THE PLACE: My husband and I like to think we’re adventurous eaters. I’ve tried tripe and fried grasshoppers, and he’ll order bone marrow almost anytime he sees it on a menu.
We’ve found great Thai, Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Italian in Reno. We were surprised we’d never had Taiwanese before, here or elsewhere. On the short drive from work to 101 Taiwanese Cuisine, just west of downtown, we wonder how different it will be from our go-to Chinese places.
We find many of the same elements — pork, chicken, tofu, won tons and rice noodles — on the menu. But there are surprises, too: a Taiwanese hamburger section, a pork pot roast and savory pancakes.
THE LOOK: About a dozen dark tables and comfortable seats fill a long, narrow space. Additional seating faces the front window or looks into the open kitchen. A full-service bubble tea (or boba milk tea) bar fits nicely in the right rear of the restaurant, opposite the kitchen, for those who want tasty sweet treats that come with tapioca balls.
It’s busy for a Wednesday night. A group three of young guys each hug large, steaming bowls of Taiwanese soup — more on that later — and a few folks pick up to-go orders.
THE MEAL: I’m a sucker for fried tofu ($3.99), and it doesn’t disappoint as an appetizer. The batter is light in color and texture, creating a nice crunch on the outside. I could never make this at home, I think, as I reach for another.
For dinner we share two items: the popcorn chicken appetizer ($5.29) and braised beef — it comes apart easily — atop rice noodles ($7.29) from the Taiwanese Gourmet section of the menu. Pickled radish and a small portion of cabbage and chicken round out this dish.
The popcorn chicken, like the tofu, is fried in a light batter. I add some Taiwanese spicy sauce and it’s perfect.
KUDOS: The braised beef, along with more than a dozen additional items from the gourmet section of the menu, can be ordered with rice, noodles, rice noodles, or as a plain or noodle soup. That flexibility earns high points in my book.
And even with two appetizers and a main course, we eat leftovers for a full meal at home the next day.
Another surprise is the complimentary seaweed egg drop soup delivered after we order our entrée and appetizers. On a 2 for $20 budget, that adds even more value to our meal.
QUIBBLES: I’m a big fan of spice, but there isn’t enough for my palate, so I kick up the rice noodles and the chicken with some hot sauce.
ALTERNATIVES: There is just one item on the menu that wouldn’t fit the 2 for $20 budget, and that’s the spicy chicken with basil. All of the seafood offerings (shrimp and squid), beef dishes and even the Taiwanese specialties fall within the budget. Most leave enough wiggle room for a bubble tea with your meal.
RETURN TRIP?: 101 Taiwanese Cuisine doesn’t feel like a takeout place, but I find myself happily thinking of a stop here on the way home for some warm soup as the winter sets in.