Let’s be naughty and start with dessert at Patrice French Kitchen, a bistro on Keelung Road (基隆路) close to the Tonghua Street (通化街) night market.
If I had known the chocolate mousse (NT$80) was going to be as sinfully creamy and rich as it was, I would have ordered a lighter lunch. My waiter warned me that it was very sweet, and it was, but I wish she had told me that I would be feeling full after just three or four bites, not to mention feeling guilty for not being able to finish the chocolaty delight.
Patrice’s chef, Canadian expat Neil Stichbury, says the magic behind that dessert lies in its simple ingredients: chocolate, cream and sugar. For something lighter, he recommends the cheesecake, also NT$80.
Stichbury, who’s 32 and has worked in French and European-style restaurants in Toronto and the Canadian Rockies, started Patrice (his middle name is Patrick) in 2009 with Lee Cheng-yi (李正義), a real estate entrepreneur. Stichbury says he grew tired of working in kitchens and moved to Taiwan in 2007 to take a break and teach English. That’s when he met Lee, who was one of his students. As they got to know each other, Lee asked Stichbury to cook a meal for him, and soon after that, they decided to open Patrice.
The menu is full of classics, served at reasonable prices. For dinner, Stichbury recommends the filet mignon with truffle sauce (NT$550) or the bouillabaisse (NT$580), a seafood stew with John Dory fish, shrimp, sea scallops and king crab. Also available are seared chicken breast with a garlic sauce and seared salmon with a bacon white cream sauce, both for NT$350.
Stichbury says he and Lee aim to keep the menu simple and affordable, but without cutting corners. He says his sauces are made the “traditional French way”: He roasts 25kg of beef bones and places them in a pot holding 26 liters of stock to stew for eight hours, reducing it down to two liters.
Address: 141, Keelung Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市基隆路二段141號)
Telephone: (02) 2732-8026
Open: Daily from noon to 2pm, and 6pm to 10pm
Average meal: NT$250 to NT$600 per person
Details: Menu in Chinese and English; credit cards accepted
On the Net: www.patrice.com.tw
That quality was evident in the grilled beefsteak with brandy sauce (NT$380), a lunch item menu worth trying. The brandy sauce was pleasing for its sweet yet subtle flavor, and it went well with the side of mashed potato and steamed vegetables. Stichbury says the cut of beef (the restaurant uses US beef) for this dish weighs around 135g.
Stichbury has a few unusual and interesting dishes up his sleeve, including the grilled shrimp on asparagus crepe with white wine sauce (NT$300). The asparagus is pureed with cream and spinach and poured inside the crepe as a filling.
Patrice’s lunch options include a half dozen rice and pasta dishes ranging from NT$150 to NT$180, and a smoked chicken sandwich for NT$130.
Round out your meal with a set menu that includes soup and coffee or tea for NT$70. Add NT$120 to have those items with a salad, and NT$180 to have everything with dessert.
The only blemish of my meal was the soup of the day, an underwhelming onion soup with no melted cheese or croutons. For what it’s worth, Lee and Stichbury both recommend the creamy pumpkin soup.
Patrice’s interior is simple and tasteful, with an open kitchen and tables covered in white tablecloths. The vibe felt generic, more like an upscale hotel than a neighborhood bistro, and while I enjoyed the food, I longed for the warmer atmosphere at Saveurs, an excellent French restaurant near Zhongxiao East (忠孝東路) and Fuxing South (復興南路) roads, which is both classy and homey.