Monday, June 28, 2010
italian: i strongly recommend SOLO PASTA
SOLO PASTA CUCINA ITALIANA
No. 29-1, Anhe Road, Sec. 1
hours: 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM; 5:30 PM - 10 PM Closed Mondays
Kid friendliness: no high chairs spotted, but room for strollers
Visit reviewed: 3/16/2010 & 4/2/2010
More and more, I'm becoming impressed with the Italian eateries that are opening up around Taipei. There are the fancy places, the super cheap places, the American chain places and the Japanese fusion places. And then you discover a place like Solo Pasta, where it doesn't have to fit into a boxed category because you keep going back and telling all your friends about it.
Especially about the dish in the first photo- the smoked duck breast in balsamic cream sauce spaghetti. Just be sure to order that dish and you should leave Solo a happy diner.
It's pretty sizeable with two seating sections, one near the entrance's large window with lots of areas for larger groups, with the second part facing the open kitchen.
Located around the corner from Space Yoga and across the street from Dunhua Eslite, Solo isn't too hard to find once you know where it is. It opened early this year and has quickly gained good word of mouth. My friend who worked nearby introduced it to me, saying she knew I would love it.
The English and Chinese menu has an assortment of appetizers and pastas and a few desserts. The few times I've been there, the appetizers and pastas are about the same price and the appetizer portions are small, so on repeat visits I've usually just ordered the pasta.
My favorite out of the appetizers include Asparagus, running egg and shaved extra-aged parmesan cheese though the price makes it a splurge for the portion at NT$280.
The most popular appetizer on the menu is the raw vegetables with garlic, anchovy dipping for 2 (NT$230) (do we notice the present tense verbs in the menu? hee hee. running egg instead of runny; dipping instead of dip), and it could be kind of romantic on a date if you don't mind having anchovy garlic breath, but in the end it's sort of like a veggie platter and melted caesar dressing. My friends want extra plain bread to soak up the sauce instead since it doesn't really stick to the veggies, but the waitress says there's no bread despite us having had ordered bruschetta.
The oven baked layered eggplant, mozzarella and parmesan cheese (NT$180) is served barely warm and would probably taste better hot,
and the toast for the Tuscany bread plate with pate and bruschetta is a bit dry- it could have used some olive oil, basil and parmesan.
But don't fret, we are not here for the appetizers, we are here for the pasta!
Every restaurant has its specialty dishes and everyone has their own preferences, but the first time I went to Solo, I noticed every other table had the balsamic cream duck pasta after I ordered the orecchiette. So on my next visit, I had to find out what I was missing out on. Make sure you order at least one of these three pastas.
1- smoked duck breast in balsamic cream sauce spaghetti (NT$260)
Can I just let the pictures do the talking? If you are a fan of chicken marsala, then you'll like the slighty sweet and tangy (from the balsamic) sauce that coats each strand of pasta. The dish is a bit rich to finish as a solo diner, but perfect for sharing family style. You might find that you don't want pass it around the table after taking a few bites. I had never had balsamic cream pasta before, but it totally works. I thought about this pasta for days after I ordered it and even ordered it to-go on a few occasions.
2- Spaghettini with Squid in Black Ink sauce (NT$280)
Though a perilous dish to order while on a date, the squid ink spaghettini is more flavorful than it looks. There's hints of spiciness and garlic in the sauce, and chewy parts of squid are hiding underneath all the black. I worried that I'd end up with black lips, but the sauce wipes away easily after the meal.
3- Ear shaped pasta with broccoli and homemade sausage
Like all the other pastas at Solo, the orecchiette is served al dente, which makes for a wonderfully firm and chewy bite. The waitress warns us about this, as al dente is harder than the locals prefer, but I love it. It's surprisingly got a small kick to it, with slivers of chili pepper adding a nice layer of flavor to the hearty sausage and the softer bite sized pieces of broccoli.
I've never been a fan of gnocchi, so I can't say if the beet gnocchi (NT$280) was good or not. But I had a bite and still was not a fan.
Other pasta dishes ordered that day included a raw scallop pasta and a tomato and clams linguine (NT$250) which offered up lighter flavors in contrast to the other dishes we had. A bit too light for me after the richer flavors of the balsamic duck and squid ink pastas.
I didn't have room for it on this visit, but Solo has amazing desserts as well. The lemon tart (NT$90) has a nice sour and sweet tartness that was too sweet for my Taiwanese friend's taste, but perfect for those looking for something more distinctive. The tiramisu (NT$80) was good too, with a strong flavor of espresso and marsala.
My friend who introduced me to the restaurant said that the Taiwanese chef opened Solo after opening a successful restaurant in Taichung and traveled regularly to Italy to learn and practice. I've never been to Italy, but am happy to have a taste of it here, as Solo Pasta has quickly become one of my favorite pasta places in Taipei.