Studio du Double-V is a bit of an Instagram playground. I respect a business that has marketing savvy and makes a good product, which Double-V does.
A friend suggested visiting after seeing the place tagged on Instagram (of course), so we stopped by on a sweltering hot day a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, no respite from the heat was to be found. The shop is essentially a counter with a small outdoor seating area. It’s tucked into the corner of what looks like a residential building on a residential street, but it’s easy to spot from the huge murals.
The menu features 9 flavors at a time, but I heard that nearly 100 flavors rotate through! That means there are plenty of interesting and unusual ones to try.
One cup costs $110 TWD and you can choose two flavors. I chose sour cherry and rosemary and orange, and JW chose cactus and orange and rosemary. JW also ordered a waffle (it is a side order, not combined with the ice cream).
Orange and rosemary was so good that both of us ordered it. I wouldn’t have thought that those two ingredients complement each other, but they do! The orange is only lightly tart, and the rosemary comes in at the finish, leaving behind a savory aroma. I thought the sour cherry and cactus were both too sweet, which made it hard to appreciate the flavors.
Everything sampled had a great smooth texture, no ice crystals to be found. Even properly textured ice cream can’t stand up to Taiwan’s summer heat, though. You have to eat it fast (and snap your Instagram photos) or you’ll end up drinking it.
Interesting flavors and the photogenic setting make this shop worth a visit. However, no indoor seating means sweating in the heat. Visiting at night might be a more comfortable experience.
Studio du Double-V
No. 3, Lane 85, Linsen North Rd.
Everybody knows that the best spots in Taipei are tucked away on the side streets.
Angel Gelato is on Lane 50 off Taishun Street, the main street running through Shida Night Market. Lane 50 is one of the quieter side streets, which is probably why this sign points the way:
Follow it to this small and tidy store. Behind the freezer the case, there is a small seating area with a loveseat and a wooden bench.
The available flavors were a mix classic gelato flavors with two season fruit flavors: walnut, pistachio, gianduja, vanilla, zabaione (a type of Italian wine custard), and pineapple and watermelon (these were actual gelatos, not sorbets). The 老闆 was generous with the samples, so we tried everything.
Pistachio was the stand-out flavor. It was a natural green color (no neon green coloring), mellow in flavor with tiny pistachio pieces. Unfortunately, there was only enough left for one of us to order it! The gianduja was excellent. The walnut was OK, but the artificial flavoring was a bit too strong. I thought the fruit flavors were a bit strange and better suited for sorbet, but overall not too bad. Every flavor had a smooth, creamy texture (no ice crystals!) without being super rich or super sweet. A good balance.
I’d like to come back in a couple of months to see if they will offer any new flavors. The texture of their gelato is above average, but some of the current flavors need some work (pistachio being the exception). The CP is high and I love that you can choose two flavors, plus the service was friendly. Try it after you’re done shopping in the night market!
No. 27, Lane 50, Taishun Street
Sometimes a Chinese name translated into English becomes not very name-like. For example: 好想吃冰 , or literally “I want ice so much.” As far as Chinese names go, it’s a pretty good one for an ice shop!
It’s obvious from the outside that this is a Japanese-style shop, and the tall windows and indoor lighting make it look warm and inviting. Inside, the decor is minimal and modern, with a few two- and four-top tables and a few low tables where you can sit on the floor. There’s also a room in the back with a large table (probably have to make a reservation to use it).
Dessert is undoubtedly the main draw, but they also serve rice bowls—all vegetarian. I actually didn’t know this until we opened the menu. I ordered a kimchi bowl and KT ordered a cheese bowl, both of which are built on tofu skin (豆皮). I don’t eat tofu skin, so I did not enjoy the food. If you think tofu skin is a good replacement for meat, your experience may be better. Each bowl comes with miso soup and costs $109 to $159 TWD.
I ordered the peanut shaved ice, which is Japanese-style (kakigori) so the ice is similar to an American-style snowcone, but softer. It’s piled high, drizzled with peanut syrup, dusted with peanut powder, and topped with a giant pillow of mochi. It’s eye-popping, for sure, but the flavor is not too strong or sweet due to the amount of ice. The mochi was super soft, and I love the visual effect of it hugging a big pile of ice, but it was actually very difficult to eat. I ended up pulling it off onto a plate to eat separately.
KT ordered the black sesame ice, which is even more eye-popping. It looks like a volcano, or a stalagmite. The ice is covered in black sesame powder, and a sprinkling of peanuts and scoop of black sesame ice cream rest at the base. It comes with a side of peanut syrup and hot barley tea. Like the peanut ice, the flavor is pretty light due to the amount of ice compared to the toppings.
I also ordered a soy powder dango, which is sweetened by a drizzle of black sugar syrup. If you don’t know what dango is, you’ve at least seen it in emoji form: ?. It’s mochi that is lightly grilled and served in triplets on a skewer. There are many possible flavors and toppings. It’s served warm, with a slightly crisp outer layer from grill contact.
