Taiwanese Cuisine at Bellagio, Beijing

"Is it dangerous for you to be seated right near the kitchen?" Jacob asked. Apparently he had noticed my gawking at all the desserts that streamed through the swinging doors. Everything was in high mounds, from mango shaved ice to chocolate pudding to green tea ice cream topped with red bean. Wow, I thought, these red beans are piled so high they're defying physics.

But dessert would have to wait.

We were at Bellagio at Shin Kong Place to try out the much hyped-about Taiwanese dishes. This restaurant is a favorite among the city's 20- and 30- something set, especially for late-night dining. Taiwanese food is as eclectic as American food, in that it incorporates bits and pieces from cuisines of people who settled there. Among the menu offerings were Hainan chicken, Cantonese congee, Hong Kong-style milk teas, and fish and pork ablaze with Sichuan pepper.

Jacob ordered a "Taiwanese steamed hamburger" (刮包 gua bao) out of curiosity. Gua bao turned out to be an almost perfectly rectangular piece of pork in soy (and oyster?) sauce sandwiched by a mantou bun, with caramelized onions, minced peanuts, and cilantro. It reminded me of the pork sliders at Momofuku in NYC, and the addictive roujiamo sold on Beijing's streets. Tasty, but not as good as the either of the aforementioned.

Other dishes: The Taiwanese tofu claypot was a delicious mix of panfried tofu strips, minced pork, leeks, and black bean. The almond tea was more of a soup, sweet and thick, with a side of very crisp Cantonese fried dough. Instead of white rice we got the aromatic rice made with oil from cooked chicken. And the sautéed spinach had a good amount of light garlic flavor.

Then, dessert. We pored over the menu for perhaps 20 minutes, unable to decide. Bellagio's specialty is shaved ice, with their signature dessert being a one-and-a-half-foot high (estimated) mound of red bean shaved ice with various tropical fruits. Other desserts were also as tall or as wide, probably feeding 3 to 4 people of average appetites.

We finally settled on a kiwi shaved ice with fresh fruit and kiwi ice cream. The ice cream had just enough sugar to be tasty but not overwhelm the fruit, and the kiwi provided a good tart contrast. Although this was one of their smaller desserts, it was still big enough to make two hearty eaters very, very full.

And by the time we were eating dessert, it was other people's turn to gawk at our food as they waited for theirs.

Bellagio 6/F Shin Kong Place, 87 Jianguo Lu CBD, Chaoyang District, Beijing 6530 5658