Thursday 14 March 2013

Taiwan Cafe

273, Swanston St, VIC 3000

Taiwan Cafe on Urbanspoon

This is another cramped cafe where they have a 'quick in quick out' policy. The food is generally rather delicious if you can put up with the cramped space and eating in very very very close vicinity to your neighbours. The offerings can be rather salty and somewhat filled with MSG - perhaps that accounts for the low Urbanspoon rating - or perhaps it's because how cramped it is.

The Place
Seriously, this is a not a place to 'hangout' because of a number of things. Firstly, there's the low comfort seats and if you are really tall, the tables are probably too low for you, and you'll look like an overgrown spider crouched over a morsel. Then, you have to put up with really cramped space and close dining. Hopefully, you don't have a big bag with you, no space really to put anything. Finally, because of the crowd and space, you tend to have a pretty high level of noise. Given it's location, parking will usually have to be paid undercover parking at QV or Melb Central. This place is most definitely NOT toddler friendly.

Things to do nearby: This is set near the corner of Swanston and Lonsdale, so there's mostly plenty of shopping around.

The Food
The food is pretty yummy if a bit salty for some and let's be honest - with plenty of deep fried offerings, braised fatty belly meats, and rich salty tasty sauces and soups, this is NOT the place for the very health conscious. Some highlights include their Pork Belly, Taiwanese Beef Noodles (with or without various condiments such as the preserved vegies which makes it even more salty, but I like the tanginess), Crispy Fried Chicken (XL) in different dishes. Personally, I am not so sure about the overly battered popcorn chicken but what ever floats your boat I guess. These are huge servings by the way.

The Service
Consider this a fast food joint and you won't be disappointed. It's not better or worse than the countless other Chinese fastfood joints. They don't go out of their way to be friendly or rude - they are just food pushers. It gets a bit worse when it's busy and timing of dishes for diners is never good as no attempt to bring the food out together for those dining together.

I would go only during offpeak hours for a number of key dishes when I am craving it. For example, I like my preserved Chinese vegetables (mustard green) and most places do not cook with this ingredient. It's too salty. There are times when I feel like it and this is where I go for that.

Cultural Moment
Taiwanese cuisine, although Chinese, is different to the many Cantonese style or Sichuan and Shanghainese Style restaurants around town. There tends to be a stronger Hokkien and Hakka influence, moderated by a Japanese tinge. This is largely because of their history in the last 150 odd years. Although there has been waves of migration for many different reasons from the Fujian province to Taiwan (Formosa) since the 1600s, I think that the influences and changes of the last 150 years have been most marked.

One thing I am really curious about and have never experiences are the indigenous cuisine of Taiwan.

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