Allston has a tremendous wealth of international restaurants and JoJo TaiPei has a great reputation for its classical standards from Taiwan. So it’s off for 台湾菜 (Táiwān cài) Taiwan Cuisine on Day 26 of the 30 day ethnic food challenge to eat my way round the edible globe as found in greater Boston, making friends and influencing people (to join in).
Trying not to arrive too hungry didn’t work out. Cold sesame noodle came quicker than you can say excellent matchstick knifework on the cucumbers and tangy sauce with a nice spicy kick. City beer all around cause byob is still basically b.y.o.beyond our commonwealth. Tea is also not free and a bubble tea was a coconut watery version. Taiwanese style stir-fried noodle with pork happened to be tasty but the version without the high heat wok scorch, a tad too much oil and broken noodles caused some longing for the old lion in Chinatown. Pea pod shoots with garlic were bright green, garlic imbued and spot on. Crunchy fluffy scallion shot pancake roll with 5 spice roast beef was perhaps the best in town we’ve sampled. Taiwanese style fried dumplings were substantial with light cabbagey interiors but the lead on this item is the sauce, a complex soy elixir with spices shining thru. In fact all the dipping sauces including the black vinegar with ginger shards and bright red La Yu (辣油) hot oil are handled with tremendous care and designed to please many senses including the ears as the table conversation dims and those at hand tuck in.
JoJo minibuns are soup dumplings borrowed from Shanghai but these xiao long bao may be some of the best in town at least in the opinion of this longtime xialongbaohound. Rich delicate fillings with a flavorful yet not a greasy broth were steamed on banana leaf and there were no duds. I am pretty sure someone got one of mine.
Taiwanese 3 Cup Cuttlefish is the headline here; “Man bites Cuttlefish”. Never had the old Hakka dish perhaps better know as a Taiwanese signature. The “3 cup recipes” are simmerings of equal portions of Xiaoxing wine, dark soy and toasted sesame oil. Basil, ginger, garlic, scallion and chili are also involved. The cuttlefish bodies complete with internal cartilage and an inky taste of the sea (close to shore) were delicious with the concentrated low notes and bright Thai basil.
JoJo Taipei offers lots of dessert choices much to the thrill of the many families dining with small children. Mango Sa-Sa Bin sounded like the Ice Kachang of Singapore or the Cholado of Bogota, yet turned out more like fruit cup on snow cone with a little sorbet buried underneath. Daily specials and Taiwanese brunch with the twin crullers (豆漿+ 油條/doujiang youtiao) of Tai Pei are some great things to come back for, with a bigger crowd for more of this famous menu from Formosa.
JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134
Met a friend over at Brick & Mortar for a few aperitifs. Round about 6:15 on a schoolnite and the the tables are occupied, the bar about a third full (with noted boston bartenders), in other words, perfect storm to sit down for a few and watch the stirring and do some sipping. Lots of stirring. On paper, some of the cocktails seem a bit wacky to my tastes, too much going on, too far out there, but they all somehow worked. Well balanced, nuanced flavors that jammed.
Hopskipped it over to Mulan to find a dining room in the beginning stages of winding down, so it was basically point and shoot from the hip - minced pork stew over rice, s&p fried pork chops, pork/cabbage dumplings, fried pork intestines, braised pork shin, and eggplant basil ('one of these things is not...'). Despite us being the last table in the house, the kitchen was still firing on all eight. If you want to get your Taiwan fry-on, Mulan will serve you well - the pork chops, salty, crispy and just the right shade of greazy is as good as fried anything gets around here. Delicate dumplings, al dente eggplant, pork shinner always a winner. Awesome, soul-satifsying meal.
Trekking back over the river I get a call from a friend in from Chicago who's missed his last flight out so we meet up at Clio for a few digestifs. Before you know it, it's time for dinner #2. Where do you take a Chicagoan for dinner round midnight ? Good thing for that Taiwan multiple re-entry visa, we're hightailing down to the ol' lion, Taiwan Cafe. We've got the place to ourselves, along with Jimmy (owner?) and his band of boys. An order of XLBs is negotiated immediately upon arrival, along with fried stinky tofu w/ kimchi, a bowl of niou rou mian, pickled mustard greens with tripe, and rounds of Tsingtao tallboys. Everything is excellent (altho perhaps anything would be under these conditions), but the favourite is clearly the sauteed pickled greens with tripe that gets demolished in short order. NRM is a cozy bowl of brown beef broth (as opposed to the red spicy variant) and the noodles are suprisingly springy, unlike most of the mush encountered elsewhere, that I could almost forgive them for the steak-umms. Jimmy was in fine form (moreso than usual!). Things happened. Morning came too soon.
This is why you are the king! Awesome. You picked the bones of the old lion. Lion King! Now let's see what you can do with the dragon.
Recently five devoured 3 steamers of XLB, Taiwan mian, Fuzhou fishball (pork stuffed) soup, pea shoots in garlic and butter, eggplant, rolled scallion pancake with 5 spice beef, numerous tall Tsing Tao, Taiwan fried bao, and something I'm forgetting. The waitress kept whispering loudly in my ear, "too much food". EOL.