Fri, Mar 17, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Restaurant: Lotz Food 樂鍶

Address: 1, Ln 105, Sec 4, Ren'ai Rd, Taipei (台北市仁愛路4段105巷1號)
Telephone: (02) 2731 2975
Open: From 11am to 2am every day (bar only after 11pm)
Average meal: Lunch NT$399 adult; afternoon tea NT$250; dinner NT$699 (children's meals available)
Details: English and Chinese menu, major credit cards accepted


At Lotz, colors and flavors can be a little overwhelming.


Lotz Food has set an unusual goal for itself. It is a potentially trendy restaurant whose cuisine and its interior design flirt with fusion; the pedigree of its French chef includes a string of exclusive hotels; and dinner will set you back NT$700 a head. And yet it aspires toward humility -- sort of.

"It's a casual place. It's not fine dining at all," says Jean-Marc Cauquil, who started Lotz Food as a change from the hotel-restaurant environment of "everyone just coming in at the end of the day, drinking wine and staring at each other and then leaving."

Although it's no cozy hole-in-the-wall, there is in fact something inviting about Lotz Food's interior, where dark wood, clean brick, and mellow yet funky lighting take the edge off a slightly Japanese-influenced formality.

But it is Lotz Food's food that defines it as a social space. True to the name, there is lots of it -- and all 20 dishes are brought to your table at once, along with ten difference sauces. (This is not a place for eating alone.) When you finish a plate, your waiter will offer to refill it.

The food and sauces originate primarily from East and Southeast Asia, although you'll also find Indian vadas and Middle Eastern lamb. Strictly speaking, it isn't intended as fusion. Cauquil says he spent six months learning to cook each dish authentically -- to "keep it how it is" in its native country.

What ties the food together, and allows the diner to slather whichever sauce on whatever dish, is a common set of flavors: cumin, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, lemon and lime juice, coconut milk.

However, despite Cauquil's attempt to "keep it how it is," most of the food bears the influence of his background. The bold flavors of regional cuisine give way to more subtle combinations of spices and sauces. The subtlety can sometimes drift into blandness (especially if the food gets cold, which it inevitably does despite the warm metal plate on which the dishes are placed).

In this way, the dishes and sauces at Lotz Food require constant attention, lots of passing back and forth, and lots of discussion. The sauces are mandatory. You're not just paying to eat the food -- you're paying to engage with it.

Unfortunately, Lotz Food seems not to be in line with local tastes. "The foreigners love it," says Cauquil, but "the Taiwanese are so-so." Cauquil says he can solve that problem when he updates the menu in a few months.

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