Addiction Aquatic Development

Some of the freshest sashimi and seafood!

Took a taxi as it wasn’t within walking distance of any metro station. Luckily, it wasn’t very far from our hotel, and the cab fare was reasonable.

Must have been hundreds, if not thousands of crabs in there!

Turned a corner into something that resembled a supermarket with a standing sushi bar between aisles. It was insanely crowded in some parts…

… and practically deserted in others.

We took a queue number before heading back out to have lunch (Part I) at one of the stalls.

Radish soup

Seafood version of Taiwan’s famous 滷肉飯 (braised pork on rice)

Clams in sake broth

Lunch (Part II). Salmon skin salad, which was larger than expected.

Deluxe sashimi set~

Addiction Aquatic Development 上引水產
No. 18, Alley 2, Lane 410, Minzu East Road
Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10491

Alice is Coming: Alice in Wonderland Themed Cafe in Taipei

While Taipei is world-famous for its night markets, there’s no shortage of kitschy themed cafes either. From Lego to Hello Kitty, this city seems to have it all! For our weekend trip, however, I had only one such cafe in mind – the Alice in Wonderland themed cafe.

First, a little music to set the mood.

After having brunch (second breakfast, really) at Smith & Hsu and shopping up a storm at Cosmed, we finally made it to Alice is Coming! I love the decor – there’s even teacups like the Disneyland ride – inspiration for my future dining room, perhaps?

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Lots of Alice-inspired artwork scattered around the cafe.

A cozy little corner just for photo-taking purposes.

Yes, I dressed up for the occasion! Sporting a Queen of Hearts ensemble, right down to my socks!

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Our table by the window.

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Even the place mats aren’t spared!

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“It’s always tea time.” – The Mad Hatter

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I’ve had this ring for years – don’t even remember where I bought it from.

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To truly appreciate the ambience of this place, you probably have to be a fan of Disney/Alice in Wonderland. Needless to say, I was reveling in it all. There was even a Disney soundtrack playing, and I was practically squealing with excitement when “Alice in Wonderland” came on.

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Even the food and drinks followed the theme as well. There were four beverages that were each inspired by a suit of cards: Coca-Cola float (spades), Sprite with rose syrup (hearts), Sprite with plum syrup (clubs), and apple tea (diamonds). I picked the Coca-Cola float, something which I’d been craving for ages. I don’t usually drink coke, but hey, exceptions can be made when on vacation!

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Edwin had the curry omurice, which was surprisingly good. We didn’t have high expectations for the food, since we were there mainly for the cute factor, so being able to tuck into a hot and tasty dish was definitely a bonus!

Confession: when I was ordering the chicken nuggets, I just wanted something savoury and somewhat filling to snack on, and “vacation mode” led me in the direction of fast food. That was all I wanted. So imagine my surprise when these arrived at the table, in the most adorable little shapes! Moreover, they tasted fairly good – crispy on the outside, piping hot on the inside. So satisfying!

One happy diner!

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More little details in the washroom.

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Be ambitious, courageous, and above all, be yourself.

More Alice goodies by the counter!

Note: we actually walked around the building once before we could find the entrance to Alice is Coming. The doorway was situated left of Family Mart, and was poorly lit, hence our initial confusion. Although, in a way, it’s like the rabbit hole that Alice fell through by accident, so it’s rather apt, isn’t it?

Alice is Coming 來自愛麗絲
No. 111, Yanping South Road
Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100 (Nearest Station: Ximen)
中正區延平南路111號2樓 · 台北市
Tel: +886 2 2311 0210

Scrumptious Scones at Smith & Hsu, Taipei

While I love a good scone and tea in the afternoon, this classic combination works for brunch as well. With that in mind, we arrived at Smith & Hsu (Hengyang store) at around 10.30am, only to find that we were the only ones there. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as we ended up spending a couple of hours there, savouring every moment. In fact, it felt a little like a private dining event!

The first thing the staff did was bring over a tray of tea leaves along with the menu. The variety of teas, from green to black to floral, was simply astounding! Picking our tea was definitely quite the experience, and for a while it seemed like we would never be able to narrow it down to just two! Finally, we managed to settle on No. 99 “Black Tea Golden Rush” and No. 102 “Falling in Love Again”. Pretty names to go with pretty scents!

Some of the most eye-catching tea leaves I’ve ever seen. This one was No. 100 “Philosopher’s Tea”.

Exploring the store while waiting for our food.

Gift sets.

The salted caramel coffee cake looked so good!

Just about everything was for sale.

As usual, the camera “eats” first.

