With its antique-looking armchairs and slightly worn wooden armrests, crimson-colored walls set against black-and-golden carpeting, and original sculptures and other artworks in the dining room, a nostalgic sense of faded grandeur pervades Jimmy’s Kitchen, one of Taipei City’s oldest steak houses.
Hidden in a basement close to the roundabout on Renai Road (仁愛路), Jimmy’s Kitchen is said to have a history dating back to the foreign concessions in Shanghai. The owner fled to Taiwan with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) after the Chinese civil war and restarted the business, which was taken over by the current management two decades ago.
Bearing such a history in mind, it is not surprising that the restaurant has retained a look reminiscent of bygone days when suits and gowns were de rigueur. The interior design cleverly turns the lack of natural lighting to work in its favor, with candles on each table exuding a look of old-school romanticism that is given an aural dimension by a resident pianist.
As for the food itself, it lives up to all the rave reviews Jimmy’s has accumulated over the years. On a recent Friday night the restaurant was packed (fortunately, we had made reservations a few days ahead). My dining partner and I ordered the tenderloin with fresh goose liver (NT$1,100) and filet mignon (NT$1,120), both of which were recommended by the gray-haired staff. The tenderloin was a savory fusion of steak and slightly fried foie gras, with the latter being a bit of crunchy on the outside and buttery on the inside. The filet mignon was one of the best I had ever tasted.
According to other recent reviews, the pig knuckles (NT$820) are also a must-try. The more premium seafood dishes have also received fair reviews, but these are said to pale in comparison to the steak menu.
Apart from its legendary past and lauded menu, Jimmy’s most famed asset is its seasoned wait staff, who seem to take pride in their trade rather than merely seeing it as a way to make a living. Impeccably dressed in suits, they attend to patrons with great care and respect, observing quietly what diners need and offering their services without being intrusive.
At Jimmy’s, salads and desserts are served buffet-style, and there are a decent range of choices. The advice is to stay away from the cakes and stick with the fruit. One of the very few weaknesses this restaurant suffers from is its mediocre selection of pastries and cakes.