The most unusual Ikea in the world
Is it a store? a showroom? A café? In Taipei, you can find this mini Ikea that’s unlike anywhere else.
This is Ikea House in Taipei. It is actually a complete old house, renovated and remade from top to bottom, and turned into a mini-Ikea of sorts.
Before I take you inside, let’s take a step back (mehr …)
Andreas Forster vom „Smoky Inn“
In Taiwan leben etwa 1000 Deutsche. Einige von ihnen sehen ihre Heimat nicht mehr wieder.
Auf dem alten Ausländer-Friedhof in Tamsui finden sich Grabsteine mit deutschen Namen, die heute in Taiwan wohl niemandem mehr etwas sagen.
Ein Deutscher, der bis vor kurzem in Taiwan gelebt und gearbeitet hat, war Andreas Forster. Er ist am 16. Mai 2014 im Alter von 54 Jahren auf den Philippinen verstorben.
Forster (方安德) betrieb ein deutsches Restaurant in Sanzhi, nördlich von Taipeh: das Smoky Inn. Viele werden ihn gekannt haben. Ich habe ihn leider nie getroffen.
Der Grund, warum ich dies schreibe: (mehr …)
My first encounter with Canadian cuisine
I don’t often visit Western restaurants in Taipei, but Whalen’s on Anhe Rd. is one I will probably come back to.
Maybe it’s simply because it is a Canadian establishment, and therefore has a slightly exotic aura for a Central European like me, but Whalen’s does some thing rights that I tend to dislike about other Western restaurants in Taiwan:
- Interesting food options you cannot get everywhere
- A pleasant dark-wood interior design that doesn’t feel fake
- Prices that are not ridiculously expensive
- Laid-back, unobstrusive service
- You will leave feeling sorry that you were not able to finish it all
First, let me say that I probably would not have thought of visiting Whalen’s had the owner not contacted me and invited me over for this review. So, full disclaimer, I didn’t have to pay. But I probably would not have regretted it either. Anyway, kudos for recognizing the power of the blogosphere and online rep.
Whalen’s is strategically located on Anhe Rd., so everyone who regularly (mehr …)
The food is so good, I just keep coming back!
Sorry, the restaurant has closed. (2017)
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and although it’s on Xinyi Rd., you’ve probably never passed by this restaurant. But let me tell you: It is one of the best places I know in Taipei for really delicious (and inexpensive!) Western food.
Just take this huge chunk of grilled salmon with asparagus and risotto (烤鮭魚和蘆筍). It really tastes as delicious as it looks.
Take a guess, how much is it?
It’s NT$420. Including salad, soup, and a drink. And: No 10% „service fee“!
And that is one of the priciest items on the menu of J&J Cafe, a small Western-style restaurant with a dineresque feel to it, located on the eastern end of Xinyi Rd.
J&J Cafe: Worth a trip to the outskirts
J&J Cafe is about two kilometers east of Taipei 101 in an area of Taipei that some would call „in the boondocks“.
From the outside, it looks similar to many other nondescript Western-style restaurants in Taiwan, serving everthing from coffee to pasta and burgers. Usually, these places cater to a Taiwanese palate and don’t tend to do any dish exceptionally well (just like Chinese restaurants in Germany, which I avoid now).
Not in this case! The food at J&J is so good that I find myself coming back time and again. Although I normally don’t hanker for Western food in Taiwan, except for the occasional pizza.
It just is this delicious. The chef really knows what he is doing.
You can’t go wrong with these vegetarian spaghetti (蔬菜番茄醬麵) for NT$120. Compare that to the usual inflated prices at Western restaurants in Taipei!
The interior design at J&J is quite tasteful, although not designer-like, with black-and-white tiles on the floor and a huge collection of Bart Simpson figures in a case on the wall. There’s free Wifi, complimentary water, and a few deep chairs for sipping your coffee, which starts at NT$100 for an Americano. Ask for the homemade cake which – you guessed it – tastes great.
The menu is in Chinese and English as well.
No need to go for hamburgers
I’ve probably eaten here a dozen times by now and I’ve never been disappointed.
A word about the hamburgers: They are just okay. But then, I am no burger expert, and a hamburger to me does not constitute the quintessential Western meal (that would be Schnitzel with fried potatoes). Just don’t go for the burgers, the other stuff is so much better.
