Smart n Save Cafe

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Smart N Save Cafe has been around for quite a few years now, but I didn’t learn about this until recently because the cafe is situated in such a random location in Richmond. It’s on River Road on the second floor of a office complex and does not have too much signage you would notice while driving. The cafe is actually connected to the Smart N Save grocery store in Lansdowne Mall. If you’re craving Hong Kong style cafe food and snacks, then this is the spot for you.

 

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Imitation Shark’s Fin Soup

I love Imitation Shark’s Fin Soup and I always get this at the night market, so it was no surprise that I had to try it here. The consistency was thick and gooey with a good amount of chicken and vegetables. Pretty good and red vinegar was provided to add a splash of acidity.

 

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Fresh Beef & Eggs Sandwich

I heard that the Fresh Beef & Eggs Sandwich were a huge hit here, and it definitely did not disappoint. Such a simple dish, but the beef was extremely tender and the eggs were fluffy. I liked how they also toasted the white bread a bit. And yes, white bread definitely brings back childhood memories. And no crusts please!

 

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Deep Fried Prawn Paste Toast

Another dish they are famous for is the Deep Fried Prawn Paste Toast. This is such a classic HK style dish which we can’t usually find here. The prawn paste was bouncy and the toast itself was covered with panko bread crumbs and deep fried to golden brown. The mayo paired the dish very well.

 

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Mixed Sauce Plain Rice Roll with Spicy Curry Fish Ball

Another street food favourite is the Mixed Sauce Plain Rice Roll with Spicy Curry Fish Ball. The rice roll was surprisingly thin and smooth and the sweet sauce was delicious paired with the plain rice rolls. To add, the curry fish balls were a delicious complement. Loved the spicy sauce! Highly recommend getting this.

 

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Fish Paste Siu Mai

Last but not least, we had the Fish Paste Siu Mai which comes with 12 pieces and a side of soy sauce. I actually prefer eating the fish paste style siu mai rather than the ones you get at dim sum. Yes, these are the cheaper version, but they are so bouncy!

 

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Overall, I highly recommend checking this hidden gem if you’re craving HK style snacks. You won’t find much service here but it’s pretty cool since they have a QR system in place. Once you sit down, they give you a QR code for your table. Just scan it, and you’ll be taken to their website where you can order your dishes. When you click on a dish, it automatically transfers to the kitchen and you’ll hear a little ring. Then they will bring you your food when it’s ready. Water and utensils are self serve. The interior is actually better than I expected being bright and clean.

Pros:
– Great spot if you’re craving HK snacks
– Items are way cheaper and better than the night market

Cons:
– Don’t expect much service, but QR code system works

Price Range: $10 per person

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4 Service: 2 Ambiance: 3 Parking: Free parking in the complex Overall: 3.5

 

Smart n Save Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Pike Place Chowder

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A must try in Seattle is Pike Place Chowder. I’ve been here in the past, but S had never been. I decided to take him to the one near Pike Street Market which is in Post Alley, which is also a tourist spot worth visiting. The tiny shop is within an indoor market and opens at 11am. We arrived right at 11am, and there was already a huge line up. The good thing is they give you the menu while you’re lining up, so the line goes by quickly. We were able to order within 15 minutes and our food was served pretty much right away since they just keep pumping the food out.

 

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Captain’s Roll and New England Clam Chowder
We got a whole Captain’s Roll which features Bay shrimp and Dungeness crab meat, mixed with secret seasonings, lemon juice, mayo and celery. S and I both loved this! They didn’t cheap out on the crab meat either. It does come at a high cost though at around $16 USD. Quite pricey for a small roll. We also got the New England Clam Chowder, which had meaty clams flavoured with bacon, cream, and a secret blend of herbs and spices. Pike Place Chowder has won many awards for many years, so you must get a chowder here! I really enjoyed the flavours in this one and they give you a piece of sourdough bread to dip in.

