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"Cow Boss Knife Cut Noodles" is my own translation of 牛老大刀削麵, the Chinese name of the shop.

I went here a bajillion times because I lived not too far away. It was always busy, but never to the point where you had to wait in line, or anything like that.

They specialize in knife-cut noodles, as the name suggests. Knife-cut noodles, or dao xiao mian, are made by taking a block of dough and slicing the noodles directly into the pot.

Knife-cut noodles have always had a special place in my heart because my grandfather always made noodle soup in exactly that way. He didn't cut the noodles on a board or put them through a pasta machine etc. Cutting the dough right into the boiling broth gives the noodles a special texture that has to be experienced.

Here's one of my typical student dinners, and it's making me homesick. (Yeah, I consider Taipei my heart's home.) If you squint at the receipt, you might be able to barely, barely make out that I ordered a large bowl of their standard, the beef noodle 紅燒牛肉麵. It cost me $120NT, or about $4 at the exchange rate back then. Probably more like $3.75 now.

Whatever you order, of course, comes with unlimited cold black and barley tea and, IIRC, a small bowl of soup. I usually drank the barley tea.

The plain beef (what I usually ordered) is very lean, so if you like more tender beef, you should pay a little extra to get tendon meat. Which... hm... yeah probably most Westerners are a little off-put at the idea of saying "I'd like to eat some tendon!" Honestly the texture overwhelmed me a little bit when I first tried it. It's got that melt-in-your-mouth fat, instead of marbling. Taiwanese in general like fat on their meat more than modern Americans. Taiwanese chicken tastes better... brace yourselves... because the chickens are fatter. Ditto for pork, folks. I heard fellow former Taiwan people lament that meat in the States just isn't the same... while they reach for skinless chicken breasts with a sticker on them proclaiming how lean they are! Fat. It tastes good, yo. What a concept.

Anyway. This place also sells wontons, chow mein, fried rice and meat on rice, dumplings, and stir-fried year cake, which OMG I want some RIGHT NOW. I may have to see if either of the two Taiwanese restaurants in Pittsburgh make it.

Hmm, anything else... oh, I guess I should say, the entire menu is in Chinese, and nobody there will speak English, so you might want to print out some Chinese to take with you. I'll translate some key phrases here and you can pretty much mix and match.

紅燒 - hong2shao1 - "red cooking" (broth, ie, primarily meat flavored)
番茄 - fan1qie2 - tomato (broth)
牛肉 - niu2 rou4 - in this context, lean beef ($100NT small bowl)
牛筋 - niu2 jin1 - beef tendon ($120NT small bowl)
半筋半肉 - ban4 jin1 ban4 rou4 - half tendon half lean beef ($110NT small bowl)
麵 - mian4 - noodles
湯 - tang1 - soup (without noodles)
素 - su4 - vegetarian (there is no vegetarian knife-cut noodles, but there are vegetarian fried rice and fried year cake)
飯 - fan4 - rice (in this context, that means plain rice under a piece of meat or whatever)
炒麵 - chao3 mian4 - fried noodles (chow mein)
炒飯 - chao3 fan4 - fried rice
水餃 - shui3jiao3 - dumplings (you buy them $5NT per each, or about six dumplings per US dollar)
湯餃 - tang1jiao3 dumplings in soup
抄手水餃 - chao3shou3 shui3jiao3 - stir-fried dumplings
餛飩 - hun1tun1 - wonton
排骨 - pai1gu3 - ribs
豬腳 - zhu1 jiao3 - pigs' feet
雞腿 - ji1 tui3 - chicken drumstick
木須肉 - mu4 xu1 rou4 - moo shu pork (yes, moo shu pork is really Chinese)
炒年糕 - chao3 nian2gao1 - fried year cake
大 - da4 - large
小 - xiao3 - small
碗 - wan3 - bowl

Hmm, that will cover most of the menu (and actually be helpful for a lot of places). For example, if you want vegetarian fried rice, take "vegetarian" and add "fried rice" and you get su4 chao3 fan4 素炒飯. If you want a bowl of tomato half-tendon half-beef noodle soup that's fan1qie2 ban4 jin1 ban4 rou4 mian4 番茄半筋半肉麵! And say you want a large bowl, da4 wan3 大碗. Obviously, some things don't go together, for example, you can't get ribs with your wonton soup. But I hope it's a little helpful.

Name: "Cow Boss Knife Cut Noodles" 牛老大刀削麵
Location: 42 Longquan St, Da'an, Taipei 台北市大安區龍泉街42號
Prices: $60-150 NT ($2-5 US)
Service: Busy, busy, busy. Don't make them wait.
Food: Satisfying, hearty portions of good Taiwanese food. Yum.
Recommended?: Worth a visit, but not worth going out of your way for, perhaps. I was a regular here, but I lived close by.
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I've decided to label the "neighborhoods" that Taipei reviews are listed and tagged under according to the nearest MRT Station, because to be honest that's how I organize them in my brain. You're going to see a lot of reviews from around Taipower (where I lived) and nearby Gongguan (where I went to school), and I basically never ventured anywhere that wasn't within walking distance of the MRT. The MRT is also extremely easy for non-Chinese speakers to use, so that's a plus.

Ok, that out of the way, to get to the current assignment, exit at exit 3, pause to wave at the building across the street where I once lived if you like, and go up Shida Rd. (By up, I mean not crossing Roosevelt Rd.) You'll see kgb across the street from the Wellcome Supermarket.

