Category Archives: daan (大安)

italian: la giara ristorante

date october 28, 2011

contact 2F, No. 352, Sec. 1, Fuxing S. Rd., Daan District, Taipei City/台北市大安區復興南路一段352號2F/02.2705.0345

hours 7 days a week :: [lunch] 12:00-14:30 :: [afternoon tea] 12:00-17:00 :: [dinner] 18:00-23:30

price 600NT-3000NT (+10% service charge; excludes alcohol)

rating ♥♥♥ (4 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Daan MRT (捷運大安站)

website http://www.lagiara.com.tw/ (Chinese and English)

My fellow food blogging friend at I Am Gourmand once again planned another lovely romantic dinner at an Italian restaurant in Taipei.

If you are walking north on Fuxing N. Rd. (復興南路) from Daan MRT station (捷運大安站) the restaurant will be on the left-hand side of Fuxing. Be warned, there are two No. 352’s on Fuxing N. Rd. If you’re coming from the MRT station, it’s not the first one, it’s the second one after the clothing store.

From the street, the entrance of La Giara looks the photo above. Walk into the lobby and follow the black and white checkered floor up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs is the entrance to La Giara.

Make reservations before coming! The restaurant didn’t fill up while we were there, but I hear this place is popular, so better safe than sorry. The inside of La Giara is a giant open space with rooms on both ends of the dining area. The lighting is pretty dim, the tables have fresh flowers, and there is soft Italian music playing in the background, which makes for a pretty romantic setting; I can see why everyone says this is a good date place. In researching what to order prior to coming I had read on several reviews that this is a popular spot for proposals. We didn’t happen to witness any, but I can see why it is.

The menu at La Giara is in Chinese, Italian, and English. I noticed that the prices on their website differ from the actual menu; the website probably hasn’t been updated. The menu selection is pretty good. I was surprised that they didn’t have more pasta options, but they have a decent amount of main meat based courses. Between the three of us in our party we ordered:

– Stuffed squid topped with breadcrumb, served with salmoriglio olive oil dressing, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and parsley (西西里式香料麵包丁透抽捲/Calamari alla trapanese, serviti con salmoriglio) 490NT
– Fresh spinach leaves tossed in a dressing of olive oil, rice vinegar, garlic and ginger (菠菜沙拉/Insalata di spinaci) 380NT
– Risotto in four kind cheese sauce (起司燉飯/Risotto quatro for maggi) 530NT
– Risotto with shrimps and scallops (螯蝦干貝海味燉飯/Risotto gamberi e cappesante) 530NT
– Potato dumplings with gorgonzola cheese (藍乳酪馬鈴薯麵糰/Gnocchi di patate al gorgonzola) 530NT
– Semi-frozen almond cake with chocolate (巧克力杏仁霜/Semifreddo di mandorle con cioccolata) 270NT

First thing to come out was the complimentary bread sticks. We all thought the bread was pretty tasty. I think that of the Italian restaurants that I’ve been to thus far in Taipei, these were my favorite. They had a herb, salt, seasoning sprinkled on top and the bread itself was fresh and hot. Note, the olive oil and vinegar bottle do not have spouts, even though they look like they do. The tops are actually caps, so don’t embarrass yourself like I did and pour before taking the top of: you’ll make a loud noise as the cap clanks onto the plate.

After the bread the server put a plate with three tiny fried balls pierced by toothpicks down in front of us. We noticed that no other tables got this, so we were a little confused, but decided to go with it. I mean, who doesn’t like a complementary  amuse. First impression, it tasted like a delicious tater tot. This ball was tiny, like the size of your thumb nail tiny, but it tasted pretty good. We asked the server later what it actually was and found out that it was actually rice and beef. Tasty, although, they could have taken the wrapper all the way off the toothpick… We later learned that the chef thought it was one of our birthdays, hence the amuse.

So the nice thing about this place is that they will split everything on the menu for you onto different plates to make it easier to share. We decided to get the stuffed squid topped with breadcrumb, served with salmoriglio olive oil dressing, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and parsley (西西里式香料麵包丁透抽捲/Calamari alla trapanese, serviti con salmoriglio) for 490NT and fresh spinach leaves tossed in a dressing of olive oil, rice vinegar, garlic and ginger (菠菜沙拉/Insalata di spinaci) for 380NT. The server said that the salad was big enough to split between 2-3 people, so had the chef split the salad onto three plates for us. We didn’t know that they were going to slit the squid too, but he did. The salad was a hit with all three of us. The dressing was delicious: light and well balanced. Also, for the price, I think it’s a pretty decent size. The stuffed squid was ordered based on reviews both Estella and I had seen online. First, for the price, the serving seemed small. The server said it was because the chef split it into three portions to split equally so it just looked smaller. Anyways, we were all underwhelmed by the stuffed squid, which was sad because we all really wanted to like it; I mean, it looked delicious. The stuffing lacked something that was as simple as salt. There was a sauce drizzled around the squid: you have to get some of the lemon sauce on each bite. The lemon sauce adds some much needed acidity to the dish, but even so, we were all still kind of let down.