 

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Seafood Bisque

We stayed near Pacific Place, a mall on Pine Street. The night before, we had dined at Din Tai Fung, which is a new branch in downtown Seattle inside Pacific Place. There, we found that they actually had another Pike Place Chowder inside the mall! Since we were in a bit of a rush the next morning, I suggested we just grab some food at Pike Place Chowder again since it was nearby. This location has a lot more selection including beers, seafood and chips, and more. But of course, I had to get another one of their soups, so I decided to try the Seafood Bisque this time. This had a medley of Pacific Cod, Northwest Salmon,
Oregon Bay Shrimp, flavored with fresh basil, and simmered
in a creamy tomato-based broth. The bisque was packed with flavour and you got bits of fish in it. So good!

 

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Wild Northwest Salmon Fish n’ Chips
Since this location has fish and chips, S decided to try their Wild Northwest Salmon Fish n’ Chips. You can choose 3 pieces or 2 pieces. This was decent, but we found the salmon to be on the drier side. Definitely not as moist as Pajos!

 

Overall, Pike Place Chowder is a must try when in Seattle! With the two locations, I would suggest going to the Post Alley location as I feel like the turnover for the food is more frequent. However, if you have a large group or are looking for a larger menu selection, then the one inside Pacific Place might be a better choice since there is more seating.

Pros:
– Delicious chowders and seafood rolls!

Cons:
– Fish and chips could be a bit more moist

Price Range: $10-20 per person

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4 Service: 3 Ambiance: 2.5 Parking: 3 Overall: 4

Pike Place Chowder Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Blu Burgers & Brew

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During the holidays, S and I made a short trip to Seattle for fun. Our first stop was to check out the Boeing Factory in Mukilteo near Everett. Since we arrived in the area during lunch time, we decided to go for lunch first. I did some Googling and there aren’t too many restaurants nearby. However, Blue Burgers & Brew had good ratings, so off we went.

 

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The restaurant is quite casual and you order and pay up front. You can then choose a seat and they will bring you your food. Of course, their menu consists mainly of burgers but there are some select sides you can choose from as well. They also have a selection of beers. Surprisingly, there were quite a lot of families with children here during lunch. I guess they are quite family friendly as well.

 

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Chicken Tenders

Given S does not fancy burgers, of course he went for the Chicken Tenders served with fries. For $6.50, this was decent with 3 strips and a decent amount of fries. S said the tenders could have been warmer in the center and that they were rather average. But then again, they are known for their burgers.

 

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Shroom ‘N Onion

For myself, I had the Shroom ‘N Onion which featured crimini mushrooms, onions, swiss cheese, romaine lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and a house sauce. The burger stacked tall and they didn’t skimp on the ingredients. My mushrooms were overflowing and that house sauce was bomb. The patty was also very moist and juicy. My only complaint is that for around $9USD, I’d expect it to come with fries which was an added cost. Definitely not cheap given the self-serve type of set up, but the quality of the burger is great.

Overall, a good stop if you are heading to the Boeing Factory or if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t make a trip out here just for this.

Pros:
– Great execution of burgers

Cons:
– Slightly pricey given self-serve

Price Range: $10-20 per person

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3 Service: N/A Ambiance: 2.5 Parking: 3.5 Overall: 3

 

Mag’s 99 Fried Chicken and Mexican Cantina

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After our trip near Squamish to bungee jump, I suggested we stop by Mag’s 99 Fried Chicken and Mexican Cantina for an early dinner. I read really good online reviews and it was just off the highway so really easy to get to. Look for the golden yellow building and you won’t miss it!

 

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To be honest, the interior can really use some renovations. It’s pretty ghetto looking and definitely more of a fast food restaurant. However, the place is packed! We were told that we would need to wait 30 minutes for our food but that clearly didn’t stop anyone from eating here. You order up front and they take down your name. Then, they will call you when the food is ready for pick up.

 

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2 Piece Fried Chicken with Fries

We tried the 2 Piece Fried Chicken with Fries which was around $6. Honestly, I didn’t think it looked that good, but the chicken turned out to be pretty moist. I think I still prefer the ones at LA Chicken more. The skin is not as crispy as LA Chicken’s. Not bad if you’re looking for a cheap meal since the Whistler area can be very pricey.

