Taipei Chef is an unassuming hole-in-the-wall joint in Atarmon, the last place we would think of looking for a Taiwanese feed. Inside it's bright and cheery, so too is the super lovely smiley boss lady, who somehow remembers us even though our visits have been weeks apart.
We are big fans of Taiwanese food and Taipei Chef is different enough to warrant making a special trip across town for. The chef has a nice touch and the dishes lean more towards restaurant style\quality than the albeit excellent Taiwanese joints in Chinatown, which cater more for the student crowd. We've been three times at the time of writing and plan to go more, heaps more.
Taiwan style smoked chicken $12. This is the most amazing chicken dish we've eaten in a long time. The smell of the smoke hits as soon as the plate is set down in front of you. The moist chicken pieces and well browned skin hit your taste buds while a satisfying mmmmmm involuntarily slowly seeps out. If the people at the next table can't hear your sounds of satisfaction there's something wrong.
The boss lady tells us they make only fifteen of these per day, so it's best to get in for an early lunch, on our visits we have seen this dish on nearly every table. Many couples order this dish paired with fried rice or fried noodles..
Kong Bao (soy paste with dried chili) with Q eggs - $17. Salted eggs fried up with peanuts, shallots, roasted chili and fresh chili. The salted eggs are fried whole and are far less eggy than we expected, the googies give a nice substance to the dish without overpowering.
A special from the wall - deep fried mushrooms with five spice - $10. Crisp basil leaves make the five spice take a little flavour backseat, while the batter coating the quarters of mushrooms is tempura like in its lighter texture.
Deep fried sweet potato with plum powder - $4. Sweet and salty with a slight sour note from the plum powder. Crisp on the outside and gooey in the middle. The flavour reminded Shawn of cinnamon donuts.
Calamari rolls with salted egg and seaweed - $10. Deep fried calamari & egg- about $10. The chef's own creation: light, crisp, fishy, different. Not amazing but fun to try.
Taiwanese style sticky rice from an on the wall special $6 - dried mushrooms and tiny dried prawns are studded throughout a patty of sticky rice. Served with a tangy tomato sauce.
Fishball noodle soup, only $4 extra if you order the sticky rice. A peppery broth and not too bouncy to the bite fish balls.
Taiwanese pork mince on rice $6. Quite a different flavour to others we have tried, our guess was that it has some roasted garlic for oomph. This is another popular dish we saw at a lot of tables.
Taiwanese style dan dan noodle soup - about $10. We were expecting a hot and spicy broth but it's clean and simple. It is flecked with minced pork and jazzed up with a googie egg and a couple of prawns.
Mr Shawn accidently orders the Taiwanese Broth noodle soup - about $10 (he meant to order the beef noodle soup as today is the first day of the 2013 Taipei International Beef Noodle Festival). It is kind of like a loh mee, a thick, plain soup with a bit of everything inside: egg, noodles, mushrooms, pork, fish balls, whatever.
Taipei Chef is at 1A Broughton Rd Artarmon, Ph 9419 7719. It's on the other side of the station to the Japanese noodle joints. Get there early for the smoked chicken. We arrived at 12.30 one Saturday and the place was full, but tables turn over kind of quickly. They also do lunch specials Tuesday to Friday (Closed Monday).