Thu, Mar 22, 2012 - Page 13 News List

Restaurant review: Deja Vu

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff Reporter

Deja Vu, a restaurant owned by pop star Jay Chou, lives on its claim to fame.

Photo: Noah Buchan, Taipei Times

Jay Chou’s (周杰倫) restaurant Deja Vu, I thought to myself as I entered it last weekend, will probably follow one of two trajectories, much the same way his career in the entertainment industry has. It will either be a resounding success like the pop music that has made him a household name, or it will be a dud like Pandamen (熊貓人), the television drama he directed that was universally panned by critics and audiences because of its goofy premise and trite plot.

Opened last summer in Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914), Deja Vu at first feels like a finely crafted work of art. With its vaulted arcades supported by stone columns and exposed cement walls adorned with framed paintings of landscapes and portraits of renowned composers, it is immediately appealing. As you move further in, however, it’s Pandamen all the way. The oil paintings are in fact posters and the sumptuous architectural flourishes are offset incongruously by Chou’s gigantic Batmobile, its black surface reflecting the interior’s kaleidoscope of crass disco lighting.

Sure, the Batmobile is sleek and cool and something you’ve probably never seen before, but a car doesn’t belong in the center of a dining room. During my visit, several amateur photographers went up to snap the auto (this reviewer included), bumping chairs and setting off flashbulbs in the process.

Kitschy movie set production values aside, our party of nine was still prepared to give the service and food the benefit of the doubt. And like the design, the service started out well.

When our party ordered the seafood pizza (NT$480), our server, dressed in formal black, suggested another dish because we had already ordered the seafood risotto (NT$680 for two), which contains similar ingredients. For the first 15 minutes, or so, our water glasses remained full. But when asked if the pasta with clams contained white wine, our server said she didn’t know and she didn’t bother to check. After our main courses were served, our water glasses were not filled up. That was disappointing because the dishes were over-seasoned with salt. This was especially true of the potato and sausage pizza (NT$360) and spaghetti with garlic and clams (NT$420). Both were presented beautifully, but the thin-crust pizza was flavorless and soggy. The pasta, cooked to al dente perfection, contained too much garlic, which overpowered the subtler flavor of the clams.

Deja Vu

Address: Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914) , Center Four Hall (中四館), 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號)

Telephone: (02) 2396-8296

Open: Daily from noon to midnight

Average meal: NT$600

Details: Chinese and English menu, 10 percent service charge, credit cards accepted

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For many of the dishes, we wondered what we were paying for. The portions of the tapas for two (NT$420), with its array of smoked salmon, foie gras, salami, seasoned octopus and pickled artichoke and garlic, were laughably small and it was obvious that much of it had come from a packet.

Whereas the pizza and pasta left us pining for water, the oven-baked lamb with herb and mustard wine sauce (NT$780) barely registered on the taste buds. The meat was baked to a rosy red hue and tastefully arranged on the plate, but the sauce was bland and the vegetable portions a miniscule and overcooked afterthought. The seafood risotto is the only dish I would consider ordering again. With its generous portions of scallops, shrimp, clams and crabmeat cooked in a buttery white wine sauce, it was a unanimous favorite.

Deja Vu seems to be playing off the fame of its owner. Go for the car, but not the food.

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