 

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Pulled Pork Chimichanga

We also shared the famous Chimichanga which is HUGE. We chose to have pulled pork as the filling and this came to around $13.50. I highly suggest sharing this with a friend unless you are starving because it’s extremely filling.

 

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There were re-fried beans, corn, tomatoes, rice, and pulled pork inside the large chimichanga. Great flavours and definitely not for the weak!

Overall, I was pretty happy with my meal at Mag’s 99. I wouldn’t say this is worth making a trip just for the food, but if you are in the area, then this is a good option for a reasonably priced meal.

Pros:
– Decent fried chicken and Mexican eats
– Reasonable prices

Cons:
– Long wait for food
– Interior could really use some updates

Price Range: $20-50

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3.5 Service: 2.5 Ambiance: 2 Parking: 3.5 Overall: 3

Mag's 99 Fried Chicken and Mexican Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

[Japan Series] Day 7 Cont’d: Namja Town at Sunshine City in Ikebukuro (池袋)

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Being the jam-packed traveler that I am, on the way back from Odaiba, I suggested to S that we check out one more district. This was Ikebukuro (池袋). It has the second busiest railway station in Tokyo and offers entertainment, shopping and dining. The destination this night was to Sunshine City (サンシャインシティ) though, a shopping mall near the station. I actually remember living in a hotel near here back when I traveled with my parents. We stumbled upon the Pokemon Center while walking through the mall. They feature lots of Pokemon merchandise, many which I think are exclusive to Japan. I swear S had a really good time looking at the merchandise here!

 

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The real reason I cam here was because my sister had suggested we visit Namja Town. This is an indoor theme park by the creator of Pacman and houses some interesting attractions. However, admission is 500 yen.

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One attraction is the Gyoza Alley. Inside, there is a lane of gyoza shops. However, when we arrived, there were barely any people (probably because it was dinner time). It felt like a ghost town. Gyozas were also quite pricey here, especially after paying the admission to get inside.

 

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Since we were here, we decided we should still give it a try. We shared a plate of gyozas, and they were pretty good. I feel like any gyozas in Japan are good compared to in Vancouver though…

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The second attraction that made me want to visit was the shop at Ice Cream City. This ice cream shop features the weirdest flavours. You can choose from a collection of 50! There are normal flavours too, but of course I had to go for the unusual ones!

 

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The ice cream here is not cheap. To get a tasting of 6 different flavours, it costs 590 yen. But as you can see, the scoops are quite small.  Here is what I tried: Hokkaido Shirataki Potato Ice Cream, Shark Fin Noodle Ice Cream, Miso Noodle Ice Cream, Japanese Berry and Chocolate, Homemade Ice Cream Corn, and Shizouka Cantaloupe Sherbet. And guess what? The ice cream literally tasted just like each description. The shark fin had some fake noodles in it, and the miso was like eating ramen. The Japnese Berry and Cantaloupe were delicious but the odd flavours were the highlight for sure. Would I order a whole scoop of these? Probably not.

Namja Town was a bit of a disappointment to be honest. All the games inside are only in Japanese and are not included as part of the admission price. The food inside is interesting but if you add the admission and the cost of the food, then it’s quite expensive. I would skip this unless you have kids or can actually read Japanese.

 

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We didn’t find that there was too much to do in Ikebukuro. The area was quite similar to other areas with lots of shops and dining. However, we were sort of craving some snacks and walked past a McDonald’s… Ok I usually don’t like to eat McDonald’s when I travel, but in Asia, the menu items at McDonald’s is always so interesting. Here, the Fanta Melon Ice Cream Float caught my eye. Fizzy and bright green, the drink was a bit of a disappointment. The soft server melted in quickly and the flavour was just average. Nothing special.

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S opted for the Shaka Shaka Chicken which is sort of like a shake shake fried chicken. You can choose flavours like cheese or spicy, and they give you this packet of power which you dispense in and you just hold the bag and shake it. The chicken cutlet was pretty good and this was fairly cheap.

