Taiwan Cafe

Location: 273 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: $10-15
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 6.5/10
Overall rating: 6/10
Would I come back? No.

This restaurant was instantly popular. There has been a recent boom in Taiwanese cheap-eats around Melbourne, perhaps to cater for the people who’ve tired of the other asian cheap-eats. The menu is extensive, with almost 700 items (many are variations of a theme). Out of the 700 or so, there’s bound to be some good dishes, but also some terrible misses. Here’s a post to help you avoid the misses.

 

JELLYFISH SALAD ($5.90)
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

The usual food prank/ but actually delicious/ Pleasantly surprised

I love jellyfish salad, if it’s on the menu there’s a high chance that I will order it. I’ve had it 4 times at restaurants, and each time it’s been prepared and seasoned differently. At Taiwan Cafe, it’s treated like fast-pickled vegetables– white vinegar, sugar and little else. There are also some carrots and cucumber in the mix. It’s a pleasant side dish to have along side with spiced beef noodle soup. The vinegar cleans out the palate of five spice and star anise. (I enjoyed the jellyfish salad more than the beef noodles.)

 

OYSTER OMELETTE ($8.90)
Taste: 3/10
Would I order it again? No.
“Oysters embedded in a chewy omelette topped with bokchoy. The most popular of Taiwanese snacks.”

Nine dollars for this?/ A dish of regret/ Gross fishy oysters

Nasty gummy stuff/ Something from alien flick/ With oyster spawn. Ack.

I was so disappointed. I had been looking forward to the oyster omelette, the most popular snackfood of Taiwan. I had imagined a glorious mass of oysters, possibly fried, in a generous serving of egg, topped off with lettuce and lashings of oyster sauce-based sauce. It was meant to be an intensely savoury dish, moreish and addictive.

But what was served was a thin, slightly overcooked omelette, with a sticky rice goo (could have been seafood slime if I was to judge purely by taste) at the bottom. I would have not minded the rice flour base if it didn’t taste of seafood past it’s prime. The oysters are tiny! I expected small oysters, but not so small that I had initially confused them for cockles. They also tasted fishy and briny. The sauce was tasteless, so no amount of sauce could drown the terrible ‘fish market on a hot summer’s day’ taste/smell.

In short, don’t order the oyster omelette. It’s terrible.

 

FRIED DRUMSTICK BENTO ($13)

Goodness! Fried chicken!/ Japanese-chinese fusion/ that is Taiwanese

The fried chicken bento contains (left to right, top to bottom): Asian potato salad*, fried chicken drumsticks (prepared in a way that it resembled a tulip, flesh lifted from the bottom the leg, and pushed up to the top to form a dome of easily-consumed fried chicken), white rice with saucy pork mince, fried egg covering peas and corn.

*: What makes it Asian potato salad? I call it Asian potato salad because this style of potato salad is popular in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. At minimum, it contains potato, apple and sweet mayonnaise. It’s nothing like the western potato salad. For one thing, it’s sweet. It’s kind of delicious.

 

THREE-CUP CHICKEN ($10.80)
Taste: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes

You said claypot? Lies!/ But it is still damned tasty/ I’ll let that one slide.

The menu depicts this dish with the chicken in a small claypot, the tradition serving container for 3 cup chicken.  But the picture above is what you actually get. It’s a bit deceiving, but it is still 3 cup chicken with rice.

It tastes pretty authentic and home-made, so if you ever have a hankering for home-style 3-cup chicken, this is the place for you.

 

TAIWANESE BEEF NOODLE ($9.50+$1 egg)
Taste: 7/10
Would I order it again? No

Disturbingly clear/ For a star anise beef broth/ Egg is the best bit

Nothing is wrong with Taiwanese beef noodle soup, but this one lacks a lot of depth that could have earned it a ‘yes’ to ‘would I order it again?’. The noodles are the thick white kind that aren’t thick or chewy enough to be udon. The broth is one-dimensional with mainly five spice and star anise. The beef depicted in the picture is stewed beef chuck, looking tender and delicious, somethings that I would to have eaten. But what you get is actually thinly sliced lean beef. It’s not bad, but not what I had in mind.

The egg is good though, congealed yolk in solid egg white. I wonder if I could order the egg by itself.

 

JAJANGMIAN ($10?)
Taste: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Looks like bibimbap/ Toppings laid out in sections/ Only with noodles

Looks like spag bol now/ Only without tomato/ Or Parmesan cheese

Jajiangmian is plain noodles topped off with a savoury jajiang sauce. At minimum, jajiang sauce contains fermented salted beans. There are lots of variations of this sauce, the chinese type is generally saltier than the korean kind. But at Taiwan Cafe, their sauce doesn’t contain any fermented beans at all. It’s more like spag bol. Nonetheless, it’s still tasty.

 

VEGETARIAN TAIWANESE VERMICELLI ($9.50)
Taste: 7.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Light and tasty dish/ Most surprisingly, it is /vegetarian

For once, the vegetarian option at an asian eatery looks better than its meaty counterpart. The noodles are cooked well, not broken up too much by poor spatula skills, or too oily. There are plenty of mushrooms too. I am impressed.

