What do Sid Vicious, Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and Chinese furnishings have in common? Nothing, until now. Roxy Kitchen (or perhaps more accurately “Kitsch-en”), the recently opened restaurant operated by Roxy 99 and Roxy Jr, has taken these disparate elements — Chinese banquet tables surrounded by chestnut brown walls adorned with prints of caricatured rock stars — and reworked them to suit its aesthetic sense. And, oddly enough, it works.
Though a little disconcerting at first (I wondered what was going through the mind of the conservatively dressed elderly gentlemen who, while slurping back his soup, kept staring at a framed black-and-white print of Robert Plant performing in skin-tight pants), the setting’s charms soon become apparent.
And yet, for all its campy appeal, Roxy Kitchen is still just another common, garden-variety Chinese restaurant. In its defense, it has been open only two weeks. But the dishes I tried from the menu, which ran the gamut from Taiwanese to Sichuan and Hakka food, tasted like similar dishes found at night markets. The prices, however, are far from night-market cheap.
The fried “spicy” bean curd and pork (NT$280), though dressed up with dried chili, fresh scallion and garlic sprouts, was bland. More to the point, the only discernable flavor was that of the tofu.
Kungpao chicken is a sure way to determine the skills of the kitchen staff. Roxy Kitchen’s version, though it possessed the requisite spicy kick, didn’t warrant the NT$160 price tag. And the flavor didn’t make up for what it lacked in size. Drowned in a syrupy sweet sauce that stifled the usually crunchy peanuts and peppercorns, it was disappointment on a dish.
The green string beans with beef (NT$280), like the rest of the meal, arrived well-presented by attentive and pleasant staff. But even before taking the first bite, a familiar smell wafted into my nostrils: xianshuji (鹹酥雞), the popular night market snack that is deep-fried and mixed with garlic, basil and chili powder (depending on your preference). Digging in confirmed my initial impression. Absent was the delicate taste of the beans, or their compliment, the rich beef savor. The whole thing was lost in grease and chopped garlic.
It dawned on me while cogitating this review that many of the entrees play on a dried red chili, garlic and shallot theme. While there’s nothing wrong with that, at Roxy Kitchen, however, it seems that these ingredients are liberally used to make up for a lack of creativity.
Address: B1, 228, Jinshan S Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市金山南路二段228號B1)
Telephone: (02) 3322-4530
Average meal: NT$300
Open: Sundays to Thursdays from 11am to 10pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 11am to 3am
Details: Chinese and English menu, credit cards accepted, 10 percent service charge
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