Sit Down Please (Taipei)

May 6, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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Oh thank you, I will sit down, thank you very much.

Lame jokes aside, Sit Down Please is a pretty popular new Italian joint in Taipei’s Da’an district. We had heard some good things about it and decided to check it out.

It’s a cozy little joint with a lot of stone and wood in its decor and experienced waiters who don’t seem flustered even when they are being run off their feet. The menu has an assortment of appetizers, side dishes, soups, salads, “staple dishes” (like steak, fish and duck breast), pastas, risottos and of course desserts. Much of it seems pretty interesting and is at least semi-fusion. Asking for recommendations is a good idea.

Price-wise it really depends on what you order. Appetizers range from NT$120-240 while the pastas and risottos are roughly around NT$250-350, with only the staple dishes going as high as close to NT$1000. If you order liberally, with a main each, an appetizer or soup or two, and dessert, you’r probably looking at around NT$400-500 per head, conservatively speaking. There is apparently a business lunch set where you can choose from a limited number of dishes to go with soup, dessert, etc, but no one told us about it.

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First up, everyone gets bread. The bread itself is plain and crispy, almost crouton-like, but the two dips they provide — one sweet pepper and the other pineapple — go well with them.

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We ordered one appetizer, which  was the seared scallop and bacon roll. They recommended the grilled baby corn, but I am no fan of baby corn and they also didn’t have my other preference, the fried crab cakes. They also suggested the spicy chicken wings but I was worried they’d be too spicy. Still, I was satisfied with the decision. The scallops were scrumptious (not overcooked) and you can never go wrong with bacon! The little peppercorn on top was a little strange, but the sauce at the bottom (which looks but isn’t salty) was great.

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We felt like a soup and got the onion, with pumpkin cream being the only other option. It was fine, nothing spectacular but tasty enough to be devoured in a hurry.

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It wasn’t easy picking the main courses because the all seem a little unusual, from the Thai red curry pasta and beef short ribs pasta to the butter bacon egg pasta and mentaiko butter shrimp risotto. In the end, we went with one safe option and one riskier option. The safe option was the Clams Crab Pasta pesto, above, which was excellent. The pesto sauce was fresh and not that greenish artificial stuff, and the seafood was plentiful.

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For the riskier option we went with the Pasta with Matsusaka Pork, mustard green. It looks and sounds good, and was recommended by the waiter, but I have to say taking the risk didn’t pay off. It wasn’t bad, but this was kind of like an Asian noodle. The pork was fine but there wasn’t a whole lot of flavour and basically no sauce.

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Lastly the dessert. Initially we wanted to try their famed souffle, but it takes 40 minutes to prepare, so we went with the backup option, the tiramisu. They have a basic version and a “special” version that includes these black cherries and crunchy flakes on the side (for an extra NT$60 on top of the NT$160 price). As you can see in the photo, we went special. I’m glad we tried the special, but it wasn’t really needed. Either way, it was one of the best tiramisus I’ve had in Taiwan. Not too much liquor, not too sweet, a fantastic base and just the right amount of chocolate. Superb stuff and reason enough to go back again.

On the whole I had a great time at Sit Down Please. The food is high quality and innovative and the dessert is super. Some of the options might be a little hit and miss, but it’s still definitely one of the better Italian restaurants I’ve tried in Taipei.

8.5/10

Details

Sit Down Please (座味)

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/SDP.TPE

Address: No. 11, Lane 233, Sec. 1 Dunhua S. Road, Da’an district, Taipei (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua)

Phone: 02 2741 8555

Hours: Mon – Sun: 12:00 – 14:30, 18:00 – 22:00

SDP

Wendel’s German Bakery & Bistro (Taipei)

May 1, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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The bakery section of Wendel’s German Bakery & Bistro

Tick another one off the list.

There aren’t many German restaurants in Taiwan. I had been wanting to visit Wendel’s German Bakery & Bistro for some time and finally found the opportunity a couple of weeks ago when we made the trip to the Da’an branch near Taipei’s Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. It seems like a popular joint on weekends because of its brunch, though on the Saturday we went I’m sure they could have still squeezed out some tables for people without a reservation.

The branch we went to was kinda unusual because it was essentially two restaurants merged into one. I suspect it was so successful that they simply bought out its next door neighbour to double up the space. As a result, one side looks like a bakery/bistro, with brightly lit cabinets of fresh bread and cakes and pastry chefs doing their thing, while the other side looks like a regular western-style restaurant with dim lighting. We sat in the bakery section.

