Shanghai: Liquid Laundry

Rotisserie Chicken at Liquid Laundry with Mac and Cheese and Creamed Corn

Rotisserie Chicken at Liquid Laundry with Mac and Cheese and Creamed Corn

I actually went to Liquid Laundry (KWah Centre, 2/F, 1028 Huaihai Zhong Lu; 淮海中路1028号, 嘉华房2/F) when they first opened a few months ago. While the space was cool, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the food. I told myself that I would go again but wouldn’t order anything from my first visit. I’m certainly glad I gave it a second chance because I found some really delectable dishes.

Liquid Laundry is by Kelley Lee, the same person who brought you Boxing Cat Brewery, Cantina Agave and Sproutworks. The space is huge, including dining area, lounge area, bar area and an actual brewery making the beer that is served in-house. It’s a very hip place and on the weekends, it’s absolutely packed. Be sure to make a reservation if you want to dine there for dinner.

Inside Liquid Laundry and the Beer Flight

Inside Liquid Laundry and the Beer Flight

On my first visit, I ordered the eggplant dip with flatbread, burrata cheese with duck proscuitto and salad and the Hannibal Lecter sandwich. I was so underwhelmed and disappointed. The eggplant dip had zero flavor (though the actual flatbread was good). While the cheese was delicious, the portion felt really small (about 50 g) and I didn’t really think it went that well with the duck and salad. The Hannibal Lecter sandwich was the best thing of the night– two mini pastrami sandwiches served with mustard and slaw. I did enjoy my drink though, a saffron gin and tonic.

For my second visit, I went with a much larger group of people with lent itself to trying and ordering more dishes. My friend and I split the rotisserie chicken. A whole chicken comes with all four sauces: Asian Persuasion, BBQ, hot and original (a half chicken comes with two sauces). I thought the rotisserie chicken was tasty, cooked well and the meat was tender. Out of the four sauces, I liked the Asian Persuasion sauce best and we even ordered a refill. For sides, my friend and I ordered mac and cheese and the creamed corn. Mac and cheese was solid, but I was in love with the creamed corn. The creamed corn had a hint of truffle oil in it (yum) and really nice corn kernels mixed in. I was so happy to see this because often times creamed corn looks like baby food. The kernels had a perfect crunch to them, which provided a great textural contrast to the dish.

Top Left: Seared yellowtail; Top Right: Fried chicken and biscuit; Bottom left: Porcetta; Bottom right: Hannibal Lecter sandwich

Top Left: Seared yellowtail; Top Right: Fried chicken and biscuit; Bottom left: Porcetta; Bottom right: Hannibal Lecter sandwich

Among the whole group, we ordered the seared yellowtail, fried chicken and biscuit, porcetta, pavlova and chocolate tart. I really loved the seared yellowtail appetizer. It’s quite small, but the fish is so delicate and fresh. They dress the fish with small pumpkin cubes, puffed black rice, pear, pine nuts, avocado and sliced jalapeño. It is seriously a flavor explosion in your mouth. There’s so much happening- spicy, sweet, crunchy, creamy, savory- all in one bite. It’s probably one of my favorite dishes they offer.

The porcetta was also stunning. The pork has that crispy skin and then this wonderful marbling of fat with the meat. My only concern is that it’s just too much to eat by yourself and it comes with absolutely no sides (probably forcing you to order sides). It’s a lot of meat on a plate and so I’d recommend sharing it.

Dessert! Pavlova on the top and Chocolate tart on the bottom

Dessert! Pavlova on the top and Chocolate tart on the bottom

Desserts were a smash. The chocolate tart was rich, creamy and smooth. I was really digging the pavlova. Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert, which normally has whipped cream or custard inside and is topped with fresh fruit. The outside needs to be crisp and airy but the inside needs to be softer and more marshmallow-like. I really like Liquid Laundry’s pavlova. It wasn’t too sweet and there was this custard/cream in the middle that I couldn’t get enough of. With the fresh fruits on top, I felt like it was summer on a plate. While the chocolate dessert was good, it was more ordinary. The pavlova is a dessert that you probably won’t find on many menus.