I love risotto and I love cheese, so I got the risotto in four kind cheese sauce (起司燉飯/Risotto quatro for maggi) for 530NT. I was originally thinking about getting the seafood risotto, but since Andrea was getting that, I figured I’d go with the cheese risotto. When it was put down in front of me Estella said, now that’s a real risotto. It looked delicious on the plate, spreading on the plate like I learned a risotto should from watching a lot of Top Chef. The rice was a delicious al dente and the sauce was cheesy. Like, super cheesy. I’m not sure what four cheese were in this sauce, but I can tell you that bleu cheese was most definitely one of them. This risotto was rich. Really rich, and honestly not for those who 1) don’t like cheese 2) don’t like strong flavors. Even I could only finish half of it. With that said, I still really liked this. The rice was cooked well and the sauce was cheesy, rich, and creamy. But, if you’re looking for something subtle, something light, don’t get this.

Andrea ordered the risotto with shrimps and scallops (螯蝦干貝海味燉飯/Risotto gamberi e cappesante) for 530NT. This was really good. Again, the rice was a nice al dente and the tomato sauced was pretty good. I think I actually liked the sauce better at Luna D’Italia, but either way, this was tasty and Andrea really liked it.

By far the biggest hit of the night were the potato dumplings with gorgonzola cheese (藍乳酪馬鈴薯麵糰/Gnocchi di patate al gorgonzola) aka potato gnocchi for 530NT. Estella loves gnocchi, as do I, and the gnocchi at La Giara definitely hits the spot. Light, fluffy, creamy, and amazingly delicious. They were like little potato clouds of creamy tastiness. By far the best gnocchi in Taipei, and the best gnocchi I’ve ever had (not that I’m an gnocchi guru or anything). The sauce was also tasty, light, and creamy. I would definitely go back to La Giara just to order this.

For dessert, we decided to split the semi-frozen almond cake with chocolate (巧克力杏仁霜/Semifreddo di mandorle con cioccolata) for 270NT. We had originally wanted to order the homemade semifreddo pistachios (melting ice cream) (大廚特製開心果霜淇淋) for 300NT under the Chef’s Specials, but they were out. The semifreddo we ended up with, though, was delicious! Creamy, not too sweet, and nice and nutty. Compared to the one at Luna D’Italia, I liked this one better. I just thought the overall flavor and texture was better.

Note that water here is not free, but they tell you that upon being seated. They have two options, sparkling water and mineral water. You pay by the bottle, which comes out to 140NT per bottle. Service here is pretty good, although, we had issues trying to get the attention of servers every once in a while. Overall, the food was pretty good.  The portions are kind of small for the price, but the quality was good. Quality over quantity, right? The chef/owner is frequently on the floor and in and out of the kitchen, which I had read about in other reviews. It’s almost like he’s a little ADD needing to constantly move around and/or check to see how people are reacting to the food. It’s a little distracting, but other then that I’d definitely come back for some of dishes here, ie the gnocchi, and maybe leave some others out, ie the stuffed squid.

For a grand total of 3157NT – about 1000NT per person – we were able to get appetizers, a main course, and a dessert, and all left feeling pretty full and satisfied. I noticed that they do have set dinner meals for either 1800NT or 2500NT, which was out of my price range. You can also just order a la carte if you wanted, which would probably run you around 600NT or so. Regardless, it was nice to find out you could still get a tasty three course meal at a reasonable rate. Good job, La Giara.

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swedish: flavors.

date November 17, 2010

contact No. 13, Alley 26, Lane 300, Sec. 4,  Ren Ai Road, Taipei/台北市仁愛路四段300巷26弄 13號 /02.2709.6525

hours CLOSED ON MONDAYS/ Tuesday – Friday 18:00-22:30; Lunch by reservation/ Saturday & Sunday 12:00-14:30 & 18:00-22:30

price 1000NT-1500NT (per person; excluding drinks)

rating ♥♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)

website http://www.flavors.com.tw/

nearest MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT, Daan MRT, or Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall MRT(忠孝復興捷運站,大安捷運站,國父紀念館捷運站)

I have been incredibly delinquent in my food updates. I’ve been meaning to start up again, but I guess was waiting for something worth writing about. Flavors was it. Thanks to hungry girl’s blog I found Flavors, and seriously, one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

A friend came to Taipei from San Francisco and decided he wanted to see what spending more than 100NT on a meal could get you in Taipei. With the help of a friend and hungry girl, Flavors is where we ended up on his last night in town.

