With its mix of cereals, legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products, fish and olive oil, the Mediterranean diet recently made UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Some 10,000km from its provenance, Akte Mediterranean Cafe (阿克特地中海小館) carries a smallish but solid selection of dishes from the region.
Opened in July, the restaurant is the latest project by Maggie Liu (廖憶嘉), a celebrity chef who owns Le Bistro de l’Olivier on Anhe Road (安和路) in Taipei and serves as the culinary consultant behind Pot Pie Cafe’s (波特英式小館) menu.
Liu’s cafe emphasizes the culinary traditions of Morocco and Greece, with choices including harira (NT$150), a delightful chickpea, tomato, celery and fresh herb soup from the Muslim kingdom.
For salad, you can hardly go wrong with the Sicilian caponata (NT$160), which is composed of eggplant, celery and pine nuts seasoned with a sweet vinegar dressing. The lightly spiced Turkish-style beef stuffed eggplant with lentil rice and sour cream (NT$320) is a healthy main dish that packs plenty of zing and tang.
Other main dish options include the Greek meatballs with couscous and sour cream (NT$260). Covered with fresh tomato sauce, the meatballs are lean and toothsome, and the couscous, which many chefs overcook, is pleasantly tender and aromatic.
The restaurant’s piece de resistance is undoubtedly the tagine, or tajine, a Moroccan stew named after the clay pot in which it is slowly simmered. Akte’s Essaouira-style chicken tagine with pita bread (NT$320) combines pieces of tender chicken breast, eggs, vegetables, vanilla and other spices and herbs to form an aromatic mix that has a velvety texture similar to that of an expertly made quiche filling or omelet.
Address: 319, Fuxing S Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市復興南路二段319號)
Telephone: (02) 2736-3830
Open: Daily from midday to 10:30pm
Average meal: NT$600 including 10 percent service charge
Details: Menu in Chinese and English, credit cards not accepted
On the net: www.akte.com.tw
Other must-tries at Akte include the traditional Moroccan lamb with pita bread (NT$480) and the m’hanncha (NT$120), a traditional Moroccan pastry filled with almond paste and cinnamon and dipped in honey syrup. The pastry is served warm and pairs well with Moroccan mint tea (NT$180). For pudding enthusiasts, the galaktoboureko (NT$120), a type of custard pie made from milk, semolina and a flaky phyllo pastry shell coated in lemon syrup, may look tempting, but the overall taste sensation pales in comparison with that of the ambrosial m’hanncha. And for diners with big appetites, the almond yogurt shake (NT$150) is so filling that it could count as a dessert on its own.
The restaurant offers a dinner set menu (NT$390 for one and NT$1,080 for two) as well as afternoon tea sets (NT$190 to NT$360, available from 2pm to 5pm).
Located a stone’s throw from Pot Pie Cafe, Akte displays a disregard for slick interior design; its color scheme exudes a vaguely Mediterranean feel. Although the tables are tightly spaced, Akte is comfortable enough to enjoy a relaxed meal with friends or while away a few hours chatting over its light refreshments.