Sat, May 11, 2019 - Page 13 News List

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Small kitchens, big flavors

Three eateries worth visiting for either a quick taco or Indian feast

By Davina Tham  /  Staff reporter

Last Sunday, customers queue up at El Sabroso Mexican Food for the Cinco de Mayo specials.

Photo: Davina Tham, Taipei Times

Living and working in a densely-populated city, Taipei’s denizens are always looking to make full use of the space available to them. When it comes to food, in particular, every nook and cranny is up for grabs.

Street corners become makeshift storefronts for roasted chestnuts, puffed rice and peanut candy. At lunchtime, office workers flock to roadside vendors who sprout up and disappear like weeds after a passing shower. And behind every night market stall is a thorough study in the most efficient use of space.

These three hole-in-the-wall eateries are no exception, churning out bombastic flavors from tiny kitchens. Despite modest sizes, all have permanent locations and provide seating. Run by migrant chefs, they offer appetizing glimpses into the cuisines of India, Mexico and Peru.

EL SABROSO MEXICAN FOOD

The exuberant decorations at El Sabroso, which includes a few psychedelic pinatas, are evenly matched only by the piquancy of its dishes. Tortillas are made fresh in-house, elevating each burrito, taco and quesadilla to its maximum potential.

There is a choice of six meat fillings — beef, chicken and pork, each cooked two ways — for most dishes. The quesadilla (NT$205 to NT$235) is served in four generous slices, with toothsome fillings encased in a golden-brown tortilla that gives a pleasant chew and nuttiness, unlike other, paler renditions.

Blue-corn tacos (NT$195), a Cinco de Mayo special, are compact shells bursting with flavor. Regular tacos are otherwise usually only available on Tuesdays. These pair well with the remarkably creamy guacamole (NT$65), refried beans (NT$30) and selection of salsas, none of which ran particularly hot for this reviewer.

Tamales (NT$95) are packed tight with a stuffing of spicy shredded pork. Quench any flames with the creamy horchata (NT$75) and tart tamarind juice (NT$65) — even more economical as part of a set meal.

Seasoned grilled corn, or elote (NT$120), were sold out when this reviewer dined there on a Sunday night, but beckon for another visit. Burritos (NT$125 to NT$235) are another customer-favorite that make the perfect takeaway meal if you happen to be passing through.

Space is truly at a premium here. The narrow floorspace fits only five indoor seats, but three tables on the walkway outside seat two to four. Despite specializing in food designed to be eaten with the hands, El Sabroso does not provide any wash sink for customers, so it’s best to come prepared with your own hand wipes.

EL SABROSO MEXICAN FOOD

Address: 107, Tingzhou Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市汀州路3段107號)

Telephone: (02) 2368-9599

Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 9pm

Average meal: NT$175 to NT$265

Details: Cash only; English and Chinese menu

On the Net: facebook.com/elsabrosomxfood

AMMA’S KITCHEN

Up a beat-up staircase and into a building that has seen better days, this eatery pulls away from its surroundings immediately with a bright blue door surrounded by twinkling fairy lights. Service is warm and enlivens the proceedings, while providing useful information about the food on offer.

Amma’s Kitchen specializes in South Indian fare, which is heavier on the rice, lentils and vegetables and lighter on the meat and dairy than North Indian cusine. The signature staple is dosa (NT$135 to NT$255), a large, crispy pancake made from a batter of fermented rice and lentils, eaten with a variety of fillings and sauces. Idli (NT$180 to NT$190) are a smaller, steamed, cake-like version.

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