For a four-month-old, one-chef restaurant run by four inexperienced young men in pink shirtsleeves, Burned Cheese is doing a lot of things right. It has worked hard to appeal to a female clientele and according to Jimmy Chiang (江俊億), one of the co-owners, its efforts have met with success.
Part of the appeal may well be the attention paid to presentation, and small attentions like the separate bowl for salad dressing. As Jimmy said, many women these days are very weight conscious, and the separate bowl allows them to decide just how much dressing they want to add.
The set meal (NT$580) spoke assertively of the quality of the restaurant. The Caesar salad and pumpkin soup were both good, and the appetizer of the day — tender squid sashimi, papaya, fried beef with balsamic vinegar, garnished with a sweet apple-based sauce — might fairly be described as art.
The special house coffee is smooth as silk, so that even cream-and-sugar types will be tempted to take it black. And the excellent “burned cheese” cheesecake is representative, says Jimmy, of a cuisine that is light and healthy-feeling but also flavorful and satisfying.
The menu is Western, with daily soups and appetizers, four salads, a variety of pastas, and several seafood, meat, and surf-and-turf main courses. Elaborate set dinners range from NT$320 to NT$630, and include an appetizer, bread, salad, soup, sherbet, main course, dessert, and a beverage.
The restaurant itself has a simple, comfortable design, with textured white walls, Tiffany-style lamps over each table, and plenty of personal space.
Many recent restaurant owners are all too ready to moan about the constant effort that running a restaurant and refining a menu demands. Jimmy, though, described with refreshing enthusiasm how he and his three co-owners started learning to cook by hanging out in the kitchens of the upscale restaurants where they used to work—and, after simultaneously resigning to set up Burned Cheese, continuing that process in their own kitchen.
“It was hard work in the beginning,” he says, smiling a little bashfully. “Other people would leave for the night, and when they came back the next morning we'd still be here.”
Judging by the size of the crowd still being served at 8:30 on a Sunday night, that dedication has paid off handsomely.