Official Website: http://www.kao-chi.com
Address: No. 1 Yongkang Street, Taipei City, Taiwan. 台北市永康街1號
Telephone: 02-23419984 / 02-23419971
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am to 10.30pm, Sat-Sun 8.30am to 10.30pm
Budget: We spent NT680, inclusive of 10% Service Charge
Getting there: About 5-minute walk away from Dongmen Station Exit 5
Other Outlets: Fuxing Outlet (復興南路一段150號）and Zhongshan Outlet（中山北路一段133號）
Perpetually overshadowed by its heavyweight competitor Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), Kao-chi is perhaps the country’s best-kept secret and a local favourite. Since 1949, about 8 years before Din Tai Fung opened its gates, Kao-chi has been serving Shanghainese dishes for homesick Chinese citizens who relocated after the Chinese Civil War. Situated along Yongkang Street, the 3-storey flagship store lacks the overhyped tourist queues; expect to see tables filled with affluent locals instead. That said, the restaurant can get busy at meal times and it is extremely advisable to get a reservation.
Kao-chi is wildly famous for their Shen-jian Buns (生煎包), but because London Gal was craving for Xiao-long Baos, we opted for the Xiao-long baos (Steamed Dumplings or 小籠包) instead. We also asked if they serve half-servings so that we could sample both the Shen-jian Buns and Xiao-long Baos, but it was unfortunate that they do not offer this option. Perhaps the friendly operators could just take this suggestion into consideration!
Spending the extra NT100 for the crab roe was definitely worth the money. For the uninitiated, Xiao-long Baos should be consumed by first nibbling off a tiny bit of the side wrapper (near the bottom) and sipping the soup broth. You can also choose to dip the steamed dumpling in appropriate portions of vinegar or sliced ginger. (For a video demo, click here). For Xiao-long Baos topped with crab roe, I prefer to bite off a tiny bit of the wrapper on the top, so that I can enjoy the decadent crab roe while allowing an opening for me to suckle the meat broth. In addition, the meat juices remain in the dumpling in the meantime, allowing me to top it up with ginger slices. One mouth and it then goes into my tum tum :D
So how do they fare against Din Tai Fung? We have only tried Din Tai Fung in Singapore, but we’ll say this is way better. The minced pork is smoother and it almost melts in the mouth. Packed with a substantial amount of soup broth in that tiny enclosure and sealed with 18 wraps, this small thing is euphoria in a pocket. If you have to go hungry for a few meals, this tiny basket should probably be your break-fast meal.
All that enjoyment for carnivores must be balanced with some leafy greens. The Stir-Fried Seasonal Greens was simple and refreshing. The spinach was fresh, soft and topped with chewy mushrooms. Wonderful detox for that sinful basket of indulgence.
For our starch fix, we ordered the 高祖菜饭, which was a recommended dish on the menu. It was served promptly after our order and contained Taiwanese pork sausage or lap cheong, charsiew (barbecued pork), chopped scallions and egg. Looks wise, it very much resembles the Singaporean version of fried rice, but was less salty. The generous serving of ingredients made the dish very palatable overall.
There’s perhaps no reason to skip this hidden gem. If you’re tired of standing in the hot sun waiting for your table at the much-coveted Din Tai Fung, how about trying its neighbour Kao-chi, which probably serves equally good, or even better Xiao-long Baos.
Mind-blowing Index: 4.3/5 Xiao-long Baos.