I am happy to introduce another blog post written by fellow foodie and friend, Maria Tan. I am sure you will love her Christmas Eve discovery, hidden in the backstreets of Taipei. I just love stumbling across unexpected discoveries in the back alleyways of Taipei, and this is a real treasure.
On Christmas Eve, my friends and I planned to go to an Indian place near Fuxing Sogo. I had been calling this place for a few days to make a reservation but I couldn’t get through. An alarm went off in my head and I consulted with friends about a backup plan – dimsum. So I went there early to check the place out.
As I approached the area, I saw construction workers tearing things down. I went and asked the workers where the Indian place had moved. They said just nearby, go straight, turn left and then turn right. I called my friend and told her this and since I was early, I just said, “Don’t worry. I’ll check it out and message you where we’ll meet – either Indian or dimsum.”
I’m really poor with directions and I have poor eyesight (though I don’t wear glasses). So I did my best to follow the instructions given to me. I was walking while carefully looking at the lane numbers when I passed by a restaurant called Gusto.
The restaurant’s signage looked really nice. But there was a truck in front so I couldn’t see the door that clearly. Curious, I went in to explore. They were not yet open so the lights were not yet dimmed to fully give a cozy feel to the place. But to my keen eye, I saw how much thought was put in the décor.
From the exterior, it looked like a famous dining place in the Spanish pueblos. They had these wine barrels outside and with a few chairs and tables. Later I realized people usually wait outside as the restaurant can get full.
I was impressed as I looked at the chairs with ribbons tied to the back and candles lit. The ambiance was clearly Spanish. I called my friend to tell her about this place and she said since we’re going to mass afterwards, then we can do Spanish as it would solidify a “CHRISTmas” experience.
While seated, I checked up about this place online. I came across a review at Taipei Times talking about Gusto’s owner. Apparently she went to school in Spain and came back and decided to open this restaurant. Originally her concept was to recreate the fine dining Spanish cuisine, but she eventually decided upon something more intimate when she stumbled upon a great location in a small alley.
We decided to go for the menu for two (although we were three). But we added a cheese platter and a pitcher of Sangria. My other friend doesn’t take drink alcohol so it was just us ladies who devoured the drink. It was good – really good – so good we had to ask for a second round.
But beware! It can be was quite strong! Since it tasted like fruit punch, I didn’t really feel the alcohol until too late! (I was a dozing off a bit in mass!)
The salad came first. It was really tasty. I was very impressed with the dressing. I honestly never tasted anything like it. It was citrusy, light and refreshing.
Next was abalone salad with smoked oyster. The oyster was okay – good but nothing out of the ordinary. The abalone salad was quite scrumptious – creamy but just right.
Then came the cheese platter (not part of the set). I found the way it was served interesting. Usually the cheese platters involved long slices and it is up to the patrons to slice the amount . Here, it was diced – very creative (even the plate as well!).
This was followed by spicy meat balls with tomato sauce (I didn’t know it was an “or” in the menu as I didn’t really looked clearly. The other option would have been chicken with coconut and ginger.) The meatballs were a bit spicy. Although I’m not a fan of spicy food, a phrase that I can describe it is – very Spanish, if you know what I mean. It was full of flavor – but again spicy, so ready a glass of cold water if you you can’t take the heat. (had to gulp down some sangria to wash away the flavor).
What Spanish food comes without paella? Ours were seafood paella. The seafood was cooked well. But since I grew up eating paella now and then, I thought it was a bit too ordinary for my taste. My friend found it just right though.
The climax (for me anyway) were the skewers with beef, chicken, seafood and vegetables. The staff put them our table and they lit them up right there. They put fire to them from the top! It was amazing!
The menu didn’t show what the desert was but my guess would be panna cotta. We were in a hurry as the mass was about to start so we didn’t dilly-dally and ate the panna cotta quickly. We did have the tea that went with the set. We all had earl grey and for me, a very little drop of milk. For my friends, a teaspoon or so.
Overall, it was a great experience. Christmas music was playing. I thought it would have been a much more holistic experience if people were dancing and Spanish music was played. The atmosphere would be perfect for that!
Address: No. 23, Alley 5, Lane 107, No. 1 Fuxing South Road
Telephone Number: 2731 3267