Royal Copenhagen Cafe (Banqiao)

September 4, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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So apparently there was only one Royal Copenhagen Cafe in all of Taiwan (at the Zhongxiao SOGO department store) — until they opened another one, in Banqiao’s Mega City Mall. I knew that Royal Copenhagen sold porcelain kitchenware, but I had no idea that they branched out to edible items. In any case, my wife spotted the cafe while shopping one day, so we decided to try it out.

It’s not the easiest of places to find, because it’s attached to the Royal Copenhagen store, which is tucked away on the side of Mega City’s level 7 along with all the other kitchenware. But once you find it, you’ll remember it, because Royal Copenhagen Cafe is actually really good.

There aren’t that many seats and tables, so make sure to get in early or make a booking. Their menu is varied but not extensive, though there are some items that are exclusive to the Banqiao store. There’s pasta and risotto, sandwiches and salads, main course steaks and meats, afternoon tea, and of course dessert and waffles. I managed to take some snaps of the menu for future reference.

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We asked the waiter for recommendations and were told that their seafood pesto risotto (NT$290) and roasted beef spare rib and cream tomato sauce pasta (NT$350) were winners, so we went for that, along with one deluxe meal set (extra NT$180) that comes with a soup of the day (fresh mushroom puree) and a beverage (100% fresh orange juice)

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The mushroom soup was excellent. I had been expecting the type of mushroom soup I’ve had at countless other Taiwanese restaurants, where the soup is extremely thick and creamy. But this one was surprisingly light and not salty at all, with some real sauteed mushroom pieces giving it a flavour kick.

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The pesto seafood risotto was indeed a winner. There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of seafood (fish, pipis, calamari and a single shrimp), but the pesto risotto itself was top notch. You could tell it was fresh pesto, not the canned or artificial stuff, and the risotto was also cooked to perfection.

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The beef spare rib with tomato cream sauce pasta was the highlight of the meal. The beef ribs were sizable and coated in a deliciously tangy, sweet and sour gravy, which also went well with the pasta. The pasta sauce was nowhere near as creamy as I had anticipated (a good thing), and the amount of  garlic and fresh tomato was also a pleasant surprise.

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A lot of desserts to choose from, and we went with a chestnut cake (NT$160). I’m not much of a fan of chestnut, to be honest, but the tart bottom was divine and the chocolate sauce that came with it was sublime. I’d be interested in trying the cheesecake or the waffle next time.

In all, a wonderful place for a light meal. It’s away from the food court and all the other restaurants, looks nice, clean and comfortable, and the food is great. I’ll be back.

8.5/10

Details

Royal Copenhagen Cafe

Address: Level 7, Mega City Mall, No. 25 Xinzhan Road, Banqiao, New Taipei City

Phone: (02) 2951 6289

TJB Cafe (Taipei)

July 4, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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So apparently there are a lot of different types of restaurants under the TJB (TheJeansBar) umbrella. Last time we went to their dim sum store at Taipei Main Station, which was surprisingly tasty. This time we decided to check out their cafe in the trendy Zhongxiao Fuxing district.

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Located behind the Zhongxiao SOGO department store, TJB cafe is cozily fitted and looks nice and clean with that Tiffany blue decor. They have an extensive menu featuring all-day brunch options, appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, pastas and risottos, Mexican selections, desserts and so forth. Price-wise we’re talking about NT$250-400 a head, depending on if you order set meal or other beverages or desserts. It’s yet another one of those all-in-one cafes that seem so popular in Taiwan these days. Here’s a sneak preview of their menu.

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The problem, as always with such places, is deciding what to order. When they have so many options it makes me concerned that they might be a jack of all trades but a master of none. What is good and what is not here?

In the end, we went with a Mentaiko (pollock/cod roe) pasta and a Philly steak sandwich, one of which we turned into a set meal that includes a drink, a soup and a dessert.

Here are the pics!

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Surprisingly good creamy corn soup with thin slices of garlic bread.

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Legitimate 100% fresh orange juice

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Mentaiko seafood pasta

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Philly steak sandwich

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Chocolate brownie dessert with vanilla ice cream

I think we did pretty well with the ordering. The creamy corn soup was better than most “soup of the day” ones you get with set meals, and the bread was relatively fresh. The mentaiko pasta was creamy and flavorsome, and the Philly steak sandwich had plenty of beef chunks and cheese sauce. The fries were super crispy and the honey mustard dipping sauce was a delight. Even the dessert, which was quite a small piece of chocolate brownie, wasn’t too bad, and it was good to see they did not skimp on the much-needed vanilla ice cream.

Everything else others were ordering on the tables around us look very good too, so I think this is a place I can definitely see myself coming back to some time in the future.

8/10

Details

TJB Cafe

Website: http://www.thejeansbar.com.tw/tjbcafe/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/TJB-Cafe/258780554213318

Address: No. 31, Lane 135, Section 1, Fuxing South Rd, Daan District (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing)

(Four other locations in Taipei, one in Hsinchu)

Phone: 02-2775-1559

Hours: 9am-10pm

MAP

La Pasta (Taipei)

June 25, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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So we’re in search of a place to enjoy a tasty, reasonably cheap Italian joint and we keep hearing about this place called La Pasta. It is so popular that it has four locations in Taiwan (and a few in China), and the one we decided to visit was near the Zhongshan MRT station on the red line.

