目前分類:♪Destin' -> Taipei (9)

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Somehow I have always avoided the Grand Hyatt in Taipei in the past- yes, maybe in part due to the superstitious sayings of how it is seemingly haunted (almost everyone I know that had stayed there in the past has a story to tell). Out of convenience and the lack of alternatives, was finally given the reluctant chance to see for myself on my recent hopover to Taipei. The hotel lobby looked impressive - grand and spacious, with a small fountain right in the middle (?) of the hall. Promising, I thought.

My room was, however, a plain letdown – worn down and cramped, with a substandard washroom. I was surprised with the poor upkeeping, especially when compared to Sherwood or Shang, the two alternatives around town. When I complained to my colleagues, who are all frequent visitors to this hotel~ I realized I probably caught the short end of the straw. It seems while the furnishing in their rooms were tired and worn down, it was much more spacious than mine. Guess I have not used my Hyatt Gold Passport frequently enough in the past.

Check out the bare bathroom. Had a glimpse of one of my colleague’s rooms and found the bathroom of a much higher standard, with a proper separate shower cubicle and bathtub. The one I had in my room was an awkward shower head fixed on top of the normal bathtub you have at home.

Only got 40 min in-between meetings to grab a meal, so ordered the fastest room service available on the menu - Taiwanese-style braised pork rice (滷肉飯). This arrived promptly on a nicely laid out platter, with chili soy sauce and preserved veg accompaniments on the side. This was pretty decent, both in terms of appearance and taste, although I'd prefew the hawker stall one any time.



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Am an avid reader of many Taiwan foodies’ sites, and have been intrigued by the many rave write-ups on this Chef Show Time restaurant I keep reading about. Finally had the opportunity to visit this “must-go” restaurant recently, and I agree that it was indeed a unique dining experience.



The restaurant is located off the busy Tung Hwa South Road in a quiet side street, with an unassuming red brick exterior. The first oddity I noticed was how the tableware was laid out – a pair of chopsticks took the place of the norm fork and knife in a Western restaurant. I found out that this was the chef’s idea to encourage diners to share their food, which to us sounds like an excellent idea. In addition to being able to try out more dishes than normal, it also allow the diners to have more interaction during the meal. Chef Show Time serves more than just a European cuisine, in fact, it offers an unusual combination of Taiwanese-European fusion, which worked way better than it sounds.

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Apart from Mister Donut, a Japanese sandwich shop is driving another queuing craze in Taipei - Romankan Yokohama, loosely translated as The Romantic House of Yokohama, specialises in pork sandwiches. Being the investigative journalists as we are, we decided to check it out on our recent visit. Romankan Yokohama, opened in March 2005, is situated in the corner of the food court for Breeze Shopping Center, and is hard to miss with the super long queues close to the escalator. Unfortunately we cannot show you this incredible sight, as the shop does not allow photography in its vicinity, for reasons totally beyond us.



The shop offers four different types of sandwiches - Porkloin, Chicken, Hamburger, and Vegetable patty. Prices ain't cheap at NT$75 a piece (breakfast for three at Yung Ho was only NT$80), so expectations were set high. Since it was early and we had all the time in the world before the shops opened, we stood there observing every single step involved in producing a sandwich in front of the open kitchen. In true Japanes tradition, division of labor was practised to meticulous perfection, with someone in charge of deep frying the meat, another in toasting the bread, someone else preparing the ingredients, and the final touch of assembling everything together being done by a fourth person. At the till, two young femal attendents were busy sticking the item labels to the small plastic wrap. 

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Whenever I stayed with my relatives on my infrequent Taipei visits when young, I always eagerly looked forward to the break of dawn, when my cousins would bring me to the local street stalls to devour a bowl of piping hot sweet soy milk, a Taiwanese traditional breakfast choice.

Sweet soy milk (tian dou jiang/ 甜豆漿)


Nowadays, it has been so commercialised that there seems to be a branch of the famous  Yung Ho Soymilk (永和豆漿) just about any corner one turns, with some even operating on a 24-hour basis and have introduced new products like turnip cakes to complement their selection.

