PIG & PEPPER
website: Pig and Pepper's FB page
hours: 11AM - 10PM
Kid friendliness: high chairs available
Visit reviewed: 11/24/2012 & 1/2/2013
One doesn't have to look far for American or Western restaurants in Taipei-- there's the ubiquitous brunch and burger type, the pizza and pasta type, the familiar chain restaurant (sit down or fast food) type, the fancy upscale type... the list could go on and on. So where does "New American cuisine" Pig and Pepper fit in?
Located not too far from the DaAn station, Pig and Pepper greets you with a bright yellow door to let us know we're at the right place.
Inside is inviting with seating areas broken off into different areas, with large groups sitting near the front window section.
For my first visit, I was surprised that my aunt chose Pig and Pepper for a family brunch especially since I had been meaning to try it out (which she didn't know). She had seen it featured in one of the popular Taiwan weeklys, so it's encouraging that the menu is appealing to locals as well. For my second visit, I rounded up a group of friends to try out a new place, lured by the promise of truffled mac and cheese.
You could do a scavenger hunt of the pigs decorating the restaurant in paintings along the walls.
So back to my question... where does Pig and Pepper fit in? While there is brunch, and there is pasta, Pig and Pepper is a bit out of the box, offering New American cuisine to Taipei tastebuds. Opened by two sisters who moved back from Los Angeles to Taipei, Pig and Pepper is a bright spot in Taipei's restaurants featuring American fare. The menu boasts a range of crowd pleasing dishes that is a "contemporary, upscale" take of both American comfort foods and "melting pot" dishes. There is no where else I can think of in Taipei that offers truffled mac and cheese, or polenta.
Brunch menu offers dishes like green frittata or corn beef hash, while lunch menu includes salads, pastas and an open faced burger with fried egg and fries. The dinner menu features tapas and different things altogether like steak with fried oysters, shrimp and grits and duck confit sandwich.
Some of my favorite things from Pig and Pepper were the salads- though they were all different, I loved them all. Good size for the price and plentiful fresh ingredients topping the greens.
Warm mushroom salad with pecorino and hazelnut (NT$280) - I loved that the sauteed mushrooms were served warm and the large slivers of pecorino cheese gives the salad a nice sharp accent.
I also really enjoyed the Sirloin Steak Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette (NT$350). I think the portion is generous for the price and this could be a meal on its own. The tender steak, crispy onions and spicy horseradish dressing complement each other. Reminds a little of the salad from Lawry's Carvery. My pet peeve is a salad where you can't find the ingredients especially when you pay extra for them (take note, Dressed)
Can't go wrong with proscuitto and candied walnuts in the Chef House Salad (NT$250)
We couldn't resist ordering some of the sides to share, like the truffled parmesan tots (NT$180), a grown up version of the tater tots I used to get from the school cafeteria. I splurged on them on repeat visits, though be warned they are on the small side for the price.
And both versions of the mac cheese- Bacon mac and cheese (NT$180) and Truffle mac and cheese (NT$180). If you could only pick one, skip the bacon version, go with the truffles.
Thanks to all my girlfriends who wait to dig in until I get my beauty shots at each lunch and love to eat as much as I do, so that I can try different dishes like I did at this lunch. Luckily we had ordered things to share family style as things came out rather slowly from the kitchen, one dish by one- but note this was over six months ago since my last visit when they were still fairly new, so perhaps they've sped it up since then.
The French Toast with Berry Compote and Whipped Mascarpone (NT$260) was good, though I wish they'd serve it with some honey or maple syrup or even berry sauce on the side. When we asked about it, the server replied we were to just use the mascarpone and berries.
I also enjoyed the creamy Parmesan Polenta Cake with Grilled Vegetables and Poached Egg (NT$360), though I think this is more a side dish than a main. You also pay a premium for this rare-for-Taipei dish.
The Open Faced Burger with Fried Egg and Fries (NT$390) is definitely meant to be eaten with a fork and knife and is a cheesy mess. A good guy's dish and you can steal the waffle fries.
Personally, I'd skip the tacos since I can get my fix elsewhere for less, but my friends wanted to try them. Three grilled chicken soft tacos (NT$360) come with a side of yellow rice and lettuce and some tomato and green chili condiments. I don't really care for yellow rice- I have never seen them at any taco shops or Mexican restaurants that I've eaten in the states and I don't know why it's so pervasive in Taipei- at both the localized Mexican and Indian spots.
The Carnitas Soft Tacos (NT$360) have a bit more meat in them.
The Pulled Pork Sandwich (NT$360) looked like nothing that I imagined that it would, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the pulled pork tasted very similar to the pork in the tacos (if not the exact same thing but repurposed). It might remind some of a Vietnamese sandwich with the french bread roll and julienned carrots and radishes and cilantro, which is kind of an interesting take. Not a bad order, just don't expect a Southern pulled pork sandwich topped with slaw.
The Pork Bolognese Spaghetti with Poached Egg and Parmesean (NT$360) was a good rendition of the classic and the poached egg atop reminded me of Bellini's spaghetti (though Bellini's version is sweeter and saucier with the soft boiled egg less well done).
I wasn't crazy about the braised beef with butter garlic noodles (NT$390)- I found the dish to be too heavily seasoned for me.
Onto desserts! On my second visit, we had to try the new Funnel Cake which is probably my favorite dessert of the bunch since it's not something you'd find in Taipei. Though I appreciate the gourmet, glamour version with ice cream and layers of custard in between, I felt like the funnel cake had cooled down while it was being primped. I'd love to see an option to order a plain funnel cake, just simply dusted with powdered sugar, so that I could eat it piping hot.
I thought I'd love the Zepolli with dipping sauce and vanilla ice cream (NT$260), but I found the fried donuts a tad oily for my tastes.
Homemade cheesecake with seasonal fruit (NT$220)
Sticky fig toffee cake with peanut ice cream (NT$220)