Wendel’s menu is extensive, and you can check it out at their website (see below). They have pizzas, pastas, salads, burgers, sandwiches, breakfast and brunch options, and of course traditional German cuisine like pork knuckles and schnitzels. Some of the stuff looked pretty enticing on the menu, but in the end we stuck with our guts and went for a pork knuckle and a pork schnitzel.

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Everyone gets some free house bread, and it’s an excellent variety, as you can see.

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Also provided with the main course is a salad, with tomato, cucumber, onions and olives. Not bad, quite refreshing considering we ordered all meat. However, we were fortunate to not have listened to the waitress, who recommended that we order a separate salad to balance out the meat. Now that would have been a wasted order.

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Pork knuckle, with sauerkraut, potato mash, gravy and mustard. I’m usually not crazy about pork knuckle, so I am going to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Wendel’s pork knuckle is the real deal — succulent meat, crispy skin, full of flavour. The potato mash was creamy and the sauerkraut not too sour. And the mustard gave it an awesome kick. A must-try if pork knuckle is what you’re after.

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That’s a Swedish flag, by the way

Next up, the pork schnitzel. Personally, I prefer chicken, but they didn’t have that, so it was more pork for us. Nice crispy fries without too much salt, a wedge of lemon and a tub of tomato sauce. Not as good as the schnitzel I had in Germany, of course, but it’s not bad for Taiwan.

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Next it was time for dessert, and it was not easy to decide. The ones of the left hand side are all individual cakes, while the section on the far end are slices of a larger cake. You can go up to the dessert counter and tell them what you want, and they will take it to your table. I thought one dessert, then two, but in the end I went with three. Just in case.

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So, I chose a chocolate mousse cake (layers of chocolate cake and mousse), a strawberry tart, and a chocolate raspberry cake. The best one was probably the chocolate mousse cake; the strawberry tart was just OK, and the chocolate raspberry was not good — far too dry.

In all, Wendel’s is a commendable place to try some “German” food if you are so inclined. The atmosphere is great, the prices are reasonable (NT$300-$500 per head, roughly, depending on what you order) and the food is extremely solid, but I do have to complain a little about the service. They were busy, no doubt, but the waitresses forgot about us several times — when we asked for a baby seat, when we asked for the menus and when we asked to be served. It got better later when they weren’t as busy, but I think they need some more training.

8/10

Details

Wendel’s German Bakery & Bistro

Website: http://www.wendels-bakery.com/index.asp (Chinese, English, German)

Address: No. 28, Lane 260, GuangFu S. Rd, Da’an District, Taipei (nearest MRT Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall)

Phone: (02) 2711-8919

Hours: Bistro:08:00-22:00; Deli:09:00-22:00

PS: Other branches at Tianmu and Neihu

Wendels

Abu Brasserie (Taipei)

August 8, 2013 in Food, Reviews

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We went through a fine dining streak for a little while, and one of the visits was to Abu Brasserie, headed by chef  William “Abu” Bu. Abu Brasserie is the “affordable” option for Bu fans — roughly around NT$1,000 per head — not to be confused with the more expensive Abu Authentic Cuisine (on Siwei Road), which can set you back more than double that.

Located in Taipei’s Da’an district, not too far from the big roundabout and about a 10-15 minute walk from either Da’an or Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station, Abu Brasserie offers a business lunch set that includes an appetizer, soup, main course and dessert, plus tea or coffee, for between NT$680 and NT$1,280 (depending on the price of your main course).

Here is the menu, which unfortunately is a little fuzzy but good enough to read.

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We went with two lunch sets that split the two appetizer and soup options, and for the mains, we chose the roasted chicken with pappardelle pasta and truffle cream sauce, and the duck confit with wild mushroom risotto.

Before we got any of our dishes we were given some house bread, sliced up nicely and served with this tangy , India-inspired yoghurty sauce that really hit the spot.

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Then, it was time for the appetizers. The first was a rather simple Caesar salad with lily sprouts (which look like smashed boiled egg but is slightly crispy) and parma ham. It was fresh, light and well-presented — but nothing special.

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The second appetizer was a duck pate, which had kind of terrine strips on the sides. It also had a bit of salad together with a biscotti chip. An interesting mix of textures, though I didn’t find the main part of the dish, the pate, particularly great. Solid, but I’ve had much better elsewhere.

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Next up, the soups. The first is a simple vegetable soup with a light broth and assortment of vegetables. Sure, the ingredients are fresh, but it was an unexpectedly bland soup. To be honest I expected more.

