It was raining, but my friend had come some distance and we were determined to have lunch even if it meant getting wet.
“Where shall we go?” I asked, unfolding my wet umbrella and lumbering onto the front seat of the car, feeling like a sheep dog dampening her space. She pulled out a copy of Sauce magazine and pointed to a piece on Tai ke, the new Taiwanese restaurant.
“Do you know where it is?” I asked. “On Olive,” she said, turning on the car’s guidance system and the monotonous voice of “Molly the Mapper.” Minutes later “Molly” was beside herself: “Turn left…then turn right…turn left again.” I thought, at one point, I heard her raise her voice. You see, Tai ki is not exactly on Olive. It’s somewhat hidden in a little strip mall next to Dao Tien. Had “Molly” said that, I’d have know exactly where to go.
A friendly server opened the door to let us in out of the rain. Like many small diners in the area, the space was sparsely decorated, but featured the usual entryway aquarium, an Asian television show with subtitles, and neat tables arrayed with various sauces. In addition, Tai ki has a large, open kitchen, where you can view your stir fry sizzling in a wok.
The fellow taking our order told us the name of the place was pronounced: Tie-kuh and meant Taiwanese clientele. For starters, he recommended the Pork Belly Bun—2 for $5.99. (Once upon a time, some of you may have had pork belly futures in your portfolio; now the bacon-y meat shows up on menus all over town.) Before we could say Pork Belly Bun three times fast, the dish appeared. The light, fluffy bun overflowed with a delicious filling of pork, cilantro, pickled vegetables and crushed peanuts.
“I could make a meal on these alone,” my friend said. I agreed.
We shared the Stir Fry Noodles with Pork ($7.99) and the Hakka Stir Fry with pork, calamari, celery, and dried tofu ($12.99). Both flavorful and well presented.
Tai Ke is a hidden treasure and a pleasant reminder of the street food I ate in Taipei years ago. The place has only been open 7 months, but it’s a welcome addition to Olive Boulevard cuisine. I need to try their signature dishes: Three Cup Chicken and Sticky Rice Hotdog (actually a sausage).
The adventure is in the finding.
Tai ke, 8604 Olive. Open: Tue-Thu 11a-2p; 5p-10p; Fri & Sat. 11a-2p; 5p-11p; Sun 12p-1p; 5-10p. Closed Monday. You might want to commit this to memory.