VIEW THIS PAGE Among the dizzying billboards and crowds at Ximending, one finds relative quiet and a reasonably priced Italian-style meal at Mcafe (門卡迪), a cafe and restaurant just outside the Red House Theater (紅樓劇場).
Mcafe’s homey vibe offered a welcome contrast to the youthful buzz of the neighborhood, even though the overall dining experience felt slightly out of place and surreal.
The decor comes across vaguely as rustic Americana: the floors in this three-story restaurant are either covered in wood or earthy, reddish-colored tiles. Ceramic statues of old maids in Victorian garb and prairie animals sit on wooden shelves hanging on the walls. These knick-knacks shared space with old cloth-bound books, messily arranged for a “lived-in” look.
Why the country home styling? Was it to match the easy-listening country music (Carpenters) piped through on the house stereo? This reviewer resorted to wondering if the interior weren’t inspired by a Cosplay fantasy.
Thankfully the food and the service were more straightforward. Mcafe labels itself a “trattoria.” While the menu choices aren’t authentic Italian, the food is unpretentious and full of fresh ingredients. Full set meals, which run between NT$450 to NT$700, include an appetizer, soup, main course, drink and dessert. Economy set meals, which range between NT$280 to NT$520, include a salad, main course and drink. Every course, from appetizer to dessert, comes in ample portions and has a homemade touch.
My meal got off to an impressive start with the minestrone (NT$120), which could make for a light meal on its own. Mcafe’s hearty version was marked with signature local vegetables, including fresh cabbage and white radish, which blended in nicely with the standard ingredients one might expect: plum tomatoes, potato and pasta. The soup was accompanied by a forgettable bread roll and breadstick.
For an appetizer, the waiter recommended the tempura-fried seafood (酥炸海鮮綜合血配茴香檸檬海鹽, NT$220), which included a medium-sized prawn, a smaller piece of cod fish, and several rings of melt-in-your-mouth calamari. A slice of lemon on the side instead of kumquat would have been better, but the mayonnaise tasted homemade and had a tangy zest.
The angel hair pasta with parma ham and shrimp (怕瑪火腿鮮蝦烏龍魚子髮絲麵), at NT$280 for the economy set or NT$450 for the full set, is a popular main course choice. The shrimp tasted fresh, and was nicely punctuated by the garlic and the saltiness of the ham. Three small slices of mullet roe topped the dish off.
By the end of the meal, the odd knick-knacks on the wall were no longer distracting. The waiter brought over a display tray of 10 or so different desserts; all of them looked enticing. The “Adam” (梨子蘋果蛋糕, NT$90) was an unusual but delightful coda. It has a spongy layer at the bottom soaked in liqueur that tasted a little like Cointreau, a creamy layer similar to cheesecake, and caramelized slices of pear and apple on top. VIEW THIS PAGE
Address: 14 Chengdu Rd, Taipei City (台北市成都路14號)
Telephone: (02) 2314-8955
Average meal: NT$280-NT$700, not including 10 percent service charge
Details: Chinese and English menu; credit cards accepted
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