 

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I suggested we try the Sakura Peach Pie. The pie is flaky and quite different from the ones in Vancouver. The filling inside was delicious. Don’t expect real peaches, but it tasted just like those Japanese peach candy! Probably artificial but I love that flavour!

And with McDonald’s to end our last day in Tokyo, we headed back to our Airbnb to pack up. Off to Osaka!

Sunshine City
Address: Sunshine City, 3丁目-1番 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo 170-0013, Japan

Big G Large Fried Chicken

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Ever since we came back from Taiwan, we’ve been craving the large fried chicken you can get at the Taiwanese night markets. The first time we came across it in Vancouver was at the Richmond Night Market, and now Big G Large Fried Chicken has opened up a store front in the mall on Capstan.

 

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Take out is available, but there is also a decent amount of seats for you to dine inside.

 

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Whether you order take out or dine in, you will need to first order and pay up front. Other than the signature large fried chicken, they also have a variety of Taiwanese snacks and bubble tea.

 

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Large Fried Chicken – Seaweed Powder

Of course we had to try the Large Fried Chicken which costs $9.99 for one piece. It’s quite expensive compared to Taiwan where it’s only around $3. Here, you are able to season the chicken with a variety of flavours though and can choose up to two flavours for free. The chicken itself is huge (the size of your face), but the chicken remains moist and juicy inside with the outside being extremely crispy. We chose to have one with salt and pepper which is essentially the original flavour. The other, we chose to have seaweed powder which was my favourite. Although quite expensive, I would still come back for it and share it as a snack.

 

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Crispy Oyster Mushrooms

In Taiwan, we were also obsessed with the Crispy Oyster Mushrooms. Here, these were just as good with the oysters remaining moist and the outside well seasoned and crispy. They were priced at $5.75 but you got a decent portion.

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Big G Milk Tea

Last but not least, we got the Big G Milk Tea for $4.50 and added $0.50 for pearls. By buying one main, one snack, and one drink, we made this a combo and received $1.50 off our total combo. The milk tea is okay, but nothing super special, so I find it quite expensive.

Overall, we are happy that we now have the large fried chicken available in Richmond. It makes a great snack when you are craving something deep fried and the best part is they open late!

Pros:
– Chicken is moist and batter is crispy
– Open late

Cons:
– Not exactly cheap for fried chicken

Price Range: $10-20

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4 Service: 3 Ambiance: 2.5 Parking: 3 Overall: 3.5

Big G Large Fried Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chachi’s

Note: All food and beverages were complimentary. Opinions are based on personal experience.

Thanks to Sherman, a group of food bloggers and I were invited to a menu tasting at the new Chachi’s located in the food court of Metropolis at Metrotown.

Chachi’s goal is to “make mall food better” and this is their first location in BC with plans to expand to other locations in BC. The focus is on sandwiches, but they also have a variety of salads and sides. All ingredients, including cheese, meats and breads are locally sourced. The bread is fresh from a bakery in Langley daily.

You can choose from the set sandwiches on their menu, or build your own.

They also have three of their own lemonades and iced teas.

Freshly made cookies are available as well. The ones we tried were quite healthy with oatmeal and raisins.

Other than their homemade drinks, they also have a select few bottled drinks. Surprisingly, my favourite was the Cherry Iced Tea. It had a light cherry/raspberry flavour to it. Their homemade drinks are overall slightly on the sweeter side, but not bad.

Asiago Caesar

We also tried two of their salads, including the Asiago Caesar which features crisp romaine, bacon garlic crostini, Asiago, Caesar dressing and topped with turkey.

Arugula

My favourite was the Arugula, which had arugula, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, red onions, goat cheese, and a balsamic sauce with turkey. You can choose your type of meat or have it without. I loved the sweetness of the artichokes along with the acidity of the balsamic. The salad was slightly overdressed though, so a little less dressing would have been perfect.

