Mar 15, 2012

A&J Restaurant 北平半畝園


A&J restaurant is a place i've been meaning to visit for a while. When I was hankering for a bowl of beef noodle soup in Irvine, I would head over to the A&J to get my fix. The beef noodle soup in the Irvine location did not seem like a great bowl in Taiwan standards, but they were my favorite around that area at the time. I would usually a bowl of beef noodle soup with thin noodles, a side of pan-fried beef bun, and a side of pig ears or spicy tripe. For years i've wondered how it compared to the original A&J in Taiwan. After being spoiled with an excellent array of alternative beef noodle providers, I was not so impressed with the A&J's beef noodle soup. However, they still offer the juicy, crispy, and meaty pan-fried beef buns. It is still worth an occasional visit for that.

Address:  台北市東豐街33
                 No. 33, Dōngfēng Street, Daan District
Phone #:  02-2700-5326
Business Hours: 11:00-14:00, 17:00-20:30
Website: N/A
Accepts Credit Cards: yes
Price Range:   $$
Attire: casual
Good for kids: yes
Take out: yes
Waiter Service: yes
Outdoor seating:  no
Alcohol: no


Food Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Decor:  3.5 out of 5
Service: 3 out of 5
Overall: 3.33 out of 5
Final Thought: Good place for pan-fried beef bun
The interior is a lot classier than the old school chinese cafe look the Irvine location still sports. The chairs are quite comfortable and the surroundings are pretty clean. However, I didn't think the service here was as good as in Irvine. There was a diner-esque service to the Irvine branch, but that was missing here. We had to serve ourselves tea, and order at a desk and pay the bill at the desk. They are in a very inconvenient location relative to MRT stations, so it is quite a distance to reach a place whose service is not so welcoming. However, the food here is actually pretty good. Although I gave them a 3.5, I would give the food in the Irvine branch a 3 in comparison.
 The beef tripe is a lot thicker and marinated very well. The pieces were chewy, not gamey, and the flavor is suffused throughout. However, I found it a bit dry, but that was remedied with a bit of soy sauce mixed with chili bean paste and vinegar. It complemented the otherwise slightly dry morsels.
This is my favorite item here today and at A&J in general. Even if all other items are just average, they do make the best pan-fried beef buns. The skin is just thick enough to have that crispy snapness on the outside and carry a chewy layer beneath. The beef inside is cooked to a medium, so it is kinda pinkish. They flavor the beef with its own natural oils and some green onions. The experience of the skin and the filling taken together is awesome. The ones they have here seem slightly bigger than that in Irvine, and they seem to be crispier and much more fragrant.
However, after consuming their bowl of beef noodle soup it all makes sense. In Irvine I always wondered why the soup base was very soy saucy and not very rich and beefy. The bowl they serve in taiwan is no different in that the soup base is very soy saucy. It doesn't lean toward the bean paste braised flavor. Cow daddy's soup is the best example of a beefy, thick, rich stock for beef noodle soup. This leans kind of toward soy sauce ramen like of a base, but with beef stock instead of pork. The bowl they serve in Taipei is still better than the Irvine due to the fact that their noodles were a lot better and the pieces of beef were better. The noodles felt very Q and snappy. The beef was very soft and suffused with the braised flavor. Almost too suffused in that each taste bursted with heavy soy sauce notes. I guess I favor stocks that combine more spices and elements. This bowl wasn't bad, but it would not top my top 3 picks available here in Taiwan. Come try their pan-fried beef buns and have their sides with their green peen porridge, but I would not travel to this place just for their beef noodle soup. I'd rather get the Shanghainese or Szechuan style beef noodle soups over the "Beijing" style ones. I'm glad I was able to verify the quality of the original store to compare it to the other locations of this famous and global Chinese restaurant chain.

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