Field Trip: xiaoqi and Chifeng 28 Japanese ceramics~ 每一天都要『 小器 』

Lately, the weather has been very dramatic here in Taiwan. Blazing sunshine one second, and torrential rainstorms the next.  It’s the strangest feeling ever, to be wearing sunglasses AND carrying an umbrella t at the same time.   However, was I going to let a little weather defeat me? Nope.  Because I have a mission, which is not only to discover all the pretty dishes in the land, but also to share them with you all. This time, I visited xiaoqi (which technically means “little housewares,” but phonetically can also mean “frugal”  I always enjoy a cute play on words!) in Datong District. The xiaoqi brand has a restaurant, and a few stores, all located in the same area. Since it was close to lunchtime, I decided to check out their restaurant first.  What drew me to their restaurant was that they served all the food on the dishes they sell in xiaoqi.  I thought this would be a great way to see the dishes in a real-life setting, before deciding on which ones to incorporate into my collection.

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最近在誠品發覺了 “小器” 的店面。 店裡主要商品是日本進口, 而且很多是手工的 ceramics 跟 glassware. 真的是 好多誘人 (有些價錢也很驚人) 的 盤盤 碗碗。 跟店員聊了一下, 發覺小器還有小食堂, 而且還有 另外一間更大的店面~最近剛好在附近所以也順道去逛一逛。 The restaurant was packed, even thought it was a weekday afternoon.  I had to leave my name and number and wait for a table.  In the meantime, I decided to browse the xiaoqi store located conveniently next to the restaurant.  About 20 minutes later, my table was ready.  The staff  was nice and friendly, but I think they were really rushed off their feet. To be honest, the main reason I was here was to road test the dishes, so my expectations for the food were not that high. I was pleasantly surprised by the perfectly grilled salmon, with light miso glazing.

 

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But more importantly, the plates were really a feast for the eyes.  There was a interesting combination of small delicate plates paired with hand glazed plates and  chunky hand-thrown bowls.   This is a combination of tableware really inspires me!

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The tamagoyaki was served in this tiny cloud shaped dish. (In my house, I would probably use it for dipping sauces or to store jewelry)

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I also ordered the daily handmade ice cream (for research purposes, really) There were two flavors to choose from: Chocolate, or Tea. I didn’t quite understand the Chinese name of  the tea flavor (培茶)  so I asked for some clarification.  Unfortunately, the waitress wasn’t very informative. She said, “It’s just tea leaves that have been baked.” (Huh?!) Anyway, I understand that not everyone is as enthusiastic about the finer points of handmade ice cream, but a little bit more information would have been more helpful (for me and you!)  However, the frosted spotty glass and quirky wooden spoon were pretty enough to distract me.

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The ice cream was fairly good.  It had a light tea flavor, with just a hint of smokiness I looked up “baked” tea leaves, and my guess is that the tea leaves were roasted prior to being steeped into the ice cream.  I think the ice cream was sorbet in texture.  There wasn’t really a distinctive cream flavor, just the taste of lightly sweetened tea.

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Undoubtedly, the best part of this restaurant was the plates and tableware.  Even the water glasses were lovely.  (The glasses are by Japanese company Katachi, and there are several unusual shapes in use, in store. The one that I drank from was fairly basic, but still lovely~ you can see their other designs here and here)

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I enjoyed the opportunity to a sample of xiaoqi’s plates in action.  Sometimes you get a better feel of the plates after you use them. I’m always afraid to use some of my more fragile looking plates, but after seeing them being used in a restaurant setting, and withstanding fairly heavy use, I think I’ll be more brave about incorporating my “special” plates  into my everyday life.

小器食堂讓我覺得最開心的點 是可以看到那麼多漂亮的盤子, 杯子還有 utensils.  也讓我覺悟 其實這些盤子其實是可以每一天拿出來, 融入在日常生活裡的。 (下定決心, 我連吃泡麵都可以很講究。 哈!)

After my quick lunch,I was ready to explore the other stores.  There are four stores, including a gallery all located in the same general area.  Unfortunately, my trip kept getting interrupted by moments of torrential downpour, so I didn’t really concentrate on exploring the neighborhood. Although, one observation was that this is a neighborhood with some really interesting contrasts.

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First of all, most of the buildings are still walk-ups,probably no taller than 5 or 6 stories, which is quite rare in Taipei.  Second, there are normal, everyday shops like hardware stores and motorcycle and car repair shops are nestled in-between all the cafes and shops. The biggest xiao-qi store, or Chifeng 28,  is located a few blocks from their restaurant.  You might not think it’s a homewares store because the first floor looks like a florist.

 

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But yes indeed, no doubt about it, it’s a homewares store! Three glorious floors of lovely items that you never knew you needed until you arrived at the store.  For instance, I never really thought much about stainless steel. But seeing this shiny lineup really made me think that I needed some. Oops! A glimpse of somebody’s laundry line in the background~honestly that sight of that laundry brought me back to reality. No stainless steel. I rarely use it, so it doesn’t really warrant a purchase. Onto the next floor!

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I was absolutely delighted by the third floor. I was pretty much ready to move in! I love how the interior designer left parts of the old building in, such as the original floor to ceiling windows and the iron wrought work.  The setting provides a perfect backdrop for all all the pretty dishes.

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There’s even a cute vintage mint-colored fridge in one corner of the room.  Plus shelves and shelves of gorgeous bowls, jugs, teapots, plates, sauces, mugs. The shop assistant informed me that they are all by a Japanese company called Studio M.

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I found myself drawn to several of this brand’s dishes.  I found them to be well-made, practical shapes, yet there were some quirky characteristics thrown in. Studio M’s style is not as minimalistic as Muji, or as bright and nostalgic as Cath Kidston, but a happy marriage of both. I especially liked xiaoqi’s approach~ a restaurant where you can experience and use the dishes, and a pretty display space where you can really imagine how these dishes will look on your table and kitchen shelves.

I’ll share the dishes and other items I bought here in a separate post, so stay tuned.

Enjoy!

PS: xiaoqi also has one more, perhaps more convenient location right in the Eslite Xinyi building. (I always stop in for a quick browse whenever I am in the building!)

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Information:  Website: http://www.thexiaoqi.url.tw xiaoqi Restaurant:  No. 27, Chifeng Street, Datong District, Taipei, 103| Phone: 02 2559 6851  | Chifeng 28 No. 28-3 Chifeng Street Datong District, Taipei, 103 t| Phone: 02-2555-6969|MRT:Zhongshan Station, Exit 2 小器食堂:大同區赤峰街27號|電話:02 2559 6851| 赤峰28 赤峰街28 之3 號 |電話: 02-2555-6969|捷運:中山捷運站2號出口

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