Conveniently located near Taipei’s Renai Road traffic circle, Winona serves a range of Western-style dishes such as pasta, pizza, risotto and steak, as well as wines galore.
The rows of macaroons displayed in the dessert refrigerator at the door make Winona seem pricy and inaccessible. But the glass wall near the entrance reduces the distance between potential customers and the restaurant by allowing passersby to look inside at the diners.
The menu has more than a dozen hot and cold appetizers, many of them marked as new additions. Options include Baja-flavored shrimp and tomato skewers (NT$180), blue cheese chicken rolls (NT$100) and chef’s special salmon and vegetable rolls (NT$180). The expected appetizers, such as French fries (NT$80) and assorted cheese platter (large for NT$300 and small for NT$180), are also available.
Our party started off with the tapas platter (NT$250). A wooden tray arrived with nicely arranged cold cuts along with pickles, olives, pieces of bread, lettuce, cheese and marinated tomatoes. The salami, smoked sausage and Parma ham tasted authentic and started off the meal on a pleasant note.
Having heard positive feedback on Winona’s beef bourguignon (NT$330), I was hoping to try it. When I saw the menu, I noticed that this French beef stew is listed as a dinner entree. After expressing my interest in having the dish at lunch, the waitress said that during lunchtime, beef bourguignon is only available in the set menu for two (NT$1,680). The menu includes up to six choices of house wines, appetizers and main dishes; diners choose two from each category.
I didn’t take the server’s advice. Instead, we ordered a la carte main entrees of Hungarian risotto (NT$330), seafood risotto in tomato sauce (NT$330) and spaghetti carbonara (NT$250). The carbonara won my heart with its enticing presentation of bacon strips and mixture of creaminess and saltiness.
Address: 75, Renai Rd Sec 4, Taipei (台北市仁愛路四段75號)
Open:11:30am to 10pm from Mondays through Thursdays, 11:30am to 12am on Fridays, 9am to 12am on Saturdays and 9am to 10pm on Sundays
Average meal: NT$600 with a glass of wine
Details: Menu in English and Chinese, credit cards accepted
On the Net: Search “Winona葡萄酒餐廳” on Facebook
Both versions of the risotto included sea bass, shrimp, clams and calamari. Turmeric gave the Hungarian risotto an earthy yellow hue, while tomatoes turned the other one red.
They both looked better than they tasted. Not yet al dente, the rice was clumpy and more soggy than creamy. The grain texture of the tomato-based risotto was so remarkably crunchy that we didn’t finish the plate. The Hungarian risotto was interesting herb-like but also a little salty.
On a happier note, Winona’s wine list offers more than 10 options — all reasonably priced. From NT$80 to NT$150 per glass, recommended wines are paired with dishes on the menu. Wine-savvy wait staff offer suggestions upon request.
Although I wasn’t satisfied with the risotto, the glass of German Riesling wine (NT$150) served as a fruity compensation.
Wine pairings for food are often priced with big markups, due to expense that restaurants incur to bring in the wine. But Winona is owned by a wine importer; hence it offers a vast selection of wine at retail price. Winona also has a wine cellar and invites diners to handpick their favorite bottle.
To bring the meal to a happy end, we ordered the waffle with banana, chocolate, almond and ice cream (NT$180). The firm waffle was garnished with banana slices and chocolate sauce — a combination that seldom goes wrong.