Monday, December 29, 2014

Taiwan - Part 2 (Alishan) + Smoking Panda giveaway

Hellooooo! So if time permits whilst you are in Taiwan, one of the places you must visit is Alishan. By far is it no where close to Taipei and easy to get to but it is certainly is worth the trek. Most people go to Alishan to witness the sunrise amongst the mountains even if it means you need to wake up at 3 am in the morning. My trip to Alishan was one of my most memorable moments of my life to date but it wasn't the sunrise that made it so memorable. 

Hotpot-ing at Alishan

Welcome to Alishan town centre!

To get to Alishan, you basically need to get the HSR (high speed rail) from Taipei to Chiayi HSR station. From there, you need to quickly hop onto a bus to get Chiayi Train station followed by hopping onto another bus to take you up the mountain. This usually takes about a couple of hours and the buses don't come as frequent as you would hope so I would highly recommend getting your bus ticket immediately once you get there to secure yourself a seat on the bus. There is an alternative route up to Alishan and it does include a scenic train ride up the forest and mountains but based on MC's research and mine, part of the route was destroyed due to a storm and has yet to be repaired. If you take this route, it does take longer and you still need to change between different modes of transport. 

So after many hours of trekking it to Alishan, MC and I had finally arrived! We decided to stay one night at the Alishan House (approx AUD150 to AUD200 per night). For Taiwan standards, the rates are slightly steeper but man it was soooo worth it. It was this decision that made our trip to Alishan so memorable. 

Beef soup noodles

Chicken and rice served with soy

There is also a shuttle bus that takes you up and down the mountain to the hotel so you don't need to worry about transport. After checking in, MC and I went back down to the town centre in search of lunch and man, we sure learnt our lesson. Instead of buying food from 7/11, we decided to check out this "open food stall" which appeared to be very, very rustic. We thought "hey since it looks rustic and since there are people eating there, it must be good" but unfortunately, we struggled to finish the meals. The food wasn't inedible or dirty so you don't need to worry about that. It more because it tasted too foreign for us. Not sure if they added bamboo to their food but Perhaps it might suit your taste buds but unfortunately, even after a couple of tries, it just didn't work for us and found ourselves back at 7/11 :( 

Sunset at Alishan House

After lunch, we roamed around the town centre and settled into our hotel room properly. Shortly after it was sunset so MC and I headed to the roof top of our hotel to watch the sun set amongst the mountains. 

Watching the sunset 

Local made mochi with tea


The clouds were floating below the tip of the mountains, the sun rays were glistening on my face whilst you could still feel a slight chill in the air. That with some local made mochi and a cup of warm tea was the highlight of my trip. The sun setting amongst all the clouds in the mountains was what I have always dreamt of seeing and this was when all the effort in trekking to Alishan House paid off. Alishan House is the main hotel in the centre (and probably the one up there, I didn't notice any other ones near the town centre) but the price was completely justified after witness such a sunset. 

Inside Alishan house

Hotpot at Alishan town centre 

Dinner on the menu that night was a large comforting bowl of hotpot shared with MC at one of the proper restaurants in the town centre. The vegetables were so fresh which added more flavours for the soup but unfortunately I think there was still bamboo in the soup base which again had a strange taste to it. Nevertheless, it was better than lunch and much more hearty.

Catching the train up the mountain

The next morning, MC and I woke up at 3 am to catch the famous sunrise of Alishan. The Alishan train station (which is a short walk from the town centre) was completely packed with soooooo many humans. It was super cold but that didn't stop anyone from waking up before the dusk of dawn. This is the reason why people visit Alishan. 

The famous sunrise at Alishan

After arriving up the mountain, the sun eventually came out to play. It was fun and exciting to watch the sun quickly shoot through the clouds. As pretty as it was, I still thought sunset was much more breath taking. Hence another reason to stay at the Alishan House

Breakfast served up in the mountains

There were also some food stalls near the sunrise look out in the mountains. Who couldn't resist a freshly made egg omelette followed with some fresh toast whilst standing in the cold. omg, yes.

Cherry blossoms!

Hiking through the forest in Alishan

Hiking through the forest in Alishan

Street food in Alishan

Round II of breakfast was back at the hotel and after properly fuelling up our bodies, we headed back out to hike through the forest of Alishan. MC and I were lucky enough to catch the last remaining part of the cherry blossom season. There was barely any left but it was still quite pretty to see the some of the flowers hanging off the branches as it was my first time seeing them. Walking through the forest with just MC and myself was quite relaxing. When there was nobody around, it became forest of tranquility. So peaceful and smoothing. 

So as said earlier on, if you have the luxury of time during your visit to Taiwan, I strongly suggest for you to take a visit to Alishan to view both the sunset and sunrise. It truly is an unforgettable experience. 

Finally, before signing off today, the last part of my 5 year anno giveaway with thanks to Wasamedia is a $100 voucher to the Smoking Panda, one of the new cool kids in Sydney.

Smoking Panda's nibbles - how cute do they look
Photo credit: Wasamedia

Now that is what I called a drink that is smoking!
Photo credit: Wasamedia

Smoking Panda's dim sum nibbles
Photo credit: Wasamedia 

To enter, simply just let me know below what you would love to try from the Smoking Panda if you won the $100 voucher. Competition closes 9 pm AEST on the 5th of January 2015.