Who needs buns or fries when there’s this grilled boneless chicken leg with risotto (烤無骨雞腿) for NT$290?
Or NT$120 chicken pesto spaghetti (雞肉香蒜請醬麵) with a decent sauce that is not as watery as what you usually get in Taiwanese „italian noodle“ places.
I can also recommend the chili con carne risotto (辣椒肉醬燉飯, NT$150).
And the beef patties with mushroom sauce and rice (weekends only, set meal, NT$240).
I kid you not: The french fries at J&J (NT$70), crisp to perfection, are the best I’ve had in Taiwan.
J&J Cafe tends to be quite busy on weekends, while on a weekday afternoon you may be the only patron. The lady running the place told me that the location apparently is not so ideal, since there are many cheap Taiwanese restaurants in the area. But they signed a two-year contract and will stick with it to see how business develops. They opened the place about a year ago.
Where to find J&J Cafe
To get to J&J Cafe, just ride your bike or scooter eastward on Xinyi Rd., leave Taipei 101 behind, and go on for about two more kilometers.
To go there by bus, take the Xinyi Trunk Line bus (信義幹線, the only line without numbers) anywhere on Xinyi Rd. heading east and get off at Songshan Vocational High School (松山商職). Walk back about 100 meters. The restaurant is on your right.
Address: 63 Xinyi Rd. Sec.6, Taipei (信義路6段63號)
Tel: (02) 2727 3915
Closed every 2nd & 4th Monday (or maybe every Monday… better check first)
J&J Cafe on Facebook
Tell me when you’ve been there! What did you have, did you like it?
This text has been updated February 2014.
To die for: Niu Rou Juan Bing on Daan Rd.
I am currently a very happy man. After what feels like more than a year, my favourite traditional little restaurant is back in business. Culinary heaven for just a few NT$ – this is where you can find it.
According to the guy next door, the laobanniang (lady boss) had health issues, but now she is busy again, making Taipei’s best Niu Rou Juan Bing (牛肉捲餅, scallion pancake rolled with beef), as well as some very good Xiao Long Bao (小籠包) dumplings.
Niu Rou Juan Bing, that’s beef and spring onions, wrapped up in a savoury pancake. You can keep your seafood, oyster omelettes, even your beef noodles: This is probably my favourite dish in Taiwan.
I have tried it at almost a dozen locations in Taipei City, but nowhere did I find it as crispy, juicy and tender as in this little joint on Daan Rd., just around the corner from Daan MRT station: 圓圓小龍湯包 (Yuanyuan Xiaolongtangbao)
Great, inexpensive street food in Taipei City
The official address is Xinyi Rd., but don’t be fooled: The restaurant is on Daan Road, in this conspicuously ugly building that you may have noticed before.
To get there, turn right when you step out of MRT Daan station and walk about 50 meters to the intersection with Daan Road. There’s a cluster of great little restaurants that you have to check out if you are not put off by the authentic (i.e. somehow grimy) atmosphere of the place.
Turn right again and walk almost to the end of the block, and you will reach your destination. If the boss is just busy stacking bamboo steamer baskets, it’s your lucky day.
The address: 60-76 Xinyi Rd. Sec. 4 (信義路四段60之1號)
Taipei restaurants: More than meets the eye
As it is so often the case, the inside of the restaurant does not look like much. But don’t let yourself be fooled by this.
The Niurou Juanbing will set you back NT$70. You can also get a pork variety for the same price.
While you are there, try the steamed Tangbao (湯包), a kind of Xiaolongbao, but with soup inside along with the meat filling. At NT$70-80 for a set of eight dumplings, it’s a much better deal than at Din Tai Fung.
To round things up, treat yourself to a bowl of delicious cold green bean soup (綠豆湯) for NT$25. Yes, it’s good.
So this is it: Your ticket to culinary bliss Taiwan style, for NT$175 (less than 5 Euro or US$6).
Believe me, you will not regret it.
One thing that’s not so great: There are only disposable wooden chopsticks, so bring your own pair of reusables.
Have you tried it? What’s your favourite place for yummy street food in Taipei?
English posts you might want to have a look at:
- A company organizing outdoor adventure trips in Taiwan for English speakers
- Videos of the spectacular Taipei 101 New Year fireworks 2013
- A look into the Giant bicycle factory in Taichung
- What Taiwanese think about girls with Western partners: What is a Xicanmei 西餐妹 ?
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