Check-In Taipei interior
The Mind-blowing stuff: If you, like me, get a weird thrill from poking Onsen eggs just to watch the yoke lava burst from the thin pocket and crawl into every crevice of the layer beneath, Check-In Taipei is the restaurant for you with signature dishes ranging from mushroom forest (a panoply of four types of mushrooms capped with an Onsen egg) to C.I.T. (short for the restaurant name) noodles, which is a pasta-form of the traditional Taiwanese braised pork rice with, you guessed it, an Onsen egg.
The real stuff: Started by a bunch of young Chinese-Vancouverites who miss the Taiwan street-food scene a little too much, Check-In Taipei puts a gourmet spin to local delicacies minus the stall-hopping: and for the suspicious people who just can’t bring themselves to believe that guilty pleasures like heavily-battered chicken or oyster cakes can be glamourised, you must still appreciate their plating, ingredients, and who can forget, imagination. Beef shank rolls in Taipei markets, for example, are often dry and get a bit boring after the third bite. Here, they’re reinterpreted to a two-bite canapé seasoned with herbs, fruit peels, Sichuan pepper and topped with a juicy quail egg with spring onions sprinkled on top. Oyster pancakes on the streets, on the other hand, are always a daring guessing game of whether the seafood is cooked and if there’s any at all in the wad of paper-wrapped fried dough. The reincarnated version here is a palm-sized croquette of a crispy wall sandwiching mouthfuls of fresh oysters —the kind that is free of the metallic tang —garnished with strands of egg. More interestingly, the croquettes are paired with a creamy yet thin oyster soup to wash down the teeth-seeping bits of batter.
The drinks: Though Check-In Taipei borrows from three cultures, tapas, croquettes and traditional Taiwanese cuisine all require a good drink in the hand. Healthier options flown straight from the land of bubble tea are concoctions made with cane sugars, ai-yu jellies, green teas, melon teas, egg puddings and winter melons; while the naughtier foodies can opt for signature cocktails devised from Taiwanese tea liquors and married with mochis and tofu-inspired desserts for a final sweet tooth kick.
Winter melon pudding slush
The inside: Though home of Michelin-star chef Leung Nga Fong (who’s worked magic at places like L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Amber) as well as Taiwanese “drink architect” Shin Chiu, Check-In Taipei espouses a very unassuming aura in the corner of Cochrane Road and Hollywood Road —an unspoken best-kept secret for quick bites. So it’d make sense for the Taiwanese hub to have a take-out window for those on the go —a final flavour built in reminiscent of the Taiwan street-food culture.
27 Hollywood Road, Central, 2351 2622, By Joyce Yip