化南路一段161巷13號). One of the most interesting places I have been to in Taiwan so far, this spot is great for a leisurely afternoon lunch or for high tea. The decoration inside, the general vibe and the clientele (from what I saw today) here is almost too cute for words. Housing an eclectic collection of items (silver glitter antler horns, a smiling child sized giraffe, several foot tall wooden nutcrackers, plastic cakes etc.) that would otherwise seem tacky or overdone on their own, VVG Bon Bon finds a way to make the pieces work together to create a fun atmosphere.
The Sheraton Hotel (Lai-Lai Fan Dien) houses a number of renowned restaurants, including the Japanese Momoyama. Just a few steps away from the Shandao Temple MRT Station, the hotel is conveniently located. We ordered a set menu that included a variety of savory items, starting off with a sour vinaigrette salad with raw salmon and scallops which was really great – I loved it.
Alibi Room is a Gastown staple known for it’s unbelievably large selection of craft beers on tap. Having around 26 taps going at a time, the pub rotates new beers in all the time and posts beer related updates via Twitter. Although the beers are the main draw here, the food menu is formidable and diverse – featuring everything from Smoked Sablefish to Lamb Sirloin to Red Coconut Vegetable Curry.
To accompany our beers, we ordered Smoked Albacore Tuna salad with crutons, carrot, daikon, pumpkin seeds & creamy miso dressing along with BC Bison cheese steak with spiced bison flank, peppers, onions & cheddar. Pumpkin seed ‘slaw and fries and BBQ Pork Belly sandwich with beer braised onions, jalapeno ‘slaw & fries.
The smoked albacore dish was a large portion and had a great summer taste with the miso dressing, pumpkin seeds and daikon. The Bison Burger (one of the more popular dishes) and the Pork Belly sandwich paired perfectly with our beers and tasted great. The Pumpkin seed slaw and Jalapeno slaw were welcome additions as well.