When I visited kgb with a classmate, it had literally been open a week. But they had their act together already, and I'm happy to see that Google confirms they are still in business.

The interior of kgb is very hip, warm, cozy and bistro-like, with soft lighting. It's a good place to take a date because many of the tables for two are in the corner so that you sit next to each other rather than across from each other, hence why you can see my friend Anthony's hand. XD He was just a friend, Gordon, I swear!

As you can see, kgb offers a wide selection of New Zealand and Australian beer, as well as some beer from a Taipei microbrewery. Since I had never had NZ beer before, I tried the Monteith's Radler. I liked it. :3 If you click on the photo you can enlarge it and squint at the menu--if you have good eyes you might be able to make out that they sell a number of non-alcoholic drinks as well, such as teas, milkshakes, and sodas. Anthony is drinking iced rooibos IIRC.

I ordered the CC Chicken Burger. The CC stands for "camembert and cranberry" which is apparently a popular combination on sandwiches in NZ. They also sold a CC Burger (you know, with cow meat). I paired it with a salad (what is up with me pairing fatty sandwiches with salads, honestly, who I am kidding) with their tangy house dressing. Incidentally, the quality of the veg on the sandwiches is no joke. No sad, pale iceberg at kgb.

Anthony ordered his burger with lime aioli. I'm afraid I didn't write down the name, but it was awesome. Er, yes, he let me have a bite. *shifty eyes*

I went again at a later time on the spur of the moment with my roommate, and at that time I ordered the same thing Anthony had. They were sold out of their New Zealand beers so I tried Victoria Bitter (resounding "yay") and a North Taiwan Brewing Co. version of a witbier (resounding "meh").

Also apparently putting beetroot and egg on your burger is a big NZ thing to do, and kgb has a version of that as its signature dish.

Name: kgb
Location: #5, Lane 114, Shida Rd, Taipei, Taiwan ROC (台北市大安區師大路114巷5號) (02) 2363-6015
Prices: NT$200-300 (US$6-9) for sandwiches with sides, imported beers from NT$100-150 ($3-4)
Service: Friendly--like many places in the area, the waitstaff seemed to all be students at the very nearby teacher's college. Your server will definitely be fluent in English and Mandarin. Menus have English on one side, Chinese on the other. No service charge.
Food: To my American taste buds, the combinations were unusual but refreshing. The burger itself wasn't quite as good as nearby Evans Burger, but the toppings more than made up for that.
Recommended?: Take someone you are MOST DEFINITELY NOT HAVING A SUMMER FLING WITH to kgb. He or she will love you for it. Platonically. *coughs*
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Oh Taipei. I miss you so much and long to return to you, city of cheap dining out. You can do anything--anything!--except make good Indian food.

Mexican food, however, is within your grasp.

Grandma Nitti's Kitchen, located within the Shida Night Market area of Taipei, is something of an expat hub. Any given evening, you're likely to see at least as many foreigners as Taiwanese. Maybe it's because they sell canned Chef Boyardee, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and other things that people far from home crave. Maybe it's the AWESOME used stuff sale that goes on every Sunday to benefit Animals in Taiwan, an animal welfare organization with a lot of expat members. Maybe it's because of its location, a university area. Or maybe the food is just delicious. :3

This is not authentic Mexican-from-Mexico food; it's stuff like quesadillas and fajitas, the kind of food you'd get at Chili's in the States. They also offer other Western fare like meat loaf and lamb chops. The emphasis is on homey, unpretentious food.

The homeyness and unpretentiousness extends to a extent that many Westerners may not be comfortable with: Grandma Nitti's has cats.

Yes, I took that picture from our table.

Not effecting the popularity of the place, as you can see.

Portion sizes are small and prices are higher than most other Western places. The trio platter above cost NT$760 (~US$23). I split it with two of my roommates, and on our way home we grabbed some baozi to fill our stomachs. Part of this is because imported ingredients, particularly cheese, are expensive. The food is tasty, but IMHO Grandma Nitti's should be saved for Mexican cravings only. There are other Western restaurants with better prices for other kinds of food.

You can add on dessert and coffee to your meal for NT$100 (~US$3).

Grandma Nitti's also serves breakfast. The omelets in particular are good, Western-style omelets, instead of the Japanese-style which is so common in Taipei. However you're still gonna find the same tiny portions and high prices as dinner.

The menu is bilingual and the waiters speak English well. Credit cards are taken. Free Wi-fi.

To get there, ride the MRT to Taipower Building Station, get out at exit 3, and walk up until you get to Lane 93 (it's the second alley I think). Turn right, and you'll see it on the right hand side of the street.

Name: Grandma Nitti's Kitchen
Location: 8, Lane 93, Shida Rd., Taipei (台北市師大路93巷8號). (02) 3365-3448
Prices: NT$400~1000 (US$12~30) for dinner (meal + drink). Brunch is NT$200 on weekdays and NT$300 on weekends ($6/$9), tea or coffee not incl.
Service: Typical for Taipei re: the waiters. The ambiance is comfortable and you won't be rushed out if you go there, order coffee, and sit playing on your laptop. There is a service charge (aka an enforced tip), unusual for Taipei. The service should really be better than it is, with the service charge. Most places in Taipei, you don't tip at all.
Food: Tasty but small and expensive portions of Western style food, especially TexMex and breakfast.
Recommended?: Expats should hit Grandma Nitti's at least once, if only to say they've been there. If your time in Taipei is at all limited, however, there are better options.


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