The dango was my favorite item from this visit, and I wish I could have tried the other flavors. The shaved ice looks better than it tastes. Personally I like Taiwan-style ice (刨冰 and 雪花冰) better than kakigori. In 刨冰 the ice is similar to kakigori, but the toppings-to-ice ratio is greater. In 雪花冰 the ice itself is flavored and is much softer and smoother. Shaved ice costs around $130 to $180 TWD and one order of dango costs $60 TWD.
好想吃冰 would not be my first choice for shaved ice, unless I wanted something very light. However, I would return (ideally with a big group of friends) in order to try the other dango flavors, the other dessert items, and the onigiri. I would also try one one of the low sitting tables, because the backless wooden chairs are not comfortable for sitting longer than 15 minutes. The nice environment and friendly service make this shop a welcome, slightly upscale option in the Taida/Gongguan area.
No. 80, Wenzhou Street
Daan District, Taipei
There seems to be a fair number of beer stores in Taipei despite anecdotal evidence that Taiwanese people don’t much care about beer, especially craft beer. It’s easy enough to find Taiwan Beer on a restaurant menu, occasionally alongside one or two other virtually identical weak lagers. Even a lot of bars and bistros don’t necessarily offer a much better selection. I don’t allow myself to get too attached to any given beer store since I don’t know if they will be long for this beer-indifferent city.
I worry a little bit about Eleven Beer House, which is a small shop near 台大 that I’ve walked past countless times. It always seems quiet, which is a bit of a shame since the space is nice for casual hanging out. There is a tiny outdoor area which can seat a couple of people. Inside there is seating along one wall and several broad tables. The tables seem perfect for board games and cards, and could probably comfortably host a group of 4-8 people. You can even B.Y.O. food! We brought drinking snacks like popcorn, with the understanding of paying a 50 TWD cleaning fee (however, the boss waived the fee since he said we didn’t make a big mess—nice!). There was a chalkboard menu with food, but it seems like they actually are not offering food at this time.
There’s a friendly and very loud cat prowling around. Personally, I hate seeing cats roaming around in a business, especially when they hop up onto chairs and tables. It’s not sanitary! And the cat really tore up one area of the seating. But my companion was totally charmed.
The beer selection is small compared to other shops I’ve seen, but you can still find something suitable to your taste. There is a section of imports, which included Sierra Nevada (U.S.), Tuatara (New Zealand), Brewlander (Cambodia), Toøl (Denmark), and a few others. The domestic section included Jim and Dad’s, 55th Street, Taiwan Head Brewers, etc. Some kind of IPA from Jim and Dad’s was on tap (there is just one tap). The bottle and draft selections rotate all the time.
This shop has potential to be a nice place to regularly chill with friends. It just needs a little more attention to detail where the environment is concerned, and some marketing savvy. That being said, I’d go back in a few months… as long as it’s still there.
Eleven Beer House
Taipei City, Daan District
I ran across the Hug Cafe while doing one of my very favorite things: walking around the streets aimlessly. It’s a hobby that’s served me well in Taipei because there are a million small alleys that branch off the larger roads. They tend to be residential but it’s not at all uncommon to find a lode of food/market vendors or a cute cafe. Hug Cafe is tucked away on a short lane right off the very busy Yongzhen Street (永真路), near Baersanpaozhan Park (八二三紀念公園). It’s hard to see the cafe itself from Yongzhen Street except for the small but bright white sign.
The facade of the cafe is glass and there’s a small front porch area with a bench. It makes me a little sad that the place is in an alley that doesn’t allow much sunlight to shine in. Instead, the front porch is mostly for customers to take a smoke break. And a place for the resident cat (not pictured) to chill.
Inside you can seat yourself if a table is open. There are a good number of two-tops, a short bar, and a couch area that seats about four people. I tend to go on weekday afternoons (~2 p.m.) and late evenings (~7 p.m.), and early evenings (~4 p.m.) on the weekend. There have always been open tables during those times, but the one time I went around noon on a weekend, the place was packed with a long waiting list. Brunch time should be avoided if you’re wanting to study or work. Any other time there’s the right amount of other people to enjoy “being alone together.”
Hug Cafe is my favorite place in Yonghe District to study and work. There’s free wi-fi, plug outlets, and as far as I can tell, no time limit on tables (obviously you should be courteous and not camp out for hours if there are people waiting to be seated). It’s not too loud or too quiet. I even like the music playing on the speakers most of the time—English/Chinese/Japanese pop punk and indie rock. There’s a Radiohead poster in the bathroom and a little bookshelf with what looks like Chinese-language indie band CDs for sale, so I’m guessing the owner has cool taste ?. They must be into toys too, because tons of them are hanging out on the counter.