I would recommend Liquid Laundry as a cool place to take friends for a drink or gastro-pub meal. The place definitely gets loud so it’s not the best spot for a quiet, romantic night. However, could be a good place for a first date if you want to avoid awkward conversation!

Shanghai: Zotter Chocolate Theater

Shanghai's Zotter Chocolate Theater

Shanghai’s Zotter Chocolate Theater

On May 31, 2014, Austrian chocolate makers, Zotter, opened their own chocolate theater in Shanghai. Although I had never heard of Zotter chocolate before, I read about the chocolate tasting tour and knew that I had to check it out. Zotter Chocolate Theater (Shanghai International Fashion Center, Bldg 9, 2866 Yangshupu Lu; 杨树浦路2866号9号楼) is definitely a bit of a trek and in the middle of nowhere. I recommend that you take a cab so that you don’t get lost.

Cocoa Mass

Cocoa Mass

The tour starts with a 20-minute video where you learn more about the Zotter family and their chocolate roots. The company prides itself in being the only manufacturer in Europe who produces chocolates starting from the bean (bean-to-bar) exclusively in organic and fair quality. In the video, you see some of the cocoa bean farmers he works with and where he sources his raw materials from.

Bottom: Vegan chocolate mixed with different materials like almond, rice and coconut

Bottom: Vegan chocolate mixed with different materials like almond, rice and coconut

Our tour was led by a lovely woman who spoke Mandarin, Shanghainese, English and German. I was literally in awe of her language abilities. Everyone get a cute porcelain spoon to try the different chocolates. You first taste raw cocoa mass with absolutely no sugar or milk added. It’s extremely bitter. With each passing room, you get close and closer to the final product.

More tastings

More tastings

There are seriously so many different flavor combinations and it does feel little bit like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. They had combinations ranging from yoghurt and strawberries to even bacon. Zotter sell a lot of different chocolates and you basically get to try ALL the flavors, which is handy so you know what to buy afterward.

Drinking Chocolate Bar

Drinking Chocolate Bar

I think my favorite part of the tour was the drinking chocolate bar. Each member gets a small glass of hot milk and also picks a small chocolate bar. You set the chocolate in the milk for a few minutes and then mix it all in. I went with a simple flavor and picked vanilla bean, but they had flavors like banana and coffee too. Even though it was simple, I really liked my drinking chocolate because it had a rich vanilla bean flavor (you could even see the vanilla bean flecks) and then you could control the sweetness by adding more milk.

Choco Shot

Top Left: Mix and match your own chocolate; Top right and bottom: Choco shot syringes for sale

At the end of the tour, you enter the chocolate store. It’s honestly a little bit overwhelming since there are so many choices. In case you see something you don’t want, you can still customize your own combination on laptops at the mixing bar.

This truly is a tasting tour. I was expecting to see more of the manufacturing action and wanted to see the factory churning out chocolate bars. But, you don’t see that (unless it’s because I visited on a Sunday), and it’s really more of an opportunity to taste all their offerings. The tour is interesting and I did learn new things. I think it’s worth the 180 RMB/person. If you’re a chocolate fanatic, you’ll have a good time. I definitely recommend bringing a bottle of water or even a couple of crackers to try and break up all the sweetness and cleanse your palate.

Shanghai: Tock’s Montreal Deli and Brunch at Burdigala

Tock's - A Montreal Deli

Tock’s – A Montreal Deli

I miss sandwiches. That is possibly one of the things I miss the most in Shanghai. I miss having freshly baked bread that is crunchy on the outside but soft in the inside– piled high with sliced meat, sauce and veggies. Tock’s (221 Henan Zhong Lu; 河南中路221号) fills my sandwich needs by ticking off three out of four of those boxes. I have never been to Montreal so I can’t be an expert on what is a “Montreal Deli,” but I freaking love sandwiches and am an expert on those. Tock’s serves beautifully smoked meat sandwiches. You can order regular (150 g of meat) or monster (225 g). I love my meat and I love my sandwiches, but regular is honestly enough meat. I can’t imagine who can finish off a monster sandwich.