Internally it looks like your average cafe/diner in Taipei. Clean and not too flashy, with the only thing standing out being the kidney-shaped tables that weren’t particularly ergonomic.

We go early on a Friday to take advantage of the business lunch menu that netizens have been raving about. Here it is.

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There’s basically three sets: a NT$219 set that comes with a choice of pasta and beverage, a NT$249 set that includes a pasta, a choice of the first 6 appetizers (which can be soup or salad) and a beverage, and a NT$279 set that widens your selection to all 8 appetizers (satay sticks and escargot) and allows you to choose either a pasta or a main course. All courses also come with garlic bread and dessert.  They only have one pizza in the lunch menu, sausage and mushroom, available as an add-on for NT$168.

The strength of the menu lies in its pasta variety. If nothing in the business lunch set tickles your fancy you can always go for something in their conventional menu for more money. Here’s a sample:

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The service is not great. I’ve head some complaints about it and they weren’t lying. The waitresses, especially the old ones, just seem a little snappy. One of them also made a mistake and added an extra beverage to our bill. Luckily another waitress noticed it when I paid.

None of that matters much to me if the food is awesome. So here it is:

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The garlic bread was no good. It tasted stale.

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The salad was pretty good for one that comes as part of a set course. Plenty of variety and the dressing was the thick, flavoursome honey mustard type that I like.

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The onion soup was average. It’s one of those they just scoop out of a big pot. I liked that it was not too thick, but the onion taste could have been more refined. The croutons inside were not fresh.

Then, the pastas.

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After a lengthy thought process we went with this chicken and garlic olive oil-type pasta. It was of the home-made calibre, I suppose. The flavours were not bad, but the chicken was chewy and didn’t taste like real chicken. The ample garlic helped though.

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The other pasta we got was the spaghetti with spicy chicken pink sauce. I assume pink sauce is some kind of mix between a tomato and cream-based sauce.  This one was OK too. Nothing exceptional, just generally acceptable home-style pasta.

And lastly, the dessert, which was chocolate brownie on this particular day. Not bad. A little on the small and plain side, but can’t complain about the taste of the brownie itself.

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So there you have it. After reading all that hype, La Pasta turned out to be a disappointment. It’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly good either. Taking into account the price, the service, the variety and the quality of the food, I’m not sure I can even call this place above average. I can’t speak for the other outlets, but when it comes to their Nanjing West Road store, it is what it is. 

7/10

Details

La Pasta (義大利麵屋)

Website (under construction): http://www.lapasta.com.tw/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lapastaLA?fref=ts

Address: No. 4-3, Lane 25, Nanjing West Rd, Datong District Taipei City, Taiwan 103 (nearest MRT Zhongshan, exit 2)

Phone: (02) 2555-3818

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

Return to Second Floor Cafe (Taipei)

April 27, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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There’s always a line outside Second Floor Cafe at Taipei Main Station

One of the first food posts I did from Taiwan was this brunch place called Second Floor Cafe back in 2010. It was so-called because, uh, it’s situated on the second floor. You can read all about my first trip there here, which was an average experience explaining why I hadn’t been back until recently. That said, it’s not fair to compare the restaurant to what it is now, as it has evolved into one of the most popular cafes in Taipei. They’ve got a completely new menu and a total of five stores spread across town, so I decided it was time to give it another try.

I had actually wanted to go a few months ago ever since I saw one had opened at the Breeze food court on the second floor of Taipei Main Station, but it was impossible to get a seat without a booking or a long wait. So we finally made a booking one week and checked it out.

This is what it looks like inside: some booths, some long tables, a couple of TVs with sports playing.

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You can check out the menu here at the website (see below for link) but essentially they have a wide selection of everything — brunch, burgers, pasta, salads and steak. You name it.

We chose a Single Benny with Beef (eggs benedict brunch set), which comes with, strangely, a glass of milk and a refillable beverage (coffee, tea, juice, etc), and a Vietnam spicy mini calamari spaghetti, which comes with a soup of the day and a refillable beverage. Both were recommendations from the waitress. Price-wise you’re looking at about NT$200-$350 per head.

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The brunch set comes with a glass of milk

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Cream soup

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Single Benny with Beef

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Vietnamese Spicy Mini Calamari Spaghetti

Okay, here’s the deal. The milk was just strange. The soup was ordinary. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a corn soup. It was just creamy, with some bacon bits and croutons.

The Single Benny was OK. The beef was mixed with herbs and tasted like a falafel, and I thought it was a little funny that it came with potato chips. Not fries, but what Americans would call crisps. The salad was nice with the honey mustard dressing and the processed meat was what it was, but it wasn’t a great mix of flavours.

As for the calamari spaghetti, it’s more of an Asian dish than a Western one. It’s a light, oil-based pasta with little sauce, so you’re mainly relying on the flavours of the calamari, the tomatoes and the herbs. It wasn’t bad, but in hindsight we probably should have gone with something else.

So basically, what I am saying is that Second Floor Cafe underwhelmed again. It’s not horrible by any means, but despite the new outlets, the upgrades and the expanded menu, the overall quality is more or less the same — sufficient but not much more than that.

7.5/10

Details

Second Floor Cafe

Website: http://www.secondfloorcafe.com/ (full menu, hours, store locations and numbers available)

 
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