When SPA Lady Windy invited me out to lunch recently, it was unsurprising that she would choose a SPA theme for our healthy yet decadent lunch. And the Spa Cafe adjoining the luxurious Orient Retreat SPA was a secret-gem that I was excited to discover.
Unfortunately, massages and spas are not something usually enjoyed during pregnancy so I will have to wait until after baby (and confinement) before indulging in the full delights of Orient Retreat. But Windy assures me that the spa, which operates in Taiwan, Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles and New York, is a quality not-to-be-missed experience. And their Spa Cafe next door to their downtown Taipei Momo Department store is just the place to rewind and relax after a pampering spa experience. Or to recharge from retail therapy in the Momo department store or from Ikea next door.
We started with a type of herbal tea, gently warmed over a candle flame. I am not exactly sure what was in it, but I gather it was concocted especially for its therapeutic and detoxifying effects. The healthy theme continued with a generous dish of Thai seafood salad (NT$290) to share as an entrée. The large bowl filled with seafood (did I mention this salad was generous?), shredded green papaya, a decent kick of sweet chilli sauce and topped a slice of grilled garlic bread would make a complete meal in itself for someone diet conscious (or an entrée for the rest of us).
Windy suggested we order a serving of Seafood Au Gratin with Cheese (NT$300). I will be honest and admit I have not been impressed by most cheese-based pasta dishes that I have seen and/or tried since being in Taiwan. Usually the baked pasta dishes are too oily and, perhaps because they use cheap processed cheese, just don’t quite have the right cheesy flavour. But I trusted Windy’s judgement and the order of baked seafood did not disappoint. The creamy rice and seafood gratin was crowned with a generous layer of molten cheese. Best eaten piping hot, this was a dish that set you reaching for just another spoonful. And then perhaps another, with a bit of cheese topping as well. This dish was comfort food at its ultimate best.
Meanwhile, I chose to order a serving of Spa Cafe’s seafood pasta with pesto sauce (NT$320). For some reason, pesto sauces do not seem as prevalent in Taipei pasta restaurants as they are elsewhere. (Unlike perhaps the Seinfeld ‘busboy’ episode where George whined that everyone is compelled to like pesto and ‘you walk into a restaurant, that’s all you hear – pesto, pesto, pesto’). Anyway, since I had not eaten pesto in a while I decided to trial Spa Cafe’s version. The spaghetti dish, much larger and generous (there’s that word again!) than my photo indicates, was paired with a rich, creamy pesto sauce. Yet although creamy, the sauce was surprisingly light and worked well with the fresh seafood and toasted pinenuts on top. And I still felt healthy afterwards, a sign that the dish was in harmony.
The Orient Retreat Spa Cafe is tucked away in a quiet corner on level five of the Momo Department store at No 337, Section 3, Ninjing East Road (台北市105松山區南京路三段337號5樓). The restaurant is small and intimate, and until now has been a well kept secret. So shhh, don’t tell anyone!