With several restaurant ventures already under his belt, including the successful Alleycat’s pizza chain in Taipei, Alan Pontes is at it again. “I wanted to do something completely different,” says the Capetown native. He will certainly please Taipei diners in search of a fresh twist on Western fare with his latest establishment, Yuma Southwestern Grill.
Customers are greeted with a spacious dining room that holds 120 people and is painted in earthy yellows and reds. The Southwestern theme had long been in the back of Pontes’ mind, as he often traveled through the region by train from Los Angeles to Chicago during his college years in the US. When the chance to start a new restaurant in Taipei came up, three words popped up in his mind: “clean, fresh and dry.”
Add festive to that list. Barbecued chicken, ribs, and prawns are the main offerings at Yuma, served in large portions for people to share — a nod to local dining sensibilities and an idea he thinks will resonate with Western clientele. “That’s what I found at Alleycat’s. People had a lot more fun when they shared their food,” he says.
But lone diners need not fear. I found a hearty meal in the half portion of baby back ribs (NT$370), which comes with a side of coleslaw and long-grained rice. Basted in a cranberry and honey sauce, the meat was succulent and tangy and slid off the bone easily. The ribs are also available with two other sauces: a “dry rub,” made of herb seasoning, or “peri-peri,” made with chili peppers.
These choices, along with a rosemary and lime sauce, are also available with the grilled chicken at NT$220 for a half portion or NT$390 for a whole. The chicken and ribs are marinated for 24 hours in a citrus and herb seasoning, roasted slowly in an oven, then cooked on a flame grill upon order, Pontes says.
Address: 21, Alley 11, Ln 216, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市忠孝東路四段216巷11弄21號)
Telephone: (02) 8773-8895
Open: Daily from 11am to 11pm
Average meal: NT$350
Details: English and Chinese menu; major credit cards accepted
On the Net: yumasouthwesterngrill.com
Such homemade goodness appears across the menu, even down to the coleslaw (NT$90 a la carte). Yuma’s unique recipe has a zesty lemon-based dressing and cranberries.
Porky’s pulled pork nachos (NT$240) could also be a meal by itself. The nachos arrive as a bed of freshly made tortilla chips, pulled pork, romaine lettuce, bell peppers, onions and jalapenos, topped with melted Monterey jack cheese, corn salsa and sour cream. The dish can also be ordered with shredded chicken (NT$220) or without meat (NT$200).
It’s worth looking at the extensive menu on Yuma’s Web site before visiting so as not to get overwhelmed. Although it lists combination ideas for parties of two to eight people, couples seem at a disadvantage with only three suggestions provided. Pontes says he’s already working on a new menu layout and is planning to add burritos to the lunch menu, which includes tortilla wraps ranging from NT$150 to NT$195. More vegetarian options are also in the works.
All in all, Yuma offers value for your money, especially for large parties, and then some. There’s no service charge and the drinks are inexpensive: Corona is NT$100 per bottle; Hoegaarden on tap is NT$130 for a 250ml serving; and margaritas are NT$390 per pitcher.
Make sure to save room for the Tijuana vanilla and lime flan (NT$120), a specialty of Yuma’s chef, Ronald Chan (陳福新). The tanginess of the lime adds a refreshing touch to this creamy custard dessert.
Yuma Southwestern Grill is located near Toasteria and Alleycat’s on Zhongxiao East Road. To get there by the MRT, go to the Zhongxiao-Dunhua station (on the blue line), leave the station at Exit No. 3, and walk straight ahead along Zhongxiao East Road. Turn right at Lane 248, just before Yanji Street (延吉街). Make a right on the alley just past Mary’s Hamburgers.