I am now 24! (+National Palace Museum & restaurant review)

Taking pictures of the yummies
before tucking in!
It seems like only yesterday when I celebrated my first birthday away from home, but my 24th birthday has already come and gone!  I'm lucky this year because I got to spend it with my dad; it was great to enjoy the day with a familiar face.  Lately, I've been subconsciously comparing my life with others which has blinded me to the fact that I'm doing quite well.  My goal is to keep that in mind, and keep working diligently in the years to come!

Anyway, I had a chill day checking out the National Palace Museum and then eating some awesome dim sum at Brother Hotel.

At the end of the National Palace Museum courtyard area.
Honestly, it wasn't the an ideal day to visit the National Palace Museum.  It was dreary and slightly rainy, but luckily there weren't as many visitors as there usually are due to the lunar new celebrations. Nonetheless, it was crowded (which is one of the reasons why I have never been to the museum...the hoards of tour groups from Mainland China.  But my dad really wanted to see it).

Visitors heading up to the main entrance.
This building, though separate from the main part of the museum,
is also part of the complex.
If you don't mind crowds, the National Palace Museum is a great place to go for a day visit. Plus it's simple to access, just take the red line on the MRT to Shilin Station, then take 小18 (S18) from the bus stop in front of the small Eslite bookstore at exit 2 straight to the museum.  Admission is NT160 for adults and NT80 for students, but for some reason my student card allowed me to get in for free. I'm not certain why, but I wasn't complaining!

I seriously think one could go in the morning, stay until the evening, and still have more to see. There is an insane amount of artifacts and rooms to explore, and our short visit didn't allow us to see even a quarter of it.  We mostly looked at the ceramic exhibits which were beyond impressive, especially because they were well preserved, even the pieces from the Warring States period.

A gorgeous plate.
An old piece of a soldier finished
in 三彩 (sancai; tri-color) style.
The crowded main hall. 
When leaving the museum, it's not difficult to catch a bus at the station which sits at the food of the main building, but it can be frustrating because there are hoards of people.  After having to pass up a bus that was already full, my dad and I were able to squeeze ourselves on to another bus and find seats (!).

A packed ride going back to MRT Shilin station.
Although the ride was slightly uncomfortable and slow, we were able to get to Brother Hotel on time for our 6:30 reservation in the Plum Blossom Room which is home to Cantonese cuisine. Brother Hotel is easy to find, simply take the green or brown line to Nanjing Fuxing (formerly Nanjing E. Road) Station, leave through exit 6 (called Brother Hotel), and it's right there, literally!  I think Brother Hotel is unique in that it contains a total of eight restaurants and a take away restaurant, all with different themes.  I'd been wanting dim sum lately, therefore I chose the Plum Blossom Room.

I have to say, the meal was one of the best I've had in Taiwan.  Each meal was perfectly seasoned and prepared, nothing was too salty, sweet, or oily.  It was impressive. While it wasn't cheap, I think it was worth the money, especially for a special dinner.  It was fun to order a wide variety of things to enjoy.

Some of the spread.
I ordered oolong tea for both of us.
蝦仁腸粉 (xiaren changfen); shrimp rolls - NT120
Luckily, I remembered record the details of what we had:

These were delicious.  I liked the sauce as well as how delicate the skin of the rolls were.  They didn't skimp on the size of the shrimp which made it worth while.

燒腊牛肉 (shaola niurou); roast beef - NT250

This was wonderful!  The server poured a steaming sauce on it table side, and the cuts of beef were quality.  As a little surprise, there were roasted peanuts under the beef.

牛奶炒白菜 (niunai chao baicai)
buttered fried cabbage with cheese - NT130

This was definitely one of my favorites, I was tempted to order another!  It was like a casserole on steroids in that the flavor was spectacular. The cheese on top with the butteriness of the greens went together nicely.

玫瑰蒸燒賣 (meigui zheng shaomai)
rose steamed dumplings - NT90 

I think shumai are my favorite type of dumpling. These were springy and juicy, steamed for the perfect amount of time!

叉燒包 (chasha bao); BBQ pork buns - NT90

Char siu is my favorite dim sum item, so I had to order these. They were perfectly moist and the filling wasn't too sticky or sweet as it often is with poorly made char siu.  This was a favorite of mine.

蘿蔔糕 (luobogao); radish cakes - NT85

I do like luobogao, but I initially wasn't going to order these because I've eaten them several times, but as my dad had them somewhere else and liked them, I decided to get a plate.  They were fried perfectly, and the sauce it came with was exquisite!

海鮮粥 (haixian zhou); seafood porridge - NT130

Porridge is another one of my favorite dishes, and as it's been slightly chilly and rainy in Taipei these past couple of days, I thought it would be a great idea to get some.  There was squid, white fish, oysters, and shrimp in the porridge along with mushrooms, green onion, and the customary 油條 (youtiao) or oily, donut-like pastry on top (think softer, oversized churro).  The porridge was a huge, enough to share - but I didn't. :)

Front: 鹹魚雞粒炒飯 (xianyu jili chao fan)
salted chicken friend rice - NT220
Right: 港式小龍包 (gangshi xiaolongbao)
Hong Kong-style little dragon buns (soup buns) - NT85
The fried rice was another hit. Often times, (especially in the US), fried rice comes with a free serving or two of oil, yet this rice was crisp and "dry" in that our bowls and the plate did not have a shallow pool of grease when we were done eating it. Although I can't speak for their other variations of it, I strongly recommend their fried rice.

Last to arrive were the xiaolongbao.  They were good, but not memorable.  If I return to this restaurant, I wouldn't order them again; I'd likely choose something else with a stronger or more intricate flavor.

All in all, I'd give Brother Hotel's Plum Blossom Room high marks.  Their service is fast and everything I ordered was executed nicely.

I decided to skip dessert at the restaurant.  Instead, I got a slice of German-style chocolate cake from the chain cafe 85C and some mango green tea from CoCo, another chain which specializes in drinks. Cheap, but delicious!

Yummy yumminess for only NT49!
Cake and tea in the comfort of my home.

I had a fun, simple birthday with tons of good food which is all I wanted.  I can't believe I'm in my mid-twenties!  

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