Monday, June 28, 2010

italian: i strongly recommend SOLO PASTA

No. 29-1, Anhe Road, Sec. 1
(02) 2775-3645

MRT: ZhongXiao/DunHua

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.


Mike said...

Looks great. This one was the alternative you gave me to Primo Trattoria.

keauxgeigh said...

I wonder if there's a pasta place here that has real American-style tomato sauce instead of the minestrone soup-like stuff they put on noodles and call it "Italy noodles".

Seriously, you eat the noodles, and then you spoon up the sauce, because it's pretty much the after-meal soup.

joanh said...

mike: i personally like Solo better than Primo. the balsamic cream pasta is really addictive!

keauxgeigh: hmm, probably Macaroni Grill? I like Bellini's tomato sauce too, though they put soft boiled egg on top which may freak out some people.

Mike said...

Great, gotta try it when i get back to Taipei.

Pandalicious said...

Ear shaped pasta with broccoli and homemade sausage is one of my favorite pasta dishes!! i always get that when i go to cafe med in west hollywood. good post!

joanh said...

mike: cool thanks!

pandaliicious: it's so good at Solo! I'll have to check out Cafe Med!

Anonymous said...

"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)
小姐,你不該取笑別人的中式英文。你的英語也不是那麼順。You use Chinglish yourself.

Jean said...

hey anonymous, if you want to write mean comments, you can't at least own up to them?

i don't think it's terrible to point out the amusement in small errors like this. and i'm pretty sure hungry girl doesn't use a whole lot of chinglish, except in her quotes.

great post HG! yuuum!

© said...

I'm sorry but i strongly not recommend this restaurant :
- Very bad service, not professional ;
- We waited for 30 mns until they take our order (there were only a dozen of client, not rush hour) ;
- They made a mistake in our order, wrong main course, and didn't want to change ;
- No bread with antipasti or must pay for it, not italian style for sure…

Henry H said...

Excellent recommendation! Went there today and you are spot on about the duck! The dessert is quite good as well. Quite a special place.

Unknown said...

This restaurant has gone downhill since I ate there last time a few months ago. Yesterday we ordered the classic bolongese and the sauce came out half cold. I then only found out that it was made the day before and reheated. Can you imagined that?

Also the pasta in squid ink came out way too salty for my taste.

I strongly recommend against the place for all pasta lovers.

Mike said...

Hey Joanh,

After trying out Solo Pasta, I do agree the balsamic cream pasta was excellent. I still like Primo more, because there seems to be more items on the menu that are good to the taste buds.

The service at Solo was pretty slow, on both occassions that I was there. The cheeses are very weak though. I think they may want to import more authentic cheeses, this should help a lot.

I still rank Primo first with Solo and Casa being tied for second.

Anonymous said...

Went there because you made the balsamic pasta sounds so good :p and it was good. I planning on cooking it at home!

The highlight for me was that the pasta was right on al dente, it's really the first time this kind of things gets my attention.

I kinda had a wtf moment with the smoked bacon bits not cooked at all, they were just thrown in the dish, which was kinda gross when I happened to bite on a piece which was mostly fat, the taste of pure fat was so off-putting I had to spit it out. Were your bacon bits also uncooked? Maybe the chef wasn't in the kitchen that day and the crew got lazy... but it's a big pitfall for me. The devil is in the detail!

All in all, I'd say, it's a recommend, but not strongly.