Earlier this week, an Asian American friend took me out to lunch. The venue was his favourite and usual hangout– the American Club, Taipei.
I used to have this vision of expatriate clubs being terribly old-fashioned and cliquey. The type of place where you (or should I say, white caucasian men) could sit and drink a gin and tonic on the verandah while complaining about all the things that were better back home. The American Club, Taipei is more modern than that, providing many lifestyle facilities aimed at expatriates: from shops selling breakfast cereals, to swimming pools, a library, children’s areas and restaurants.
The reality is that not everyone comes to a new country (and culture) with the innate ability to fit in. (I myself think I spent most of my time as a student in Beijing in a state of profound culture shock, looking for new pizza and sandwich shops and eating more McDonalds than I knew I should). And the process can be doubly harder when moving to live overseas with family and kids, not all of whom voluntarily signed up for their new adventure. So the role of expatriate clubs can be very important — not to mention fun. And actually, most of my friends who are members are Taiwanese who have strong American links — either through migration or education. So the club caters not just to those who are new to Taiwan, but those who want to be in a familiar environment.
I am not a member of the American Club, but have several friends who are. So I was more than happy earlier this week to accept an invitation to dine at the pool-side, Mediterranean themed Sigis restaurant. It was hard to decide what to order amongst the many choices. My friend recommended their pizzas (Sigis have their own unique recipe for the dough), and also the risotto. He ordered a turkey burger, which was a clear favourite. I deliberated several choices on their new ‘healthy menu’, but in the end I chose other healthy options from the standard and special April menu.
For entrée, I chose a simple salad with spinach, soft cheese (mini fresh mozzarella), cranberry and pine nuts. The salad came topped with a simple balsamic vinaigrette, and was colourful and healthy. I was unsure at first about the dried cranberry, but it actually complemented the flavours in the salad rather than overpowering them. And visually, it added a playful and vibrant touch.
For my main dish, I chose one of the April specials — grilled chicken with cous cous and yoghurt mint sauce. My choice was based in part out of curiosity to see how Sigis would handle cous cous, an ingredient seldom seen in Taipei. The pine nut topped side was flavoursome, and a perfect sponge to mop up the thick yoghurt sauce. The chicken was grilled just right: the skin slightly black in parts encasing a tender chicken thigh fillet.
Sigis is open from 11.30am to 10.30pm daily, conveniently situated pool side with a relaxed atmosphere. (The ceiling fans almost remind me of a colonial, British-India setting, but not quite.) It is within the American Club, Taipei so you have to either be a member to dine there or have a friend who is. The American Club is next to the Grand Hotel on 47 Bei-an Road, Taipei (phone (02) 2885 8260 or email email@example.com).