Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tranquil Dining @ 鈺善閣 (Yu Shan Ge)

Being a vegetarian in Taiwan is... near impossible. Places like Yu Shan Ge, however, make it all worthwhile. (Not that I would really know what it feels like to be veg, since I change my -etarian title depending on mood.) Yu Shan Ge specializes in vegetarian cuisine, with a side of spectacular service. From the moment you walk in, you are treated like royalty. The restaurant itself is so pretty and puts you right at ease.

My uncle and an artsy wall. Wooden bowls, I believe.

Indoor/outdoor water sculpture thing. So peaceful.

Stairs leading up to the main dining area.

You pick from a variety of individual multi-course meals, and for lunch they range from ~$25 to much more. We went with the most "basic" lunch meal, which came with 9 courses. First, a pretty bowl of water to wash your hands.

All the dishes were sooo gorgeous, and I eventually 'stole' a tea cup. More on that later.

The soup:

w/ fresh sponge gourd, lily, and wolfberry. Simple and lovely.

Vegetarian 'sashimi'

Taro, sweet potato, tomato, asparagus, all in soy + wasabi sauce.

Vegetable + mushroom dumpling

A cutie-pie of a dumpling. And delicious. The wrapping was a great balance of chewy + tender.

Fried bean curd with organic peanuts and carrots.

The crispy skin was delectable.

Wild rice (I think) with diced mushrooms, and a side of greens.

The mushrooms tasted like diced pork! Ymmmm.

Bok choy, and some type of vegetable wrapped in tofu skin.

Like my very own present. Wonderful.

Plum tea:

Notice the uber cute tea cups. I stole one, with the manager's permission. He said, "We're not allowed to give them to you, but if you take one when I'm not looking, I won't know about it." Done and done. Thank you, Mr. Nice Manager!

Dessert: something sweet made from tofu + fruit. Grapes in taiwan >>> grapes in the states.

Perfect end to a perfect meal.

Ladies and gentlemen, put aside your need to eat an animal for one meal, and enjoy this fantastic restaurant. I can't explain it, but you will feel cleaner, fresher, and totally revived after your meal!

鈺善閣 (Yu Shan Ge)
intersection of Bei Ping East Road and Lin Sen North Road
take Shàndǎosì station via Metro
Taipei City, Taiwan

Monday, August 30, 2010

Brooklyn Day: Java Indonesian Rijsttafel and Pies 'N Thighs

I took Thanan out for a Brooklyn day of exploration that of course began with the Brooklyn Flea where we shared a Porchetta sandwich, ate a whole mango and drank watermelon and horchata drinks. I also got a corn because I am obsessed and because I promised you so.

Then we headed to Park Slope to check out an Indonesian spot, Java Indonesian Rijsttafel, for a “snack.” We had the whole place to ourselves at 3pm because I guess not many people think of Indonesian food as snacks.


Java was a totally cute place, but could benefit from some sort of air cicrculation in the summer (okay, maybe you don’t want A/C but let’s splurge for a box fan!).  It had nice décor and fun tablecloths

and cute handkerchief style napkins.

 We nibbled on complimentary shrimp chips while they prepared the food.

Love. Shrimp. Chips!
The food:

Tempeh – tofu with scallions and lightly fried. Super weird consistency. Had just a bite but did not care for it.

Tempeh? More like temp-ew. (I have the palate / mind of a child)

Mao Zoreng noodles

The black peppery sauce was delicious!

Beef was also nice and tender. 

And also among the ordering:

Two Jakarta green lights. Both for Thanan. The drinks contained pineapple juice, orange juice, mango juice, coconut cream and healthy dose of pandan syrup.

The second one was even more green!

I ordered the Indonesian iced coffee which ended up tasting like Vietnamese iced coffee but with whipped cream and less strong coffee (Vietnamese iced coffee still FTW, and I am not biased! I’m not!)

The Indonesian iced coffee + Jakarta green light side by side

The food was interesting, a tiny bit Chinesey but hard to explain. Thanan says it’s very similar to Malaysian food which was described by Allison as “if Indian food and Chinese food had a baby,” so maybe that’s how you describe it. It’s a giant hike from Manhattan, and I hear the more authentic Indonesian places are found in Queens, so there’s more to explore in the area for this cuisine if Indonesian food is up your alley.

After, Thanan lamented about his Jakarta green light-filled stomach and said he could not eat anymore. I quickly reminded him that we were headed to Williamsburg and we still had to eat at Pies ‘n Thighs. So we walked around. A lot. And eventually his stomach stopped hurting, and eventually he agreed to eating one piece of fried chicken out of my chicken box.

Pies 'n Thighs
Fried chicken box with watermelon salad side:

The chicken had great flavor from the deep brine.  Skin was crispy and not greasy.

Adequate biscuits.  Buttery and dense: hence, good with honey (but seriously, when are they not good with honey?).  We did not have a honey jar at our table, but our waitress swiftly delivered one upon request.  Diana woulda gone to town with the honey! 

Watermelon salad was interesting but not as satisfying as I thought - the sweetness of the watermelon was undercut by the vinaigrette; next time I'm opting for the fried zucchini as my side!

And then as an added bonus, because apparently Thanan had not eaten enough yet, the waitress gave him an extra chicken wing on the house which he had no problem finishing despite his complaints of Jakarta-light-induced stomachaches earlier.

