Lifestyle Eat

Happy hideaway

Written by The Panda

This article first appeared in the Jul/Aug 2014 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Shop B, The Manhattan
Rua de Nam Keng, Taipa
Open 12:00 to 23:00 (7 days)
Telephone +853 2884 4075

The Panda had strolled past this inconspicuous little shop front a number of times without realizing the delectable delights waiting inside. When he finally took the time to visit he was in for a pleasant surprise.

Taipa Café opened in late January this year and if you didn’t know it was there it would be easy to miss. The shop front is small and although The Panda had waddled past a few times he had never seen a sign. However, that’s exactly why I was so interested in unveiling this café which is “hidden” in the lively, bustling area. I selected a weekday afternoon to visit so the owner Angus would have time to chat with me. By chance, they happened to be finally hanging up a sign on the day I arrived, and I joked with Angus, “I guess I won’t miss it again in the future!”

It was only then that I learnt the Chinese name of the café is 时尚坊, while the English is “Taipa Café”. I thought this was just another boutique café you can find anywhere but after walking in it was as if I was in a whole new world. The shop is much bigger than it looks from the outside and can seat around 50 people. The decoration is of a casual western style, and the theme color is black. Once you open the menu, you will find coffee only takes up a very small section with only four standard types. In fact, despite the name, Taipa Café is more about the food than the coffee. It’s a true western restaurant and you can find a wide range of intriguing dishes here. I was confused about where the shop name came from, with so much tempting food on offer the question quickly slipped my mind.

Being outside peak hours, I was the only customer at the time so I seized the opportunity to chat with Angus and found out the chef once worked at the Michelin-star restaurant “The Tasting Room” at Crown Towers in City of Dreams. I asked Angus to select a few dishes for me to see what he considered to be their signatures.

The appetizer was homemade marinated salmon with Avruga caviar and citrus cream. The salmon was imported from Norway which meant it had a very even fat proportion and a concentrated taste. They use Japanese cherry wood in the smoking process which also gives it a delightful fragrant smell. The smoking temperature isn’t high in order to retain the oil and flavor of the fish. Together with the caviar and citrus cream, the taste as a whole is very balanced.

The next dish was squid ink risotto with Spanish red prawn and basil emulsion – a meal that certainly had this Panda salivating. Without doubt, the highlight was the red prawn. The prawn wasn’t fully cooked but pan fried to around 30 or 40 percent in order to make the flavor more outstanding. The head of the prawn was fried tempura-style and the two styles of cooking provided a delightful contrast. The risotto was nothing unusual, with some squid added to increase its flavor.

To facilitate the different preferences of customers, the restaurant offers two kinds of steak. One is American sirloin which is strong in flavor but tends to be slightly on the tough side. The other is Australian rib-eye. Compared with the first, its flavor is a bit lighter but the meat more tender. I ordered an 8-ounce American black angus sirloin, cooked medium, which was crisp on the outside and juicy inside. Angus calls himself a “meat eating beast” and I can tell he is always in pursuit of the best quality steak. He told me, “I won’t let our customers have a steak they are not satisfied with. If the degree of cooking is not what they want, we will make them a new one!”

The pizzas here use homemade bases. They only prepare about 30 each day, as the fermentation takes time, so it was fortunate that I was their first customer of the day. I also noticed some fresh oysters on display. Never one to say no to quality seafood, I tried two natural oysters and when I swallowed them it felt as if I had fallen into the ocean!

I made another pleasant discovery during my meal – although the restaurant offers various kinds of drinks, they don’t charge a corkage fee because Angus is also a wine taster. He understands the joy of sharing good wine and is happy to see customers drink to their heart’s content. In the end, when this Panda walked away with a full belly, he didn’t forget to yell out, “I’ll be back!”