Cafe: “You” Cafe

August 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

I came across a cute and minimalist hole-in-the-wall cafe this morning while walking around the neighborhood near Wanfang Hospital MRT in Wenshan District, Taipei. There is a sign above with the Chinese character “you,” meaning friend. 

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The cafe is a single room open to the street. There is one bar, and the only seats are along it. The bar also opens to the outside to make for easy takeaway orders. Everything is in full view, making it easy to see the skilled work of the barista. The menu includes most of the standard coffee and tea orders, and most items are a third cheaper than you would find at a chain like Starbucks, and half as cheap as most independent boutique cafes. 

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I came to the cafe early in the morning, around 7:30 AM, and it was the only business open on the block. I ordered an iced cafe latte, which came in a large plastic cup topped with plenty of foamed milk. Isn’t the contrast of the fresh milk and dark espresso stunning? This large cup was only 60 Taiwan dollars, about 2 USD. It tasted good, and the espresso was really strong. The barista, the only staff member working at the time, was quick, efficient and friendly. I’m not sure of their hours – the first time I passed by it was around 8 or 9PM and it was also open. 

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The background decor is colorful and vibrant, giving the place a fun vibe despite the small space and old furnishings. 

IMG_1535The location is a bit out of the way. It’s in one of the side streets off of the main Xinglong Rd, about a 10 minute walk from the Wanfang Hospital MRT Station. If you are ever in the area, be sure to drop by. 

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Here’s the address of the street: Lane 154, Section 2, Xinglong Rd, Wenshan District. If you are walking down the street, in the direction away from the MRT, it is located on the left side of the street. 

Restaurant Review: Cafe Romeo

May 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve always thought of Cafe Romeo as a hipster, grad student place, maybe because it is located further up Orange St. away from the undergraduate residences. It’s an open air, casual restaurant/cafe that serves a variety of sandwiches, paninis, salads, as well as hot beverage and baked goods.

During commencement weekend, my parents had not yet arrived and some of my friends and I wanted to avoid the crowds that were inevitably jamming all the popular New Haven establishments. I suggested Cafe Romeo as a more out-of-the-way place for dinner. We took a lovely walk under the setting sun up Orange St. until we reached the cafe. There is counter service, so we each ordered inside before settling down outside at a sidewalk table to enjoy the warm day.

After perusing the menu for a few minutes, I decided to go with the Chicken Florentine salad (~$9), which is grilled chicken on top of spinach, baby tomatoes, and red onion.

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It’s always difficult to predict how large and filling salads will be, but Cafe Romeo did not disappoint! There was probably half a pound of tasty grilled chicken piled on top of my salad, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the chicken was warm and tender. My friend ordered the fig and goat cheese salad and was similarly pleased to find herself with a hefty, entree-sized salad. Overall, everyone enjoyed their meals as well as the reasonable cost.

I’m sad to have discovered this place at the end of my college career, but I hope there will be an occasion to come back in the future!

Restaurant Review: Basil

May 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

In the two weeks between the end of finals and commencement, the dining halls close and we are on our own for meals – the perfect time to explore the New Haven food scene as well as revisit some old haunts. Basil, a small Asian fusion restaurant on the edge of campus, is a place I had been to a few times before but neglected to visit recently since it is a bit far from where I live.

It was still early for dinner when my friend and I decided to drop by, so I ordered two smaller dishes from the menu. One was a dim sum item called har gow, otherwise known as steamed shrimp dumplings. These are by far my favorite dim sum menu item – succulent shrimp stuffed in a chewy, translucent wrap. Basil’s shrimp dumplings were satisfactory – the filling was fresh and the dumplings were a good size, but I’ve had better in restaurants in larger cities. They were $4.50.

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I also ordered a side of broccoli with oyster sauce. Here is where things got a bit confusing. Basil’s menu has various types of steamed vegetables with oysters sauce listed in on one page (broccoli, chinese broccoli, bok choy, etc.). I asked for the regular American broccoli but the waitress first brought me chinese broccoli, though she returned with the right dish quickly after I mentioned the mistake.

The vegetables were fresh and steamed to the perfect point – still crunchy, yet without that sharp taste of raw broccoli. I also enjoyed how the sauce lightly dressed the dish, rather than dousing the vegetables the way some restaurants serve it. I believe this dish was also around $4.

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The menu is quite varied – my friend ordered a mango salad, roti prata (flat panfried bread with a dipping sauce that’s found in Singapore and Malaysia), and a different variety of steamed vegetables. There are also various rice and noodle dishes.

We went to Basil at a little before six (I think it was on a Sunday), and the place was pretty open so we experienced fast service. We must have gotten there at the perfect time, because not fifteen minutes after we were seated but the place started bustling with customers. Basil has a pretty small dining area but there’s usually a quick turnaround. Great affordable place if you want to try different Asian dishes!

Restaurant Review: Go Fish

May 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Yesterday a few friends and I went to explore Mystic, CT, a historic seaport about an hour away from New Haven. After a day of walking and shopping, we wanted to find a nice place to sit down and eat dinner. We came across a restaurant called Go Fish right next to the quaint Olde Mystic Village, and it had good Yelp reviews.

The restaurant is enormous – it has a seating area specifically for ordering sushi and another section for other menu items. The decor is somewhat tacky, colorful, and underwater themed. The lighting in the entire place is extremely dim. The menu has a lot of variety but is focused on seafood – there was sushi, seafood and meat entrees, and small plates.

