Review: Taipei Chef, Artarmon

As part of my Good Food Under $30 challenge, I dined at Taipei Chef with my friend T before a local theatre production of Pride and Prejudice…how heavenly! In truth, we probably should have had high tea or something else more fitting to the Regency theme, but Taipei Chef ended up being an excellent choice.

It’s located down a side street off the main strip in Artarmon in Sydney’s north, hidden behind an inconspicuous shopfront. Walking in, I was greeted by a diminutive middle-aged Taiwanese woman who took one look at me and decided to spend the rest of my visit speaking in Mandarin to me. Luckily, I can understand and speak Mandarin but I can see how other Australian-born Chinese might become flustered by this familiar greeting in a language they can’t understand!

Taipei Chef

For a family-run affair, Taipei Chef is quite professional, with glossy designed menus and their own logo! It’s a far cry from other organic home-grown affairs that rely on photocopied menus in plastic sleeves for their menu. The Taiwanese locals have also discovered the restaurant, with a large number of families occupying in the other tables in the restaurant, talking and laughing loudly in Taiwanese.

Taipei Chef
Taiwan style sticky rice, $6.00

For entree, I had one of their new menu items – Taiwan style sticky rice. I love anything that uses sticky rice, from sweeter Thai desserts to savoury lo mai gai. While the flavour and texture of Taipei Chef’s sticky rice was excellent, with the crunchiness of Chinese sausage and shrimps contrasting well with the smoother mushrooms, I was disappointed by the lack of ingredients in the dish. I’m biased of course – I prefer home-made sticky rice with a 60/40 rice to ingredient ratio, but I still felt like this version lacked some bite.

Taipei Chef
Mixed Dumplings (3x Prawn, 3x Pork) in Hot and Sour Soup, $15.00

For main, I ordered the Mixed Dumplings in Hot and Sour Soup. The dumplings were absolutely enormous and were the size of a toddler’s fist. They would have easily sufficed for a meal alone, without an accompanying soup! The soup itself I found a bit disappointing – it wasn’t nearly hot enough, nor sour enough to qualify it as a Hot and Sour Soup, Chinese style the way I’m used to. It could have really benefited from a healthy dose of Chinese vinegar, and some chopped chillies.

Overall, I rate Taipei Chef a 7 out of 10 – the food is quite good, as long as you don’t go in with expectations based on a lifetime of eating Chinese cuisine rather than Taiwanese cuisine! The atmosphere is warm, friendly, and homely, and the prices very reasonable for the meal you get.

Taipei Chef Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Review: Food Republik, Box Hill

One day between running close-of-estate errands on my recent month-long stay in Melbourne, my father took me to have a meal at Food Republik in Box Hill. Situated within the main shopping centre Centro Box Hill, Food Republik is just off the main food court and is essentially a mini food court itself that offers mainly Taiwanese-inspired street-style hawker food.

Food Republik, Box Hill Centro
Food Republik, Box Hill Centro

When you approach Food Republik, the first thing you see is the giant modern lit up sign, pointing the way to wards culinary delight. Like many other restaurants (Chef’s Gallery and Mamak in Sydney are examples), Food Republik has chosen to place their best kitchen staff in the front window so that they create hundreds and hundreds of perfect dumplings under the watchful eyes of the permanent queue of people outside waiting for a table. It’s a real drawcard and plays to the ‘authentic street food’ vibe that they’re aiming for – surely you would see ladies like this on the street in Taiwan, making dumplings in exactly the same way?

Inside Food Republik - set up like a mini food court
Inside Food Republik – set up like a mini food court

As my father and I made our way into the dining area and sit down, a waitress brought us a pad and pen with a menu – you actually write down your order yourself here, marking the number of the dish you’ve chosen, on the pad. They have even provided a space for special requirements – for example, someone could order a vegetarian dish, and specify “no tofu” or “no bean sprouts”. It’s a very diner-friendly system!

The menus are really large, and has been separated into different sections, under different ‘restaurant’ names. There’s “Crystal Jade Xiao Long Bao”, “Taiwan Cafe”, “Chef Tao’s Bento Kitchen”, and many more. This actually works really well, as the owners are able to organise an incredibly diverse menu into categories that best fit – diners too, can flip straight to the section with the food they want to eat.

Pork dumplings with hot and sour noodle soup, $9.90
Pork dumplings with hot and sour noodle soup, $9.90

We started with the pork dumplings in hot and sour noodle soup. The dumplings were huge, with six large dumplings in the bowl serving almost as a meal in itself! The soup was tasty and really hearty though not as ‘hot’ as I tend to prefer. I needed to add a health dash of pepper to ramp up the spice in the soup.

Taiwanese style Popcorn Chicken Rice Box - Boneless chicken pieces seasoned with salt and pepper seasoning, $9.90
Taiwanese style Popcorn Chicken Rice Box – Boneless chicken pieces seasoned with salt and pepper seasoning, $9.90

Move over KFC Popcorn Chicken, you’ve been replaced! This was a really great rice box, with a good mix of carb, veggie and protein. While I would personally have preferred more veggies, the popcorn chicken was tasty and ‘zingy’ enough to make me forget about silly things like a balanced meal and healthy eating.

Peanut Snow Ice with Black Sesame and Crushed Peanut, $9.90
Peanut Snow Ice with Black Sesame and Crushed Peanut, $9.90

This is a fantastic dessert option for those people like my father who don’t really have a sweet tooth. The peanut snow ice is refreshing, fantastically textured, and subtly flavoured, with the black sesame and crushed peanut on top providing most of the flavouring. It’s a very subtle dessert that doesn’t try too hard to impress, but manages to satiate and satisfy.

Overall, I rate Food Republik an 8 out of 10. The food was tasty, service was efficient, if not all that friendly, and there’s a fantastic lively atmosphere in the joint that stems from the unique idea of serving Taiwanese street food in a mini food court.

Food Republik on Urbanspoon