Anyway, great fried chicken. Well fried, not too greasy and chicken had a nice level of moistness.  Didn’t have enough stomach space to try any pie, but now that Williamsburg is my new hood, you know I will be back soon. Bet on it!

Java Indonesian Rijsttafel
455 7th Ave
(between 15th St & 16th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11215
166 S.4th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Friday, August 27, 2010

Prospect Heights: The Milk Bar!

The other day while apartment hunting, I passed by this adorable café, the Milk Bar,

that I planned to just grab an iced coffee but when looking at the fresh and natural menu,

The menu is framed on the clean white walls - cute!

just had to take a seat and try a couple things. I’m a sucker for places that have so mny things served on toast, and just the words “strawberry toast” immediately won me over.


That’s what I ordered.

Hello, strawberry toast, so good to meet you

Along with iced coffee (I do stay focused somewhat!)

A silver pitcher of unpasteurized cream: "the pieces of white solids floating in the liquid is normal," oh, how rustic!

Iced coffee with unpasteurized milk pieces floating about.  Not bad.


A potato omelette. Because I can’t make up my mind and am still coping with not having Greeshma here to help me eat stuff. (SADNESS)

Paper thin layers of potato stacked upon each other and baked.  "Omelette" is misleading because there is no egg.  The omelette features seasonal ingredients; today's was mozzarella and red peppers

The place was so charming, and a nice place to stop and grab a quick bite if you live locally. I wouldn’t go out of my way to come here though, but when you do, you’ll bask in the hippie-natural love of the other patrons while feeling good about yourself in drinking some unpasteurized cream.  Plus.  There's a staff of Aussies.  Love that.

620 Vanderbilt Ave
Brooklyn, NY, 11238
Milk Bar Brooklyn on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back with a Buffet Bang

Yes, I am alive! And as Han mentioned, time has a way of slipping by... I managed to survive taking the bar exam almost a month ago. (As for passing, we'll find out in November.) I recuperated in Taiwan, spending quality time with family and eating 1000 lbs of delicious foods a day. I figure the only fair thing to do is to show you some of it.

My aunt recently took us to a glorious buffet at 饗食天堂, Xiang Shi Heaven.

It's quite pretty inside, and the buffet spread is awesome.

Temaki (hand-roll) station and cute temaki holders:

If I hadn't been trying to save room for more food, I would have had ten asparagus + shrimp temaki. Ymmmm.

Dim sum station:


Heart-shaped tofu for hot-pot. Adorbs!

There are a TON more stations, including a variety of fresh-squeezed juices and all-you-can-scoop haagen dazs ice cream. Heaven.

The best part - you're given numbers on your table to order fresh-made dishes family-style. Yes, my aunt could be a hand model.

You put your table number on the number of the dish you want to order, and they bring the dish out to your table when it's ready. Genius. The dishes were definitely my favorite part of the meal. The following are some delectable ones we ordered using the numbers. First, crushed soybean cod.

The fish was sooo fresh, and the topping (I *think* it was crushed soybeans) was incredible. I could have ordered 10 plates of this. Literally. You can order as many of these dishes as you want. It's almost too good to be true!

Basil clams. A Taiwanese favorite. And my mom's favorite.

I cannot overstate how perfect this was. Clams? Fresh x 100. Sauce? Perfect consistency and basil-y taste. This dish was so good, I think we ordered three of them.

We also ordered candied yams.

*Drool* I don't know what they put in this, but part of me thinks it must be magic. Piping hot, and soooo good.

Eggplant dish. My favorite color.

Cooked to the right amount of softness without losing the eggplant texture. I want more.

We also ordered pigs blood + intestine.

I know, it sounds quite gross, but when I was little, I used to looooove both of these things. Now? Well, let's just say I eat it more for nostalgic purposes. I probably had a few bites of each. Pretty tasty.

Okay, back to the rest of the buffet. My plate #1.

Not even sure what half of this stuff was, but rest assured my stomach was a very happy camper after inhaling this plate.

And what is this?

Yes, a peking duck station. The meat was actually just okay, but the skin was crispy and fatty and delightful. Han would approve.

Part of plate #2.

Featuring a beef roll, clam-meat-ball in clam shell, and mala pastry (a sweet bread often eaten at dim sum).

Part of plate #3.

"Pearl" meatballs = pork meatballs covered in sticky rice. These weren't as good as my grandma's, but they were pretty solid.

Truffle time!

I enjoyed the dried flowers, but the truffles definitely looked better than they tasted.

Green tea cake and mango cake.

How cute is the little "peach" on top??

Variety of my favorite jellos and cremes:

Starting from the 12 o'clock position and going clockwise: mango jello, strawberry creme, grape jello, passion fruit creme, and lychee jello. All were super refreshing and delicious... I would have enjoyed them even more if I had not been about to explode from all the food.

I still have a hard time believing how much food I put in my stomach in this one meal. If you're in Taipei, this buffet must not be missed. Go and overeat TODAY!

饗食天堂, Xiang Shi Heaven
12th Floor of Míng Yào Mall (Zhōngxiào Dūnhuà station by metro)
Taipei City, Taiwan
Tel: 02-2771-8832