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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Osteria by Angie

A few weeks or so ago, a good friend of mine told me that a new Italian restaurant, Osteria by Angie, opened near my office. Shortly after, the restaurant was featured in the weekend section of China Times. My interest was piqued enough that we made a reservation for a family weekday dinner.

As we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by a hostess who couldn't find our reservation. I thought that was not a good sign and unfortunately, it would not be the only problem for the night.

Since the restaurant was not full, no reservation was not a problem, moreover, the hostess seated our party of four at a table for six. We were given a table right next to the front door. This would have been fine except the door didn't always close properly. Throughout the night, there was constantly a draft directed towards me.

Notwithstanding the problem with the door closer, the decor of the restaurant is actually quite pleasant consisting mainly of white walls and dark colored furniture. It is clear the owners cared quite a bit about the appearance of the restaurant, including the choice of the dinnerware. The owners even blogged about their unwavering choice of Staub as serving pieces, though I don't quite understand the reason for using ceramic instead of steel. While the silverware has nice shapes, they are a bit too small and cute, especially the spoon, thus making them less enjoyable to eat with.

After a look through the menu, we decided to order a seasonal salad and a fritto misto to share as appetizers. For the main course, we ordered a pasta with tomato and pancetta for the kids, I had the risotto with beef cheeks, while Maria ordered a margherita pizza.

The salad came first and it was just tasteless, totally bland. While the ingredients were fresh, they were severely under-seasoned, almost as if the chef forgot the salt. The fritto came a little later, and the dipping sauce was also bland.

Similar to the starters, the three main courses also came at different times. For my risotto, the beef cheeks were cooked well with good flavor. However, the rice was simply not creamy enough. I am not sure what the problem was, maybe not enough was done at the mantercatura stage; there just wasn't enough emulsification. I also didn't understand why the chef decided to serve the risotto in a small casserole-like dish rather than a shallow bowl or plate.

The pasta for the kids came shortly after and the casarecce was cooked well and the sauce had good flavors. At least the kids were happy.

The pizza didn't arrive until roughly ten minutes after I finished my risotto. Considering a pizza should cook very quickly, this was really unacceptable. While we were waiting for the pizza to show up, and asked the server to check on it multiple times, we saw the chef, out of the kitchen, wondering around the restaurant and even exchanging a glass of wine with someone, presumably his friend. What was worse, the pizza wasn't good. There simply wasn't enough of a crust. The bottom of the pizza was barely charred; I suspect the oven wasn't hot enough.

After the pizza we lost any interest in trying the desserts. I even skipped my usual espresso and simply asked for il conto.

With a few thousands NT$ lighter in the wallet, what makes the whole experience more disappointing was the fact that we were sitting at a table right across the aisle from the owners. The husband and wife were wining and dining their four friends and seemed oblivious to what was going on at the rest of the restaurant. It was then that I realized this is not really a restaurant for the general public, but rather a place for the owners to entertain their friends. If the owners are serious about being restaurateurs, they ought to show more care towards their paying customers. Until that happens and when the chef finds the salt box and some more heat, I will not return.

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