TASTY Steak, Taipei
I love the food in Taiwan. No wait - let me be more specific. I love the *local* food in Taiwan. But I've also had simply atrocious meals in Taiwan. Indeed, a number of meals over the past few days here have been quite a letdown. So when our colleagues took us to this local steak chain today for a quick lunch near the office, I had mixed thoughts. On one hand, I was excited since I have had a memorable localized steak in Taiwan before, and my curiosity was piqued after having noticed this chain's outlets across the city over the past few days. Yet, I still took my expectations down tremendously since something inside me knew that I wouldn't like it. While the food did better than I thought it would, my instinct was generally correct in that this would be a disappointing meal.
I guess my gripe was that everything was really tacky (and ironically, I think they did all of this to make it look classy). Offering a eight course lunch today (again, trying too hard to be classy?) at NT$499 or US$15.20, they started with stuff like "beef pancakes" that turned out to be cuts of beef and onions sitting on a sliced cracker with melted cheese and topped with cherry tomatoes. While not horrible in taste, it just seemed very fake, as if they were trying too hard to make it elegant. Similar thoughts applied to the French clam soup, whose creamy base and fresh clams actually did work for me, but the topping of the dough fritter and almonds seemed a bit odd (is the French part just a marketing ploy like "Mongolian BBQ"?). Finally, the original TASTY steak (yes, in caps), was so tender that it went down quickly, but came topped with a pet peeve of mine: black pepper sauce.
I suppose that if one has never tried localized Western food in Taiwan, then this could be a cultural experience. But it just made me feel downright uncomfortable. I was told afterwards that this is actually the downscale version of a classier steak place that charges two times as much, so maybe that would be a bit better. But yeah, this is one of those meals from Taiwan that I would like to forget about.