Ali Shan Taiwanese

Ali Shan is another one of those places I’ve walked by many times on my way into Crystal Court. I’ll pause awhile, peruse the colorful array of food photos, and keep on going. Finally, after many months, I stopped in for a quick lunch.

This is a small, comfortable and welcoming room that fills up fast over the lunch hour. It’s located on the south side of the mall, across from the library, right next to the entrance to the parkade from hell. Here’s a tip for whenever you want to hit Crystal Court…grab a spot at Station Square. It’s a short walk and it’s free. You will, however, miss the never-ending entertainment of circular parking.

***Since I started writing this (yesterday), Ali Shan has closed this location and moved shop around the corner. They are now two doors down from Green Bamboo, a big-time favorite of mine! The new store hasn’t yet opened. A server told me they plan on opening sometime in May.

This post is a compilation of three visits. The first two were solo scouting missions, the third one I dragged in Becky & The Gut for a table-filling chowdown.

Ali Shan’s menu consists mainly of cafe-style Taiwanese with a few hints of Korean and Japanese.

Dang. Too many good options. Being in the mood for something spicy (as usual) but not soup-wise, it took awhile to choose. Luckily, there was a big poster displaying the ”Spicy Stired Beef with Rice Cake”. Sounds good to me!

At first glance, I was just a bit worried. The tubes of rice cake looked to be on the hefty side. Turns out they weren’t at all…fantastic these were! Rather light, actually. They picked up the sweet and spicy sauce beautifully. A great plate, this.

Whilst enjoying this dish, I thought to myself, ”This seems very Korean.”  Turns out this is Tteokbokki,  a popular Korean snack.

I’d heard good things about the Beef Noodle Soup here at Ali Shan. Even better, there’s a Spicy Beef Noodle Soup on offer! With a choice of thick or thin noodles, I went with the thick version. Bit of a mistake…not quite al dente, these. When they hit the soup they got a bit too soft. Other than that minor complaint, this is a very good bowl. Lots of tender, fatty brisket and crunchy bok choy. The rich, deep and spicy broth was top-notch…brimming with flavor.

Along with the soup I grabbed an order of Deep Fried Chicken Nuggets. A bit different, these were…at least from ones I’ve tried at other Taiwanese restaurants. They’re quite soft…I can’t really figure out what they’re battered with. The server tells me the dusting of powder is made from sweet potato. It’s an interesting flavor…almost like clove and/or cinnamon. A dunk in the soup worked very well.

Upon the third visit, it was time to dig in. As the boys were running late, I got the go-ahead to start ordering. Alrighty then! Time to load up the table!

We started with a trio off of the Appetizer menu…

First up, Deep Fried Tofu with Five Flavours Sauce. Yes, these may seem a touch plain…that’s tofu. But this is all about texture and adding flavours.

Not sure what all the ”five flavours” are, but I’m guessin’ garlic, chili oil, cilantro, fermented bean and ketchup. Whatever it is, it’s one helluva combo. Please put this in bottles and onto grocery shelves. Soon.

Labelled on the menu, simply, as Dumplings, we weren’t too sure which sort we’d get. Experience tells me that’s a good thing. It gives them a chance to switch up their content once in awhile without changing the menu. Today’s dumplings were the Pork & Scallion variety.

For a small kitchen, single-server operation, I’m beginning to be surprised at the quality of food and service we’re getting. Not too used to that specific combo in these settings.

Another well-above-par item here is the Chinese Pan Cake with Green Onion and Egg. A good deal at three bucks.

This is a very well made dish. A light and crispy coat surrounds perfectly cooked egg and sweet onion. With a buttery baguette, this would be a great breakfast.

The Japanese Style Fried Rice Omelette would also make for a darn good brekkie. Rice is lightly fried, hit with mild curry, veg, smoky pork and then wrapped in a thin blanket of egg. Good stuff, large portion. Same goes for the Curry Rice Noodles.

Just a great plate of noodles here. A good amount of thin, tender beef with a whack of crunchy veg. Again, the curry is understated as it’s a Taiwanese version. Not overly loaded with sodium, very tasty.

When I asked for a recommendation, our server suggested the Taiwanese Style Fried Noodle as it was his favorite. I can see why. It’s pretty much the ”kitchen sink” of noodle dishes. Prawn, octopus, squid, egg and even some beef…it’s all here. Another bunch of fresh veg, firm noodles all slathered in a garlicky soy.

I’m glad I got to catch Ali Shan at their original location for a few visits. It was a pleasant little room…very comfortable. Good to see they are moving on to bigger and better things. Hopefully they can retain the friendly ambiance in the new venue. As long as the food is this good, it really doesn’t matter where they are. My only problem is choosing between them and Green Bamboo for a guaranteed great lunch. Oh, what a dilemma!

Ali Shan Taiwanese (Crystal Mall) on Urbanspoon

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4 responses

  1. chowtimes

    Hi Karl: Coindidentally, I wrote about Alisan today. The new place does not seems to have much activity the last few times I went.

    April 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm

  2. Karl

    Hello, Ben. It’s been too long. I went by the old Ali Shan today. There is already a new restaurant in it’s place. Perfect Place? Perfect World? I hear the new Ali won’t be open until next month.

    April 6, 2011 at 7:59 pm

  3. chowtimes

    Oh? Is Perfect Place opened yet? Chowdown Friday?

    April 6, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    • Karl

      I just did a drive-by,today. Try to give it a better look tomorrow. Keep you posted!!

      April 6, 2011 at 8:47 pm

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