Café de Riz 米販食堂
Add: 34, Lane 78, Section 1, An He Road, Taipei /台北市大安區安和路一段78巷34號
Tel: (02) 2755 6587
Hours: [Tue-Sun] 11:30am-10pm
Price: 600~1,200 NTD/set
Visited: Feb 2015
When Yuji Nomura left in 2013, the owners of Nomura Sushi renovated the space to become what is now Café de Riz. Literally “rice cafe”, the focus here is of course on the rice, showcased in the form of donburi and ochazuke (which they call “consommé rice” here at the cafe). It was chilly on the day of my visit, and a hot bowl of ochazuke was exactly what I had on my mind…
In terms of space, Café de Riz is rectangular shaped and neatly sectioned into the kitchen, bar, and table areas. The style of decor is a mix of elegant and cute, with clean lines, soft lighting, and chic little knickknacks placed here and there. Many items, the plates and chopsticks included, are hand-carried back from Japan by the owners themselves. It shows that a lot of heart has been put into making this place a most pleasant one possible.
Add: 3F, No. 2-2, Lane 49, Wen Zhou Street, Taipei / 台北市溫州街49巷2-2號3樓
Tel: (02) 2369 6659
Hours: [Wed-Sun] noon-11pm (closed Mon & Tue)
Price: 120-200 NTD/drink
Visited: Feb 2015
I put AGCT apartment on my list of cafes to visit in Taipei, convinced that it’s, well, a cafe. It took me a while to find, hidden on the 3rd floor of a nondescript building on the very quaint Wen Zhou Street, accessible only after ringing a doorbell and ascending through a dark elevator…which makes the lovely ambience inside AGCT a surprisingly contrast. The space is soft and airy with afternoon light streaming in from large windows, and chairs are placed at comfortable distances to allow room for small talks. Only when I sat down to order did I realize that AGCT is much more than a cafe.
As the friendly shop owner soon explained to me, AGCT is actually a local Taiwanese fashion brand that he launched in 2009 with his partner. The cafe is their showroom, though guests are also welcome to linger for light food and drinks. From what I could see, most people – myself included – were there for coffee rather than the fashion selection, and this is something that AGCT is trying to change by potentially making the cafe a member-only space. For now, you can still come and go freely, though reservation is highly recommended.
Add: 1F., No. 68, Lane 233 Dunhua S. Road, Taipei / 台北市大安區敦化南路一段233巷68號1樓
Tel: (02) 8771 4358
Hours: [Tue-Sat] 11am-7pm [Sun] 3-7pm (closed on Mon)
Price: 250 NTD/bottle
Visited: Feb 2015
I’ve known Mark for a while – over 10 years, perhaps? – and I’ve always categorized him in the “fashion” crowd. I mean, we are talking about a guy who went to Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, whose resume reads YSL, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Giorgio Armani…so it was a complete surprise when he messaged me one day and said, “Hey, I’m moving back to Taiwan to open a detox juice shop.”
But he really did. Together with his wife Anita, Mark started Juicy Diary in Taipei in October 2014. This, however, is no ordinary juice bar that you can find on the streets of Taipei. For one, the technology they use for extracting juices is completely different from the traditional method, which is to blend fruits and vegetables through high-speed cutting. The blending process heats and oxidizes the fruits, and as a result many essential vitamins, enzymes, proteins, and minerals are lost. Juicy Diary, on the other hand, uses imported cold-press juicing machines to extract juice directly from the pulp through pressure, which minimizes oxidation and preserves the maximum amount of nutrients.
Other than individual bottles, Juicy Diary also offers juice sets for those who are in need of a cleanse. To be honest, juice cleanse was probably the last thing on my mind when I visited Taipei because all I could think about is how to stuff my face with all these food that I won’t see for another year or more…plus it was Chinese New Years holiday, which means justified/obligatory overeating. But perhaps I really overdid it, and I somehow found myself at Juicy Diary on the last day of my trip, feeling in need of a break from food.
For recipes, Mark and Anita work with professional nutritionists and use only organic produce, local or imported, and it goes without saying that there are no artificial additives. The bottles (all priced at 250 NTD) are categorized into four groups – Citrus, Roots, Greens, and Nuts – and I sampled quite a few on this first visit, including Citrus 2 (pineapple, cucumber, lemon, apple, mint, chia seeds), Roots 3 (oranges, apple, carrots, celery, parsley), Roots 4 (beets, pineapple, lemon), and Green 6 (kale, orange). I went home with a bottle of Citrus 2, which ended up being my last meal in Taipei and made me feel all light and airy….until I flew off to Phuket for more overeating, d’oh.
Mountain & Sea House 山海樓
Add: No. 16, Lane 11, Section 2, Zhong Shan North Road, Taipei / 台北市中山北路二段11巷16號
Tel: (02) 2581 5760
Hours: 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30-10pm
Price: 1,500~2,000 NTD/person
Visited: Feb 2015
Please note that this is an invited tasting.
One of my favorite meals on this trip in Taipei was lunch at the recently-opened 山海樓 “Mountain & Sea House”, a restaurant specializing in vintage Taiwanese cuisine. While most people think of Taiwan as the land of night market food, there was in fact a period of time during the Japanese colonial era when Taiwanese haute cuisine thrived. Back then, wealthy patrons would employ personal chefs to create unique and sophisticated dishes to treat special guests, and these banquet delicacies are exactly what Mountain & Sea House tries to revive.
Befittingly, the restaurant is located in an old house which belonged to a Japanese doctor, and a two-year renovation process resurrected the old structure into something stunning. From the delicately pieced together vintage floor tiles to the elaborate old-school wallpaper, the whole place oozes the charm of a bygone era.
