Shortly after sitting down at La Gondola, I noticed a crowd of young women huddled together across the street in pouring rain, looks of excitement and expectation on their faces. I should have known they weren’t hanging around for the food.
La Gondola’s lounge bar vibe is immediately appealing. The front section, level to the street, boasts picture windows offering clear views of passing foot and vehicle traffic. On each table was a bottle of wine and candles in crimson candleholders, casting a romantic glow through the entire dining area. It seemed to be the perfect spot to woo a date. That is, until the food arrived.
The Caesar salad with smoked chicken (NT$170) didn’t even put up
a pretense of quality. The strips of
pre-cooked, rubbery smoked chicken tasted as though they had just been removed from a package. Think of the chicken found in a 7-Eleven sandwich, and you get the idea. The dressing tasted like it came from a jar.
More ridiculous was the spaghetti with clams, garlic and chili in white wine sauce (NT$270). Aside from the clams, which admittedly tasted fresh, there was no hint of garlic or chilies, let alone white wine, in the “sauce.” And canned corn as a filler? Please.
As I was finishing off the pasta, singer Elva Hsiao (蕭亞軒) emerged from a ground floor office across the alley. Slightly mobbed by assembled fans, she jumped into a car and drove off.
Moments later, the first of two pizzas — smoked salmon (NT$250) — arrived just as actor and singer Van Ness Wu (吳建豪) sauntered out of the same office. He was followed by actress Rainie Yang (楊丞琳). La Gondola appears better situated for stargazing than eating — further confirmed by the appearance of singer, actor and host Show Luo (羅志祥).
The second pizza, bacon and mushroom (NT$260), soon arrived.
Both pizzas were billed as having tomato sauce, but I couldn’t find any in the mountain of cheese and sparse toppings. Worst of all was the crust: thick like a sandwich, it was folded into layers and had the taste and consistency of a sickly sweet pastry.
One would think La Gondola would be empty, but it was doing good business on the Monday night I visited. Perhaps it’s the ambience. More likely, it’s the possibility of catching a glimpse of the celebrities emerging from the office across the street.
Address: 5, Alley 17, Ln 170, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市忠孝東路四段170巷17弄5號)
Telephone: (02) 2771-1808 Open: 11:30am to 10:30pm)
Average meal: NT$400
Details: Chinese and English menu, 10 percent service charge, credit cards accepted
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