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Pikolo Espresso Bar is exactly what its name suggests and so much more. The place primarily serves coffee in the form of lattes, espressos and the like while offering some tea options for those who prefer the leaf infused hot beverages (I’m one of them). Walking – no, running in from the harsh winter winds whipping up a frenzy outside, we entered the toasty coffee shop with great relief, ready to be brought back to life by a cup of hot something. Decorated with Christmas lights and a small tree, the place emanated holiday cheer and a relaxing, comforting and soothing atmosphere. Most people inside on both floors were equipped with laptops, helping create a semi-studious, quieter vibe than your average Starbucks or Second Cup. That’s not all that makes this place different. The portions here are smaller but pack a very big punch. Pikolo doesn’t joke around – at least not about the coffee.
Just as we walked into Imadake, a large group was leaving. Sent off with surprisingly loud yells of “arigotou gozaimashita” – thank you in Japanese – we were immediately made aware that this was a real, as authentic as it gets kind of Japanese pub. All around us, groups of laughing, tipsy diners were egged on to do shots and chug their drinks by waitresses dressed in school-girl type kilts and thigh highs. The atmosphere is loud and convivial, definitely a good spot to check out if you’re in the mood to be around a lot of people, drink some good Japanese beer and eat tapas style typical to the izakaya way.
Located in the basement level of the prestigious Regent Hotel (incidentally where Lady Gaga chose to stay when she came to Taipei for a show several weeks ago), the Brasserie is an upscale all-you-can-eat buffet style restaurant with a selection of foods wide enough to make your jaw drop. The sushi/sashimi bar features freshly caught lobsters, crabs and oysters, king mackerel, swordfish, yellowfin tuna, sea urchin among other premium raw seafood. The Japanese section also had cold soba and oolong noodles prepared on demand, just fried tempura (fish, potato, taro, shrimp), miso soup among many other choice selections.The “American” section featured some typical foods you would expect which for some foreigners may be a welcome relief from the rather different Asian foods you find most places in Taipei.
Clearly influenced by their former British colonizers, TWG Tea, otherwise known as The Wellness Group is a Singaporean tea house primarily known for its impressive selection of teas (well over 100!) and delicious desserts. The loose leaves of the different blends are held in pots that are clearly identified by number and name and are placed on shelves that slide back to reveal more tea several rows deep.
Walking into Joe Beef, one immediately senses a kind of warm intimacy few restaurants are able to successfully achieve in terms of both physical space, ambiance and decor. The space out front is quite small; tables are set one next to the other with only a few inches separating diners from one another – for those who sit on the inner banquettes, tables must be pulled out for them to exit gracefully. Even in such close quarters, fellow diners have been the most friendly and cordial I have ever met. The owners have recently closed their luncheonette next door (McKiernan’s) in favor of expanding Joe Beef, creating an oyster bar in its place while at the same time increasing its capacity for more people to stop by. Due to the popular demand for the restaurant’s exquisite food, the terrasse out back has been opened up as well. I had actually never been in the area before and our lovely waitress Vanya was nice enough to show me around. The garden where ingredients are freshly grown and harvested lines the terrasse; adjacent to this, a separate plot of land is sectioned off by a fence – here they house a large metal smoker where they treat some of their meats and fish.