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Was deliberating whether to recommend Fullerton for a while simply because it is such a gem for tourists. Decided in the end that sharing is better~ ha. Fullerton has two branches within Taipei, located in close proximity to one another. We chose the Fullerton 315 for our recent trip as the Fullerton 41 branch was fully booked. The latter is not only newer, but also more suited for weekend tourists, as it is within walking distance to the shopping district around the massive Sogo dept store, while 315 is closer to the business district.



Recently there has been a flood of boutique hotels in Taipei, and one that has been frequently recommended is Les Suite Taipei. I have not stayed there personally, but have visited a friend at the hotel and found it below my expectations. While the minimalistic, chic decor was very refreshing and unique for Taipei, I was let down by the service level - or the lack of service. You rarely see more than one attendant in the entire lobby, and it takes ages for room service to answer calls. In short, the hardware is all there, but it is in dire need of better software. At Fullerton, I had a much warmer welcome and the service was definitely on par. Not only did everyone speak extremely fluent English, serivce was also prompt and satisfactory.

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While a freshly prepared and cooked dinner waiting at home upon your return from work sounds enticing, more often then not, eating out is a more practical alternative for most people these days. However, good and affordable restaurants are in general hard to find, and while I adore the street vendors one sees in abundance on the streets in Taipei, sometimes I do prefer a proper sit-down meal in an air-conditioned environment. Found a street that specializes in this type of restaurants on my recent visit to Taipei.

One is greeted with an enormous selection of dishes upon entering 小李子 "Little Lee" (Direct English translation). Every dish is on display, and when you see something to your fancy, you can order with the waiter standing right behind the counter and collect your dish from him immediately.



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After a deeply satisfying local dinner, my aunt recommended heading over to the nearby Raoho Street night market for an after meal stroll. If it were't for the fact that we were totally stuffed from dinner, I'd probably be able to give you a more personal view of the vast variety of local snacks on offer at the night market. Now, there's only a pictorial account, which I still find highly fascinating~ (hope you do too)



Located behind Sungshan Train Station, Raoho Street Night Market is one of the more famous ones located in Taipei, and is home to over 700 street vendors. We arrived at around nine, and even thought it was a Monday night, the place was still bustling with people. I used to think that night market visits are only for tourists, but the locals outnumbered the foreigners this particular weeknight. We were totally awed by the interesting food stuff on offer - although I have no clue what half of the dishes are! Will add in random comments here and there~



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Since my going to Taipei was a bit of a late notice, Sherwood cramped me in one of the smaller corner rooms this time round.... normally the rooms are more spacious than what you see.



Pros:
+ Centrally located

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Was in Taipei recently for work, and when we heard how awful the catering was at the hotel, we decided to sneak out for lunch in between the all day meetings. Knowing how much my overseas colleagues love wonton and dumpling, we hailed a taxi for Din Tai Fung.



With its immense success with both locals and foreigners, Din Tai Fung has expanded to two branches within Taipei, and many more overseas, including Singapore, HK, and Japan. Having only ever visited the original store, we headed for the new one on the busy Zhongxiao East Road. Arriving at twelve thirty on a weekday, we saw a queue of office workers forming outside the place already. There were more than fifteen tables ahead of us, but because of the quick turnaround, the hostess mentioned the wait would only be twenty minutes. We began ordering while waiting, making efficient use of our time.



As promised after 15 minutes, it was finally our turn. Upon entering the restaurant, one is greeted by the amazing sight of thirty-odd people cladded all in white busy making Din Tai Fung's renowned dumplings behind a huge glass window. Some were in charge of rolling out the dough, while others were busy filling up the steamers. Personally I prefer the original store where one actually walk directly pass the kitchen area, brushing shoulders with the chefs busy at work, with an up close and personal view of the whole process, before heading upstairs to the seat down area. Guess this is the less hygienic version.



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