Cafe 88, a Taiwanese gem in Charlottesville – The Cavalier Daily

Cafe 88, a Taiwanese gem in Charlottesville – The Cavalier Daily

Café 88 is a Taiwanese restaurant serving a slice of the Orient to Virginia. This culinary haven is owned by a Taiwanese couple who, after years of running a restaurant in bustling Flushing, New York, chose Charlottesville as their new home, largely for their children’s education. The couple, who run the restaurant alone, bring an intimate, home-cooked essence to every dish served. The menu offers an array of delicious selections from dim sum and snacks to classic single-serve bento boxes, showcasing the couple’s culinary expertise and deep love for Taiwanese cuisine. Café 88 offers an exhilarating opportunity to experience Taiwan’s culinary heritage right here in Charlottesville.

Last weekend, after being away from home for three months, my friend and I wanted to get a taste of our home in East Asia. Open from 11am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday and just a five-minute drive from the Central Grounds, Café 88 immediately stood out to us at 923 Preston Street. We went there around 5pm on a Saturday, and the seats filled up quickly. As we entered the restaurant, we were surrounded by a relaxed atmosphere. The walls, decorated with elegant calligraphy, speak of a rich cultural heritage, with potted plants by the window adding a touch of life and vitality.

Our culinary journey began with their signature fried tomato, egg, and shrimp for $18. A classic Asian dish, it combines the soft texture of tomatoes and eggs with the sweetness and subtle acidity added by ketchup. The inclusion of succulent baby shrimp added salty depth. This dish was a combination of flavors that blended perfectly with a side dish of steamed rice. For me, every bite evoked the warmth of nostalgia for mom’s home cooking.

Next, we enjoyed a tasting of fried ground pork, priced at $18. It seemed unassuming at first glance, but its appearance belied a masterful play of flavours. Ground pork forms the heart of the dish, providing tenderness to the fresh onion bite. Not only do these onions add bright colors to the dish, they also cut through the richness of the flavorful pork with a freshness that elevates the dish to new heights.

The third dish we tried was stir-fried bok choy for $13. Often found in Asian cuisine, this dish embodies the culinary philosophy that the best dishes are those that bring out the natural flavors of their ingredients. In the hands of Cafe 88 chefs, these vegetables were lightly fried, so the bok choy retained its vibrant green color and tender texture. Upon first bite, I released a burst of juice. This simple dish surprised me with its pure, natural flavour.

The star of the table was undoubtedly the $8 popcorn chicken, a popular Taiwanese street food a favour For its crispy texture and delicious taste. The chicken was coated in a mixture of cornstarch and sweet potato starch for crunch. It was seasoned with salt, pepper, sometimes five-spice powder, garlic, and basil leaves. Remarkably, it was not oily, which is difficult to achieve in such a complex dish.

Overall, the pricing at Café 88 is reasonable, making it a great place for the average college student, with a great selection of dishes to share and individual dishes. The restaurant does not require reservations, although it is recommended to call ahead and place an advance order during busy times.

Café 88 is an ideal place to gather and indulge in authentic Asian cuisine. It’s a cultural experience through the flavors of Taiwan, brought to life by the couple’s passion and culinary expertise, and when you walk out of Café 88, you leave with more than just a satisfied taste buds – you’re carrying a piece of Taiwan with you.

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