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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Taste Of Formosa: Go For The Beef Noodle Soup, Stay For The PotStickers


After my recent round of complex Southeast Asian rice noodle soups with their exotic botanicals that spoke pleasant but unfamiliar languages to my palate, I started pining for more familiar fare with robust wheat noodles and ingredients I am already on a first-name basis with. What could be better, I thought, than to check out the beef noodle soup at the neglected (by me) Taste of Formosa on outer Clement St., especially since I could also try their "Taiwanese Potstickers." Potstickers were chosen as the "Dish of The Month" on chowhound.com, which got me hankering hopefully for some open-ended "Zhonghua Road" style potstickers, which I became enamored of at a Taiwanese fast-food chain in Shanghai.  Were they awaiting me at Taste of Formosa?

The external face and signage at Taste of Formosa speaks neatness and orderliness, and so it is with the interior, I discovered. The small seating area on the ground floor was packed wen I arrived just after 1:30 PM on a Saturday, and the server led me to a larger upstairs dining room which was about half filled.  I ordered "Taiwanese Pot Stickers" and the "Braised Beef With Noodle Soup"

After what seemed an interminable time, my potstickers arrived, followed not long after by my noodle soup in an ornate bowl with two old friends, Shanghai bok choy and cilantro, floating on top. The bok choy had been sliced vertically (a nice touch, since it avoided the necessity for having to chew through a pulpy stalk). It appeared to be fresh, and the cilantro leaves and stalks were particularly pungent.

These two brother garnishes, unfortunately, may have been the best feature of the soup.  The broth was fine, if not exciting: beefy, faintly spicy and vaguely aromatic but a little on the lukewarm side. The braised beef (brisket?) was mushy, and appeared to have given its all to the broth.  Worst of all were the noodles, which were unconscionably soft; this may have been partly due to a unusually hectic demand on the kitchen, but to me there is no excuse for overcooking noodles.

On the brighter side, I found the potstickers to be excellent. They weren't the open-ended style I was hoping for, but were thin-skinned, elongated and flat, with plenty of surface area browned. They were crispy without greasiness on the bottoms and soft on the tops, encasing a sharply savory pork filling.

Despite the beef noodle failure, I found the place very inviting, with many things to explore on the menu for a Taiwanese food novice like me.   I'll have to get back to try the xian doujiang, a dish which I do know well and hanker for, and which looks good in the photos on Yelp that I have seen. They also have stinky tofu on the menu (another gimme). And I'll gladly reprise the potstickers.

Where slurped: Taste of Formosa, 2428 Clement St. (25th/26th) San Francisco


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