Four of us had a good meal at Taishan Cafe this weekend - it was my first visit.
The meal started off with a complimentary soup - pure broth, served in a ceramic vessel, which was very good. If I had a cold and lived in this neighborhood, I would go here just for that!
1) Clay pot rice w/ quail and mushrooms - this also contained a bit of Chinese sausage. Quail was very little (there's a shocker) and I don't think I actually got any of the meat.
2) Clay pot rice w/ eel - the eel was in small bits, and while I liked it okay, I wasn't a huge fan of the fishy flavor. I thought the sweeter flavors from the sausage and the savory mushroom flavors in the quail version worked better.
For both clay pots, we added some of the sauce on the table (seasoned soy sauce with a bit of chile), and this helped crisp up the rice on the bottom of the pot. The crispy parts of the rice were definitely the highlight of the meal for me, and in my opinion, the main reason to order these dishes.
3) Salt and pepper fried tofu - The tofu was in small bits (slightly larger than the size of dice) and fried, but the batter wasn't particularly salty or peppery. Nice frying and not too greasy, but a bit full. The fried tofu I had recently at Hakka was much better.
4) Pipa tofu - I liked this fried tofu better, since the crisp outside gave way to a silky inside. I also liked the abalone sauce, and the broccoli that was served in the middle of the plate.
5) Fuzzy melon w/ dried shrimp and fun see - I thought this dish was sort of boring, but my dining companions all really liked it. Simple but comforting (I was told), but I thought the fuzzy melon was unevenly cut, and that there wasn't enough sauce to blend the flavors together. It looked hastily executed.
6) Snow pea leaf with garlic - Aside from the soup, this might have been my favorite item. Greens tasted fresh, garlic was whole clove and nicely browned, not overly salty. I would be happy to eat these greens any day - really good.
We tried to order the pork and eggplant claypot too, but they were out of eggplant. But these 6 dishes ended up being plenty.
This place is definitely a hole-in-the wall, and I suspect they don't really ever use their heat - but the soup was warming and I am glad I gave it a try