Ray’s Cafe, a third wave cafe popular with the young ones
Good eats Taipei: 1895 and coffee
Chit U. Juan (The Philippine Star) - July 14, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — “Let’s eat at 1895,” I tell my friends. 1895 is not the name of the restaurant but its founding year. Its name is really Tu Hsiao Yueh and underneath its name is its founding date. But since I don’t speak Mandarin, 1895 became our nickname for the place. It serves authentic lu rou (braised pork, probably cooked for 30 or more hours) over hot steaming rice, fat clams in soup, birds eye curly fern vegetables and a fried chicken with a delicious sauce you would come back for. I ate there twice in three days; what does that say about this century-old restaurant?

Taiwan has many old haunts; by old I mean they have staying power. They respect old recipes, old – or should I say traditional – ways of cooking. It’s true Slow Food – respecting tradition and culture and making sure they stand the test of time, fads, trends and evolving palates and tastes.

Little Green Cafe inside MaJi Food and Deli

I just had to take a photo of the master – a man in his 70s who probably is the son or nephew of the founders. And beside him is a teen of no more than 18 years, already boiling the noodles or portioning the steamed rice into bowls. That’s what you call sustainability. Training the young to take after them. And maybe see the restaurant through till 2095.

For coffee, I found 1956 – Fong Da in Ximending district. The roaster is pretty new, maybe a new iteration of a German roaster, a PROBAT P12. But you know they know their coffee and how to roast it. The Fong Da blend is consistently good, mild and has a beautiful aroma. I even took some coffee beans home to enjoy and recreate my after lunch experience with that nice cup of coffee.

And for xiao long bao, there is Hang Zhou xiao long bao in Da-an District where you have to queue up and get a number. Our secret: Come at 11 a.m. and you may be the first one in. The place fills up in ten minutes with locals and tourists. There is no English menu but you can check the order sheet and memorize through Google translate the characters for xiao long bao – hot steaming soupy dumplings in many variations. Though it is only about 20 years old it is a Michelin-listed restaurant.

Another Michelin-listed restaurant is Shin Yeh which was conveniently located near the Nangang Exhibition Center. The pork neck fermented in bean paste then fried was highly recommended and enjoyed by my friends. The dessert of a panna cotta texture for almond jelly and the sweet soup with bean balls were amazing. I feasted on squid with salted egg yolk and fried rice with fish roe.

And for a coffee place proud of its Taiwan Alishan single origin, visit the Little Green Café and Health Studio at the Expo Park. It is located within a green store called MaJi Food and Deli in Jhongshan District. MaJi is a green and eco-friendly lover’s heaven – everything you need for a sustainable lifestyle. It has organic fruits, vegetables, provisions, staples and green cleaning materials, too.

A barista proudly presents Taiwan-grown Alishan coffee

Coffee enthusiasts will love Taipei. There is good coffee at almost every corner and these are local brands. One across our hotel is called SAHORS and its manager Kai entertained us with freshly-brewed Jamaican Blue Mountain and Hawaiian Kona. He gave us free rounds of coffee and pieces of macadamia in dates to go with the brew. As I watched him entertain customers I realized Taipei does have a coffee culture and it must have been here since decades ago. I see septuagenarians walk in and ask for their favorite coffee blend which Kai keeps in notebooks – the old-fashioned way, yes – and packs a kilo of beans for this couple. Another 70-year-old lady walks in and engages Kai in conversation while enjoying her free cup of the day’s roast. She also specifies her coffee order.

Hang Zhou Xiao Long Bao’s offerings include salads and cold appetizers

And right next door, there is a “third wave” café called Ray’s. Here millennials order their brew, specify the method and pay a handsome amount for their “third wave” coffee order, probably a brew with their acidity or brightness as many of them describe coffee these days.

shrimp siomai

Ah, Taipei, hot in the summer but I am sure I would discover more places if the weather was cooler. A visit in the wintertime is my next plan. Hot soup, noodles perhaps, and the coffee, of course.

And certainly 1895, I would visit again and I am certain Uncle would still be there mixing the broth just like his father did and how his sons and grandsons will, hopefully, continue to do.

pan-fried pork and shrimp dumplings

 

house specialty xiao long bao classic

TU HSIAO YUEH
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