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!

Advertisements

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!