Mar 17, 2011

Chao Fare Collective 潮品集


Address: 台北市忠孝東路四段172號
                No. 172, Section 4, ZhōngXiào East Rd, Da-an District
Phone #: 02-2772-2687-9
Business Hours: Sun-Thurs: 11:30 – 14:30, 17:30 – 21:00
·                           Fri-Sat: 11:00 – 15:00, 17:30 – 21:00
Price Range:   $$$$
Accepts Credit Cards: yes
Attire: semicasual
Good for kids: yes
Take out: yes
Waiter Service: yes
Outdoor seating:  no
Alcohol: yes


Food Quality: 4 out of 5
Decor:  4 out of 5
Service: 5 out of 5
Overall: 4.3 out of 5
Recommendation: Upscale Chao Zhou Restaurant

The Chao Fare Collective inside the San Want Hotel on Zhong Xiao East Rd is an upscale Chinese restaurant featuring the regional cuisine of Chao Zhou. Although part of the menu seems to be cantonese dim sum, most items in the front of the menu claim to be Chao Zhou cuisine. Chao Zhou Cuisine seems to be a little less salty and not so heavy. Also, it seems like most of the dishes have a sweet quality in them. The set meals all consist of shark fin soup, appetizers, entree, and a dessert starting from 980 NT. However, from now til 5/31/2011, you can try their all you can eat 880 NT per person special anniversary menu to try this restaurant out for a cheaper price. This special menu applied only to dinner hours only. Check this place out before this promotion is over.

The interior is pretty well designed with comfortable seating, nice tables, and sleek porcelain tableware. They have slightly cramped spacing between the tables, but its at a tolerable distance. They also accomodate private rooms for parties of eight or more. They had a decent server to table ratio, so we were served promptly. Their servers are all very professional and warm, this is also one of the few restaurants in Taipei that clears the check at the table for you. They also change plates and give you new wet napkins regularly, so I felt that this was definitely at the higher echelon in the food service industry. I will not hesitate to give them a 5. Even though, they did make a mishap in the ordering by double clicking on an order, but that did not affect us that much. They kindly took the extra dishes away. The photo does not do this place justice, because my seating limited the angles I could take of the space, but the whole area had a classy ambience.
 For those who can read chinese, the promotional anniversary menu is shown above. There are plenty of dishes from the main menu you can sample, and it seems to be worth the price when you compare what you ordered from this menu with the standard menu. For this dinner, we ordered 3 items from the dim sum menu, 8 items from the normal dish menu, and 2 desserts. I will show these items in that order:
We started off with these shredded turnip pies. They were very flaky and crispy on the outside, with a very hot and juicy turnip based filling on the inside. These were very good appetizers. They were easily consumed in a few bites and was not overbearing to the tastebuds.
The next cantonese style dim sum dish we ordered was the rice wrapped shrimp. This is my favorite dim sum item and it is hard to go wrong. As long as the rice wrap is Q enough, the shrimp is fresh, and the sauce is mixed right, this would be a tasty delight. The rice wrap was very Q, you could taste the freshness of the shrimp through its texture and flavor, and the sauce was a slightly sweeter blend of that soy sauce based concoction they usually pour over this dish. I would recommend this item here.

The last dim sum item is the phoenix claw. Theirs was not particularly good. The sauce they used was not heavy enough to make this dish tasty. It was ok to nibble on, but the skin didn't seem as springy as it could be. Maybe this item was soaking in the back for a while before we ordered it.

