That said, I have to admit our first visit to the area was a complete failure. We exited MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua Station (忠孝敦化站) and after wandering around aimlessly for about an hour we randomly picked this Sichuan restaurant. I was iffy about it the moment we entered the place, because it was too, umm, poshy. I was right. It was alright, not terrible but not good either, and expensive as hell. A bad choice all around, so I didn't bother to take a picture of the place because I'd never come back.
Pickled cucumbers and plum juice.
Spicy diced chicken with bone in and "Sichuan style" beef noodles that was actually regular but meh beef noodles at 3x the price.
Dessert was on the house - coconut jello. It was okay.
Spotted this Ice Monster, an ice cream and shaved ice dessert shop packed with people, complete with a long line outside the door. Of course I had to see what's up but since we were in a hurry at the time, we decided to get something to go. What? Getting ice cream and/or shaved ice dessert to go? Yep. Wouldn't they melt? A little, but they mostly survived :P
There is a mini cart outside the door of the shop that gives out free mini popsicles to queuing customers. We got a melon and mango. They were yummy.
Had a total tourist moment there. We thought we were brave in trying a new item on the menu, the peark milk tea shaved ice, expecting a cup with a spoon or at least a straw, but instead we got a bag with a giant tub inside, complete with a side of boba. Upon coming home, we curiously looked inside, wondering that in the hell did we buy, because it looked like, erh, chicken. LOL!!!
Of course it was not chicken. It was milk tea, frozen into ice, then shaved and topped with a milk pudding. It was delicious ^.^
We asked our friends about the Ice Monster shop and was told we must try their mango shaved ice before the season is over. From a quick google search we learned Ice Monster used to be on Yongkang Street (永康街, will post next) and had made quite a name for itself there. Then it suddenly shut down and reopened as Yongkang 15 and this incarnation achieved even better cult status than its former self.
In the end, I guess former Ice Monster didn't just go away quietly. Somehow, it made its way over to Zhongxiao East Road, a mere 3 minutes walk from MRT Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall Station (國父紀念館站), across the street.
The second time around, we had more time to dine in and finally tried their famous mango ice. Basically, it's shaved ice with fresh chopped mango and drowned in mango sauce, topped with a milk pudding and a scoop of mango ice cream. Yes, lots of mango. Half way through the shaved ice, hubby and I were both pouting because we had already eaten all the mango, the mango ice cream, and the sauce LOL! However, to our surprise, it wasn't just plain shaved ice that was left. We took a bite and tasted a mix of brown sugar syrup and evaporated milk, so the leftover shaved ice was still just as yummy ^.^ The mango ice cream was good too, again topping fresh chopped mangos, drowned in mango syrup with a thin bed of shaved ice underneath it all.
The famous Mango Shaved Ice and Mango Ice Cream.
I do have one complaint about Ice Monster, even though I know it can't be helped. The place is so popular they need such a policy in order to prevent people from coming in and take up all the shop's dining spaces. Each person who wants to dine inside the shop must order at least NT$100 of something. So even though just one Mango Shaved Ice is big enough (it's huge!!!) for 2-3 people to share, each party ends up with 2-3 (or more, depends on how many people are in one party!) of these shaved ices or ice creams. Sure, they have many options and flavors, but seriously, are people supposed to eat shaved ice for dinner or something?
The mini Pearl Tea Shaved Ice was on the house!
So look at how ridiculous this is, a gigantic shaved ice, a mini shaved ice, and a cup of ice cream between just the 2 of us! It was way, way, way too much, and it wasn't cheap either! Each shaved ice is NT$180-200 (~ US$6-7), and each ice cream is NT$120-150 (~ US$4-5). Money aside, let's just say we were both utterly "iced out" by the time we were done. Bleargh. No. More. Iceeeee.
Next up is Thai Town Cuisine (瓦城) on the 7th floor of the Hankyu Department Store, right outside Exit 2 of Taipei City Hall Station (市政府站). We had a mini college reunion here with A. and her best friend R., both are Taiwanese natives whom my sister and I befriended during our undergrad years. They have met hubby as well, as he was my classmate at the time. After graduation, A. moved to Australia to pursue her MA, R. did hers in Texas, I went to Japan to work, my sister also, while hubby stayed behind for his MA. And somehow, almost a decade later here we all are, meeting up in Taipei. That's life for you!
Through words of mouth A. booked our lunch at this Thai Town Cuisine. I was wary because it's a department store restaurants, but I wasn't going to make a peep since A. grew up here and surely she knows better than I do. And yep, she does, because we had a fantastic lunch with some delicious Thai food!
Unsweetened Thai ice tea, with syrup on the side. Not sure why there's a bowl of chili fish sauce next to my ice tea but whatever ^.^
Green papaya salad and sauteed water spinach
Thinly sliced pork salad and the restaurant's signature appetizer, shrimp pancake. The shrimp pancake was yummy, perfectly crispy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside!
Clam in coconut sauce, my favorite plate, and grilled pork thinly sliced and served with 2 different dipping sauces.
Thai style fried whole fish and chicken curry, both were excellent.
From left to right: S., A., R., me, and hubby. S. is A.'s fiance, who jokingly complained about feeling left out since he was the only one who didn't attend the same college. My sister is visiting us here in Taipei next week, and we all agreed to have another reunion when she's here so I'm really looking forward to that xD
After having Thai food for lunch, A. and R. took us down to the Hankyu's 1st Basement to have tofu pudding (豆腐花, or for short, 豆花) at Xiao Nanmen Traditional Douhua (小南門傳統豆花). I haven't had this dessert for years so I was all in, and apparently A.'s mum recommended this shop and you know aunties know best! Hubby and S. didn't care too much for douhua though, so they sort of "checked out" into their own world discussing gadgets ^.^
I grew up having douhua with just clear gingery syrup, so adding toppings to douhua was new for me. There were about 10 different options of what you could add, mostly chewy morsels, beans, and such for texture. I picked mini tapioca (brownish mini balls at top), more chewy goodness (yellow cutlets at bottom left) and something reminiscent to Thai cendol, only it's white and not as chewy or gelatinous. The bowl was huge, and I was so stuffed hubby ended up having to "help" me eat the douhua anyway LOL!