Sat, Sep 10, 2016 - Page 13 News List

Restaurant review: Toast Box 台灣土司工坊

By Dana Ter  /  Staff reporter

The Singapore laksa — rice vermicelli soaked in a coconut curry soup and mixed with fish cakes, bean curd puffs and shrimp.

Photo: Dana Ter, Taipei Times

Last week, a friend and I celebrated Malaysia’s Independence Day by getting ridiculously dressed up (ball gown and dress shirt) and eating at Toast Box — an idea he had from orchestrating a very fancy Valentine’s Day celebration at White Castle, a fast food joint in the US, a few years ago.

For nearly two years, I had been searching for a decent Malaysian restaurant in Taiwan, one with char kway teow, or stir-fried rice noodles, that would rival my grandma’s. Instead, I found plenty of bland and watered-down dishes that lacked the necessary herbs and spices — an insult, really, to the rich culinary tradition of the Malay peninsula from which my family hails.

That is, until Singaporean food chain Toast Box opened an outpost in Xinyi District (信義) earlier this summer. The interior is almost identical to the many Toast Box outlets in Singapore — a revamped version of the peninsula’s iconic 1960s coffee shops with antique rugs, tiled walls and decorative knick-knacks stacked atop wooden shelves.

For decades, the morning ritual in Singapore and Malaysia meant putting on slippers and heading to your local coffee shop for a buttery kaya (coconut jam) toast with teh tarik (pulled milk tea) or kopi o (sugary black coffee). This was the time to catch up and gossip with friends. Today, that concept hasn’t changed much, though breakfast is accompanied by the obligatory food picture retouched with a rustic filter.

We go for a breakfast staple, the traditional kaya toast set (NT$135), which comes with a hard-boiled egg and a choice of beverage. I choose the kopi o. The bread is brown and crisp, though it could have been a little more toasted. The best part is the thick slab of butter and kaya which melts in the mouth. The hard-boiled egg, though nicely done, is a little quizzical, as kaya toast is usually served with gooey, soupy soft-boiled egg for dipping. I quite fancied the kopi o, though, especially its aromatic and roasted scent and slightly sweet taste. But be warned: this set is tiny and will not suffice as an entire meal.

Toast Box 台灣土司工坊

Address: 18 Songshou Rd, Taipei City (台北市松壽路18號)

Telephone: (02) 2723-4749

Open: Sunday to Thursday from 8am to 11pm, Friday and Saturday from 8am to 11:30pm

Average meal: NT$150 to NT$250

Details: Menu in English and Chinese

On the Net:

The Singapore laksa (NT$230) — rice vermicelli soaked in a coconut curry soup and mixed with fish cakes, bean curd puffs and shrimp — is incredibly authentic. A blend of Chinese and Malay cuisines, the curry laksa was traditionally eaten by the Peranakans — descendants of 17th-century Chinese immigrants to the Malacca Strait. The coconut milk in the soup is highly discernible. Though I appreciated the creaminess and saltiness of the curry, it could have benefited from a little more sambal, or chili sauce. Other than that, the ingredients are quite spot on. The fish cakes and bean curd puffs are chewy, the shrimps adding a savory dimension. I would have liked some coriander garnishing, though, just to add more of an herbal flavor and also to give the dish some green, or perhaps a dash of lime would do.

We also sample the nasi biryani with chicken rendang (NT$250). The dish, which is a Malay rendition of the traditional Indian biryani (rice with meat and vegetables), is a flavorful mix of spicy and savory. The chicken skin is crisp and slightly burnt, the inside tender and chewy, while the sauce — a blend of coconut milk and ground spices including turmeric leaves and chili — is intensely aromatic and pairs well the turmeric rice. All of this is served with a side of acar, or pickled vegetables mixed with a spice paste and topped with sesame seeds and ground peanuts, which is sweet and savory at the same time.

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