Deli Review: Take Five 五方食藏

By Liam Gibson  /  Staff Reporter

Sat, Dec 02, 2017 - Page 13

Delis occupy a special niche within Western culinary culture. Whether it be Dallmayr, the world’s first delicatessen that sold tropical fruits to Germans in the 17th century, or the Jewish variety that brought an array of new continental delights to the US in the 20th century, delis have delighted customers with tastes of far-flung places, and usually at a higher-than-average price. It’s not surprising, then, that Take Five (五方食藏), one of a handful of Taipei delis, sits tucked away in a dainty lane between National Taiwan Normal University and Daan Forest Park, catering to a well-heeled clientele of tourists and local residents.

But those looking for a New York-style deli will probably be disappointed with Take Five, as it is more a cafe serving a variety of pastas, organic salads and quiche, than delicatessen offering up pastrami on rye with a pickle on the side.

Display shelves stock imported truffle pates and pickled olives alongside giant jars of homemade “stewed tofu” (豆腐滷) — the fermented tofu paste kept on the inside door of home fridges around the nation. The chilled section boasts a selection of vegetable soups including corn, pumpkin, mushroom and cauliflower whole chorizo sausage and cheeses alongside local boutique beer.

Take Five has several varieties of quiche and I chose asparagus (NT$150). The lightly-grilled vegetable lies atop the pastry, its slight chewiness contrasting well with the mushiness of the mushrooms inside. The quiche is well-proportioned, from the balance of egg filling to vegetables to the moisture level, retaining a satisfying amount of flavorsome juices. The delectable crunch of the delicate, flaky crust made it all the more scrumptious.

In addition to classic cafe staples, there are hidden surprises such as the minestrone (NT$280), which comes with a beef paddy plonked right in the thick of the soup. The experimentation doesn’t stop there. The tomato broth is suffused with an appealing tikka masala spice mixture. The interesting flavor and texture combinations served as a great topic of conversation.

The mushroom soup (NT$180) was a little disappointing. I typically prefer a hearty and thick mushroom soup but Take Five’s rendition was light and oily. It’s a small portion, so order that side of bread (NT$100), several slices of a walnut and focaccia-style loaf that lack chewiness but work for dipping purposes.

Low-calorie quinoa salad (NT$120) is refreshing, light and balanced, the ingredients finely chopped so that each bite contains all elements. Almond, broccoli, baby corn, onion, tomato and quinoa, are all whirled together with a light yoghurt dressing — yum.

The deli’s lasagna was disappointing. Although the pasta dish can be challenging to perfect, the veggie lasagna at Take Five was simply a beef lasagna without the mince. There were no other vegetables, just cheese and tomato. To add to the disappointment, the top layer had none of the drool-inducing bubbly, melty, brown-spotted cheese that rouse up childhood memories of sibling battles for who gets the biggest piece. Don’t go for the biggest piece here — the lasagna is priced at NT$1 per gram, and is just not worth it.

Tempeh (NT$280), an Indonesian tofu-like dish sauteed in teriyaki sauce, arrived on a bed of rice topped with a poached egg and lettuce. It had just enough novel value to have you forget that this was basically an upmarket lunchbox meal served on a nice designer plate.

Take Five’s artichoke pizza (NT$340) stood out for the sheer amount of artichokes added to it. Every thin, crispy slice had a few chunks of the edible flower, ever-so lightly grilled, retaining the natural juices that give off its subtle, unique flavor. The other toppings were simple — Thai basil, olives, baby tomato and oyster mushroom, allowing the artichoke to take center stage. A well-rounded pizza, though purists might balk at the use of Thai basil.

Take Five is a far cry from a classic Western-style deli, but if foods from far-flung places are the criteria, it’s worthy of the name. They stock hard-to-find foods and, to their credit, they’re not afraid to try new things with this wide-array of ingredients. If you can leave your sentimental attachments for your hometown deli at the door, you probably will enjoy it.