Mon, Dec 31, 2012 - Page 11 News List

YEAR IN REVIEW: Restaurants

Top restaurants of 2012

By Ian Bartholomew and Ho Yi  /  Staff reporters

Although the service can be a little haphazard, the quality of the food on offer mostly overrides this nagging dissatisfaction, and overall the price-to-quality ratio is admirable.

Ippudo TW 一風堂

Address: 85 Zhongshan N Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市中山北路一段85號)

Telephone: (02) 2562-9222

Open: 11:30am to midnight

Average meal: NT$400

Details: English, Japanese and Chinese photo menu; no credit cards; no reservations

Ippudo has earned cult status as the restaurant that brought Japanese Kyushu-style ramen into the mainstream after founder Shigemi Kawahara was crowned “ramen king” after three consecutive victories in a popular Japanese TV ramen competition and admitted to the Ramen Hall of Fame. From a restaurant seating just 10 in Kawahara’s native Fukuoka, Ippudo has become an international operation with outlets in New York, Hong Kong and Singapore (as well as over 50 outlets across Japan). It opened its first Taiwan branch in May.

The interior is carefully designed to present an impression of modern style and a degree of chic, but without providing any comforts beyond what is strictly necessary. Like the decor, the food is deceptively simple. Apart from side dishes, there are only three options for the main course, all of them ramen, each with slightly different flavorings.

That said, these bowls of ramen are no simple proposition. Many restaurant critics here and abroad have already raved about the complexity of the broth, which uses whole pig heads, among other ingredients, simmered over many hours to achieve a luscious texture and multi-layered flavor. The effect is not easy to describe, and this reviewer found himself taking spoonful after spoonful, trying to get his brain around the broth’s outstanding qualities, and its sophisticated inter-relationship with the noodles and condiments.

The three types of ramen on offer are shiromaru classic (NT$200), akamaru modern (NT$230) and Ippudo karaka (NT$230). It is a symbol of Ippudo’s influence in the world of ramen that the designations of “shiromaru” and “akamaru” (white broth and red broth respectively), initiated by Kawahara, have been adopted by ramen restaurants across Japan.

A Poet

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

Average meal: From NT$1,000

Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30am to 4:30pm and 5:30pm to 10:30pm

There is nothing not to like about this tastefully decorated restaurant serving Mediterranean-influenced food in a central but quiet location near Renai Circle (仁愛圓環). 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.

Dining at A Poet feels like living in a page of an interior design magazine. 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.

Appetizers include the marinated chorizo and chickpeas with bread (NT$200) and shrimp rolled in Parma ham (NT$220). The selection of main courses features items such as squid risotto (NT$500), roasted rib-eye steak (NT$880) and stewed pork with apple and herbs (NT$500).

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