The first normal dish we got was this Chao Zhou-style braised goose slices. This is the only distinctively Chao Zhou style item on the promotional menu. If you really want to try more authentic Chao Zhou cuisine then you got to pay the normal prices. The dark meat of the goose was really really good. It had the gamey chicken taste to it. They had this garlic based sauce you can dip the slices in. On the bottom of the slices are a few slices of oily tofu. The tofu absorbed all the juices from the slices and carried that flavor within their tender bodies. I also recommend this dish to try out something distinctively Chao-style.
The next normal item is the Cha-Siu in honey sauce. Accordlingly, the slices of tender pork prepared in cha siu was dipped in this soy sauce based sauce that was sweet. There were a couple of peanuts soaking in the sauce too, so there was that appetizer feel when you picked the soft boiled peanuts from the bottom of the dish. This was not bad in flavor, but not particularly desirable.
The next dish is the black pepper beef nuggets. It is like the french-style filet mignon you can order at those cantonese family restaurants, but they used a less tender cut than filet mignon. The flavor is the same, but the texture of the meat is way different. They do have the filet mignon dish, but of course it is a lot more expensive. This item is bearable for the all you can eat menu. Being a beef-lover, I downed this dish quite swimmingly.
 The next dish was this soy sauce glazed shrimp. The sauce was kind of carmelized on the shell of these shrimp. However, the shrimp themselves did not seem so fresh, so it took away from the tastiness this preparation could have contributed to this shrimp dish. The meat was stuck to the shell, which indicates either really bad cooking, or not very fresh shrimp. This dish mostly depends on the flavor of the sauce, since the shrimp itself could not provide that flavor and texture due to its almost retired shelflife.
 I would recommend getting this dish if you plan to visit this place during this promotional time. Its the steamed fish fillet. Even though the fish itself is kind of on the mushy side instead of being soft and flakey, I still feel like this dish is good at this meal because it is served individually, and it consists of a different flavor. The sauce is sweetm and the vegetable they used to steam with this fish contributed its unique aroma to the fish. This kind of reminded me of the Chao-style Fish Pot you can order at the Seafood Village Restaurant in monterey park. Worth a try.
 If you would like a soup, I recommend the abalone thrice laced congee. Its basically a congee with strips of abalone, bamboo, and mushroom simmered altogether. The flavor of the soup is refreshing and mildly oceanic. Rice did not come with the meal, so it was good to get our daily dosage from this dish.

 The next dish is this peacock mollusk stir fried with XO sauce. The XO sauce was not particularly pungent, and it feels as though they were scrimping on the sauce because its an all you can eat item. It was a very faint XO sauce notes and more of the oil and salt used to stirfry the items with. The snow peas were a good mix to the night's protein heavy meal: refreshing. I really don't know what type of mollusk this is. Some sort of shell creature that I could not identify. The meat was snappy and partly sandy, but it was a delightful dish in its own right. The green onions were "exploded" so that its aroma could pervade the other ingredients.
The last item was sadly this stir fried chinese broccoli. Nothing to wow about. Just a plate of dense stem of chinese broccoli to rationalize the meal to being healthy because there was some green in it. These stems were not cooked to a point of being tender, so thats a reason why this was the only dish that wasn't entirely consumed...also because between two people, this was borderline too much food. We wanted to save some room for desert.
We ordered a desert from the dim sum side of the promotional menu: coconut milk red bean cakes. Their rendition is heavily coconut cake and less of red beans. The usually canto-style seems to have definite layers of coconut cream and red bean, but this one kind of made it seem like a nougat. The red bean flavor only had a small influence in this dessert, it was mostly the coconut that dominated. Not a bad solid-type dessert to end the meal with.
Finally, the coconut milk sago dessert. You could also call it tapioca, but its the 椰汁西米露. Translating all this chinese into English can be very frustrating, and I you can connect my translations to the actual chinese menu. This dish had its ups and downs. I liked the fact that the soup had strong coconut notes and was thicker in consistency, but the tapioca balls did not seem to have that pop in them. They were too soft and kind of yielded to easily to ur bite. I like the tapioca balls show a bit of resistance to your teeth when you chew on them. In other words, they were not Q enough for me. This was not a bad meal at 880 NT a person, and if you bring more than two people, then you can sample a lot more than we did here today.

Try out this place before the promotion ends, otherwise, you will have to pay about 400 NT per dish that you see in this post. Of course, the quality of the normal menu probably has better quality items, so I may come back and try more authentic Chao-style dishes here in the future.

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