I decided to go the sushi route and ordered the miso soup and the “Go Fish Special” sushi roll, which was eel, shrimp, avocado. My friends ordered smaller portions of different entrees such as seafood pasta and lobster ravioli.

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The service was fantastic. Our waiter quickly brought us a basket of warm, crusty bread, accompanied by butter and a creamy bean-type dip. After we devoured the first loaf of bread, we were quickly presented with another. My cup of miso soup arrived soon afterwards; it was your typical miso soup, but I was happy with the large pieces of seaweed!

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I think we all enjoyed our entrees. The smaller portions that my friends ordered were just the right size for a nice filling meal. My sushi was presented beautifully. It was a bit hard to distinguish all the various components with the dim lighting, but the eel was very tasty. Each piece was a bit too thinly cut, making it difficult to keep it together, but that’s the only complaint with my meal.

The prices were reasonable – my sushi was $9.95 and the soup was around $4. With the great friendly and fast service, and all-around solid food, Go Fish is a fantastic find in little Mystic.

Restaurant Review: York Street Noodle House

May 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

York Street Noodle is place to go for a quick, cheap, and simple meal. The restaurant itself is small and tucked away on the second floor of a row house on York Street. The dining room is very cozy and slightly dark – it works well for two or three people who are dining together. Service is no frills and efficient. The menu is limited to certain types of dishes, but there is quite a variety within each category – noodle and dumpling soups, stir-fried noodles, dim sum, etc. Prices are usually under $10 for each entree.

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I ordered the chicken noodle soup ($6.25), which was egg noodles, assorted vegetables (broccoli, napa cabbage, bean sprouts), and tender slices of white chicken in a fragrant broth. It resembled chicken pho, though there is a menu item “vietnamese chicken soup” which might be a closer approximation.

The soup was delicious in a salty, MSG-laden way – I admittedly love to unami flavor of MSG, but it does make one incredibly thirsty afterwards. May be unsatisfying to a connoisseur of broth who is looking for “depth” and mouthfeel. The chicken was tender and plentiful, but rather bland, so I asked for some good old hot sauce to put on the meat. The noodles were pretty nondescript.

Sum: Pretty good meal for a college student on a budget.

Restaurant Review: Cafe K

May 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

Sometimes you stumble across the great places by accident. Yesterday a few friends and I were visiting New York. We were in the Rockefeller Center area, getting tickets for a show, and it started raining pretty heavily. We looked for the nearest cafe or restaurant to duck out of the dreary weather and get some lunch.

We came across Cafe K, a little hole-in-the-wall on East 48th Street. The restaurant is narrow but deep, and the front was taken up by a large counter space so we weren’t sure if this was counter or table service. However, we were quickly taken to the back to a cozy dining area.

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The menu was varied, with options from sushi and fish to pasta and sandwiches. I decided upon the avocado sandwich on a whole wheat baguette and a small coffee with skim milk. The coffee came in an adorable cup with a spoon. At $1.50, it was affordable, yet weak and rather lukewarm.

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The avocado sandwich, on the other hand, was delicious. A generous amount of ripe avocado was layered upon a crusty, hearty baguette, complete with tomatoes, lettuce, and onions. The bread-to-filling ratio was perfect, and the sandwich was pressed, giving the bread a slight crunch. With a bit of salt and pepper, the sandwich made for a satisfying lunch.

The portion size was generous but not absurd, and at $7.50, the price was quite reasonable, especially in the bustling Midtown location. Overall the service was fast and friendly, and there wasn’t too much of a crowd on a weekday lunch hour. If I have the opportunity to come back I would like to try out the sushi. I was hesitant at first to order sushi in a non-sushi place, but the table next to ours ordered some rolls which looked delicious.

Restaurant Review: New Haven Meatball House

April 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I’ve written here! Just haven’t been eating out too much this year – but this past Tuesday I ventured with two friends to the New Haven Meatball House, somewhere I’ve been meaning to go to this whole year. The establishment is located on the corner of Park and Chapel, a bit far from my edge of the campus but I decided to make the trek.

The concept is pretty cool – you choose between 4 varieties of meatballs (chicken, beef, pork, and vegetarian), and then you choose a base to put them on (slider, potatoes, salad, etc). Lastly, you pick a sauce. When I looked up the menu online, it seemed casual, so I was expecting a Chipotle or Panera type environment.

I was pleasantly surprised – the atmosphere felt very fancy and upscale, and a bar dominated one entire length of the space. The lighting was dim with candles on every table, and the plushy booths were very cozy. The restaurant itself is small, so the overall feel was very intimate. The service was also very friendly and fast.

I ordered the beef meatballs with tomato sauce with the house salad ($8), and was surprised when the meatballs came on the side instead of topping the salad. The two meatballs were a fairly hefty size, and the meat was tender and flavorful. I thought the beef went well with the tomato sauce. The house salad was fresh but fairly standard.

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The experience was nice but rather incongruous. The prices are fairly low for the atmosphere that the restaurant is trying to project, but I don’t know if they succeeded in making the meatball concept fit into the upscale environment. Though the meatballs themselves are large, overall portions are pretty small, though in the end that is probably for the better since the food is rather rich. Still, it wasn’t long before we all finished our dishes, and I think all of us went back to the university dining halls for more food after leaving the restaurant.

In the end, it was a fun experience and I’m glad I got to try out the concept, but I don’t think I’ll be back for another meal. It may be a fun place to go at night to get appetizers and drinks.

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