Duck Pastrami on a Montreal-style Everything Bagel

Duck Pastrami on a Montreal-style Everything Bagel

With your sandwich, you get an order of fries or salad. I would definitely recommend the Caeser salad over the fries. The salad was topped with croutons and bacon and the dressing actually tasted like Caeser dressing (and not just bland mayo). The fries were crispy, but I didn’t feel like they had much potato taste. For the bread, you can choose rye or a Montreal-style bagel. ORDER THE BAGEL. The rye is again, underwhelming. It’s kind of dry and lacks any rye bread taste. However, the Montreal-style bagel is to die for. Tock (yes, that is the owner’s name) explained to me the difference between a Montreal-style and New York-style bagel. Montreal-style bagels are boiled in water with honey and are a little bit more dense. That bit of honey makes for an awesome bagel because I like how the sweetness contrasts the saltiness of the meat. Also, when you order an everything bagel, there is topping on both sides (so key) just like a NY-bagel.

I ordered a smoked duck pastrami sandwich on a Montreal-style everything bagel and my friend ordered the smoked meat sandwich on rye. The duck pastrami was tasty but it was a lean cut of meat. I feel like it would be a good choice for someone who was looking for a “healthier” option. My friend thought his smoked meat sandwich was actually too fatty, but I could handle it without any issues. Next time, I think I would try the combination of smoked meats with smoked turkey pastrami. I think that would be the perfect combination of fattiness and meat. Finally, the key to the perfect sandwich is to order it with the spicy mustard. So yes, a smoked meat sandwich on a Montreal-style everything bagel with spicy mustard would be my sandwich of choice.

Shanghai: Burdigala

Shanghai: Burdigala

One of my friends had posted photos of her brunch at Burdigala (550 Wuding Lu;武定路550号) on WeChat. I am so glad she did; otherwise, I might not have found this gem. Burdigala is a wine bistrot with the goal to bring French wines to Shanghai and not charge a ridiculous amount. I found the atmosphere of the restaurant to be really cute and welcoming. There was some counter seating that would have been perfect a place to have a glass of wine with a friend.

Brunch at Burdigala

Brunch at Burdigala

For brunch, you can order à la carte, but the better option is to get the set price meal for 158 RMB. You start the meal with a vegetable salad (cucumbers, tomato, olives and ham) served in a glass jar and it is followed by cold cuts and plenty of baguette bread and a croissant. I know this meal looks simple, but it’s incredibly comforting. My friends and I used to have nights where we would literally just eat bread and cheese or bread and cold cuts/foie gras for dinner when we lived in Paris. After the meat and cheese course, you get roasted potatoes, a soft boiled egg with foie gras and a ham and cheese sandwich. The ham and cheese sandwich is so incredibly rich. You can tell that they grill that bread in delicious butter. If you weren’t full yet, you still get a jar of creamy yogurt topped with a fruit preserve.

With your meal, you also get to choose juice, tea or coffee. I would pass on the juice since it isn’t fresh and go for the tea or coffee instead. This brunch is definitely a bang for your buck because they’ll even refill your bread basket. Honestly, one order is enough to feed two people (although I don’t know how happy the restaurant would be if two people only placed on order) so it’s good place to go if you have an appetite.

Taipei: Beautiful Japanese Feast at Mitsui Cuisine

Taipei: Mitsui Cuisine

Taipei: Mitsui Cuisine

Since living in China, the food I miss the most is sashimi and sushi. I have had unfortunate reactions after eating sushi in this country– so I avoid it like the plague. When the best friend, Anne, suggested Japanese food in Taipei, I was all too eager. Anne’s mother recommended Mitsui Cuisine for their set lunches.

Hand rolls, sashimi and abalone salad

Hand rolls, sashimi and abalone salad

I wasn’t expecting Mitsui Cuisine to be so modern and posh-looking with its dark interior and marble counters. We went Saturday for lunch and I highly recommend making reservations because the entire place filled up. Anne and I both ordered the set lunch which came with sashimi, abalone or shrimp salad, cod fish, beef or lamb, nigiri, fish soup and a small dessert. I was anticipating a bento box and was absolutely starving so we both ordered an additional hand roll.

