As far as plate lunches go, Bai Hua Tai (百花台) offers good value for a home-cooked meal, with the most expensive options — rice and a main dish of either chicken or fish — costing NT$210. It’s not necessarily the food, however, that will keep you coming back.
This cafe sports a stylish, comfy interior befitting of its neighbors on this gentrified alleyway near Zhongshan MRT Station (中山捷運站). Bai Hua Tai takes up both floors of an old-looking, two-story building with a pitched roof (a sad rarity in Taipei), which makes the second-floor dining area feel spacious. The ceiling is lined with light-colored wood paneling, adding to a surprising warmth that stands in contrast to the cafe’s gray concrete exterior.
There are two themes at Bai Hua Tai: fine art and jazz. A white upright piano stands on one side of the room. Two abstract oil paintings hang above the piano, and framed 1950s-era photos of jazz musicians line the opposite wall.
The sparseness of decor and white walls gives the space an art gallery vibe, but some homey touches remove any air of pretentiousness. On a recent visit, freshly cut roses were perched on a wooden, kitchen-style dining table in the corner of the room. Nearby was an extensive collection of jazz and classical CDs; Pharaoh Saunders, John Coltrane and Artie Shepp seemed to get the most play, judging by the worn covers.
The wait for our meals was a little long, but worth it for the Bai Hua Tai grilled chicken (百花台梅干雞腿, NT$210), which was covered in a tangy glaze and cooked with preserved plums. The pan-fried salmon (香燒鮭魚, NT$190) was nicely presented, garnished with slices of green onion, but was a little overcooked. Both set meals come with three different side dishes of freshly prepared vegetables, some steamed, some stir-fried. Diners are allowed to serve themselves once at the mini-buffet downstairs and can fill their plates as they wish.
Address: 13, Ln 41, Chifeng St, Taipei City
Telephone: (02) 2559-3159
Open: Daily fr
Bai Hua Tai offers a full selection of hot drinks, ranging from espresso to herbal tea. Our server warned us that the raspberry tea (紅漿果花果茶, NT$150), which comes steeped in a small pot and serves two people, would be “too sour.” But the tartness was tolerable and made for a healthy coda to the meal.
A good excuse to stay and enjoy the surroundings is the house specialty, the Bai Hua Tai fried banana toast with cinnamon (百花台肉桂香蕉煎吐司, NT$90). Caramelized sugar is spread on the toast, but most of the sweetness comes from the fried banana.
To get to Bai Hua Tai, leave Zhongshan MRT Station at exit No. 2 and walk north on the left side of the parkway. The cafe occasionally hosts musical performances from string quartets or jazz bands.