Finding Flavors in the dark was not so easy, but after a little wandering after getting off the bus (which is the easiest way to get there. The nearest MRT is really not that near.) we saw the brightly lit up sign for Flavors. We had made reservations, but it didn’t look like we needed to. The atmosphere inside is very intimate. Low lighting accompanied by a great jazz cd mix of some favorites from Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong.

We were instantly greeted by a very kind woman, who I am going to guess is Stephanie (co-owner of Flavors). Noticing that I was speaking English to my friend, she asked if it would be better if she introduced the menu in English, which my friend greatly appreciated. She was incredibly knowledgeable about the menu, yet not at all pushy, which I loved. Flavors only does set menus, the cheapest when we were there was for 890NT and the most expensive being around 1500NT. Each meal comes with bread, soup, salad (that can be upgraded to an appetizer), main course, dessert, and coffee. The salads and desserts can be upgraded for 300NT or 180NT respectively. For wine they only had by the glass a house cabernet sauvignon and pinot grigio (I think). We opted for a bottle, and per Stephanie’s recommendation ended up with a cabernet sauvignon (the Chef’s favorite) from Kilikanoon (Australia) (NT1500). The wine was perfect, and well worth the wine headache that I always inevitably get.

In the end I decided to go with the smoked salmon for 890NT (which was pointed out to be smoked in house) and my friend with the lamb chops for around 1200NT. We upgraded our salads to the rosemary scallops and swedish meatballs, and upgraded one dessert to the chocolate cake.

Right after we finished ordering, a platter of freshly baked bread was brought out to us. There was a roasted garlic and an olive tapenade to accompany. The bread was fresh and warm. Both tapenades were delicious. The garlic was not at all over powering, and the olive was the same.

Next was the soup, wild porcino mushroom. This soup was amazing. Very rich and creamy, but not too salty or heavy. I loved the texture of the soup, there was something very silky about it, but you could still taste the chopped mushrooms. Stephanie came over to us and asked how we liked it. We said we loved it. She seemed surprised, she said that many customers had said that the mushroom taste was too strong, but we told her that was what made it so good.

After the soup was an amuse bouche that we were not expecting. We’re pretty sure the waiter said spicy yam, but not completely positive. Either way, this perfect one bite was delicious. The yam (?) was well seasoned and well cooked and the little dollop of what tasted like sour cream was the perfect accompaniment.

So in reality these were only the second swedish meatballs I’ve ever had, and considering the only other ones I’ve ever had came from the Ikea food court, I don’t know that I can fairly judge these. Regardless, I thought these were great. We were advised to make sure we got some meatball, sauce, and lingonberry jam in each bite. The sauce was perfect creamy saltiness with the sweetness of the jam and the meatball. The meatball had a subtle sweetness and kind of just melted in your mouth, in a good way.

The rosemary scallops were amazing. It came with three, but the photos I got of all them were all a little too dark, so here is one. A few nights prior we had an over cooked scallop at Shintori-Shadow and were disappointed. These scallops were cooked perfectly. Wrapped in what looked like bacon, or some other salted cured meat, and skewered with a sprig of rosemary, these scallops were perfectly seasoned, and cooked just right. The rosemary was powerful enough to be noticed, but subtle enough to not be too much. The scallop was tender and juicy and kind of just melted in your mouth.

Finally it was time for the main courses. My salmon was cooked perfectly. Juicy , flaky, and delicious. There is nothing I hate more than over cooked fish. I’m not sure how much of a smoked flavored I got from this, but the dill sauce with the potatoes, was more than enough to satisfy me.

While I am not personally a fan of any gamey meat, I must say that if I were a fan, I would love this dish. The lamb was melt in your mouth tasty, however, still, too gamey for my taste. If you like lamb though, I feel like you would like this.

When it came to dessert time, we opted to keep one of the apple cakes that the set meal usually comes with. It was described as their “signature apple cake” and it was so tasty. I’m not exactly sure what the cake is served in, it’s almost liked melted vanilla ice cream or some sort of cream, but it’s perfect for this small piece of apple cake. The crust is flaky, even in the cream sauce, and the apples were warm and sweet without being too sweet. This with a cup of coffee was a great way to end the meal.

The dessert we opted to pay extra for was the chocolate cake with raspberry sorbet. We were instructed to taste the sorbet first, then some of the cake, then eat them together. The raspberry sorbet alone was great. Very flavorful, tart, and not too sweet. The cake alone was not impressive. It was kind of dense and a little dry. Together it was okay. The melted sorbet with the cake made it less dry, but overall we were not impressed with this. Maybe we should have tried the rhubarb dessert.

Overall, this was by far one of the best meals I’ve ever had for the price. Pretty much everything was delicious, and the service was great. Our water glasses were always full. Our wine glasses were always full, and nothing sat around on our table empty for no reason. Accomplishing all that without being annoying, to me, is impressive. No one was in our way or overly attentive. Basically, Flavors is definitely a place worth trying. For the money you will get more than you pay for.