Shinjuku 新宿 must be one of my favourite wards in Tokyo. While it is a business district, it is also home to considerable dining, entertainment and shopping options. I liked the fact that many lines lead here, especially the JR Yamanote Line, which makes travelling to places like Shibuya, Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Ueno and Tokyo Station convenient. There are TOO MANY food choices to list down here. Omoide Yokocho (also nicknamed the Piss Alley) is literally lined with yakitori, oden and soba shops.
The trending drink in Taip ei continues to be Brown Sugar Bubble Milk. The drink is sometimes called 青蛙撞奶, directly translated to “frog knocking against the milk”. Chen San Ding gets my top vote for fresh warm boba pearls, caramel-like brown sugar, in a drink of cold milk. Very refreshing. Other popular brands include Tiger Sugar, Xing Fu Tang, Jenjudan, JLD Dragon, Yifang Tea, all with their own fans.
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No matter how much I tell my friends to get mentally ready for the Lin Heung ‘warzone’ experience, they never really are. If you do not speak Cantonese (or at least pu tong hua), and have no understanding of the dim sum trolley culture – good luck. For popular items like the Cheong Fun and Cha Siu Bao, this is a competition of fastest runner and fastest hands first. Probably one of the 10 things you must experience in Hong Kong if you are a foodie. Too bad it is closing really soon.
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Sanyod is one of the most well-known restaurants at the Bangrak district of Bangkok, offering Thai-Cantonese cuisine and attracts regulars and customers from other parts of the city. They come here to try the signature char-grilled Roast Duck marinated with a secret sauce and other tasty Cantonese dishes. It is also awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand. The duck at 150 baht (SGD6.50 or USD4.80) comes with part-tender-part-fatty pieces drenched in a sauce with Chinese herbal hint.
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Probably the most famous fluffy pancakes from Osaka Japan, Gram Café & Pancakes has arrived in Bangkok right at the popular Siam Paragon. You might have seen videos of Gram’s Pancakes which made their way around social media, of stacks of 3 pancakes being ‘shaken’ on plates. Each 4 cm thick, served with syrup, butter and whipped cream. It is all about the texture – ultra-fluffy, soufflé-like, and melt-in-your-mouth. Very long queue expected, up to an hour or more. It's all about the gram.
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The one distinguishing factor about cafes in Taipei, is the calming and peaceful environment, best described as “文青”. I can’t find an English equivalent, but you often find the Taiwanese hanging out with a book at hand, or engaging in quiet conversations – discussing about politics, the arts and gossips. There appears to be a lack of English websites featuring these Taipei cafes as well. Armed with recommendations from friends and Chinese guidebooks, here are 12 cafes to visit in Taipei.
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When people talk about the “Best Beef Noodles in Taipei”, it is usually a toss-up between Yong Kang Beef Noodles 永康牛肉麺館 or Lin Dong Fang Beef Noodles 林東芳牛肉麵. I ordered a bowl of Beef Noodles, at NT$160 - an affordable SGD7 or USD5.20. The light aroma arrived before the bowl, and while the soup looked slightly clear, it was surprisingly flavourful underlying with taste of herbs and spices that didn’t overpower the rest. The stock is said to be cooked over 20 hours, using beef bones and herbs.
The owners of one Michelin-starred Ming Fu were so low profile and “largely uninterested” that they didn’t attend the Michelin ceremony. It is the kind of place you’d probably just walk by and not normally walk into. The most famous dish here is Buddha Jumps Over the Wall 一品佛跳牆, which has been earning rave reviews. As this soup contains real shark fin, you could request the staff to omit it if you don’t eat or prefer not to eat shark fin. Reservation is A MUST.
Golden Flower Toast 金花碳烤吐司專賣 located near the Ximen Red House, enjoys a constant steady queue. The sandwich shop, with a drink of the same brand just a few shops away, serves up interesting flavours more than you can imagine. The mammoth of a sandwich came like a tower, of toasted buttery breads, grilled pork belly, cucumber slices, tomatoes, lettuce, egg, cheese (but of course)… and interesting addition of peanut butter. Be prepared to wait 15 minutes, to even an hour for your sandwich.
