Not too far from exit 3 of Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station is a building known as ‘Bistro 98′ (there is a massive orange ’98′ sign outside, you can’t miss it). Inside this building are several popular restaurants and I intend to try them all.
First up, the Japanese curry/katsu joint Aubergine (not to be confused with the sensational Aubergine I visited in Canberra). I love Japanese katsu (meat with fried crunchy bread-crumbed batter) and I love Japanese curry, so the combination was sure to arouse my interest.
Aubergine is like many Japanese chains in that they provide set meals — a main course, a salad, a soup, and a dessert and beverage. All for a reasonable price of around NT$250-350.
On this day, we selected two sets — a pork katsu curry (‘Cordon Bleu’) with omrice (that is, rice wrapped inside an egg omelette) and a chicken curry rice (this was a simpler, more economic set).
First up came the salads and soups. I chose the wafu (Japanese) salad dressing which is lighter, more sour and tangy, though others might prefer the creamy thousand island dressing. As for the soups, we had an onion soup and a clam chowder. The vegetables were fresh and crispy and the soups were flavoursome but not too heavy; good but not spectacular — exactly the kind of quality you would expect from a mid-range set-meal restaurant in Taipei.
Before the main courses were served we were treated to a plum vinegar, which is supposed to cleanse the palette. I’m not a vinegar man but this pink concoction was surprisingly refreshing.
Then the mains. First, the pork katsu omrice curry. You can pick the level of spiciness of the curry and we went with the second weakest, which only has a little kick but is sweeter on the tongue. When it arrived, the curry was thick and authentic and I lapped it up with the fat Japanese rice inside the thin egg omelette. Mmm…
However, I did not expect the rice to be a kind of fried rice in that it contained bits of ham. This is significant because the Cordon Bleu katsu also contained a layer of ham and a layer of cheese underneath the batter. The extra goodies beneath the batter was what enticed me to order it, but when combined with the heavy curry and the chunks of ham with the rice, it became a little too much. Not to say it wasn’t tasty but it was the kind of dish that could make you feeling full in a hurry.
The other main, the chicken curry, had a similar curry but was not as heavy as it contained carrots and radishes and the chicken was not deep fried. Unfortunately, the chicken thigh fillets were not particularly tender, though I must admit the curry was so nice that it didn’t make a huge difference to me (personally).
I was stuffed after the mains, but as I like to say, there’s always room for dessert. I had a hot black tea and the dessert was a simple milk custard that was way better than I could have expected.
Overall, Aubergine was solid but nothing special. The soup, salad, katsu, and omrice were all fairly good for the price, and I personally rather enjoyed the flavour of their curry. Not a bad place for a casual meal.
7 out of 10
Zhongxiao East Road (Bistro 98):
Address: Level 3, No. 98, Zhong Xiao E Road, Sec. 4
Closest MRT: Zhongxiao Fuxing, Exit 3
Opening Hours: 11:30-21:00
Address: Level 2, No. 85, Roosevelt Road, Sec. 4
Closest MRT: Gongguan, Exit 2
Opening Hours: 11:30-21:00
Address: Level 1, No. 37, Lane 513, Ruiguang Road
Closest MRT: Xihu, Exit 2
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30 – 14:30 / 17:00 – 21:00; Sat-Sun 11:30 – 21:00