We had a rare Saturday morning off and decided to wander Taipei’s chic Shida area for a nice cafe or restaurant to enjoy a leisurely brunch or lunch. We ended up wandering around aimlessly to Grandma Nitti’s, apparently a popular joint for locals I remember vaguely from recommendations I read up on the web a while back.
It was too hot outside to keep wandering, so we went inside and waited for a table (not too bad, about 15 minutes). I thought the place looked pretty tiny from the outside, but as it turned out there was a whole second floor as well. It was packde out anyway.
The interior (on both floors) looks pretty average, with standard wooden tables and a few decorations covering the peeling and stained white walls. But at least there was air conditioning and fans spinning away.
We got a seat on the second floor and flipped through the extensive menu, which is one of the most volume-heavy of any restaurant I have ever been to. Seriously, they had everything, from all day breakfast and brunch (including pancakes and waffles) to salads and soups, quesadillas, sandwiches, burgers, subs, pizzas, pastas, dessert, assorted beverages and more. Many of these dishes also have minor variations, so there are choices within choices to be made.
They also have weekly brunch specials that looked like way too much food. I only took a photo of the all day breakfast page of the menu because there was just too much stuff. The prices were around NT$200-300 per dish.
I grew somewhat sceptical of the place early on because there was just too much variety on the menu, leading me to suspect that perhaps they would be more into quantity than quality. It was also extremely difficult to choose what to order (even with the recommendations with Grandma Nitti’s head next to them), so my advice is to have roughly some idea of what you would like before you go there.
In the end, we went with an Eggs Benedict (with smoked salmon) and a Lasagna. Sounds boring but trust me when I say a lot of time and effort went into these selections. Just missing the cut were a Philly steak burger and some wild pasta I can’t remember.
The Eggs Benedict came with a drink, which I turned into a traditional lemonade — that was a little too watered down for my liking. The famous breakfast dish itself was disappointing because it wasn’t a “real” Eggs Benedict. This was two poached eggs (one was runny, the other was fully cooked) sitting on top of some runny Hollandaise sauce, and a hard English muffin sliced in half on the side, plus a hash brown and some smoked salmon with onions and capers. I tried putting the contents into the muffin but it was a fruitless venture because the muffin was practically inedible. I still ate most of it though, topped up with tomato sauce to give it more flavour.
The Lasagna was OK. I’m not picky about my lasagnas and this one had some tasty meat sauce and enough of a bite to make it interesting, but the edges were either too fully baked or not baked well enough, resulting in a strange chewy texture that made it feel like it was lacking in freshness. I ate most of it too, nonetheless.
The Lasagna was upgraded to a set (for an extra NT$100) to include a drink and dessert of the day, which was their signature chocolate brownie cake. This, I must admit, was pretty good. The cake came to us warm, with warmish melted chocolate on top. The cake itself was soft and moist but not too sweet.
The service was also a little problematic at times. They were undoubtedly very busy, which may have led the orders to be messed up a couple of times (we had asked for no ice in the iced coffee), though in general the staff were friendly and willing to help.
The total cost of the meal, including the 10% surcharge, came to just under NT$800. To be honest I wasn’t totally satisfied with the experience and don’t get why the place is so popular and packed with people on a regular basis. We even spotted a Japanese couple with two young kids who followed a guide book all the way there, reflecting its reputation and popularity.
Perhaps we ordered the wrong mains (even though they were both “recommended” menu items), but apart from the cake the food was neither particularly tasty nor refined. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either, just acceptable — a little rough around the edges, so to speak, and felt somewhat processed, which might explain why they were able to serve us so quickly despite the small kitchen and large crowds.
PS: I hear they have a second store nearby, on Xinhai Road
Grandma Nitti’s Kitchen (中西美食)
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/grandmanittiskitchen
Address: No. 8, Lane 93, Shida Rd., Taipei, Taiwan (nearest MRT is Guting or Taipower Building Station)
Phone: (02) 2369-9751
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10pm-11pm, Sunday 10am-10pm