For the scones, there were four flavours available: original, cranberry, rose petal, and Ore0. We picked original and rose petal. I had heard great reviews about Smith & Hsu, and these were indeed some of the best scones I had ever tasted. They were warm and fluffy on the inside while slightly crusty on the outside, which is how scones should be.

The scones were served with clotted cream and our choice of jam. The options were raspberry, strawberry, plum, and lemon curd. We went with classic strawberry jam. My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough to go around. We finished every last drop of the cream and jam, and maybe 20% or even just 10% more would’ve been prefect.

Unfortunately, the tiramisu was a little dry and bland. I definitely wished that I’d picked the salted caramel coffee cake instead.

Like I mentioned earlier, just about everything was for sale. If you liked the tea, the teapot, or even the jars that the samples came in, you could purchase them at the store. I adored the tea “Falling in Love Again” so much that I bought two boxes of them! (The 12% discount didn’t hurt either.)

Now on to do more shopping before our next meal!

Smith & Hsu
No. 35, Hengyang Road, Taipei
(Metro Ximen Station Exit 4 or NTU Hospital Station Exit 1)
Tel: +886 2 2370 0785

Sights & Sounds of Taipei

Just a random display of photographs that don’t belong anywhere else.

2/28 Peace Park (outside the National Taiwan Museum). We were extremely fortunate to witness the literal works of art of some teenagers. There were possibly a couple of hundred students hanging out at the park, working on their art projects for school.

Would you look at that? My assignments never looked this good.

So much talent in every corner!

Went shopping at one of the Cosmed branches just outside of Ximending, and it was heaven. There was no one else in the store! Edwin found a corner to sit, and I shopped to my heart’s content! (Tip: Bring along your passport to get the tax refund!)

It’s real!

Alice in Wonderland eyeliner! I didn’t get these as I’d already gotten one from Solone (more on that next time).

More Alice in Wonderland goodies! I don’t use cleansing oil, so I passed on these too.

Tsum Tsum Pocky! No chocolate flavour though.

We bought the Pokeball one, which just tasted like sparkling water, but saltier.

We were in Pacific SOGO when a camera crew came in, followed by a massive crowd. I don’t watch any K-dramas, so I don’t know any of the celebrities. Does anyone know who this one is?

That’s all for tonight! I know this was more of an awkward filler than a proper blog post, and I promise the next one will be much, much better. Today was a looong day, and there’s so much to be sorted out before we go away. And then there’s the actual packing. Wish us luck!

Shida Night Market, Taipei

You can’t go to Taipei and not visit at least one of their many night markets. Whether it’s for street food, shopping, or just people-watching, it’s a must-do. On our last trip to Taipei, we went to Shilin and Raohe, so naturally we wanted to go somewhere new this time. Shida Night Market was within walking distance from our hotel, so we headed there after checking in.

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Walked past a shop selling 蔥油餅 (scallion pancakes), and I had to have one because a) there was a queue of locals, which meant it must be good; and b) I was starving. It tasted quite nice, and was only 30TWD (~HK$7.70/~US$1.00/~S$1.40)! Gotta love Taiwan.

Lots of people, locals and tourists alike.

Shi Yun a.k.a. the “deep-fried everything” stall.

Got my fried chicken with salt and pepper!

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We bought a few other things here and there, including this chocolate crepe. We were a little tired, so we didn’t stay long, and headed back to the hotel soon after.

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Bought some 麵線 (meesua/noodles) to enjoy in comfort of our room.

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I absolutely adore Tienren tea, and knowing its Taiwanese origin, I had to try it while in Taipei. However, I was sorely disappointed as it tasted nothing like the one in Hong Kong. There was no sweetness whatsoever, and reminded me of the Chinese tea that’s the “default” tea in restaurants here.

Next post will most likely be about the sights and sounds of Taipei, and it’ll be a fairly short one as well. After all, we were only there for a weekend, but fret not, there’ll be other exciting stuff coming along, so stay tuned!

Two Nights in Taipei: Chaiin Hotel Review

Starting the Taipei travelogue series with our stay at Chaiin Hotel, and yes, it’s spelled with two “i”s.

During our last visit to Taipei, we stayed at the Ark Hotel, and we would’ve considered staying there again, but unfortunately it was already fully booked for the Easter weekend. Given that Taipei is incredibly tourist-friendly, there were plenty of other options available regarding accommodation, and finally we decided on Chaiin Hotel.

We stayed in a Superior Room with a double bed. A Standard Room would’ve been cheaper, but I didn’t want to stay in a windowless room. Having natural light in the mornings is a necessity for me, and I wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for that.

