The chefs at Taipei bridge the gap between two of Asia’s superpowers, plating Chinese favorites from Taipei duck to general tso’s chicken alongside delicately rolled Japanese sushi specialties. Although their menu is built upon a pair of thousand-year-old culinary traditions, they also understand the value of a speedy bite; each day, they arrange a selection of favorites such as the moo goo gai pan into fast, tasty lunches paired rice, egg rolls, soup, and your own personal fast-forward button.
Red Tea House peppers palates with an amalgam of Asian flavors with a menu of Chinese specialties and freshly bundled sushi options. While skilled maki chefs manipulate scallops, salmon, and yellowtail into intricate rolls, diners wrap their own morsels of classic peking duck and mu-shu pork in delicate, steaming crepes. Seven days a week, patrons can stop in for a dumpling appetizer, or savor Asian fare at home with complimentary delivery in order to effectively discipline a misbehaving wok.
Most chefs get stage fright when customers are watching, but the fearless artisans at Ichiban Hibachi Steakhouse & Sushi Bar concoct intricate Japanese dishes in plain view—either at tableside grills or just behind the sushi bar proper. Their collection of specialty maki exudes creativity and playfulness, from the deep-fried Godzilla roll with tuna, salmon, white fish, and crab meat to the Rainbow roll with fresh fish, avocado, and two wishes. Complete hibachi dinners satisfy hearty appetites and short attention spans with a choice of protein alongside soup, salad, vegetable, rice, and noodles—all prepared amusingly right at the table. Each location sports sleek and modern décor with accents such as bamboo walls or a back-lit bar glowing in chic blue or red tones.
The two locations have slight variations in their menu offerings, but both feature a wide assortment of Pan-Asian cuisine, including dim sum, sushi, noodle dishes, and drinks. For family-style fun, share small dim sum plates while conversing using only dialogue from Disney cartoons. Select steamed barbecue pork buns ($6) and hope that your fellow plate passers order the sweet sesame seed balls ($5). Enjoy Arbor Day any day by grabbing a rainforest roll with cucumber, avocado, and shiitake ($5), or the bonzai roll with asparagus, avocado, and mango salsa ($5). For a heartier bite, hang a fang on kung pao chicken ($16) or kung pao New York strip steak ($25), either of which comes topped with peanuts and chili peppers.
The authentic menu features dishes that heap on the spice without overwhelming the subtle interplay of textures and flavors for which the culinary culture of Thailand is known. Although there are many dishes designed to set palates ablaze, Bangkok Balcony also offers a multitude of milder bites. Ignite the meal with an appetizer of mussels and fresh basil in hot garlic sauce ($9) or a more-sweet-than-sassy steamed pork-and-shrimp dumpling ($8). Season your stomach with curried plates such as pineapple curry with your choice of meat, green peas, and coconut milk ($14) or an oodle of see-you noodles with broccoli and egg ($13). Stick to the ground level of the food chain with one of many vegetarian delights, such as the tofu platter with deep-fried tofu stir-fried with carrots, broccoli, and onions in a roasted curry paste ($14).
Pho Van's large kitchen conjures a menu packed with authentic Vietnamese noodle soups, appetizers, and family-style meals. A starter of banh bot loc, pork- and shrimp-filled Vietnamese dumplings wrapped in banana leaves ($5), or cha gio, crispy rolls served with a chili-garlic dipping sauce ($4) sets palates to their spicy-jungle settings in time for a bowl of pho ($7–$9), a Vietnamese staple that lets a range of beef, rice noodles, earthy basil, and tangy lime go skinny-dipping in a pool of made-from-scratch beef stock. Those who eschew broth will prefer to mouth surf the goi du du, a salty band of shrimp or beef jerky atop a bed of shredded green papaya and tucked under blankets of crushed peanuts and mint ($4). Fresh coconut juice ($3) helps soothe spice-stung throats, and the fruit smoothies with black tapioca pearls come in three refreshing flavors: avocado, jack fruit, and durian ($4 all). A custard dessert of banh flan ($4) adorned with fried bananas and coconut milk finishes the feast on a sweet note, unlike the shockingly gory original ending to The Sound of Music. Pho Van's BYOB policy and convenient location make it an apropos backdrop for a spicy night of revelry, a quick lunch, or a first date with a mannequin-come-to-life.