Monday, April 19, 2010

mall/foodcourt: i recommend BELLAVITA

No. 28, Song Ren Road

MRT stop: Taipei City Hall

website: 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.


food je t'aime said...

I love Bellavita! I miss it :(

SinoSoul said...

US$70+ for lunch? Uhm, apparently food je t'aime is a baller, cuz our brunch today was $20 and I thought I got ripped.

food je t'aime said...

I just love being in it lol it has such a nice ambiance.

I actually have not eaten in the food court there...only had a few lovely pastries.

Kung Food Panda said...

It's been almost 3 years since my last visit to TW and I missed a new mall/food court. Though, the prices are quite pricey for the usual Taiwanese cost of living. For me, I'm quite content with 101's food court!

BNutz said...

I don't know any food courts that would have people in it at 11:30am?!

Actually part of the reason why I love going to food courts in the mornings myself (If I'm ever up that early) is for that great atmosphere of All Those Dishes, All For You potential...

I always walk past that place on the footbridge, will have to check it out next time!

Anonymous said...

Well I see chic eateries price is reason most people see it too costly. They rather save money to eat at chic restaurants at night for special events.


Protocol Snow said...

When did Bellavita open? Must be relatively recently since I haven't heard anything about this mall last time I went to Taiwan.

Beef No Guy said...

We were last in Taipei Dec 09 and this place wasn't open yet. Knew about it already from other Taiwanese bloggers but your writeup is more comprehensive, so thanks a lot for that! Definitely will check it out when we go back, but even for us, Taipei 101 and the ilk are no longer fascinating. The only upscale Chinese I want to try is the restaurant by Gu Gong (Royal Palace Museum), where the banquet dinners look supremely exquisite, almost like kaiseki fused with Lu/Shandong style Confucian banquet.

tt said...

Wow...any place with a macaron display that large can't go wrong, eh? Perfect timing for L'Atelier to open...June 27th is right around the corner (hint, hint, Daddy J...haha)

Michelle said...

I agree with you with the cacao et chocolat chocolate bar - it was definitely chocolate bliss! Btw, the cinnamon whatsit bread from Elite Bakery is also mouth-watering.

stella bakes said...

as someone who is obsessed with desserts, i would highly recommend that you visit Salon de The... they definitely have the best desserts in town (since i've tried almost every item) ;p

joanh said...

food je t'aime: hopefully you can visit soon again!

sinosoul: haha! :) well, my food court lunch was between 3 people, but definitely still pricey.

kung food panda: a lot has definitely popped up in 3 years and you might not recognize 101's food court anymore either!

brian lau: haha, true, i do notice that eateries open/fill up later in taipei than in other cities.

lisa: definitely. i would definitely save my money for one of the other places next time.

protocol snow: Bellavita opened last fall, mostly in December 2009

BNG: thank so much!! you can definitely explore some of the eateries upstairs too

tt: maybe you can make a trip back by then!!

michelle: cinnamon bread from elite sounds good!

dessert searching: thanks for the recommendation!! i definitely want to try it soon.

broadbean said...

The veggie restaurant is really good too - a haven for veggies who don't want another buffet. The highlight is the liangmian (cold noodles).

Ryan McAllister said...

I loved the Oyster Bar with a nice glass of white from the A3 Wine Shop next door. The store manager Fanny told me that she's going to host an exclusive wine & food club there soon. Can't wait.