Cali

Onto what we really came here for – the sandwiches! We tried almost all the sandwiches on the menu, inclduing this Cali, which was filled with chicken breast, double smoked bacon, house made guacamole, cheddar, tomato, romaine, and spicy mayo. I really liked how the bread wasn’t too tough.

Bahn Mi

The Bahn Mi was Chachi’s take on the Vietnamese sandwich. It was filled with beef brisket, asian marinade, pickled carrots, cilantro, jalapeno, and garlic aioli. The beef brisket was very soft and tender, but the sandwich was slightly too saucy.

Hot Philly

The Hot Philly is not for the weak as this is one of the spicier options. Filled with rib steak, bell peppers, onion, jalapeno, provolone, garlic aioli and spicy mayo, this is a delicious spicy sandwich.

Smoked Bacon Breaky Sandwich

They also have some Breaky Sandwiches, including this Smoked Bacon Breaky. I didn’t try this but it looks quite similiar to a McMuffin.

Pork with Mac

My favourite sandwich was the Pork with Mac. This is filled with tender pulled pork, sweet chili, BBQ sauce, and topped with loads of mac ‘n cheese. The pulled pork was so tender and sweet, and the mac ‘n cheese was savoury with a slight spice. Amazing creation!

Dill Chips

They also have homemade chips with a variety of flavours. We tried the Dill Chips, which had a nice pickled flavoured. The chips are kettle cooked and reminded me of Ms. Vickie’s. Addictive!

Spicy Mac ‘N Cheese with Capicollo, Mac ‘N Cheese

The Pork ‘N Mac Sandwich was good, but I would actually just skip the sandwich and order their side of Mac ‘N Cheese. These come in two versions: the original or the spicy with capicollo. These were so smooth and creamy and some of the best mac I’ve had! If you enjoy a bit of spicy, I would highly recommend the Spicy Mac ‘N Cheese with Capicollo.

Overall, Chachi’s is a great addition to the food court by offering a more gourmet sandwich option with quality ingredients. The sandwiches are priced slightly higher at $8-$12, but I can understand since the ingredients are all locally sourced.

Chachi's Metrotown Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Singapore & Taiwan Trip (Day 14)

The next morning, we decided to head out Ximending to look for food for brunch. This place is always bustling with people!

Luckily, many of the street vendors had already opened up. First up was this Green Onion Pancake stall. You can add different flavours or even add cheese or pork fluff to name a few.

We decided to get the original and it cost only NT$25. I wasn’t expecting much from this, but this was probably the best Green Onion Pancake I’ve had! It had such a nice char and they brush on this sweet soy sauce. Delicious!

Continuing on, we tried this Grilled Tempura. Lightly brushed with a sweet savoury sauce, this is fun to snack on. The pieces are quite big though, so i got a bit sick of it after one. Good for sharing. NT$30 for a skewer.

I also decided to get some Hong Kong Style Curry Fishballs. What was I thinking getting fishballs in Taiwan? Yea…these were not good. The curry was not apparent. Perhaps I should’ve gotten the flaming spicy flavour. NT$30 for 4 fishballs.

Getting thirsty, we headed to a 7-11 to look for some drinks. I got the Apple Milk while S got the Papaya Milk. I love how convenient these 7-11s are and how cheap the prices are. The papaya milk was really good while the apple milk was alright. I found it to be slightly tart so it tasted odd.

What to do in Ximending after you’ve visited almost every shop? Go to Tom’s World again and shoot some hoops. S loved this arcade so we ended up doing some exercise and shooting hoops again…

I finally convinced S that we should leave Tom’s World and go do some exploring since we traveled all the way here. Well, we ended up checking some items off my to-do list and that included buying souvenirs. ChiaTe Bakery 佳德糕餅 is known to make some of the best pineapple cakes (鳳梨酥) and it’s a must buy when visiting Taipei! I believe they only have one bakery in Taipei and you can get here by taking the MRT to Nanjing Sammin station and walking straight ahead after you take Exit 2.