Also, you can’t really tell, but there’s a mini-fridge under the writing desk. In it were two complimentary bottles of water.

Note: the glass walls for the bathroom are translucent, and there’s no additional curtain or cover, so hopefully you’ll be staying with a significant other, or someone whom you’re really comfortable with.

Slippers and hairdryer provided.

The sink was located right next to the door. All the basics were provided, and then some. These included:

  • towels
  • mugs
  • bar soap
  • shower cap
  • razor and shaving cream
  • toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, and facial cleanser
  • comb
  • cotton buds and cotton pads

It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a hotel provide facial cleanser, so I’m really impressed. I didn’t use it (as my skin is sensitive), but the fact that it’s there is much appreciated.

In my hurry I actually forgot to take a picture of the bathroom – d’oh! It’s simply a WC and a shower with a glass door. The shower area itself was fairly spacious, with a little cubby hole of sorts to hold your toiletries.

Electric kettle, coffee and tea. And my favourite Lotus biscuits!

View from our room. We stayed on the 12th floor, which was the highest.

One of the best things about Chaiin Hotel was its location. Dongmen MRT station was literally steps away, and the famous Yongkang Street was within walking distance. There was also a HSBC ATM located nearby, which was quite the lifesaver for us as we had to withdraw more cash!

I was also really stoked about staying across the street from Tienren Tea, until I tried the tea and it tasted nothing like the one in Hong Kong. The green tea just tasted like regular Chinese tea, whereas the HK version has a subtle sweetness.

Complimentary breakfast buffet. Aside from the usual scrambled eggs and sausages, there was also soup, congee, fried noodles, and strangely, nuggets and french fries.

Bread and cereal station.

Did a bit of a food hack and created my version of toast with butter and condensed milk.

The “orange juice” was really fruit punch, and it was so bad I almost spat it out. Luckily, the mocha from the coffee machine was tolerable.

I don’t have high expectations for a hotel breakfast, especially since this isn’t a five-star resort. Aside from the punch, the rest of it was fine. I’m the kind of person who wakes up famished and must have breakfast within minutes, so being able to fill my belly without having to walk too far is a definite plus.

The one negative about the hotel was the elevator. It was painfully slow, and given that we were staying on the 12th floor, walking up and down the stairs wasn’t exactly feasible, especially with luggage. Some genius decided to give people some incentive to take the stairs by installing some artwork and calling it a vertical gallery.

We did walk two flights of stairs from the lobby to the ground floor. If you’re travelling light and don’t mind walking, the art is worth checking out.

The total cost of our stay was HK$1272, which works out to HK$636 (~US$81.80/~S$114.30) a night. Like I mentioned earlier, the location was great, probably the best thing about the hotel. The room was alright, and service was impeccable (I can’t praise Taiwanese hospitality enough!). The downside was the elevator that travelled at a snail’s pace. Aside from that, we had a pleasant stay.

However, I should mention that we probably won’t stay at Chaiin Hotel again, but there are other factors at play here. It’s the second time we’ve stayed at the Dongmen area, and we’ll probably choose another area the next time we visit Taipei so as to experience more of the city.

http://www.chaiinhotel.com.tw/

Tastes of Taipei

This post features James’ Kitchen, Mitsui Cuisine, Mala Yuanyang Hotpot and miscellaneous bites. Enjoy!

James’ Kitchen 大隱酒食

65 Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei / 台北市大安區永康街65號
(02) 2343 2275

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According to several sources (food blogs, travel lists etc), this is THE go-to place for Taiwanese comfort food.

We arrived at 11 something, only to be told that they open at noon, so we took a little walk around the area.

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Plenty of dining options available on Yong Kang Street. And there are cafes everywhere in Taipei.

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Tea and books, a winning combination.

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Would have been a lovely place to rest if it weren’t something like 33 degrees that day. (How I’m to survive the scorching desert heat of Dubai, I don’t know.)

Finally, it was noon and we were seated in air-conditioned comfort.

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Now, one thing I didn’t like about James’ Kitchen was that they had limited options for beverages. It was either sake, beer, or 洛神花茶 // Roselle tea. If you don’t feel like drinking during lunch time, or if you don’t drink at all, then you’re stuck with the tea. There weren’t any other types of tea available, or any soft drinks, which was a little disappointing. Personally I didn’t like the Roselle tea, which I felt had a strong sweet and sour taste. Edwin, on the other hand, loved it.

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開胃菜: 柚香甜酸蓮藕 // Appetiser: pickled (?) lotus root

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Pardon the blurry photographs. I think this was 私房鹵鵝爪 // marinated goose feet, but I can’t be sure.

