Cafe Megane is a cosy restaurant that faces a park in a quiet alley off the Dunhua South Road (敦化南路) and draws people in with its Japanese-esque style and an artistic attitude that’s manifested through a small but delicate menu as well as a fine collection of magazines and books.
Megane, a Japanese term for eyeglasses, are among the knickknacks and collectables that give the space its distinctive allure. The cafe’s snug interior features a palette of natural wood finishings, framed black-and-white photographs and paintings, some of which are tasteful, others slightly disturbing. Those looking for fun house-decorating ideas may learn a thing or two from the way small plant stems and leaves are stuck into spiny chestnut cupules as if they are flowers arranged in vases. Large groups may want to break bread elsewhere as the majority of tables are two-seaters.
Megane’s highlight definitely lies in its treasure of magazines written in Chinese, English and Japanese, and with genres ranging from arts, culture, lifestyle to design and photography. There are also artsy publications, photography books, comics and illustration works, some of which are handmade by artists and are for sale.
Though there is an extensive range of reading material, Megane’s menu is limited. Diners have two choices. The rice ball set (NT$260 or NT$280), or the chicken stew (NT$200).
With two types of onigiri — salmon and cod roe — to choose from, the set includes two rice balls and a few side dishes. The common rice ball may not elicit much excitement, but Megane’s version is pepped up with various fragrant herbs, and is accompanied by pickles, egg salad, bell peppers, mushrooms and purple yams, the sweetness and fine texture of which took my taste buds by surprise.
The chicken stew soothes the stomach in a light, simple way. It contains daikon (a Japanese white radish), carrots, fish cakes and a dab of yellow mustard that gives the broth a needed punch because overall the dish was quite bland.
The dessert section includes maple syrup and jam waffles (NT$160 for two and NT$180 for three) and banana chocolate caramel waffles (NT$180 for two and NT$200 for three). Using waffle flour from Japan and fruit preserves by Bonne Maman of France, the waffles are baked with nuts and sesame seeds and shaped like a donut and served with a dollop of whipped cream.
Megane’s soul-soothing milk (NT$180 and NT$190), served hot or cold, is one of waffles’ best companions. The milk I tried was robustly flavored with powdered green tea. The cafe also offers a selection of Japanese green teas, such as sencha (NT$200) and houjicha (NT$200), a few coffee choices (NT$100 to NT$200) and a selection of summery beverages including berry yogurt milk (NT$200) and apricot and apple smoothie (NT$200).
As for the service, netizens have complained that the wait staff is a little too precious. Personally, I found the two young, style-savvy waiters-cum-cooks pleasant when I visited earlier this month. Without being overly enthusiastic or frosty, they helped to create a calm vibe ideal for reading a book or working on the computer. Note that there is a NT$50 charge for plugging in any electronic devices.