Steamed fish, nigiri and beef filet

Steamed fish, nigiri and beef filet

That hand roll was completely unnecessary. The portions were really generous and we got such high quality food at a reasonable price. The sashimi was beautiful and melted in your mouth with every bite. The abalone was also fresh and came with a small salad with corn. Anne ordered the fried fish and I ordered the steamed fish. I definitely thought the fried fish was a lot tastier than the steamed one (the steamed one also didn’t look super appetizing).

Fried fish and lamb chop

Fried fish and lamb chop

For our main dishes, I ordered the beef filet and Anne ordered the lamb chop. My beef filet was nothing special, but Anne’s lamb chop was absolutely amazing. It was tender, marinated well and had a beautiful caramelization since the fat had been rendered. I would have gladly eaten a whole rack of them. Our nigiri was just as good as our sashimi, but I almost wished it had come earlier (because I was getting really full and couldn’t truly appreciate it).

The last course (besides a small serving of fruit and apple crumble) was a clear fish soup broth that was the perfect end to the meal. The broth was so incredibly clean with no fat in it whatsoever and I was enjoying the slivers of ginger too. The soup with the ginger helped to digest the meal.

Judging by their business card and website, there are quite a few different Mitsui-related restaurants in Taipei. If they are all as good as Mitsui Cuisine, I would gladly eat at all of them. If I ever go back to Taipei, I will definitely make it a point to try and eat there for lunch again!

Taipei: Pamper Yourself at Villa 32

Beitou's Villa 32

Beitou’s Villa 32

Taipei is famous for its hot springs in Beitou. The hot springs are known for its medicinal and healing powers. Beitou is only a 30-45 minute car ride from the downtown Taipei and also accessible by subway. While there are many options of public and private hot spring, Villa 32 is probably the most posh option.

Villa 32 Entrance

Villa 32 Entrance

When Anne and I first arrived, I felt like we were transported to paradise. The grounds were incredibly peaceful and beautiful. We arrived around 10am and I think we were the only guests in the villa at the time. Anne and I each booked a 90-minute oil massage, followed by lunch in their restaurant and a private hot spring room.

Lunch at Villa 32's Restaurant

Lunch at Villa 32’s Restaurant

Lunch was set in their “Italian-themed” restaurant with a four-course meal. I had a beautiful and light chilled white asparagus and tomato soup, followed by pan-fried chicken with roselle, U.S. ribeye steak and a coffee mousse cake. I was really impressed with the presentation and the food was delicious. I was kind of surprised to see that it seemed like a lot of people travelled to Villa 32 just to eat at the restaurant. There were even executive meetings happening in a private room.

Lunch at Villa 32's Restaurant

Lunch Offerings

Villa 32 has two options for hot springs: single gender outdoor public hot springs or indoor private rooms. The public hot springs does not allow you to wear any clothing (including swim suits). Anne and I both decided that we didn’t need to see each other in the nude and booked a private room. While we didn’t get to enjoy the great outdoors, we actually were quite lucky because a thunderstorm hit in the afternoon and so we got to stay dry in the indoor hot spring.

Indoor Private Hot Spring

Indoor Private Hot Spring

The indoor hot spring was equipped like a hotel room. There was a bathroom, shower, couch and amenities like Evian water, L’Occitane bath products and plenty of towels. I definitely felt like I was being pampered in a four-star hotel. The hot springs definitely had a strong smell of sulfur and the water is slightly cloudy. At the end of the day, I was completely relaxed thanks to my massage, amazing lunch and hot spring soak.

For the hot springs, you can control your water temperature.

For the hot springs, you can control your water temperature.