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鹵大腸 // Marinated pig’s intestines? By the way, I wasn’t the one who ordered the dishes, which is why I can’t remember a lot of them. Paiseh!

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午魚一夜干 // Threadfin that’s been dried overnight, then grilled.

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烤雞翅 // Grilled chicken wings.

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If I remember correctly, this was 蘋果南瓜雞湯 // chicken soup with apple and pumpkin.

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Now this, I will always remember, because it’s awesomeballs. (Yes, you read that right.) It’s 蔥香豬油飯, a simple and frugal dish with rice, scallions, soy sauce, and the magic ingredient, LARD. Tell your diet to suck it and order this. I can’t guarantee that you’ll hear the chorus of angels, but it’ll be good enough, trust me.

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And we’re done with lunch! Meanwhile, folks who joined the queue for Din Tai Fung while we were en route to James’ Kitchen were still waiting to be seated. Nothing against Din Tai Fung, which is popular for a reason. I just can’t bring myself to spend precious vacation time in a queue.

Mitsui Cuisine 明水三井二管

No. 59, Jingye 1st Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 104 台北市一路59號
(02) 2533 8802

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This was recommended by a colleague of Edwin’s, who said that Japanese food in Taiwan was far superior to the Japanese food in Hong Kong. (Hong Kong has better Western food, so now you know.)

First off, this place is in the middle of nowhere. We took a taxi, and the driver had to drive around the block twice before any of us could make out that there was a restaurant lurking in the shadows. Inside, however, it was a different story. We were already late for our reservation, so I forgot to take photos. I can tell you that we walked past rows of tanks inhabited by monstrous crustaceans. Seriously, it was the stuff of B-grade creature attack movies.

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Here’s a friendlier-looking version.

Now on to business: the food. We had the tasting menu, which was NT1800 (~S$75/HK$466) per set. Yes, that seems a little pricey, but the staff actually suggested that we share the sets, two to one. So dinner turned out to be NT900 (~S$37.50/HK$233) per person. I haven’t included the service charge, but we’re talking around S$40 for a fancy Japanese meal, with quality ingredients, top-notch service, and a lovely ambience. It was definitely one of the best meals we had at that price point!

Note: what you’ll see in the pictures below were being shared by two people.

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Pickled radish for starters.

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It felt like there wasn’t enough sashimi to go around. But since we were on a budget, no one’s complaining. But the taste – oh the taste – I remember putting a piece in my mouth and saying, “This is what sashimi tastes like!?” I never have sashimi in Singapore anymore. Hong Kong’s sashimi is still fairly decent. Someday I will go to Japan and I may never return.

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Salad with crab claw. I’m aware that the pictures aren’t great. Still learning how to take good food pictures!

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Grilled lobster. Edwin the lobster man went nuts trying to get every little piece out.

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What would you call this – a mini steak? In any case, the slices of beef were tender and succulent. Would have liked more sauce though.

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Steamed fish. Glorious taste and texture, horrible to look at. I do apologise if this picture has traumatised you.

If it doesn’t seem like much value for money so far, this came next:

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The steamboat ingredients included assorted seafood, vegetables, and noodles. We got really full halfway through this course! But it didn’t end there…

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What meal is complete without dessert? Each person had some fruit, a small slice of cake, and a scoop of ice-cream. It was a good thing we shared the set. It would have been impossible to finish all that food otherwise!

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Satisfied diners.

Mala Yuanyang Hotpot 马辣顶级麻辣鸳鸯火锅

There are a few branches across Taipei, including the popular Ximending area. We dined at the one in the Xinyi area, I think. It’s around NT500 plus for all-you-can-eat, so it’s another place with great value!

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Like the yin yang sign. Perfect for groups split down to spicy and non-spicy.

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The free-flow beverages included soft drinks, juices, and even wine! o_O

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In my personal opinion, this was the best (and most dangerous) part: all-you-can-eat Haagen-Daz and Movenpick ice-cream. I had 8 scoops. #indulgent

Parting Bites

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Meatball soup and fried tofu at the airport foodcourt.

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Beancurd with peanuts and jelly bits at the 101 Mall foodcourt.

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Spongebob pancake-thing from a food stall at a night market.

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Bak kut teh and braised pork on rice, near a night market.

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Beef noodles with soup.

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Beef noodles (dry).

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Appetisers at the beef noodle place.

The list of Taiwanese specialties is a long, long one. Whether it’s quirky street eats to beef noodles to braised pork on rice to… you get the idea, there’s something for everyone. So remember to bring your appetite!