Monday, April 19, 2010
mall/foodcourt: i recommend BELLAVITA
No. 28, Song Ren Road
MRT stop: Taipei City Hall
website: bellavita.com.tw Chinese only (there is an English option on the front page, but is not clickable yet)
Kid friendliness: posher than most food courts, no high chairs spotted
Visit reviewed: 2/26/2010
Since 101 sprung up in 2004, a forest of shopping malls have proliferated in its shadow in the Xinyi area. I moved back to Taipei about the same time, so I have witnessed the changes and growth in the area. There's Warner/Viewshow Theaters, NY NY, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi x4, Eslite Bookstore, and most recently, Bellavita.
Said to be inspired by the European architecture and style while the founders were visiting Milan, Bellavita is striking from the inside as well with its grand skylight dome overhead.
Where there are malls, there are mall food courts. And as Bellavita is the fanciest mall to spring up, so is its food court- it's so fancy, it's not even called a food court.
Instead it's dubbed a gourmet food hall- it includes an oyster bar, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Fat Angelo's, Habibi Cafe, Cosmopolitan Steak and Grill, patisserie Sadaharu AOKI, gelato, a vegetarian deli and more.
Unlike a typical food court, where you order and get your food and sit in a common area with your dining companions, this one is more like mini restaurants on one floor.
There's no plastic bowls of unagi-dons here.
At 11:30am, we circled around a couple times in virtual emptiness. Did people not know there was a food court open here yet? Was this a bad sign, we thought?
At first glance, you'd have to pick the same cuisine as your friends (which defeats one of the advantages of the diversity of a food court). But if you want hummus and they want sashimi, then go to We Share Everything. Disguised as a restaurant complete with a menu, it's actually the common area for the food hall. You can sit down, order from the extensive menu that includes most of the dining areas in the hall and have a waiter fetch and serve your food for a service fee instead of bringing back the tray yourself. Were you ever annoyed that you didn't get water at a food court? Then you'll be happily at home here where water is poured in glasses for you.
I ordered hummus and moussaka from Habibi and my friends ordered a sashimi bowl and noodles.
At first glance, I was a little miffed at the size of my hummus for the price (NT$200). Sababa had spoiled me, I suppose. The hummus was creamy though it lacked a slight sweetness and the pita was airy and warm.
Then came my moussaka with eggplant (NT$380)- the first and only time I had eaten it was in Chicago about 10 years ago. I don't know what compelled me to order it over the recommended grilled chicken skewers. I guess I wanted to really test Habibi Cafe and see if it was going to be good.
Unfortunately, it wasn't what I remembered. I was expecting more of an eggplant lasagna, but this seemed more like a shepherd's pie, with lots of mashed potatoes atop and minced lamb underneath. I barely found any eggplant and it was kind of lukewarm and greasy. Even though I shared, my friends politely said no after one bite and we probably left about 2/3 of the dish on the plate.
Even more unfortunately, the waiter didn't really care either as when we asked him to take the plate away and said that it wasn't good, he didn't really respond.
Luckily, my friend's bowl of lu shi mian pork noodles (NT$210) were delicious with springy, chubby noodles and tender pork.
My friend who ordered the sashimi bowl (NT$980) and I were still hungry after our orders that we ordered another bowl of noodles to share. She didn't like how most of the pieces of sashimi still had skin on them and some of the fresh didn't seem optimally fresh. She would have been better off with a lunch set from Ton 28 or elsewhere.
Isn't it funny that you can travel the world in a gourmet food court, but the most delicious thing is still a bowl of noodles?
Definitely expensive mistakes for lunch, but there's definitely a lot more to explore.
There's sweets galore for the dessert lovers- gelato, chocolates, macarons, cakes and breads.
I recommend the olive foccacia from Elite Bakery and the chocolate with sea salt bar from Cacao et Chocolat. A bar of chocolate for NT$400- extravagant I know, but a good gift for the chocolate lover in your life. (Ask for a sample to make sure you get the right one!)
Even more decadent and insane to imagine is this gold cake at Elite Bakery- that sells for NT$4800 (about US$150). The entire chocolate cake is covered in gold leaf foil.
I can't imagine the look of shock and confusion that crossed my face when I saw the cake and the ridiculous price tag. Who buys that kind of cake for that kind of price? And what happens when no one buys it for that day? It makes the NT$700 cakes seem like a steal at that point.
But I suppose that's the fun in exploring Bellavita- it doesn't cost anything to browse the pretty things in the pretty atmosphere. When it first opened, there were tons of couples taking photos in front of the fountains at the entrance. Even the shops inside are yet to be fully opened, and those that are there I'd only window shop.
Luckily there are other delicious meals to be found elsewhere in Bellavita- there are quite a few restaurant/bars on the other floors- Ton 28, Haleakala, Beata te, Salon & L'Atelier Robuchon and a3 bar.
The first time I got excited about Bellavita was when I heard it was going to be home to the first Michelin starred chef restaurant in Taiwan- L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. And though I haven't been yet to try the 8 course NT$6000 (or 4 course NT$2600 for lunch) gastronomic heaven meal, I've been saving up a visit for a special occasion. Before that I might visit the more casual Salon de The de Robuchon.
So that's a quick walk through the beautiful life that is Bellavita. Though it took me a few months to visit Bellavita, I did some catching up the last month, so I'll have some more posts coming up the next few weeks showing Haleakala and patisserie Sadaharu AOKI in their own posts.