Jian Hong Beef Noodles 建宏牛肉麵 is listed under the Michelin Bib Gourmand, opens 24/7, which can satisfy your hunger from wee hours of the morning to middle of the night. Offering include Beef Noodles, Mixed Beef Noodles, Beef Innards Noodles, also available in soup versions. They all come in 3 sizes, priced at an inexpensive NT$90 for small, NT$100 for medium, and NT$110 for a large bowl (SGD4, 4.40, 4.85.) This is considering some stores are selling theirs double the price.
Cantonese restaurant Le Palais 君品酒店- 頤宮中餐廳 was awarded 3 Michelin Stars in the inaugural Michelin Guide Taiwan 2018. Despite its French name, which literally translates to “The Palace”, the restaurant serves mostly fine Cantonese banquet cuisine using high quality, seasonal ingredients. Get the Baked Barbecue Pork Bun, with contrast between the hot, piping crisp layer and the moist saucy fillings and sweet char siew that was thoroughly enticing.
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Popular among foodie circles as the Japanese hot pot restaurant that is a cut above the average Taipei hot pot experience, Orange Shabu Shabu 橘色刷刷锅 is the first to elevate the hot pot genre into a more “finer dining” experience in Taiwan. Don’t forget the signature congee prepared at the end of the meal. Using the leftover stock in your pot, the server prepares a congee that many swear it is the best congee they have tasted in their life.
This hotpot chain is extremely popular among the locals and tourists, and it is not difficult to understand why. You get to enjoy value-for-money buffet-style hot pot, in which you can sit and eat-all-you-want for 2 hours. Plus, unlimited Häagen-Dazs and Movenpick ice cream. It is best to make a reservation (ideally, at least a few days before) as the line builds up especially around 6pm. Its signature base soup is the Mala Soup, made from a supposedly-numbingly spicy sauce. Not THAT spicy.
Burger and Lobster somehow, has become a “must-visit” for many people travelling to London. Somehow. They were famed for its 3-item menu of burger, lobster, or lobster roll (£16 Burger, £25 for Lobster Roll, Lobster at £23). The Singapore Chilli Roll (£22) had sauce which tasted very similar to the Singapore Chilli Crab gravy, except that it was sweeter and had less of the tangy-tomato flavours. While I generally enjoyed the fluffy toasted bun, I thought there could be more lobster chunks.
The Lobby of Simple Kaffa was founded by 2016’s World Barista Champion Berg Wu - the first person from Taiwan to win the World Barista Championship. It was on my to-go list, also because of the irresistible Matcha Swiss roll with oozing matcha in the centre. It is made using Morihan Kyoto Uji Matcha powder known for its premium grade quality. The cake was light and airy, with oozing matcha in the centre. Worth getting,
Toc Toc ranks 42 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018, described as French, Japanese and Korean in effortless symmetry. The Chef married refined techniques from around the world and local ingredients to create the menu of Toc Toc. The result: classic meets eclectic. The lunch set is not that expensive, priced at 45,000 Won (SGD54.82 SGD) while dinner set is 100,000 Won (SGD121.80). Toc Toc mixes influences and ingredients from Europe and Asia, incorporating unusual ingredients. Worth the money.
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Mukshidonna 먹쉬돈나 is a well-known “Toppoki” (Korean rice cake) restaurant, though many tourists also know it as a Budae Jjigae (Army Stew) place. The restaurant just serves that one dish, filled with Toppoki / Tteokbokki (cylinder-shaped boiled rice cake) – the quintessential Korean traditional street food, in a hot stove with various toppings. I didn’t quite fancy the sweetish-take on the gravy – perhaps muted down to suit tourists, and wish there was more punch.