When we entered, it was quite a mayhem inside with all the tourists grabbing the pineapple cakes off the shelves. The pineapple cakes are not cheap as they around CAD$2 for one. They have different fillings as well, but after trying many, I still think the original pineapple filling is the best. The filling is not overly sweet and doesn’t stick to your teeth. The outside cake is buttery and flaky. Highly recommend! They also sell other products like wife cakes (老婆鉼).

After doing some pineapple cake shopping, I suggested we visit the  Wu Fen Pu Garment Wholesale Area (五分埔). You can get here by taking the MRT to Songshan Station. It is an area known for the largest wholesale garment market in Taipei.

The area is a huge maze with many shops selling mostly women’s clothing and accessories. I did find that the styles were not as trendy as the ones in Shida and Ximending though. Still, not bad and I picked up some cheap scarves. Because S was super bored shopping with me, he suggested we go play bowling at E7 Play (AGAIN). Well, unfortunately, since it was a weekend, the place was super busy and we wouldn’t get a spot until late.

So instead, I suggested we do more touristy things! We took the MRT to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall station and visited the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. This is a memorial to the Republic of China’s National Father, Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

Dr. Sun is known for his Three Principles of People: nationalism, democracy, and the people’s livelihood.

Inside the main entrance, you will find a statue of Sun Yat-sen. There is a changing of the guards every hour but we had missed the last one. The building also displays Sun’s life and the revolution he held.

There are also gardens around the memorial hall and you will find many young dancers practicing here. It’s also a perfect spot to see the full Taipei 101.

After, I suggested we visit Ice Monster since it would be a short walk from the the memorial hall. They are famous for their shaved ice.

You can either order take-out or sit in. It was rather chilly that day so we chose to sit-in. The cafe is brightly lit with wooden decor. You order and pay at the entrance and they will bring you your dessert to your table.

We chose the Fresh Mango Shaved Ice because that’s pretty much their signature item. The ice is super light and comes with a scoop of mango ice cream and tofu pudding on the side. At first, we thought there was very little mango but it was actually all on the bottom of the bowl. There were tons! It’s around NT$250 and great for sharing between friends.

After dessert, we took the MRT back to Ximending 西門町and wandered the streets again. You can never get sick of this place! Love the lively crowds and at night you will see many street performers.

S couldn’t resist and had to try the Hot Star Large Fried Chicken 豪大大雞排 at the Ximending location. This location is extremely busy as well.

At this location, they also have a variety of other snacks and also drinks. The wait here was much longer because they have so many other menu items. There is really only one guy who makes the fried chicken so the wait was super long.

At last, we got the Large Fried Chicken again. S and I both agreed that the one from the Shilin location tastes better for some reason…

We also got the Fried Scallop and Squid Balls. These were seasoned with basil leaves so quite tasty. I didn’t really taste any scallop in it though.

I was also on the hunt of Stewed Pork Rice 魯肉飯 so we got take-out at Tian Tian Li 天天利美食坊. They also have sit-in.

It looked pretty underwhelming but it actually tasted okay. Just hard to eat while standing. I didn’t think it was very special but it’s quite the comfort food for locals. Plus it’s only NT$25!

Thirsty, we found a corner shop further away from the busy shops called Mei Tea 梅子兔. Look for the bunny rabbit and the long line ups.

We got a classic pearl milk tea to finish our night off. It was a long wait but this was very smooth and satisfying! Headed back to the hotel and did some packing as we would be leaving tomorrow night.

Details:

Tom’s World: 5th floor of Wannian Plaza: 70 Xining South Road, Ximending, Taipei

ChiaTe Bakery: No. 88, Section 5, Nanjing E Rd, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105

Wu Fen Pu: Yongji Street, Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall: 505, Section 4, Ren’ai Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110

Ice Monster: No. 297, Section 4, Zhongxiao E Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106

Hot Star Fried Chicken (Ximending location): No. 36, Hànzhōng St, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108

Tian Tian Li: No.1, Lane 32, Han Zhong St., Wan-Hua District, Taipei City

Mei-Tea: No. 7, Lane 50, Xining S Rd, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108