You would expect style at Khaki and it delivers. Part of the fashion designer Isabelle Wen's (溫慶珠) expanding empire on arboreal Renai Road, the "cafe" is run by sister Lily Wen (溫慶玉) and her husband Patrick Lee (李紹榮). Outside there's a patio area for people-watching, inside there's a large central space with simple but eclectic furnishings. Typical of these are the 1960s lamps, marble bar and geometric wooden wall coverings. There are also animal prints and a zebra stenciled onto a mirror. Lee and Wen call it "safari in the concrete jungle," but post-colonial works too.
In addition to the main cafe there's an area at the back with salon-style seating. A "love loft," accessed by a set of stairs, is possibly the city's most romantic afternoon tea spot. Outside, behind a large window, there's a small but perfectly formed wooden deck, tree and Japanese-style pond, with seating for alfresco dining. Khaki has been set up as an oasis but it's a smart marketing move too. You can see Isabelle Wen's Fifi's Market through the large windows next door and there's a flow of customers between the two businesses.
Khaki's strong point is style but what about substance? The menu's a mix of salads, main meals and "small eats." The eats include items like chicken wings, spring rolls and foie gras with French toast. For lovers of Western food there's the assorted cheese plate with salami, and Croque Monsieur; local palates will be pleased by beef noodle soup, assorted dumplings, rice and noodle dishes.
In charge of the kitchen is chef A-bian (阿扁), formerly of the Hyatt. His pumpkin soup was artfully presented and had a clean, natural taste, but needed pepper. The mango and chicken salad was fresh and passed muster, while the spaghetti with garlic chicken leg was a more confident presentation. There is a variety of cakes and desserts, some homemade, all decent. Service was informal and friendly. The coffee is made from Illy beans and comes with proper granulated sugar.
"This is a real cafe, not a coffee shop, where you can equally drink a beer or glass of champagne with something to eat. It has a Paris type of feel, where people sit shoulder-to-shoulder facing the most beautiful boulevard in Taipei," Lily Wen concludes.
Address: 15 Renai Rd Sec 4, Taipei (台北市仁愛路四段15號)
Telephone: (02) 2779-1152
Open: Sunday to Thursday, 12pm to 12pm; Friday and Saturday until 2am
Average meal: Lunch NT$300; dinner NT$680
Details: Bilingual menu, credit cards accepted