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The second soup, a cream of pumpkin, was better, though again, nothing out of the ordinary.

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Up to this point the meal was shaping up to be a bit of a disappointment, so I pinned my hopes on the main courses. And yep, I loved the chicken with pappardelle and truffle cream sauce. It’s a dish you can’t really go wrong with because I love all three key ingredients, but the mix of flavours and textures was superb. The chicken was succulent, the pasta perfectly cooked and the sauce creamy but not too heavy.

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The second main, the duck confit, was good, though not quite as good as other duck confits I’ve had before. It was a little (OK, a lot) on the salty side and the risotto was the more traditional, harder type I’m not as used to. That pineapple piece, however, was a nice complement to the dish.

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Last but not least, the desserts. As you can see below, we got a souffle with fresh fruit, cream sauce and ice cream, and a chocolate and banana tart with lychee sorbet (note the desserts were not on the menu and are subject to change).

I’m going to just come out and say it: the souffle was the best we’ve ever had. All time. Incredible. My wife still raves on about it. It was that good. Forget about it.

In comparison, the tart was rather average and I can’t remember much about it.

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The final verdict on Abu Brasserie‘s business lunch set — average appetizer and soup, good to very good main courses, and the best souffle ever. Average that out and I give the place…

8/10

Details

Abu Brasserie

Address: 9, Ln 199, Xinyi Rd, Sec 4, Taipei City (nearest MRT Da’an or Zhongxiao Dunhua)

Phone: (02) 2755-2671

Hours: 12pm-2pm, 6pm-9:30pm

Casa Della Pasta in Taipei

December 16, 2012 in Food, Reviews

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Casa Della Pasta is one of those places in Taipei that I keep hearing rave reviews about, so I decided to check it out one night at the store on Jinshan South Road in the Da’an district.  Bear in mind, though, this visit occurred last year (shows how far behind I am in my reviews), and for some reason I can no longer find this branch on the restaurant’s official website, so it’s possible that the store may have closed down. That said, it still has at least three other locations, so this review should still be relevant from a food perspective.

Anyway, the branch that we went to was huge and beautifully decorated, giving a sense that you’re walking into some high class joint that will burn a hole in your wallet. That was supposedly the charm of Casa Della Pasta — it only looks that way but the prices are very family friendly.

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I’m not sure about the prices being super cheap, but they are very competitive for Italian food (around NT100-200 per dish). The biggest draw of the restaurant, in my opinion, is the sheer variety of dishes they have on offer. Seriously, the menu is huge and there are all kinds of appetizers, pastas and pizzas. Granted, most of them are just variations of each other — eg, pick a meat, a type of sauce and a type of pasta — but combing through the menu and deciding on what to order can be a time consuming process.

In the end, with just two people, we went with a pizza and pasta to share. The pizza was their popular pineapple with smoked chicken (see below). I’ll be frank — it was hugely disappointing. The toppings and flavour were okay but the crust tasted no better than those you get from frozen pizzas. And the size was not overwhelming either.

Pineapple and smoked chicken pizza

Pineapple and smoked chicken pizza

But hey, it was relatively cheap, and the place is called Casa Della PASTA, so I assumed the second dish, the pesto chicken spaghetti, was going to be significantly better. Well, it was better, but nothing that blew my world. The chicken pieces were a tad large for my liking and the chicken was on the chewier side. The pesto sauce was very rich and creamy, which is good for a while but I soon found myself getting sick of it.

Chicken pesto pasta

Chicken pesto pasta

Lastly, the dessert — a layered cake, the kind you’d find at most cake stores in Taiwan. Again, it was OK, but nothing spectacular.

Dessert

Dessert

On other thing I remembered about this place was that the service was excruciatingly slow. In all it turned out to be a fairly average experience. Not horrible for the price, and I can imagine with its ambiance and variety it would be a nice place to hold a group gathering or family outing, but as far as taste goes it didn’t get the job done for me.

6.5/10

Details

Casa Della Pasta

Website: www.capasta.com.tw/

Lunch: 12pm-2:40pm; Dinner: 6pm-9:40pm

Stores:

Banqiao — No. 136, Section 1, Zhongshan Road (02-29546133)

Zhongxiao Dunhua — No. 23, Lane 233, Section 1, Dunhua South Road (02-27717869)

Zhongshan — No. 7-1, Lane 11, Section 2, Zhongshan North Road (02-25678769)

Bade — No. 1, Section 1, Bade Road (02-23957117)

 
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