Friday, October 31, 2008
bakery/new in town: i recommend PAUL
No. 107, Ren Ai Rd, Sec. 4
website: paultaiwan.com (doesn't seem to be working yet)
hours: 7:30AM- 10PM
Kid friendliness: no high chairs, but some booth-ish seating
Visit reviewed: 10/7/2008
It seems like a lot can change in seven weeks. When I came back from LA in October after being gone since late August, there were new restaurants spotted everywhere. Even Eslite bookstore on Dun Hua had gone through a renovation.
That's a lot of eating to catch up on.
Some I had heard about from friends raving on Facebook, like the nicer French/Western restaurant L'Idiot (to be reviewed) on Min Sheng East Road where Tony Roma's used to be. Some maybe I just hadn't spotted before, like Lugar Home Bread Bar (to be reviewed) behind the new NY Pizza Kitchen behind the old NY Bagel (on Renai). Some were picked to meet for lunch by a friend from out of town, like the new Dun Hua branch of California Grill(to be reviewed).
And some were unmistakeably new- like the bright white capital letters on a black sign for PAUL, next to Swensen's on Ren Ai Circle where Miss Sixty's used to be.
At first glance, it's definitely different than most of the Japanese/Chinese bakeries in town, maybe an Au Bon Pain on steroids and a pretty dress. A lot of the breads here on the sweeter side, cushy and soft, or covered in pork floss. But Paul has dough delivered from France and is a popular French chain that has branches in Shanghai and Japan. Maybe that's why there's an overflowing line at lunch, where the wait can be 10-30 minutes long.
There's an attractive array of breads, baguettes and pastries that can be spotted from the window and waiters in white coats running around delivering orders. The space is not huge, but they pack in a lot of seating in the modern, classic with various antique looking chairs, tables and seating areas at dark wood tables without making it feel too crowded. The franchise details are covered, including the black and white checkered floors, baby chandeliers and windows dressed with curtains.
My first trip to Paul was for breakfast- we just walked in, sat down and ordered from the menu (where there's 4 choices of brunch type meals from NT$235-$285 which gets you various combos of breads or 1/2 sandwich, egg, fresh fruit, yogurt, salad, tea/coffee. My friend got the Rive Gauche(NT$265) which was a 1/2 Ham and Cheese Sandwich, small salad, hard boiled egg and coffee.
I thought I'd get more value by choosing ala carte from the bakery- so I got a mini chocolate pastry, an olive bread and apple tart. I'd probably only get the apple tart again.
That same day, I was in the area with a couple of girlfriends for lunch and couldn't decide on where to eat, so I asked them if they had eaten at Paul. They wanted to try it out so back I went. This time, I was surprised to discover a line of people waiting. We didn't want to wait 30 minutes, so we just got our food to go. They have a to-go set that includes a sandwich and choice of soup/drink for NT$265.
The sandwiches were good. The tuna sandwich had sliced tomatoes and wasn't overloaded with mayo, and the swiss in the ham and cheese stood out. The bread was also really good- crusty and soft at the same time. They also have smoked salmon sandwiches and proscuitto sandwiches. The chef salad was ok.
The mushroom soup wasn't too creamy and I could see the various diced mushrooms as I slurped it down.
But we were most excited about the desserts.
I remember when I first saw a PAUL was in Shanghai near XinTianDi and drooled over their selection of pastries and bought a few in a box to-go for a friend. I remember the first time I ever had a fancy fruit tart at a fancy cafe- which was my freshman year at Cal at the San Francisco shopping center. It seemed so decadent to be paying US$2-3 just for a little fruit tart with some glossed sugar on it. But I savored every bite.
Eating the raspberry tart (NT$155) and napoleon reminded me of that. It was gone too soon.
Flaky, sweet and not really big enough to share between three dessert loving girls, so it was gone in minutes. They also have chocolate and strawberry napoleons, as well as different flavored tarts and macarons.
Whatever way you plate it, PAUL is not cheap. They even have a loaf of bread that is NT$600. It feels like I'm back in Europe, wondering how everything seems so expensive. Is it worth it? Maybe for the occasional splurge on the French pastries that you won't likely find elsewhere, unless you stop by Maison Kayser.
Yesterday, I was in a hurry and thought I'd grab a tuna sandwich to go. But they seemed to have shrunk by a third, but remained the same price. Even asking the girl behind the counter didn't really help. She said they had always been that size, but I have photographic evidence otherwise. I was a bit annoyed that the sandwiches before were maybe 10 inches long, but the ones I spotted yesterday looked to be 6-7 inches long for NT$185 or so. I couldn't bear to pay that much for just a tuna sandwich so ended up getting curry noodles from the Eslite food court.
So if you're craving some sweets and can afford it, check out Paul. Otherwise, just look through the window and drool.
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