Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - Page 15 News List

RESTAURANTS : Soho and Urban 9 Bar

By Noah Buchan  /  STAFF REPORER


Soho opened late last month in the space that formerly housed the swanky Belle Fusion. Whereas Belle used the fifth floor and rooftop space as dining areas, Soho has transformed the space into Urban 9 Bar, a lounge bar that opens at 9pm.

Ceiling-to-floor windows bathe Soho in natural light during the day and lend the place a romantic atmosphere at night. The walls on the first floor, painted granite gray and punctuated by girders and supporting gray brick pillars keep the vibe downtown. The second floor has more of a country feel, with wooden seats at widely spaced tables.

Belle Fusion was known much for its food as its ambience, and the high-end crowd that frequented the space paid a hefty price for their victuals. Soho goes in the opposite direction with a simple menu of salads, soups, burgers, hot dogs, baked rice dishes and Italian pastas — in other words, pub food in a fashionable environment.

This could have ended up a disappointment — especially for those expecting a healthy lunch or dinner. But where Soho is short on menu refinement, the food it offers is solid and the portions appropriate for the price.

I started off with the garden salad (NT$80) and the homemade Mexican white bean stew (NT$80). The salad was an uncreative mix of iceberg lettuce, cucumbers and sprouts. The mound of greenery was sprinkled with raisins and came swimming (some might say drowning) in an Italian dressing. Thankfully, the dressing was a zesty combination of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, spices and chopped onions. Yet a leaf or two of radicchio or even some romaine would have uplifted this unexceptional salad.

The Mexican white bean stew was an improvement on the starter. Actually, it wasn’t so much of a stew as it was a thick soup. The white beans had been blended with onions and squash before being added to the creamy and un-oily broth that contained dried spices. The flavor was light and the white beans lent the soup a subtle and delicious smoky flavor.

Soho and Urban 9 Bar

Address: 149, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City


Telephone: (02) 2751-1338

Average meal: NT$330

Open: Daily from 12pm to 9pm for food; bar open from 9pm until late

Details: Chinese and English menu; credit cards accepted

The main course mushroom cheeseburger (NT$190) served with potato wedges won’t win any “burger of the year” awards but it was served with a generous selection of veggies.

The food at Soho might not captivate the palate, but the atmosphere — particularly on the second floor — is ideal for whiling away a few hours with friends. The fifth floor and enclosed glass rooftop space are sure to gain accolades from late-night nibblers.


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