Found myself in the neighborhood of Cucina Sole this weekend and needing dinner I decided to stop in and see how this place was considering all the recent hubbub about it. I’d always been interested in trying it since it opened and I was in the mood for pasta anyway.
It was lateish, sometime after 9, and it took a bit for someone to show up and seat me but I was finally greeted by a very friendly, very pretty waitress who spoke English very well. I ordered spaghetti and meatballs and some red wine. She asked if I wanted to upgrade to the set meat for another NT$90 (soup, salad, etc.) It seemed fine and included a soft drink but I wasn’t interested in coke or iced tea at that hour so just settled for water.)
Salad came out sans dressing which I requested, fresh veggies and nice oil/pesto drizzle; so far so good. Soup of the day was onion, I’m not a fan of soup in general and onion soup, if done poorly, has the danger of repeating on you all night but this one was fine. However, since they came together, by the time I got to the soup was overly cool. The house wine was perfectly drinkable and at a reasonable NT$180 a glass.
The atmosphere in this place was nice for a while and there were only a couple of other customers left. A modern, clean but not overly well-lighted place. They had a nice soundtrack of Italian music on while I was getting through the salad & soup (think Dean Martin and Tony Bennett type stuff) but suddenly in the middle of a nice song – SNAP – it was switched to some crappy Madonnaish/Lady Gagaish pop stuff. This really disconcerted me. I think, as it was late, the kitchen staff decided to pop in their own MPs files or something. The place seemed to be run that night by teenager-twenty somethings and no adults around (has the manager fled after recent events?) Food is my bottom line but music really affects my restaurant experience. It’s why I avoid all chains anymore, I challenge you to have a meal at a Friday’s or some similar chain restaurant now and be able to hear a normal conversation without straining.
Next came the entrée, well presented and appealing looking. Though as my waitress served it she neglected to notice my wine glass was empty so I never got another. I tucked into one of the meatballs and I was really put off; quite dry and tough. The pasta was fine though, al dente and seasoned well, but the whole thing could have used another ladle of sauce. This also would have helped hide the poor texture of the meatballs also. The portion was average I would say.
I kept thinking throughout the entrée that something was missing though and couldn’t think of what it was (outside of another glass of wine). After I finished they brought the check and bread was listed as part of the $90 set meal upgrade, which was never served and when I asked about it the waitress said something along the lines of “Oops I forgot” and she brought out two little slices in a doggy bag (a bit late) with the receipt. Final Tab: NT$616 with the service charge. There seemed be a questionnaire included with the bill but it was all in Chinese so I didn’t get to give them any feedback.
Overall my experience was acceptable but not worth repeating. It mostly felt like a chain restaurant meal. Maybe the chef was off that day but the dry, chewy meatballs were a deal breaker for me (I’ve had much better at airport restaurants, albeit not in Taiwan), as well as the somewhat sketchy atmosphere and (though very friendly) service. I would go again only if a friend wanted to try it. I notice all the good reviews seem to be from 2011. Could they have changed hands or just started a complacency slip?
For much better value for money and a more convivial atmosphere I recommend staying on the MRT for 10 more minutes and getting off at Xinpu where you can get much better quality and better priced pasta at Le Rouge which is a one minute walk from the MRT exit. Oh, and, for what it’s worth, I’ve certainly never found any screws in any dish at Le Rouge either, just good food. Happy dining!