Villa 32 is also a hotel and you can book a room for a stay. We originally wanted to stay overnight, but there are only four rooms available and it was completely booked. I’m actually glad we didn’t stay overnight because Beitou is a nice day trip and a little escape from the hustle and bustle of Taipei. I would highly recommend Villa 32 to anyone who goes to Taipei, but you have to make a reservation. I’ve read reviews online that recommend making reservations at least two weeks before your visit. In terms of price for taxi rides (both ways), 90-minute massage, four-course lunch and a private hot spring room, Anne and I each only paid $250 USD. I couldn’t believe how reasonable it was, considering that I’ve paid that much just for a massage back in the U.S. Villa 32 is definitely the ultimate relaxation spot and the perfect place to pamper yourself!

Delicious Eats in Taipei

Taipei 101's food court is home to the best fried chicken

Taipei 101’s food court is home to the best fried chicken

My best friend from back home, Anne, came to visit me and we decided to go on a mini-vacay to Taipei. I’d been to Taipei before, but only for the weekend, and was looking forward to spending a few days relaxing and eating our hearts out.

From my last trip to Taipei, I remembered having the best fried chicken of life in the basement food court of Taipei 101. The bestie wanted to go to Din Tai Fung for our first meal and it seemed to be kismet that the closest one was in the basement of Taipei 101. The line for Din Tai Fung was going to be a 45-minute to one hour wait so it was the perfect opportunity to get fried chicken!

I was so happy to be reunited with my Ji Guang Xiang Xiang Ji 继光香香鸡. The fried pieces of chicken are a mix of dark and white meat and slightly larger than KFC’s popcorn chicken. The batter isn’t super thick and I still don’t know how they fry the chicken without it being super oily. When you order, you can choose the level of spiciness (we got mild). We also decided to try the deep-fried squid, which was disappointing. While the squid was cooked well and had a nice consistency, the batter was different from the fried chicken. This caused the squid to be extremely oily and I didn’t think the batter stuck on as well. I wouldn’t recommend getting the fried squid and just stay with the chicken goodness.

Taipei: Fried Chicken at Ji Guang Xiang Xiang Ji 继光香香鸡

Taipei: Fried Chicken at Ji Guang Xiang Xiang Ji 继光香香鸡

Do you know how sometimes you remember food being super good, but when you eat it again, it disappoints? THIS WAS NOT THE CASE. The chicken was served piping hot with a slight crunch and just wonderful flavor. I was still marveling at how they got the chicken so tender too. If you are ever in Taipei, I would highly recommend it!

Taipei: Din Tai Fung

Taipei: Din Tai Fung

After our “snack” of fried chicken and squid, Anne and I were ready for steamed xiao long bao (小笼包). I’ve already discussed Din Tai Fung’s dumplings in great detail in one of my Shanghai blog posts so I will not repeat myself. I will say the the dumplings in Taipei don’t differ too much from Shanghai, but the meat does taste slightly different. It was my first time ordering the wontons with spicy sauce and I was totally digging the blend of garlic and chili oil. I wanted to slather it on everything I was eating.

SHAVED SNOW at Ice Monster!!!

SHAVED SNOW at Ice Monster!!!

Taiwan is famous for their shaved ice. The first time I had shaved ice in Tapei was a life-changing experience. If you get shaved ice in the U.S. or in China, they take a big block of ice and grind it into a icy pile with condensed milk and fruit/red bean/various toppings. The ice mountain doesn’t really have a lot of flavor because the condensed milk can’t really penetrate the entire ice concoction.

Taiwan Shaved Ice in Action

Taiwan Shaved Ice in Action

In Taipei, the blocks of ice are pre-flavored! You can order a variety of flavors like mango, milk tea, strawberry and so much more. They have a special machine that shaves the ice in a quick circular motion, making the ice soft like snow. That’s actually why they call it shaved snow instead of shaved ice. The bestie’s godmother recommended that we go to Ice Monster and we made a special trip hours before our flight back to Shanghai. The long line had already started to form, but I was so happy we braved the lines and heat for mango shaved snow.

Our mango shaved snow was served on a top of a bed of fresh mango chunks and mango syrup with a scoop of mango ice cream and pudding. It was the absolute perfect treat on such a hot day and I will be going back any time I go to Taipei in the future.

This is just a sneak peak of the deliciousness in Taipei and can’t wait to update you all on the rest of our trip!