27 July 2008

Travel: Taipei - Drinks

I had heard that the Taiwanese enjoyed their beer. So, I wanted to find out. I had read in an article that the Taiwanese beerhouse was what a pub is to the British, but the descriptions in the article sounded more like a German, Hofbrau House environment: rowdy, communal tables, inexpensive beer. Before the night market on Saturday, I headed to the Jurassic Beerhouse, a Taipei institution that had previously been know as the Indian Beerhouse, as in American Indian (or Red Indian, as known in Taiwan). The place is massive - apparently it can seat 1,000 people on four floors. I went to the crowded second floor (the only one open at 7pm) for a beer and a quick bite (beerhouses normally serve the types of snacks you would find at night markets). The place was bizarre! I was seated at a table under the ribcage of a dinosaur. In fact, the entire room sat under a canopy of dinosaur skeletons (thus, the Jurassic name). This was mixed with an American Indian motif, with pictures of Indian chiefs and artifacts adorning the walls, and the kegs. Mini-kegs, actually. These little wooden barrels were placed tableside, and you would just refill from the little spout. And on the sides of each one was a picture (carving) of an Indian chief. Even the waitresses wore aprons with Indian pictures, and some were in fringe boots. Just like in the Wild, Wild West.

I was the only single in the place (in fact, most tables were 6 to 8 people), so I opted for a bottle of the local beer, "Gold Medal Taiwan Beer - Distinctive Flavor Lager Beer." No kidding. Actually, it was pretty tasty, and a nice refresher after a day of walking in the city. I also had a quick snack - fried frog legs. These were very tasty! They're not much different in taste than chicken. And they were big! Lots more meat than chicken feet.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Jolly, a micro-brewery just down the street from my hotel. (Hooters was near my hotel, and I did go in once during my trip, just so I could say I have been to the two Asian locations of the chain - there and in Singapore.)

But, before I got to Jolly, however, I took one last tour of the city. The sky was a gloomy gray as I wandered through Daan Forest Park and around the NTNU area, which included a visit to an art store where I was accosted by the meanest sounding, fluffiest and lovey-dovey poodle I had seen in years. My real goal for this last tour, however, was a bowl of bitter tea. My guidebook included a special entry describing "kucha", a bitter tea which has a cool (yin) essence (rather than a hot essence - yang), meaning it is good for warm weather. I don't fully comprehend the heating/cooling food concept over here, but I do like bitter drinks. And, if it is in the guidebook, you know I am fixated. So much so that I walked back and forth through the rain (which of course meant it wasn't particularly warm at the time) until I found what I believe to be the House of Bitter Tea, an open air teahouse on the corner of two busy streets. How could I know for sure, however? The teahouse was adorned in Taiwanese characters, and the employees spoke no English. But, it was at the intersection of the streets mentioned in the guidebook.

Thank goodness the menu had pictures. I just pointed to the bowl of bitter tea (matching it with the picture in the guidebook). And I got a bitter tea. It is dark brown and cloudy, served with little pellets that I found out were essentially sugar pills to offset the bitterness of the drink. But, it was very good, and it was fun to experience a restaurant that seemed authentically local.

Back to Jolly: as opposed to Jurassic, it is a smaller, well-appointed space serving a number of its own brews. So, after checking out of the hotel, I had a flight before my flight out. It was just before 2pm, so the lunch crowd was gone and the restaurant was just closing up for the afternoon (it re-opens for dinner). I had the place all to myself, and I got a nice overview of the restaurant and its brews from the bartender, and even a taste of the Scotch Ale on the house. My flight consisted of a Pilsener, IPA, Weizen, and Stout. I can attest that - at least in this one place in Taipei - the Taiwanese know what they are doing on the microbrewery front. With a soft rain falling outside, I couldn't think of a better way to end my trip. I was off to the HSR and then an evening flight back to Singapore.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like Milos -