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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Taiwan Bento: Noodle Soup and Quick Bentos in Uptown Oakland

Posted By on Thu, Oct 2, 2014 at 11:01 AM

click to enlarge The beef noodle soup at Taiwan Bento. - FERRON SALNIKER
  • Ferron Salniker
  • The beef noodle soup at Taiwan Bento.

Stacy Tang may be new to the restaurant industry, but she’s clearly not new to cooking. Tang’s the owner of Taiwan Bento, a fast-paced Taiwanese lunch spot that’s the most recent addition to the cluster of businesses on 22nd St. catering to Uptown Oakland’s work crowd. Service is smooth, the space is bright and airy, and the food will definitely mix up your lunch routine.

Tang is a relative newcomer to the U.S., originally making her way here two years ago from Taiwan to study business. She says it was her husband, who she met in class, that pushed her to veer away from her previous work in the tech industry to pursue something she was passionate about. “This is a new adventure for me,” she says. “I noticed that most Taiwanese restaurants are pretty traditional, and I decided that I wanted to create a place that’s young and modern but still has homestyle dishes.” Armed with recipes passed down from mother and grandmother (plus a few months of training in the Pican kitchen), Tang opened in August with a limited menu.

New dishes show up each week, when I stopped in the Zhagiangmian (a noodle bowl with ground pork, bean curd and a colorful swirl of vegetables) had just made its debut along with the tapioca milk tea. The menu consists mostly of bento boxes: choose from braised pork, roasted chicken, Taiwanese sausage or tofu. They come with pickled vegetables, a serious serving of rice topped with turmeric-yellow pickled carrots, and a soft boiled egg cooked with anise, cinnamon, soy sauce, and tea leaves.

I opted for the beef noodle soup, which came out steaming with big slices of carrots and tender braised beef and piled with spinach, chewy noodles and pickled mustard greens sauteed with garlic. The broth had a salty richness to it and a back-end kick that played nicely against the soft boiled egg I added in (who can resist an egg like that?). At $10 the soup is the most expensive item on the menu but I came home with about half left.

Up next on the chalkboard is popcorn chicken. “Just grabbing some popcorn chicken and a boba tea was one of my favorite snacks in Taiwan, I want to eventually have more snacks like that for after lunch,” says Tang.

There are a few communal tables downstairs, a counter facing the kitchen and several tables upstairs. Don’t miss the dreamy photos of daily life in Taiwan taken by Tang’s photographer friend in the hallway just past the kitchen.

Open Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

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Ferron Salniker

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