One of the things I love best about Taipei is the unexpected and quirky micro-eateries. These are labours of love, places that might be no bigger than a family living room but that create an oasis of calm and space away from the frenetic (yet exciting) urban environment.
I am pleased to introduce a guest blog post from I-Chun Liu, a long-term Singaporean expat who enjoys exploring Taipei’s food scene. She pens letters to the Singapore press in her spare time on health, finance and social issues. And she has offered to share her review of Jiguang, one of her favourite places.
“It all started in a shop in Qingtian Street (青田街). A stack of lovely name cards of an eatery caught my eye and I asked the shop assistant what kind of food they served. “Oh, that’s hard to explain… the food there is very nice. Why don’t you try it out?” he replied.
Since I’m always on a look out for new eateries to explore, that’s exactly what I did last July, about 2 months after the cafe first opened for business.
Set up by two friends in their 30s, 吉光.小食(Jiguang Xiaoshi) is located near Dongmen 東門 MRT exit 3 (opposite the Mormon church and next to a pizzeria). It’s a cosy place that seats 12, with a long bar counter and eight high chairs plus a table at the far end that seats four.
If you follow the address printed on the name card, you may miss it because this tiny eatery of only 8-ping (285 sq ft) does not have a conventional sign board (read: 500 font size). A total of five shops and eateries share the same address, as the space has been divided up by the landlord.
Since discovering it, I’ve become a regular at Jiguang. The food is delicious (no MSG or other additives!), service is friendly and attentive, there’s a great collection of books and imported magazines from the US, Spain and Japan, the owners’ cat (貓店長) sometimes drops in to check on business, and there’s also free Wi-Fi!
The owners serve what they themselves like to eat, which explains why the menu is an eclectic mix of east and west.
On the set menu are dishes such as one of the restaurant’s most popular items, pork curry rice (curry sauce made from scratch using tomatoes and onion) with omelette and side vegetables, $180; delicious and wholesome meatballs (chicken, sundried tomato, mushroom, parsley) with rice, shredded lettuce and vegetable soup (to be poured over rice), $180; brunch (German sausage, egg omelette with cheese and herbs, salad and baguette/ciabatta), $180; and a very satisfying linguine with Norwegian smoked salmon in a Vodka-infused creamy tomato sauce, $240. All mains on the set menu (except chicken meatball rice) come with vegetable soup and caffeine-free Rooibos tea (warm or chilled).
Those who have a smaller appetite can order from the a la carte menu, which has salads (Caesar, oil and vinegar), $120; seasonal vegetable quiche with side salad (BEST I’ve tried in my seven years in Taipei! The pastry crust is nice and buttery while the filling is tender and moist), $140; therapeutic vegetable soup (I’ve tried their corn, pumpkin, sweet potato, minestrone and cauliflower and potato soups), $100; delicious vegetable quesadilla (roasted vegetables, cheese, pesto sauce), $100 for 1 slice of 4 pieces and $180 for 2 slices; amongst others.
The beverage section includes coffee (Guatemala Antigua La Flor, Mandheling-Brazil, Jamaica) with a complimentary almond biscotto, $130; black/milk tea, $130-$180; divine hot chocolate to die for made from Cacao Barry Saint Domingue 70% dark chocolate and lightly spiced with ginger, $160; seasonal fruit, mint and yogurt smoothie, $150; and beer (Hoegaarden and fruit beer), $150-$180.
Dessert on the current menu includes homemade yogurt with stewed fruits, $140; crepe with honey, 2 slices for $140; buttery alemon tart, $120; and a light and refreshing orange-yogurt butterless cake, $120 per (thick) slice.
Jiguang Eatery 吉光.小食 is indeed a gem of a find. I highly recommend it to all who enjoy good and healthy food. I go there at least twice a week and I don’t even live nearby!
Address: 1F-3, No. 7, Lane 85, Jinshan South Road Section 2 (I suggest following my directions using the landmarks mentioned earlier instead)
Tel: (02) 2321 1968
Open: 11.30am-9pm (Friday closed)”