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Friday, February 28, 2020

JANUARY: Taipei Eats

For my January post, it's gotta be about my trip to Taiwan! It's been 5 years since I've been back... Which is crazy! Cuz before that, I went back every year! I definitely missed it. 

The food this time around was a bit disappointing though. Since I was there during Chinese New Year, I didn't realize most of the restaurants/businesses would be closed! T_T We still had some pretty good stuff though. Here are my top 5 bites or meals! (In no particular order.)

ManTangHung Spicy Hot Pot
Inside Bellavita Mall by Taipei 101.
B2, No.28, Songren Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei City
Phone: 02-2723-6300

AYCE spicy hot pot! There are different menu packages to choose from. We did the cheapest which is NT$799 I think and it was already more than enough options. My parents have done the more expensive options and said it's not much better. They even gave us complimentary seafood platter. This is a fancy hot pot place. The decor was very modern. They had several private rooms for larger parties. And they have not one but FIVE self serve ice cream stations.

So good! They also have other dishes to supplement the hot pot. Like Lu Rou Fan (braised pork on rice)... one of my all time favorite Taiwanese dishes. Hot pot in Taiwan is one of the best imo. Quote me on that!

Ming Yue Tang Bao (Soup Dumplings)
No.40, Lane 171 Tonghua Street, Taipei 106 Taiwan
Phone: +886 2 2733 8770

One of my must visit places in Taipei. I'm so happy this place is within 5 min walking distance from my Grandma's apartment so we'd been going here for most of my life. We almost always never have to wait and my family and I think it's better than Ding Tai Fung. Yea, I said it. I think DTF is overrated and overpriced and why wait in line if I have a better option!

Soup Dumplings

Sauteed Cabbage

Sauteed Water Spinach

Black Sesame Mochi (with peanut powder). OMG, so yum!

Inside SOGO Food Court
106, Taiwan, Taipei City, Da’an District, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, No. 45 B1
Phone: +886 2 2721 6863

I'm pretty sure I've seen a shop with this name when I was in Japan. It's probably a chain but also maybe just a popular name?

I got a ceremonial matcha (matcha with water) and a matcha cheesecake. It was a combo so I saved some money! The matcha was beautifully green and so good. The unsweentened tea paired well with the cheesecake, even though the cheesecake itself wasn't too sweet. I loved the layers and the bitterness of the matcha. One of the best desserts I had on this trip.

Thai Town
Inside Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xinyi Place A9
7, No. 9, Songshou Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
Phone: +886 2 2723 9987

Thai Green Papaya Salad. Great flavors and textures!

Special Rice. So pretty! I'm not really sure what the red specks are in there... I didn't taste anything particular. But I love that it was served in a silver container... kinda made it feel like fancy rice.

Yellow Curry Chicken. Super tender. So tasty.

Stir Fry Water Spinach. My most favorite vegetable!

This was one of our more expensive meals. It was just me and my mom so typically we'd just go to the food court and get something for way cheaper. But we saw this and she said it was good, so we went. Funny though, it's STILL inside a department store!! Wow! One of the best meals of my trip. We ordered a lot of food but we ate it all!!! 100% would go back to this place.

The Who Cafe
110, Taiwan, Taipei City, Xinyi District, Zhuangjing Road, No. 214 2F
Phone: +886 2 2758 6512

On my last day, my parents and I went to this cute little cafe recommended by my cousin. I told her I wanted to go somewhere with 3D latte art and she found this place online. It turned out to be kind of a cat cafe. All the decor were were of cats as were the cups and saucers. They even had a resident cat walking around the cafe.

I got a matcha latte (unsweet) and it came with a cute kitty 3D latte art. The mug was saucer and spoon were also TOO CUTE!

We got dinner as well. The prices for food were a bit expensive compared to what other options we had but the portions turned out to be pretty big and they were really delicious! I love that there were multiple veggie options on each plate. You order the protein and it comes with whatever vegetable options they had that day. I LOVED all of them! Cabbage, creamed corn, spinach. And the protein was served in a super cute mini cocotte (dutch oven). Very filling meal... I didn't have room for dessert. I wish I had discovered this place earlier cuz I would've gone back for more drinks and dessert!

Extra entry ~~
2nd favorite dessert of the trip. Two Day Souffle Pancake.

Inside Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xinyi Place A8
No. 12, Songgao Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
Phone: +886 923 312 545

Inside another food court. Lol. The Chinese food courts are just on a whole other level. You'd never need to go to a free standing restaurant. There are SO many options and the decor is always on point. They make the American food courts look so so sad.

The fluffy Japanese pancakes are quite common in Taipei now. I saw several places that did this... although they all looked slightly different. My dad and I wanted dessert after lunch so we just went to the first one we saw. SO FREAKING SOFT! This wasn't nearly as tall as the one I had at Gram in Tokyo but I haven't seen one as tall as them anywhere. This was even softer than Gram. It was almost like eating clouds. Topped with a dark chocolate sauce, it was almost unsweetened chocolate. I really liked it. Not too sweet at all, so pillowy, and cute in its little box. I think I like the one from Japan better, but this was also a good experience. If you like sweet desserts, this would not be a good choice.


