Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: Tom's Gourmet Restaurant(湯姆美食)

Address: 7-1, Ln 123, Songjiang Rd., Taipei (台北市松江路123巷7-1號)
Telephone: 2501 9552
Open: Daily from 11am. Last orders taken at 9pm.
Average meal: NT$200 per person
Details: Credit cards accepted. Menu in Chines

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Soy sauce noodles royal-palace style are a delight, with or without peas.

PHOTO:DAVID MOMPHARD, TAIPEI TIMES

It's not the gourmet fare its name claims, but Tom's is one of the better deals you can find in the area of Songjiang and Nanjing East roads: large portions, low prices and tasty food of a flavor not often found in Taipei.

Diners are initially faced with the choice of choosing items from the NT$150 or NT$180 sides of the menu. Leading the former is Tom's "famous beef noodles." Like the restaurant's claim to gourmet standards, it's hard to think Tom's beef noodles are famous considering he only opened in May of this year. But he has gained a lot of publicity in local dailies specifically for this dish and his soy sauce noodles "royal palace style." The only thing that detracts from these two considerable bowls of noodles are the green peas. They sit in the bowl the way kernel corn sits on so many local pizzas -- perhaps adding a little color, but little in the way of flavor.

Peas notwithstanding, the royal palace noodles rival the supposedly famous beef noodles. Tom, a transplant from China, says his beef noodles are made from a secret recipe he carried over from Beijing.

The best of the NT$180 side of the menu may be the black fungus chicken, which tastes decidedly better than it sounds. A literal translation of the Chinese, "wooden ear" chicken (木耳雞), might have been a more prosaic choice, but its name becomes unimportant once it's on the table. The mushrooms are fresh and the dark sauce they're bathed in leads you to believe chickens were put on earth to be paired with mushrooms.

Whatever you order, be sure to add the NT$50 salad and soup or NT$80 salad, soup, bread and cake for desert. The salad is blah (there's that kernel corn!), but the creamy pumpkin soup could be a main course if it were served in the same bowl they use for noodles.

The selection of drinks is unexceptional and includes the usual teas, coffees and a few fruit juices. The addition of Blue Nun in the wine section (it's the entire selection, actually) does little towards meeting Tom's "gourmet" ambitions.

Lastly -- and it's perhaps unfair to mention this of a place whose menu never veers north of NT$400 -- Tom's gourmet claim is undone by a lackluster atmosphere. An otherwise nice space has been decorated willy-nilly, and, on the night the Taipei Times went for this review, Edith Piaf covers were playing over the PA. No, not Edith Piaf covering her favorite tunes, but other people who haven't Ms. Piaf's talent nor her French ability, butchering songs she made classic.

It's as shame, because everything else at Tom's Gourmet is the genuine article.

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