Many places serve low-priced northern Chinese cuisine in Taipei, but Yuji Noodle House (餘記麵館) stands out. It hits that simple but elusive combination of good food, pleasant atmosphere and reasonable prices. At its old location on Siwei Road (四維路), Yuji ruled the roost — it was packed at both lunch and dinner nearly every day and had a comfortable outdoor seating area. Not quite the outdoor cafe in Melbourne, but it was a step up from the standard noodle shop.
Yuji moved down the street a few years ago so the outdoor area is gone, but fortunately the other changes are for the better. The new interior skips the old shop’s brick theme and goes with a modern, minimalist decor. Floor tiles are large squares in a dark-stone color, and small Chinese paper-cut pictures hang in black frames around the room. The tables and stools appear to be solid wood; in any case, they’re comfortable, so diners can concentrate on the food.
At many noodle and dumpling shops, cold dish appetizers (小菜) are an afterthought. Here they’re a must. The stuffed green peppers (青椒釀肉, NT$90), a Zhejiang (浙江) style dish, are roasted green chili peppers filled with pork. The peppers are hollowed out, which takes the edge off the spiciness. Other notable appetizers: deep-fried tofu skin wraps (腐皮捲, NT$40) and snow vegetable stir-fry with bean curd skin (雪菜百頁, NT$40). Menu choices accommodate both individuals and groups. One of my favorites is the fried-sauce noodles (炸醬麵, NT$60), dry noodles with sliced cucumber and bean sprouts topped with a sauce made of minced meat and dougan (豆乾). I was underwhelmed by the beef noodles (牛肉麵, NT$120): the broth is on the sweeter side and a little spicier than average. If you want spicy-hot, have the dan-dan noodles (擔擔麵, NT$60), thin noodles doused in chili and peanut sauce.
For dumplings, Yuji has the whole range: boiled, steamed, and fried. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but the beef pot stickers (牛肉鍋貼, NT$80) are definitely worth trying. They’re not too greasy, and the minced beef filling is not too chewy. The humble scallion pancakes (蔥油餅,NT$30) are fluffy and properly charred. Try them with the millet congee (小米粥 , NT$25) for a light meal.
To get to Yuji, walk on the left side of Dunhua South Road (敦化南路) from Heping East Road (和平東路). Turn at the second alley on your left, where you’ll see a small park, and then walk a half block. Yuji is on the left.