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

DECEMBER: Smithy on Henderson

What do you do when you have 4 hours to kill at the airport? You update your blog. Lol! Seriously though, can you guys believe January is almost over? We are one month into 2020, a new decade! Crazy!

So continuing with my monthly features... my December favorite was Smithy on Henderson! I had heard lots of good things since they opened but never got the chance to go. Then out of the blue, they invited me in! That's the best feeling. My friend and I went on a Tuesday night so it wasn't too crowded. Walking up to the restaurant, I saw that they had a really cool covered patio area. It reminded me of Ebb & Flow which I featured in Nov.

2927 N Henderson Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206
(214) 316-1984
Price: $$$-$$$$

The interior is really cool. I loved the art on the walls, the use of dark wood and iron... it used to be a former ironwork/blacksmith shop! Hence the name Smithy. I like that! It was bigger than I expected! They have a private party area all the way in the back of the restaurant.

We were greeted by the owner who sat down and chatted with us for a while. Did you know this is the sister restaurant to Woolworth in downtown Dallas?

To start, my friend got the Quite Frankly (frankly organic vodka, dolin blanc, strawberry, jalapeno, lemon, ginger) $11~ Served in a mason jug, it's a pretty big cocktail. And it was really good. I don't drink much but I can appreciate that you tasted all the different ingredients in this drink. The addition of heat from the jalapeno is a nice touch.

I got the Frozen Irish Cream. It looked super delicious but alas was not sweet enough for me. I also prefer sweeter drinks than the norm. 
Just FYI... During their Happy Hour (Tue-Fri 11AM-7PM), craft cocktails are $8 and frozen cocktails are $6! And YES, it starts at 11AM and basically goes all day! What a freaking good deal!

Flat Bread (heirloom cherry tomato, champagne grapes, capers, basil, arugula, EVOO, boursin cheese, feta, naan) $12~ Can be prepared vegetarian. 
This was our appetizer. It was delicious!! Using naan as the base was kind of awesome. The texture was great. I don't like it when flatbread is too thin like a cracker. The toppings were so flavorful. I can easily have this as my entree.

Truffle Fries (white truffle oil, shaved pecorino, house ketchup) $9~ Can be prepared gluten free and/or vegetarian. 
We thought this was going to be a much smaller portion but I guess the one we saw coming out of the kitchen was a side dish for a burger or something. Haha. This is definitely big enough for a group! The fries were fried well and I freaking LOVED their house-made ketchup, but the truffle flavor was lacking. Needs more.

Cedar Salmon (verlasso salmon, cedar plank, maple mustard, wood fired Brussels sprouts, bacon sherry cream) $28~ 
My friend got the salmon. Beautifully cooked and presented... sitting on a cedar plank. The Brussels sprouts were also fantastic. I've never had it like this in a cream sauce before. Definitely worth a try!

Luke's Hot Chicken (peri peri spice, local honey, gin pickles, white bbq sauce, cavatappi pasta, pancetta, four cheese sauce: gruyere, pepper jack, monterey, pecorino) $24~ 
I wanted to eat light... but then saw this on the menu. Lol. Oh well. YOLO. Haha. This is one of their crowd favorites and I can see why. Holy Crap! It was a big plate. Perfectly fried chicken stacked high on perfectly cooked pasta. The breading on the chicken was amazing. Crisp, yet light, and not overly greasy. I could not get over how awesome it was. AND, finally, a hot chicken that was actually spicy! Not super spicy but it had a kick. And that's all I want if I'm ordering a "hot" chicken. The pasta is basically like a 4 cheese mac n cheese. But it wasn't swimming in sauce. It was perfect. I loved every bite and had enough leftover for another meal. 100% would get this again.

Hula Pie (chocolate cookie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, espresso ganache, ghiradelli hot fudge, toasted macadamia nuts, whipped cream) $12~ 

Holy moly. We were stuffed but wanted to try dessert. This was enough for 4! The espresso ganache was to die for... my favorite element on this dessert. My friend said it tasted like the name... definitely reminded her of Hawaii.

What a fabulous meal. We also had exceptional treatment and service. I definitely want to go back and try more things. Or maybe I'll just end up getting the hot chicken again. Haha. And they also rolled out a new brunch menu last month!

Thank you so much for having us, Smithy! Hope you stick around Henderson for a really long time!

*The meal was comped but all opinions are my own.*


Saturday, December 28, 2019

NOVEMBER: Ebb & Flow

One of the most fun event I went to this year would only be fitting for my last post for 2019! My November pick is the newly opened Ebb & Flow in Deep Ellum. First of all, I loved the decor of this place. The gorgeous front covered patio has flowers all draping down the ceiling. Definite wow factor. The interior is just as pretty!

Ebb & Flow
2561 Commerce St.
Dallas, TX 75226
(972) 913-2322

This was a media event. The whole restaurant was closed for this private event. So fancy! I arrived a little late because traffic and parking were horrible, but I got there right when they were serving the appetizers.