Amatara Spa at Regent Phuket Cape Panwa
Add: 84/1 Moo 8, Sakdidej Road, Tambon Vichit, Cape Panwa, Phuket 83000
Tel: +66 (0) 7620-0808
Price: Signature Massage 2,500 THB/90 minutes
Visited: Feb 2015
In Phuket, massages and spas are pretty much obligatory. Whether you are looking for simple street side massage shops or luxurious spa facilities in five-star resorts, the island has much to offer. On the posh end of things, there is Amatara Spa at Regent Phuket Cape Panwa, a 1,650-sqm space with 8 private treatment rooms open to the ocean breeze, offering services from traditional Thai massage to specialty beauty treatments. I was lucky to spend a morning here, and it was a few hours of pure indulgence to say the least.
At the reception, I was offered a glass of soothing herbal tea while I filled out a simple questionnaire about my physical conditions. From the list of treatments available, I chose The Signature of Amatara Massage (2,500++ THB/90 min.) and sampled a few massage oils before settling on pure coconut oil, which is recommended for those with a sensitive skin. There are other oil blends designed to rejuvenate, energize, or sooth – whatever you need.
I was then led to the treatment room by my very soft-spoken therapist. Now, I don’t think anyone would complain about getting a massage with this view in the background…
Regent Cape Panwa
Add: 84 Moo 8, Sakdidej Road, T. Vichit, Muang, Phuket 83000
Tel: +66 76 200 800
Prices: Premier Sea View 6,024 THB/night ~ Ocean Pool Villa 12,384 THB/night
Visited: Feb 2015
Please note that this was a complimentary stay arranged by the resort.
Regent Phuket Cape Panwa is a relatively new addition to the island’s luxury resort scene, but has already been garnering oohs and aahs from guests all over the world – and it’s easy to see why. When I arrived in the late afternoon, the whole resort was enshrouded in a soft, glowing light from the setting sun, and before I even set foot in my villa I was already charmed at the reception area – the gold-adorned pavilions, lily ponds, lush gardens, a 55-meter infinity pool, and of course, the Andaman Sea as backdrop…Yes, I’m ready to check-in.
After a refreshing welcome drink, I was picked up by a buggy and escorted to my villa. Regent Cape Panwa has a total of 105 rooms and villas, starting with the 70-sqm Pavilion Rooms up to the 150-sqm Pool Villas. Regardless of size, all accommodations come with balcony or terrace with sea view, and each is loaded with amenities such as the mini-bar, an iPod docking system, Liddell bed linen, L’Occitane toiletries, and a wide selection of in-room movies.
Last day in Bangkok started with lunch at Nara. Consistently chosen as one of the “Best Restaurants” in Thailand by Tatler Magazine, Nara serves authentic Thai cuisine in a comfortable ambience with smooth service. The higher prices have caused its dishes to be labelled as “posh versions of Thai street food for the rich”, and it’s true that the clientele seems to be modern urbanite, expatriates, and tourists. That said, the food was delicious, and if you are looking for that in a nice setting, Nara would be an ideal choice.
After lunch, we dropped by the Erawan Shrine, which houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of the Hindu creation god Brahma. The status itself was covered up for renovation during my visit, but that doesn’t stop people from worshipping it from across the shroud.
A quick stopover to Paris Mikki, just opened at the end of 2014 and apparently the best French patisserie in Bangkok. We tried a mille feuille and mango passionfruit chou, both nicely put together.
Followed by coffee at Kuppa, one of Thailand’s finest coffee distributors and a very pleasant place to spend the afternoon. Other than the coffee, Kuppa’s cake display also looked quite tempting and I would’ve tried some if we hadn’t just came from another pastry shop…
Day 3 in Bangkok, non-stop eating and drinking started with lunch at Supanniga Eating Room (which was mediocre so no photos here), followed by coffee at the stylish Boyy Cafe (address at the bottom of this post). Opened by handbag designers Wannasiri “Boy” Kongman and Jesse Dorsey and located right downstairs of their boutique, Boyy Cafe offers coffee and apparently some pretty good dishes, though I didn’t try any savories this time. Large windows backed by shades of green, cute patterned floor tiles, pretty fabric wall panel, and industrial caged lighting. It’s a chic place.
Day 2 in Bangkok, woke up early for coffee and breakfast at Rocket Coffeebar (address at the bottom of this post). This popular cafe now has three branches in Bangkok, and I went to the original one on Sathorn Soi 12 as it is conveniently located at a 10-minute walking distance from where I was staying. Time-pressed, I simply ordered an ice latte with cinnamon bun, though friends have told me that the egg dishes here are real hits.
I’m not really big on visiting tourist attractions, but I figured I shouldn’t leave Bangkok without taking a look at the Grand Palace. This complex was the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) from 1782 to 1925, and though the present monarch currently resides at Chitralada Palace, the Grand Palace is still used for official events. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand, so expect huge crowds even early in the morning. Still, it’s worth the visit.
First day in Bangkok, greeted by the city’s notorious traffic. Tip: in times like this, it’s much easier to take the BTS sky train system.
First meal, lunch at Kalpapruek. Apparently everyone in Bangkok knows this institution and has been there at least once in their life. What we ordered: beef salad, green curry, stir-fried morning glory, fish cakes, beef with basil, and of course, thai iced tea. Delicious food, affordable prices, pleasant setting, highly recommended. See address at the bottom of this post.
After lunch, an easy stroll along the streets. There were roasted bananas everywhere!