Fri, Jan 29, 2010 - Page 14 News List

RESTAURANTS : Alleycat’s

By Noah Buchan  /  STAFF REPORTER

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I must confess that I broke a vow made a few years back never to step foot again into Alleycat’s. My last experience in the claustrophobic and crypt-like atmosphere of its branch located a stone’s throw from Yongkang Street (永康街) saw an angry chef repeatedly berating a server over some indiscretion — one that was perhaps deserved because the service was terrible (though the food was excellent).

Fast forward a few years and I happened past the chain’s recently opened location in Huashan 1914 Creative Park

(華山1914), where large calzone-shaped casement windows exuded soft light. Tempted by the ambiance and the deliciously pungent smell of baking, I broke my covenant.

The expansive interior, with its vaulted ceilings and open-spaced concept, consists of two rooms separated by a long bar. The walls are painted mustard yellow with patches of exposed brick, and the windows are ideal for watching the hustle and bustle of the open market (on weekends) outside.

Behind the bar, patrons can watch cooks roll, dress and bake pizzas and calzones. Two arches to the right of the long bar act as the gateway to the second dining room above, which sports a partial replica of Michelangelo’s fresco The Creation of Adam, rounding out the Mediterranean vibe that the restaurant does well to cultivate.

As I was losing myself in the architectural largesse, the caprese salad (NT$180) arrived. Sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella were alternately stacked on a small plate, and it was seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil and cracked pepper and sprinkled with slivers of fresh basil.

Like the Tower of Pisa it replicates in miniature form, however, it was slightly awry. More to the point, the salad was not so much daubed but drenched in olive oil, effectively drowning out the delicate flavors of the tomato, cheese and basil. Perhaps a little less oil and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar would lighten up this heavy starter.

Alleycat’s

Address: 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號) Telephone: (02) 2395-6006 Open: 11am to midnight; closes at 2am on Fridays and Saturdays

Average meal: NT$400 Details: Credit cards accepted; English and Chinese menu; 10 percent service charge On the Net: www.alleycatspizza.com


But everything fell into place with the vegetarian pizza (NT$330 for 10-inch; NT$360 for 12-inch). Alleycat’s takes its dough seriously. Made from scratch, it is assembled as ordered and cooked in a stone oven.

The mural of black olives, green peppers, tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms and artichoke hearts was evenly arranged on a thin crust with just the right amount of mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce. The crust was expertly cooked to a golden brown on the edges and remained soft and chewy toward the center.

The calzone (NT$350) was also a triumph. Served with a Caesar salad and marinara sauce on the side, the pastry’s innards were a gooey mixture of spinach and ricotta cheese infused with aromatic spices.

And the service? No angry chefs here, and my water glass was kept full even though the place was packed.

The restaurant also has a large outside patio that is perfect for slinging back a few ciders or glasses of Hoegaarden draught (both NT$120 for a half pint or NT$220 for a pint).

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