Birmingham -- Taipei 101
I want to like this place. I really do. But if my family's experience Sunday night was an indication, I won't.
Taipei 101 is on Green Springs Highway in Homewood, two doors up from the Purple Onion. It bills itself as pan-Asian, offering Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai food. It looks like a fun place to drink (a couple of Japanese beers on tap, interesting sakes offered) and nosh.
First the good: I'd read on Urbanspoon to stick to the Chinese offerings, so I did. They have some Chen-esque cold apps, including the spicy beef tendon I ordered. Very good -- more tendon than meat like at the Red Pearl chowdown, although the portion was not as generous as those at Red Pearl and Chen's.
The vegetable tempura and fried tofu appetizers also were good (especially the tempura sauce). Light, non greasy coating on the tempura. Only problem is: my wife asked for vegetable-only tempura. There was no vegetable tempura on the menu, so she asked them to hold the shrimp from the shrimp tempura and bring vegetables only. They ended up charging us for tempura shrimp (just tell us and I'll eat the shrimp).
The OK: My salt-and-pepper squid was well-fried, but it tasted like they use the same oil to fry chicken, fish, etc -- and that should have been changed the week before.
The bad: In my family, Ma Po tofu is sacred. Even my 7-year-old craves it, as he loudly did at the restaurant Sunday evening. This version was awful. My wife had two cubes of tofu, my son one and I had two pieces of tofu to confirm that something was indeed wrong with it. The other 50-75 cubes of tofu remained untouched.
The server asked us about it and we told her it was awful. We didn't ask for it, but they sure didn't volunteer either to take it off the check.
My daughter got chicken lo mein, after we were unable to convince them to serve the sweet-and-sour chicken with noodles instead of rice (hey: she's 4. Give her a break). And, of course, it was an adult portion since they have limited children's offerings (chicken with fries, for example). That also remained mostly uneaten.
I plan to go back and try some more of the menu, including the sushi. Maybe over several drinks, which may be the best way to experience this place. But definitely not on karaoke night.
I didn't have a great experience either - I think we waited around 45-55 minutes for an order of four maki rolls. We looked around the dining room and did not see any other parties eating sushi so I'm not sure where the hold-up was at the sushi bar. When we did receive the sushi, I thought it was mediocre. The rolls were small in comparison to competing area sushi restaurants (Ginza, Sekisui, Surin) and didn't contain a lot of fish/veggies on the inside of the rice. I wouldn't go back to eat at Taipei 101 since there are much better sushi restaurants in B'ham to choose from.