Fri, Nov 19, 2004 - Page 15 News List

Restaurant: Brasserie

Address: 1F, 41 Zhongshan N Rd, Sec 2, Taipei (北市中山北路二段41號一樓)
Telephone: (02) 2523 8000
Open:Breakfast 6:30am to 10am, Lunch 12pm to 2pm. Dinner 6pm to 9:30pm
Average meal: NT$770 per person
Details: Credit cards accepted

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Brasserie is appropriately billed as a "festival buffet."

PHOTO: DAVID MOMPHARD, TAIPEI TIMES

Asian buffets are something altogether different from their American cousins I grew up eating at. In the Midwest, we have chain-store buffets with giant conveyor belts piled with food. They resemble airport luggage claims retooled to serve obscene amounts of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles and, of course, fruit-filled Jello molds topped with marshmallow cream. Comparing them with the buffets you'll find in Asia's cosmopolitan capitals is enough to give you indigestion decades after eating at one.

Grand Formosa Regent's Brasserie restaurant has the "Festival Buffet" and it's appropriate because it turns breakfast, lunch and dinner into an active affair. Instead of waiting patiently as your order comes to you, you're swept into an elegant serving area to explore what lies behind the lines of people at each of the several areas of interest.

A large circular area to one side is teeming with a small ocean of seafood. Red snapper, tuna, eel, shrimp and crabs are among the items you'll usually find here, but those items change with each catch of the day. The succulent tuna sashimi you had there on your last visit might be replaced with salmon sushi. Such are life's travails.

Heartier fare can be found across the room, where pastas, potatoes and a cornucopia of Continental cuisine sits steaming. It's here that meat-lovers will meet a man in a tall white hat who they'll undoubtedly visit again and again. He's slicing the best roast beef this side of town from Lawry's. I say "best" because it's cooked to medium rare perfection and because they haven't forgotten the fixings: spicy Dijon mustard and uncut horseradish, the kind to clear your sinuses when slathered on.

The roast beef alone is nearly worth the price of admission, but don't fill up on it alone or you'll miss some of the items that separate Brasserie from (excuse me) the smorgasbord of buffets. First is the hot pot area; a giant cauldron kept boiling with all your favorite hot pot fare. The only thing missing is the mix-it-yourself sauces -- soy, garlic, basil, chives, peanut powder, sugar, vinegar and the like.

One suggestion to the Grand Formosa would be to include more signage above each of the areas so that diners needn't line up just to see what's behind the row of people curtaining of the cuisine. It would keep folks from milling about in the middle of the room and, if done tastefully, wouldn't detract from the decor. Brasserie has a long way to go before it looks anything like an airport luggage claim.

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