Tucked in a lane near the Shida night market and fronted with a small gated garden filled with potted plants, A-ka on Mount Cook (庫克山上的阿卡) conjures up a cozy evening filled with comfort food before you even step inside.
Filled with dark wooden furniture, A-ka’s snug and homey interior lives up to the promise of the garden outside. The walls are painted in warm, earthy tones and plastered with postcards and maps from all over the world.
In keeping with the cosmopolitan theme, the dishes on the menu are inspired by the cuisines of countries including Mexico, Spain, Italy and Greece. While some people might quibble with the authenticity of the food, that might be beside the point. The hominess of A-ka’s dishes fits in with the comfortable atmosphere and the restaurant is clearly popular with college students. The private dining room (which fits 12) is often host to lively parties, while other diners stay at their tables to study after eating.
Most dishes on A-ka’s extensive set menu are priced between NT$210 and NT$250 and come with a salad and a cup of tea or coffee.
The Spanish frittata with spicy smoked chicken (西班牙辣味燻雞, NT$230 in a set) is served with mashed potatoes and a salad. Filled with diced green pepper and tomato and topped with a layer of cheese, the frittata was fluffy enough, if a little bit greasy. Smashed to a chunky consistency, the creamy mashed potatoes eclipsed the rest of the plate.
My friend had less luck with the tomato spaghetti casserole (焗烤起士雞肉番茄義大利麵, NT$230), which he said tasted like a random casserole from a Betty Crocker cookbook. On the plus side, it was hearty and palatable. The noodles were mixed with chicken and tomato and, like the frittata, also topped with a layer of melted cheese.
The small bowls of salad that came with each meal were topped with chunks of orange and a very citrus-y yogurt dressing. For an extra NT$80, A-ka serves a champagne glass of sangria from the a la carte menu and a dessert, which on a recent visit included chocolate sponge roll cake topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Devoid of any fruit chunks, the drink was very sweet, with the aroma of red wine fighting to get through the honey flavor.
First-time visitors should try any of A-ka’s thin crust pizzas, which the restaurant excels in. The Italian sausage pizza (義大利臘腸薄片披薩, NT$230) is topped with slices of sausage, just the right amount of cheese and roasted vegetables on a very crunchy white flour crust. Vegetarian options are few and far between, but A-ka’s cooks can prepare a fluffy veggie omelet to order.