The service has always been polite and the right amount of attentive. I love that they offer a basket to set your things in. I’ve been to several cafes in Taiwan that do this and I think American cafes/restaurants should take note. It’s a small thing that makes a big statement about your hospitality and a huge improvement in customer comfort and convenience. In the dead of winter earlier this year, Gothamist rightfully railed against “winterspreading,” but New York businesses need to do better a job than a hook or two on the wall. I understand that space is tight, but I’m not asking for a damn coat/bag check. A wicker basket under the table or chair will do!
The Hug Cafe menu features coffee and espresso drinks, tea, milks, juice, and some small dishes. The coffee is good; the espresso drinks are decent. In the U.S., I would think the barista doesn’t know their craft if they gave me a cappuccino with as much foam as the drink pictured below has, but I’m starting to think that Taiwanese people simply prefer a lot of milk foam on their espresso drinks. This foam was the smooth, melting, micro-bubble foam that is the hallmark of a quality cappuccino, not the nasty stiff unmixable foam of lousy Starbucks cappuccinos. There was just a lot of it.
The milk tea is house-made, and I continue to prefer the stronger flavor of powder-mix milk tea like that of CoCo. It’s the same way I felt about house-made chai in the U.S.—I appreciate the effort, but the pre-packaged mix/concentrate will always have a stronger flavor. The Japanese matcha milk, though, I really enjoyed. I hadn’t expected it to have milk foam art, so when the server set it in front of me I about died of delight. This drink made me smile like an idiot.
I haven’t tried any of the light meals yet. Waffles, sandwiches, and some rather random hot dishes (Mexican chicken, New Orleans wings—what?) can be had for 140-250NT. I’m kind of skeptical about the hot dishes, but I’ve seen the waffles and they look and smell really good.
Hug Cafe is exactly the type of coffee shop I hope to stumble upon when I’m wandering around a neighborhood. Now I’m there almost every week. I definitely recommend it as a place to study/work, read, or hang out over cute milk foam art.
It only took me exactly one month to finally go to a night market, and like many delightful evenings, it started off with a quest for shoes. Night markets attract lots of other stores outside of their designated streets, so I happened to be in the area to pick up some everyday kicks that Taipei’s rain will inevitably destroy. I would have looked for beaters within the actual market except none of those Asian mystery brand shoes will fit my gigantic American feet. I’m 100% serious. Sizes top out at one size below what I wear, so I’m stuck with Nikes, Vans, and other American brands as long as I call Taiwan home. Things could be worse.
Nearby was the Le Hua Night Market, which as far as I can tell is the only night market in Yonghe District. How lucky that it’s only a 10 minute walk from my apartment!
It was raining a little and only 6 p.m., so it wasn’t too crowded—exactly how I prefer it so there are fewer people staring when I take 15 minutes to type menus into an app on my phone and then order in broken Chinese. The language barrier makes any kind of self-serve situation really appealing because I don’t have to talk to anyone. But I think I was also drawn to this candy store because of the visual appeal of a big pile of candy:
Lots of fruit jellies and milk candies. I picked maybe 20 different varieties weighing around a quarter pound. It cost 55 NT (~$1.50).
I had jiǎozi (餃子; dumplings) for dinner because they’re easy to order. There are lots of stands that have foodstuffs on display, and I guess you’re supposed to choose what you want cooked. But I can’t tell what a lot of the foods are and how they’re prepared, so I’m going to hold off on trying any of those until I’m accompanied by a native.
The shaved ice stand, though, méiwèntí (沒問題; no problem). There are two shaved ice stands in Le Hua, so I will try the other one another time.
I ordered a mango shaved ice and tried to say “no milk,” but the lady topped it with sweetened condensed milk anyway. Like bubble tea, I think it was something that I actually liked all along.
It also had a mango syrup (very good) and a comically weak smattering of sprinkles. Of course this is not half as rich, creamy, sweet as the American ice cream I know and love and am no longer seeing (see the this post’s footnote). But I shouldn’t compare because they’re wholly different things. i.e., shaved ice is not ersatz ice cream. Taiwan’s take on cold+sweet+creamy dessert is light in texture and sweetness, which matches fruit flavors and flavors like green tea and red bean. These are flavors that don’t need to be delivered via tongue-coating fat.
Food is the main draw, but you can also find clothing, shoes, jewelry, home goods, and toys at the night market. While I can’t fit the shoes, I can fit the clothes. But most of it isn’t really my style. Let’s just say that from my American perspective, most of the women’s clothing strikes me as ultra girly and excessively kěài (可爱; cute). OR, it features hilarious Engrish:
I couldn’t stop laughing while I was browsing the racks. Is this how Chinese people feel when non-Chinese people use Chinese characters for tattoos and other decorations? Engrish isn’t new to me but it never fails to amuse.