My friends had already started with various cocktails. This was one aspect that impressed me a lot. Y'all know I don't drink much at all. I'm pretty sure I'm allergic, so I'm very picky when it comes to alcohol. It's only worth it if it tastes good to me. I freaking loved their drinks. I had 3 different ones (didn't finish them all cuz I'm lightweight, but still!!) Their cocktails are unique, beautiful, and the flavors are very well thought out.

Velvet Butterfly (Deep Ellum vodka, Velvet Falernum, Butterfly Pea Flower, lemon, bubbles). The purple color is so gorgeous... these pictures definitely don't do it justice. Depending on the lighting they came out bluish but the 2nd picture is closer to the actual color.

Influx (Ford's gin, ginger liqueur, blood orange, lemon, Paychaud's, Aquafaba). It's SO pretty!

Undertow (vanilla vodka, Kahlua, Nobel Coyote cold brew coffee, lavender, Baileys, Almande foam). I think this is the best coffee cocktail I've ever had. Usually it's either too bitter from coffee or too much alcohol. This was perfectly blended, rich and frothy. I can probably drink the whole thing.

ElderFlow (frosecco, pear vodka, elderflower liqueur, lemon; served frozen). One of my favorites of the night. First of all, it's frozen which makes it fun. And so bright and refreshing!

Cocoloma (coconut tequila, cream of coconut, sparkling grapefruit, tajin). This wasn't my thing cuz I don't like tequila or tajin. My friend was obsessed with it though. I have to agree it's a very creative concoction. Lots of complex combinations of flavors.

I think the appetizers were the best course of the night. All the dishes we had were solid and I'd happily eat any of them again.

Toasted Ravioli (beef ravioli with spicy marinara and parmesan). Each order comes with 4 pieces. The raviolis are fried and seasoned well. The sauce was a great pairing. 

Stuffed Jalapenos (jalapenos stuffed with brisket, pimento cheese, wrapped in bacon). Also four to an order. What can go wrong with bacon, jalapeno, and pimento?? Yum!

Cubano Egg Rolls (pork, ham, swiss cheese wrapped in rice paper and fried; spicy mustard, chipotle bbq sauce, pickles). My absolute favorite food of the night. It was perfection. I've had "cuban egg rolls" before and it wasn't good. The flavors were muddled and the wrapper was greasy. This was definitely WAY better than that. Perfect crispy outside, layers of flavors inside. I can taste all the elements of a Cuban sandwich in every bite. Highly recommend!!

Sal's Salad (romaine, hard boiled eggs, crispy salami, blue cheese, cucumber, tomato, pickled red onion, avocado, chicken, house ranch). The crispy salami made this dish. A hearty salad. Lots of great ingredients and flavors.

Southwest Salad (beyond meat tossed with jicama, pico, black beans, roasted corn, avocado, salsa). Ebb & Flow serves Beyond Meat, y'all! If you haven't tried beyond meat yet, it's pretty good. Before this, I've had it in burgers and tacos and even noodle bowls. This was a nice topping to the salad. It definitely added more substance to the salad.

The Burger (two 3oz akaushi beef patties with smoked cheddar, shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, brioche bun). I have to be honest and say that the highlights for me were the cocktails, appetizers, and salads. Everything after was just ok... for various reasons. For example, the burger patty was lacking in seasoning. So the burger is fine but not the best. Maybe because we got smaller sample sizes of all the entrees... Hmmm. 

Mahi Mahi Wrap (blackened mahi mahi with mango pico, avocado and slaw, garlic tarragon spread). I was told this was really good but since I'm allergic to mango, I did not taste it.

Garlic Parmesan Fries. Loved the fries but I think they were over fried, which was great for me cuz I love crispy fries. Haha. 

Tater Kegs. Basically giant tater tots. Very tasty. 

Mac & Cheese. Was more like pasta with some cheese on top. Was quite dry but pasta was cooked well.

Stuffed Chicken Breast (whole chicken breast stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, parmesan, alfredo sauce; broccolini). My favorite element on this dish... the broccolini! So much flavor. The chicken was again, fine, but not spectacular. 

Salmon Piccata (8oz pan crusted salmon, angel hair pasta tossed in light lemon vinaigrette with caper cream sauce). This was pretty good. The salmon was cooked well and the cream sauce was tasty. I, personally, am not a huge fan of angel hair pasta.

Trio of Gelato (vanilla, mint chocolate chip, salted caramel). The mint chocolate chip was my favorite. They were nice colors on the side of the carrot cake.
Carrot Cake (homemade). Apparently this is an old family recipe. If you like carrot cake, you'd most likely love this one. I've heard several people say it's amazing. I don't like carrot cake though, so it was fine. :P

Despite the height of the food peaking half way through the meal, I had a blast at this event. The vibe was great, the cocktails were flowing, and to be honest, I was already full after the salads anyways. Lol. And I loved seeing all my blogger peeps! I would definitely go back and I would give them another chance on their entrees. Thanks so much for having me, Ebb & Flow!