Located off Taipei’s posh Dunhua South Road, MVSA Spanish Restaurant & Bar features a pleasant dining space, a solid selection of Spanish tapas and an extensive wine list as well as a culinary endorsement in its collaboration with Hong Kong-based Inno Hospitality Company (香港宜諾管理顧問公司) and Taninia, a Spanish wine group.
The restaurant draws its gastronomic inspiration from the 60-year-old Sarria Bodega, one of Taninia’s five wineries located in the historic city of Pamplona in northern Spain. With training provided by Sarria’s executive chef, Jorge Garcia, whose decades-long career includes stints at several Michelin-starred establishments, MVSA certainly has the credentials. A recent weekend visit, however, reveals that it has yet to reach a refined level of cuisine.
Fortunately for wine lovers, what the establishment lacks in food offerings, it makes up for in the large, wallet-friendly collection of Spanish red, white and sparkling wine. The non-connoisseur, however, may find it slightly frustrating to get knowledgeable suggestions from the young wait staff, who don’t seem well-versed in the finer lineaments of the grape.
That being said, diners should encounter no difficulty getting satisfying tidbits to their liking from the more than two-dozen offerings. The anchovy in white wine vinegar on sliced bread (NT$150) is a popular cold tapas that balances the piquant tang of the fish with the richness of olive oil and vinegar.
For a mellower taste, the baked sausages and eggs with vegetables (NT$380) feature asparagus and zucchini that come topped with a semi-raw egg, which delivered a hearty layer of smoothness when the raw yolk was stirred evenly into the dish.
The fried chicken marinated with garlic and brandy (NT$220) makes a good pairing with a robust red, its slices of deep-fried potatoes and the crunchy bites of meat saturated with the aroma of garlic.
Other hot tapas recommended by our wait staff include stewed chicken Catalonia style (NT$220), grilled vegetables Spanish style (NT$240) and sliced onion and potato omelet (NT$180).
Apart from tapas, MVSA’s kitchen produces several varieties of paella, main courses, salad and soup as well as a couple of traditional dishes. Baked salt-crusted sea bass with herbs (NT$480) and whole roasted baby pig (NT$6,000) must be ordered at least two days ahead.
My dining partner and I were both pleasantly surprised by the Valencian-style paella (NT$420 and NT$780), a flavorful combo of asparagus, mushroom, beans, bell peppers, pork and chicken sprinkled with fresh lemon juice. The rice was cooked perfectly, tender and al dente.
While the atmospherically lit and tastefully decorated restaurant can be an ideal spot to enjoy a few glasses of wine with friends, gulping down alcoholic nectar is not the only way to end a meal at MVSA. The restaurant also offers desserts such as French toast with vanilla ice cream (NT$180) and chocolate chips with fruity mousse (NT$200).
MVSA Spanish Restaurant & Bar is part of the Spanish Tapas Tour 2014, an event launched by the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan, aiming to promote the gastronomic culture of Spain through a culinary tour held by several Spanish restaurants in Taipei, Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung.
A Tapas Tour passport, which contains all promotional information, is available at participating restaurants and event sponsors. Having their passports stamped by the restaurants, diners can participate in a lucky draw to win a round-trip ticket to the southwestern European country, and other gifts.
More information about the promotional event, which runs through Aug. 31, can be found on its Facebook fan page titled Foods & Wines from Spain (Taiwan).