Situated at the Jinhua Street end of Yongkang Street, at first glance California Grill is a deceptively simple burger joint. From heavily laden burgers to well-dressed salads, the restaurant offers appealing fare for meat lovers and vegetarians alike.
The joint was a long time in the planning. Chef Brian Stoddart and his Californian partner, Wei Shum (沈維), had been considering opening a high quality Western-style grill for a couple of years when a rare space came up on Yongkang Street. With two other partners they aimed to create a restaurant that would stand out from Taipei's myriad western food options.
The burgers, even with a rather lean 10 percent fat, are juicy. Unlike their fast food counterparts, eating these burgers requires dexterity to keep them together towards the end as the juices and sauce mingle and soak into the buns, which are low in sugar and preservative-free and come in white or whole-wheat.
The Mofo burger is an almighty stack of freshly made patty (100 percent USDA beef), bacon, American cheddar cheese, garlic mayo, barbecue sauce, and salad served in a white bun. There is a chicken breast option and customized burgers are available on request.
A healthier sounding choice is the salmon burger, which consists of a fillet of sashimi grade Canadian freshwater salmon, grilled and served with pesto mayonnaise on a whole-wheat bun. For vegetarians, the tofu burger is prepared with a sesame and ginger glaze.
California Grill also offers a selection of three salads with homemade sauces. The So Cal comes with a surprisingly tangy and spicy yogurt dressing made from Swiss plain yogurt and a secret blend of spices, which juxtaposes unexpected flavors with the fresh orange slices. The Napa Valley comes served with freshly grilled chicken and a light white wine dressing.
Address: 53-1 Yongkang St, Taipei (台北市永康街53之1)
Telephone: (02) 2343 5111
Open: Monday through Friday from 11:30pm to 10:30pm;
Saturday 12pm to 10:30 and Sunday 12pm to 9pm
Average meal: NT$250
Details: Chinese and English menu available; no credit cards
From washing their veggies with Harvest Pure Wash to remove pesticide residue to sourcing non-farmed salmon and homemade tofu, California Grill certainly lives up to its namesake's reputation for enjoying the good times, but keeping an eye on health concerns.
California Grill's drinks include sodas (Dad's root beer), English ales from the Badger brewery and milk shakes. The milk shakes deserve a special mention. Firstly, they are thick and creamy (the milk shake machine was imported from the US), secondly because of the natural flavorings, and thirdly, starting this month there will be an option of adding Baileys and Kahlua.