Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Night Snack Buffet @ City Suites Gateway Hotel, Taipei, Taiwan

This trip to Taiwan, I am staying at City Suites Gateway Hotel which is located in close proximity to the Airport and hence, it takes about an hours drive into the city. The surrounding areas are mostly deserted with a few automobile workshops and one 7 Eleven Store. I truly wonder if that 7 Eleven store was catering specifically for the guests of this hotel. 

City Suites Gateway Hotel in Taipei

Various Buffet Hours
With that said, it was around 9 pm and I was hungry with no where else to go. I checked at the hotel and they told me that their restaurant only serves buffet and that the buffet dinner ends at 9 pm but the have something called Night Snack Buffet which starts at 9.30 pm and ends at 11.00 pm. Interesting, as this is the first time that I am hearing of a Night Snack Buffet. With no other available choice, I decided to wait for another half an hour to try out this Night Snack Buffet. This buffet is priced at NT$ 150 which equals to USD 5 which seemed like a very worthy price for a buffet. At 9.30 pm, I went to the first floor where the buffet was served. 

Restaurant on the First Floor

The Full Buffet Line Up

Various Steamed Buns

Soup & Porridge
On the first floor, there was a cashier counter where I had to pay the NT$ 150 and then I was allowed in to the dining area. I was the very first to arrive and the entire restaurant was empty. This was good because I was able to try all the dishes without interference. Well, to explain that further, within 15 minutes some tour group from China arrived and they were literally fighting for the food with people pushing each other around. There was even a time when I tried to take a Steamed Bun and I was poked with a fork from the back and pushed over. It was that bad. This is when I realised that the food is limited and it is not topped up. Above that, around 10.00 pm most of the food were unavailable but the hotel still accepted another bus load of Chinese tourists which I feel is not fair to them. They too are paying guests. So being early and behaving greedy are two very important survival skills in a buffet line in Taiwan. Understanding this, I took a portion of each offering in the first round and put them on my table for me to be able to eat them peacefully and also to be able to try all the dishes. Well, there wasn't too many varieties too, just thirteen in total and I shall review them individually in the lines to come. 

3 Tiers of Taro Bun and That Was It

Closer Look At The Taro Bun
Taro buns have become famous in recent years and it is good to see that this sweet root paste originating in Hawaii has been adopted well by the Chinese / Taiwanese too. This was typically Taro filled Bau's i.e. steamed buns. They only had three tiers of these buns available with an average of 13 small buns in a tray and that gives a total of 39 Bao's for the buffet line up tonight. With two bus loads of tourists and me, there were easily 50+ people for this buffet tonight and you only provide 39? I think that that is not justified. These buns were really tiny and they lacked moisture which is a sign that it may have been prepared much earlier as the dough was dry. The filling was good and it was made right. My thought is that these were frozen buns which were reheated or steamed just a short while before opening the buffet line. The Taro filling, though nice, was scanty and that gave a just doughy taste with every bite. A little disappointing I must say. I would rate this at 4/10 . 

Pork Buns

Close Up of the Pork Buns
Now, time to try the Pork Bao's. There were a total of seven trays with around 15 Bao's in each tray. Much better than the Taro Bao. It was evident, just like previously that these were frozen Bao's that were being reheated but this was much better. The Pork filling was much more lavish and that was satisfying though the taste was nowhere that I imagined that it would be. It tasted quite average and my rating for this Bao would just be 5.5 / 10 .

Custard Buns

Closer Look At The Custard Buns
The Custard Buns, though limited in number, were the best among todays offering of Bao's. Though this is not the best that I have tried, they were nice and fluffy with a decent filling that tasted good. Clearly factory made, it was still of an acceptable quality. I wish these guys actually tried the food in Malaysia and they would be mesmerised. I would rate this at 7/10 .

Spicy Minced Pork Innards
An interesting dish!!! This was a platter of highly spiced Minced  Pork Innards which comes with loads of Chilies and some vegetables.Something unique. This is the first time I am trying this dish and I liked it. I would rate this dish at 9/10 . The best dish so far!

Pork Ham and Potato Platter
Yes, that was the total portion size offered for tonight's buffet. This dish is a mixture of Pork Ham and Potato's and it was sauteed with Butter and spices and garnished with Olive Oil. I must say that it was relatively nice though I would have loved to have more of it, but I was just behaving more considerate bearing in mind that the total portion size was shrunk to half a plate. Nevertheless, the dish was delicious and I would rate this at 9/10 .

Stir Fried Cabbage
This dish was as good as the last two dishes. Though looking simple, it was stir fried with loads of Chillies and that gave it a spicy touch. The cabbage used were also fresh and not over cooked giving it a crispy experience with every bite. Definitely enjoyed it! I would rate this dish at 8.5/10 .

Steamed Fish
Does it not look pathetic that in a buffet line, the hotel only serves eight small fishes? I was fortunate that I was early and managed to get a full fish to myself. This was the first dish to clear when the first bus load of tourists arrived. It is Steamed Fish with Soy Sauce and sliced Ginger. I must say that it was not as great as it seems and could have been better. I would only rate this dish at 6/10 . A sheer let down!!!

Sweet Chinese Pastries
This was again served in limited amounts but they were quite nice. They were sugar coated and were prepared quite well. I have tried these before and I must say that the preparation here is quite good. I would rate these at 9.5/10 .

Steamed Salted Tofu
Initially I had thought that this was the Taiwanese Stinky Tofu but it was not. It is a unique preparation and this is the first time that I am trying this. They were Steamed Salted Tofu that tasted very much like cheese as you had them, only that the texture was much lighter. It can be too salty for some but I liked it and it was thrilling with every bite. I must say that this would be a must try item for food experimentalists. My rating for this would be 9/10 .

Pork Ham & Preserved Vegetable
This dish was quite average and was a let down. It was typically Pork Ham strips mixed with Pickled Vegetables. I would have expected much more from this dish. Even the vegetables were not preserved that long and these was an odd taste to it. I would only rate this at 3/10 .

Clear Chicken Soup with Radish
This was the only soup available for the night and it was nice though not extremely good. It had a slightly dull taste to it but that was adjusted by the lavish amount of black pepper and radish in the dish. I would rate this soup at 8.5/10 . Most people that came late unfortunately only got to taste this soup and the next item which was a rice porridge.

Plain Rice Porridge
The final dish for the night which wraps up this buffet line was the above Plain Rice Porridge. Obviously this is supposed to be taken with the Salted Tofu or Pickled Vegetable but on it's own, this porridge was just average. It was very lightly salted and there were no other ingredients added in to it. Would have been good even if there were some sliced ginger which would have improved the taste much better. My rating for this would be 7/10 .

On the whole, this was a rather average buffet line. For the price, it is worth it but for the quantity available, it's arguable. As said earlier, you have to be greedy, behave like a glut and be early to get the best out of this buffet line. If you come in later than 9.45 pm, then it does not seem worth at all. You would rather have a good meal in town and then come in to the hotel for the similar price paid. For me, this was a good experience which I would always remember. 

Address: 1st Floor, City Suites Gateway Hotel,
                No. 442, Zhongzheng East Road, Dayuan Township,
                Taoyuan County, Taipei, Taiwan.

Opening Hours: 2130 - 2300

Telephone: +886 3385 3017

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