Haleakala is named after a volcano on the island of Maui, but if you go there expecting succulent roast pig, bowls of poi or spam musubi, then you’ll be disappointed. If all you want are fruity cocktails in a modernized tiki bar, however, then the restaurant in Xinyi District’s newly opened Bellavita shopping center just might hit the spot.
Sleek white lamps topped with giant mounds of fake fruit — mangos, bananas, apples, oranges — greet visitors as soon as they ride up the escalator. Haleakala takes up much of the fourth floor, with sofas, low tables and a bar on the landing. A dimly lit interior section has banquette seating and yet another bar. Spacious patios with outdoor seating look like they will be pleasant places to hold a party when the weather gets warmer. Aside from the fruit towers, Haleakala’s decor also includes huge fiberglass hibiscus blossoms and a straw roof above each bar. Tiki god masks, torches and nets with little plastic fish trapped in them are mercifully — or tragically — absent, depending on your tolerance for kitsch.
Haleakala’s menu consists mainly of tapas that are plated for easy sharing, including mini-burgers (vegetarian patties are available), quesadillas and rice wraps with dipping sauce. On our first visit, my companion and I split the Maryland crab cake appetizer with wasabi mayonnaise (NT$280). We were surprised to get bite-sized lumps of breaded and fried crabmeat delicately arranged on a rectangular white platter next to little dollops of sauce. Fortunately, the crispy breading did not distract too much from the fresh crabmeat and the wasabi mayonnaise packed just enough punch (though it could have been spicier). I ordered the avocado and tuna tartar lettuce wrap (NT$240) as my entree, but portions were small and the dish would have worked better as another appetizer. The lightly chopped tuna was mixed with guacamole, red onions and topped with toasted almond slivers and slices of taro root crisps. The red onions were distracting, but the almonds and taro added an unexpected and pleasurable bit of crunch and flavor. My companion ordered the smoked chicken quesadilla with sauteed bell pepper, onion, kidney beans and cheese (NT$220). It came with miniscule dollops of salsa, sour cream and guacamole; overall, the flavor was unmemorable.
Heartier items on the menu include the mini burgers, which are stuffed with fat and tasty beef patties cooked medium rare. The Maui mini-burgers are topped with guacamole, lettuce, tomato, pickle and sauteed onions (NT$240). The onions should have been listed first, however, because of the sizeable portion. Long strands were wrapped in a nest around the guacamole. The onions were sweet and I didn’t mind them on their own, but they obscured the flavor of the avocado (and had a tendency to slip out of the burger every time I took a bite). Diners who like their burgers relatively unencumbered might want to try the Malibu (NT$240), topped with lettuce, tomato, bacon and cheese.
Like any good tiki bar, Haleakala has an extensive menu of fruity cocktails. Our friendly waiter suggested the Hawaiian Cosmopolitan (NT$220), a scoop of mango sorbet in Citroen vodka with apple and lime juice. A few non-alcoholic cocktails are available, including the very sweet Summer Sounds (NT$200), made with passion fruit, orange and lemon juice, honey and yogurt.
Address: 4F, Bellavita, 28 Songren Rd, Taipei City (台北市松仁路28號4樓)
Telephone: (02) 8729-2868
Details: Chinese and English menu; credit cards accepted
Open: 10am to 10pm; closes at 10:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays
Average meal: Individual dishes average NT$200 to NT$280; cocktails are NT$220 to NT$250
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