Chinese Cookbook, an unpretentious local-style restaurant walking distance from Taipei 101, dishes up family-style dishes at a reasonable price. This restaurant stands out for several things, one of which is cleanliness. Unlike some family restaurants in Taipei, this restaurant is scrupulously clean. I watched as they diligently (and briskly!) cleaned tables between sittings – no sweeping things under the carpet here.
The service at Chinese Cookbook is also first-rate, and they go out of their way to welcome families. The first time we visited – without a reservation on a packed Friday night – the owner calmly rearranged seats to make room for an extra high chair for our son. (Nor did she flinch when he dropped rice on her clean floor.) We visited last Sunday (Mother’s Day), and while they were fully booked with cake-clutching families waiting patiently outside for the first round of patrons to finish, the owner still ensured everyone – including the two toddlers on our table – was treated as a valued guest. And the food was served quickly, despite the full house.
But what really makes Chinese Cookbook a great restaurant is the unexpected extra dishes. The meal starts off with a fresh and tangy complimentary cabbage salad topped with roasted peanuts.
And then the restaurant marks the end of the meal with a gift of toffee sweet potatoes. These are delicious: a thin, crispy toffee covering golden, pillowy sweet potato with sesame seeds. It is worth dining at Chinese Cookbook just for this.
Toffee sweet potatoes aside, my favorite dish is the golden seafood and tofu clay pot with crab eggs (number 4 on the poster wall chart). My fellow diners raved about the Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞, sān bēi jī ), which I found a little oily despite it being typical of the dish.
But we unanimously enjoyed the mapo doufu; while not authentic (no prickly ash), it was a mild-mannered rendition of the classic in a flavorsome sauce.
I also liked their beef with shallots.
Their fried eggplant with basil was a little oily, but as you can see from this picture, it disappeared quickly.
I enjoyed the Hakka-style fried celery stalks with dried squid and bean curd.
I don’t usually like fatty meat, but these boiled pork slices topped with cilantro were surprisingly good.
Chinese Cookbook (京宴小館) is walking distance from Taipei 101 at 194 Songren Road, Xinyi (信義區松仁路194號, Tel: 8789 2008), a five minute walk down from the Xinyi Road/Songren Road intersection (near Jasper Villa). The restaurant has menus in English and Chinese, and a poster on the wall to provide guidance for banquet choices.