As the number of Italian restaurants and pizzerias in Taipei continues to grow, Le Rouge is one establishment to keep at the top of your list. Located close to an MRT station in Banciao (板橋), this low-to-mid priced bistro is worth the trip for the distinctive touch it puts on classic dishes.
A joint venture between French-Canadian expat Francis Beauvais and Crystal Lo (羅淑芬), Le Rouge started out as an Internet business: the two foodies sold homemade meatballs and calzone on Yahoo Taiwan’s auction Web site. Business was good, which encouraged them to expand to a full-fledged kitchen over a year ago.
Le Rouge mainly offers pizza, calzone and pasta, with around 20 varieties of each and plenty of choices for vegetarians. Beauvais, a Montreal native who grew up working in his family’s restaurant, says that everything except the pastas is “made from scratch” and all vegetables are handpicked daily at the market.
My dining companion and I ordered the couple’s set menu, which includes the choice of an appetizer, a salad, a pizza, a pasta and two non-alcoholic drinks (NT$949, not including the 10 percent service charge). The Greek salad (NT$150), dressed with a subtle lemon vinaigrette, was short on cucumber slices but came with a generous serving of feta cheese. Even more pleasing was the bruschetta (NT$120) — toasted slices of French bread with chopped tomato, onions, olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan.
There was a noticeable but acceptable wait between our appetizers and main courses, and we appreciated that our waiter came to tell us when our order was almost ready. The service was attentive and well-timed — the staff kept our water glasses full and cleared our plates only when it was apparent that we were finished.
If our main dishes represent the quality of the food at La Rouge, then anything on the menu will be highly fulfilling. The pasta di sole (NT$250) melted in the mouth with its rich tomato cream sauce; it came with sliced Italian sausage, chopped bits of sun-dried tomatoes and penne (spaghetti and fettuccine are two other pasta options). Served in a charming, oblong-shaped white bowl, the portion appeared a bit small, but the dish’s creaminess was satisfying.
Stone-oven baked pizzas are all the rage these days, but Beauvais does without them. Instead he spent a year perfecting his dough recipe, and the result is a tasty pizza crust that is thin yet substantial. Made of white flour, the crust hints at focaccia: it’s slightly doughy and seasoned with Italian herbs. The mouton noir pizza (NT$350), which has sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, mozzarella and black olives, was simple yet pleasingly rich.
Beauvais says the pair’s goal is “for everyone to feel at home” at the restaurant, and for the most part they succeed. The interior is painted in bright yellow and pastel reds, with oil paintings, children’s drawings and Thai movie posters hanging on the walls.
Diners can sit near the open kitchen and watch the waiters and cooks weave around each other at a mesmerizing pace, silently focused on their tasks. The restaurant has a second floor, which is furnished with large couches and easy chairs.
The only awkward aspect of the space is the noise — with the high ceiling, concrete walls and hard-tiled floors, sounds bounce around the room, which can make it difficult to have a quiet conversation. But the food is good enough to keep you from talking.
Le Rouge also serves breakfast on weekends until noon, with set meals of omelets, fresh fruit and homemade yogurt priced between NT$200 and NT$280.
Take the MRT’s Blue Line to Xinpu Station to get to Le Rouge. Leave the station via exit No. 1, and look out for the neighboring Dante Coffee shop. Beauvais and Lo recommend calling ahead for reservations.
Address: 1F, 419-6, Wenhua Rd Sec 1, Banciao City, Taipei County (板橋市文化路一段419-6號1樓)
Telephone: (02) 2255-2861
Open: Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 10:30pm; opens for breakfast at 9am on Saturdays and Sundays
Average meal: NT$250 to NT$500 per person
Details: Chinese and English menus; credit cards accepted; reservations recommended
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