Fri, Aug 15, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: Pai Hsiang Tavern 百鄉

Address: 2, Lane 87, Yitong St., Taipei (台北市伊通街號87巷2號)
Telephone: (02) 2506-6410 or (02) 2501-2598
Open: 11am to 10pm
Average meal: NT$500 per person, plus 10 percent service charge
Details: Credit cards accepted, menu in both Chinese and English

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

New Zealand cows taste better than American ones at Pai Hsiang.

PHOTO: DAVID MOMPHARD, TAIPEI TIMES

This is a bit embarrassing. I've spent three years passing by a back-alley establishment not 100m from this newspaper's offices which, I've recently discovered, might possibly have the best pub food in Taipei.

Then again, perhaps it's because Pai Hsiang succeeds all too well at being a small, quiet, ivy-draped eatery. Not once have I seen the commotion usually associated with most pubs; Pai Hsiang has no giant-screen televisions tuned to a Tri-Nations match nor pint-pickled punters pressed against its exterior walls. Indeed, without a single beer available on tap, it's hard to think of this tavern as a drinking establishment at all. Had I known long ago that Pai Hsiang instead offers a lengthy menu of Western fare, I'd have been tucking in to their Hungarian goulash (NT$350) or lamb in mint sauce (NT$250) on those nights that yet another plate of pot stickers just didn't seem palatable.

Pai Hsiang's menu offers something of a taste test. Its first two headings are US beef and New Zealand beef, each presenting the same cuts of meat in six and 12-ounce sizes. In spite of my Mid-West American upbringing, I must report that New Zealand cows taste better than their Yankee brethren (apologies to my friends in Omaha). The steaks are priced between NT$400 and NT$600 and come with soup, salad, dinner rolls, dessert and coffee or tea.

There is also a daily set-meal special, a different one each day of the month, (the specials for the entire month are printed out and available for the asking). Shrimp and avocado salad, penne au gratin, chicken cordon bleu, ox tongue stew, breaded fried oysters and US sirloin steak are a small sampling of what's on offer. Each comes with the soup of the day, dinner rolls or rice, dessert and coffee or tea and are priced between NT$350 and NT$450 plus a 10 percent service charge. A wide selection of overpriced, undersized snacks are also on hand, including some nice cheeses.

Pai Hsiang isn't cheap for as unassuming an establishment as it is, but considering that NT$500 seems to be the ante for eating Western cuisine in Taipei, they don't do badly (McDonalds, while certainly Western, can't be considered cuisine).

Bottom line: If you've a hankering for pub fare without the usual pub trappings, Pai Hsiang is a sound bet for spending your NT dollar. Don't let it take three years for you to discover as much for yourself.

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