Forget New York, Taipei is the city that never sleeps. But it can be a challenge to find any kind of Chinese cuisine at a sit-down restaurant after 8:30pm. The dim sum at Citystar 24HR HK Style Restaurant (京星港式飲茶) on Zhongxiao East Road and its affiliates across the city, Luckstar and Naturestar, offer an alternative to night markets for people with offbeat feeding schedules.
Citystar’s offerings won’t exactly make your taste buds quaver in awe, but the restaurant’s selection, which covers two menus, is huge, and the prices are reasonable. We ordered pork and shrimp dumplings with fish roe (魚子燒賣星, NT$85), poached whole prawns (白灼生中蝦, NT$300), Szechuan stir-fried chicken (川椒爆雞球, NT$260), steamed shrimp wrapped in rice noodles (鮮蝦仁腸粉, NT$110) and mantou filled with sweet sesame paste (流沙麻茸包, NT$90).
Out of our two selections that had been made or flavored with shrimp, the pork and shrimp dumplings were, interestingly enough, the shrimpiest in taste. The pork’s own flavor was barely evident, which wasn’t a bad thing. Meanwhile, the number of whole shrimp in the rice noodles was a pleasant surprise — each bite that we took of the tender white sheets of pasta had a plump crustacean or two waiting in it, which made the NT$110 price seem extremely reasonable.
The poached whole prawns and Szechuan stir-fried chicken were both selected from Citystar’s second menu, which lists roast meats, casseroles and other non-dim sum dishes. The Chinese name for the chicken literally translates as “Szechuan pepper exploding chicken balls,” but it was a complete misnomer, as the chicken was neither shaped into balls nor exploding with peppery flavor. The meat was liberally coated in brown sauce, but despite the presence of four or five pieces of chopped chili pepper, the dish was not spicy at all. The poached whole prawns, however, were cooked just right: the heads were still filled with juicy prawn goodness, which was a delight to suck out. On the other hand, the NT$300 price seemed excessive for the portion that we got, especially considering how inexpensive other seafood dishes on Citystar’s menu are.
Address: 2F, 166 Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市忠孝東路四段166號二樓)
Telephone: (02) 2777-2625 Open: 24 hours a day
Average meal: NT$350; minimum charge of NT$160 per diner
Details: Chinese menu only; credit cards accepted
On the Net: www.citystar.com.tw
Our favorite dish was the delicious mantou stuffed with luxuriously gooey sesame paste. The mantou was soft and warm, a perfect contrast to the very sweet, nutty, golden sesame filling inside. I was dreaming of the mantou for hours afterwards and it would have made a wonderful end to our meal, but we also decided to order a mango pudding (香芒果布丁, NT$85), the traditional dim sum dessert. The custard-like pudding was liberally drizzled in condensed milk, which drowned most of whatever mango flavor there was. The dessert’s blandness, however, meant that it worked well as a palate cleanser after our shrimp and prawns.