Good luck and gotta go eat!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Taiwan - Part 1 (Yanmingshan, Beitou and Ximending) + Alpha giveaway

Herrroo y'all! Yes, yes. I know. My posts about Taiwan are way overdue. So before the year comes to an end and whilst I am currently on break, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to start my series of posts on my trip to Taiwan earlier this year.

Egg crepes for breakfast

Here it is and fyi, it is a lengthy post but I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed eating my way around Taiwan.

Mos burger including a bulgogi burger on a rice bun

So the first thing I literally ate as soon as I landed in Taiwan was a burger. I know but hey in my defence, it was my first time checking out a Mos burger.  It was late, I was tired, not much else was opened around that time and I was hungry. The burgers were good (especially the chips and fried chicken heh) but I thought the burgers were slightly overrated. Maybe I just didn't order the right flavour? Am I the only crazy person that thinks this? 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bowery Lane, Sydney and giveaway

So you might have seen burgers, lamb ribs, sliders and ginormous sharing plates all over your instagram feed lately, THAT my friends is Bowery Lane, one of the coolest restaurant on the block right now. The place has a diverse menu so choosing what you want really becomes a first world problem. Like I mean how can you honestly decide between the classic cheeseburger vs the hearty lamb ribs!! 

Char grilled lamb ribs - $14

And speaking of lamb ribs, this baby was definitely the signature dish. The soft and tender meat fell off the bone so easily. On top of that, there was a generous serve of the chimichurri which added even more flavour to these succulent ribs. 

Tuna sliders 

Tuna sliders - $16 

These sliders were one of the biggest I had in a while. Within each slider contained a thick slab of seared tuna and was really refreshing as you bit into it with the pickled cucumber and guacamole. I loved these sliders because I am a huge fan of "raw" seafood but for those that aren't big on sashimi or semi raw seafood, this might not be your type of dish. However since there are many different types of sliders, you should be able to find one up your alley. 

Milkshakes - including cookies and cream + reese's buttercup - $7 each

Manchego croquettes - $14

The manchego croquettes are made of potato and manchego cheese. These croquettes were super duper fluffy and I loved the kick in the smoked chilli aioli. It was definitely a lot more unique than most other croquettes I've had. 

House smoked hickory salmon - $17

So my ultimate favourite dish of the night had got to be the house smoked hickory salmon. I love my salmon regardless of how it is made however I normally find that smoked salmon, especially the ones purchased at a supermarket, have such a strong and overpowering smokey flavour. Sometimes it is so strong that it becomes too intense for me. That was until I tried the smoked salmon at Bowery Lane. Yes it is slightly pricey for three pieces of salmon but it was smoked so well and by well, I mean it was lightly smoked but it wasn't so faint to the point where you couldn't taste anything. 

As soon as you take the first bite, the salmon just melts in your mouth, the coriander adds a refreshing touch to it and the thin crispy biscuit also helps give it some texture. If you love your salmon, then I highly recommend this dish. 

Master Kobe Wagyu - $16

Another winning dish was the master kobe wagyu which had a marble scoring of 9+. How the heck do I even start to describe this dish? Gobsmacking is an understatement. This was one of the best wagyu dishes I have had in a very long time. Each bite just melts in your mouth because of how tender and succulent it is and cooked to perfection (medium rare). Words cannot describe how amazing this dish was, you just have to try it yourself. 

Tempura soft shell crab burger - $22

This tempura soft shell crab burger is almost impossible to fit it in your mouth all at once. That is how epic it is. Who doesn't love tempura soft shell crab? The bread was a tad dry but the coriander and slaw helped balance out the heaviness of the crab. Served with some miso mayo, it definitely is more than just your average burger.  not your average burger. 

Whole BBQ organic chicken - $52

1 kg of braised wagyu short rib - $58

One of the things I enjoy about Bowery Lane is the menu variety but I am not just talking about variety in terms of different meats and entree's. It is more about how you can go and have your own dish but at the same time, you can go in a group and order these huge sharing plate and by huge, I mean like 1 KG worth of meat... Perfect place to feed a group of hungry boys. 

Both the wagyu short rib and BBQ chicken were great but surprisingly, the chicken was my preferred choice of meat. I know chicken is such a stock standard type of meat but man! the way it was bbq-ed and cooked was really well. Not at all dry and had loads of flavour. Definitely an unexpected great dish. 

Barramundi fillet - $29

Left: Pork cotoletta - $27
Top right: Duck ragyu - $26
Bottom right: Pork crackling 

Last but not least are the individual main dishes. Overall, they were pretty good but I thought it could of done with a touch of seasoning or salt. The barramundi was soft and tender with a crispy skin, the pork cotoletta aka a giant schnitzel couldn't of gotten any bigger and wasn't very oil and finally, the duck ragu was cooked to al dente. 

Annnnndddddddd as part of my 5 year anno giveaway, I will be giving away a $100 voucher to Bowery Lane, with thanks to Wasamedia. To enter, simply just let me know below what you would love to try or have again at Bowery Lane. Competition closes at 9 pm AEST on the 21st of December 2014.  

Bowery Lane on Urbanspoon

Good luck y'all and gotta go eat!!