Dining at A Poet feels like living in a page of an interior design magazine. This tastefully decorated restaurant, which opened six months ago in a quiet alley near Renai Circle (仁愛圓環), serves Mediterranean-influenced food on the first story of a refurbished old apartment building.
We arrived on a Sunday at noon and for a split second forgot we were in Taipei. Sunlight streams through a skylight into the front part of the dining room, where shrubs and flowers flourish in a small indoor garden.
A sense of understated elegance permeates every corner. The interior seamlessly fuses a vintage European feel with an eclectic design ethos expressed through robust wood tables, exposed cement walls, antique iron chairs of bright colors and industrial lamps.
The same thought went into the menu, with the youthful chefs paying particular attention to how their dishes are presented. Health-conscious patrons will be glad to know that the restaurant uses simple seasonings, with plenty of herbs, and shuns artificial flavorings.
We began our meal with a salad of feta cheese, fruit and baby green leaves with lemon, mint and olive oil (希臘費塔起司水果嫩葉佐薄荷酸醬, NT$260). The ingredients were super fresh and crisp and made a tasty and nutritious light meal, especially when combined with a glass of carrot and tomato juice (NT$220).
Among the restaurant’s selection of appetizers, which run between NT$80 to NT$320, we picked the marinated chorizo and chickpeas with bread (冷醃西班牙辣香腸雞豆附麵包, NT$200) and shrimp rolled in Parma ham (帕馬火腿鮮蝦肉捲佐大蒜美乃滋, NT$220). The former consists of chunks of pork sausage infused with olive oil and vinegar, whose acidic zest nicely offsets the spiciness of the meat. Tender shrimp balls wrapped in thinly sliced ham form the latter. The roll’s robust tang was offset slightly by the creamy texture of garlic mayonnaise.
Address: 9, Ln 295, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市敦化南路一段295巷9號)
Telephone: (02) 2709-0068 Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30am to 4:30pm and 5:30pm to 10:30pm Average meal: NT$1,000, including 10 percent service charge
Details: Menu in Chinese and English, credit cards accepted
Other appetizer items include simple fare like marinated mushrooms with herbs, vinegar and olive oil (香草醋漬彩椒菌菇, NT$150) and more complex dishes, such as stewed beef tripe with tomato sauce and bread (南歐傳統番茄慢燉牛肚附麵包, NT$260).
Apart from small plates, there is a handful of main courses, such as squid risotto (NT$500) and roasted rib-eye steak (NT$880). Our stewed pork with apple and herbs (塞爾維亞嫩燉豬肉, NT$500) included lean and fatty meat, resulting in some melt-in-your-mouth moments, while other mouthfuls were too dry. The creamy mustard sauce upped the ante with its tangy flavor, and the dish’s bites of zucchini, beetroot, tomato and cauliflower had a pleasantly sweet and smoky taste.
When night falls, the candlelit restaurant is a good place for drinks. Its cellar includes reasonably priced white and red wines from Italy, Chile, France, Spain, Germany and Australia (NT$160 and NT$180 per glass and NT$950 to NT$1,500 per bottle) and the bar serves a selection of cocktails (NT$150 to NT$250) and imported bottled beer (NT$180 to NT$240).
In addition to lunch and dinner, A Poet serves afternoon tea from 2:30pm to 4:30pm.
On Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays there is a minimum charge of NT$450 per person.