 

KUMQUAT LEMON JUICE ($3.50)
Taste: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Extra citrusy/ Not too sweet, and refreshing!/ Order this instead

Kumquat lemon juice sounds like it’d be the most sour citrus drink around.But fear not, it was sweetened liberally and it’s actually a pleasant refreshing drink.

 

LYCHEE PEARL RED TEA ($3.50)
Taste: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

The pearls (tapioca balls) are mediocre. As was the drink, from what I heard.

 

PEARL RED MILK TEA ($3.50)

Bubbletea culture/ All those young’uns and bubbles/ Popular drink/snack?

Not ordered by me, but here’s a picture so you know what it looks like.

 

MILK GREEN TEA ($3.50)

Milky white green tea/ The ice makes it more opaque/ Bubbletea snowstorm

For a milk green tea it looks very milky.

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Ramenya Bourke St

Location: Shop 9, The Paramount, 108 Bourke St Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: $10-15
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 6.5-7/10
Overall rating: 6.5-7/10
Would I come back? Yes.

Ramenya on Bourke is part of the same branch as Ramenya @ GPO. In my opinion, Ramenya on Bourke has better ramen.

Paper lantern lights/ Look like glowing jellyfish/ Without tentacles

Cool drinks cabinet/ It’s well stocked with ramune/ Nostalgic soda

“This spoon is too big”/ Not so, ramen fiend of mine/ Good for sipping broth

 

KIMCHI CHASHU RAMEN
Taste: 6.5-7/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Yay, it has kimchi!/ More toppings than GPO/ More well lit as well

Ramenya on Bourke St seems to be the superior branch for ramen. There are more toppings and the ambiance is lighter than the one at GPO. There are 3 choices for broth: Shoyu, Miso and Tonkotsu. Shoyu has the lightest taste. Miso is still light-tasting but can be very salty. Tonkotsu is the creamiest broth, made from pork bones. In the picture, the broth still seems thin, it’s probably either shoyu or miso.

 

CHASHU TONKOTSU RAMEN
Taste: ?
Would I order it again?

Goodness, noodle soup!/ Quick photo and we tuck in/ Slurping permitted 

This is the same as Kimchi chashu ramen, without the kimchi. This one has tonkotsu broth.

 

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Ramenya GPO

Location: Shop 25G Melbourne GPO 350 Bourke St CBD
Cost: $10-15
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 6/10
Overall rating:6/10
Would I come back? No.

There are two ramenyas in the city block district. One at GPO and one further along Bourke St. Ramenya GPO has been disappointing. I would rather go next door (Kenzan) and have their ramen or udon. We arrived late in the day, so perhaps that is why the gyoza were so pasty.

Sexy legs ‘leven/ Admiring typography/ Lo, table number

 

CURRY PRAWN BENTO
Taste: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

Bit o’ everything/ Compartmentalised lunch box/ Dollar for the sauce

Really average. The gyoza skins are very thin and pasty, and the filling is just passable. Nothing special here.

 

SEAFOOD GYOZA RAMEN
Taste: 5/10
Would I order it again? No.

Mystery gyoza/ Its contents an enigma/ I don’t want to know

The gyoza are consistantly pasty, and the skins too thin. They fall apart easily. The seafood filling the gyoza taste vaguely fishy, I have no idea what’s inside. Aside from seafood gyoza, there’s also spring onions, pickled ginger, seaweed, pickled vegetable and naruto fishcake (the pinked and sliced fishcake with the pink swirl). The other sides are okay. If the gyoza were better, I’d come back.
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Ajisen ramen

Location: 130 Bourke St. Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: $10-15
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 8.5/10
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Would I come back? Yes

Ajisen mascot/ Large figurine by the door/ Looks like Peko-chan*

There are plenty of tables and benches to cater for large parties of people. The servings are large, the soup base is delicious, but some may say there aren’t enough toppings to match the quantity of noodles. The noodles aren’t your ordinary ramen noodles either, it resembles spaghetti. Handmade noodles resemble spaghetti, instead of the ones in instant noodle packets. It’s nice to have something different for a change. In addition to great ramen, Ajisen also does good lunch sets. I’ll come back and review their lunch sets.

*Peko-chan is a well-known marketing icon/mascot for Fujiya company in Japan. There are giant figurines of Peko-chan in front of some stores.

 

PAIKU RAMEN
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes

Spare ribs in ramen/Hm, which is more delicious?/ Paiku or the egg?

Paiku are spare ribs, marinated in soy sauce among other things to make it delicious. It’s meltingly good, without feeling too greasy. The broth is also slightly creamy and sweet to match the paiku.

 

KIMCHI CHASHU RAMEN
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes
Spiciness: 2/10 (Not much, but for those who aren’t great with spicy food, you might not be able to get through all the kimchi. The broth has a little kick, nothing formidable.)

Paiku food envy/ That’s okay. There is kimchi./ Chashu was not bad

There’s kimchi (in a separate bowl), chashu (the thinly sliced rolled pork), spring onions, seaweed, half a boiled egg, sliced wood-ear fungus in a creamy, slightly spicy broth with a lot of al dente noodles at the bottom.
My goodness, the egg! The yolk is a mass of congealed yolk, and the white is hard boiled. I don’t know they do it, but it is very good.
Don’t let the name ‘wood-ear fungus’ scare you into believing it’s got an exotic taste. It doesn’t. It doesn’t have much of a taste, it’s just crunchy.

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