Cafe moves upscale
636, XiangShang Road (corner of DaYing St.)
Hours:7:30 am-11 pm
Credit cards accepted for non-food/beverage store products.
No service charge.
-- By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Mei Lee
Panda Cafe's cute mascot has become
a familiar sight to many central Taiwan residents over
the past couple years, thanks to the chain's numerous
small outlets. Lately, however, the company has refocused
its strategy on two main outlets and taken a more upscale
Panda Cafe's flagship store, on XiangShang
Road not far from WenXin Road, Section 1, opened recently
and resembles a large, European-style stone villa, seating
about 120 in its warmly-lit, two-floor interior and
outside at umbrella-shaded tables. Walk in and you'll
quickly realize that this is more than a simple coffee
outlet. Attractive display shelves contain all manner
of imported coffee and tea related products, plus some
other food items, from cereal to candy. In addition
to Panda's own various coffee beans and Italian brands
like Segafredo, there are reputable labels like London
Fruit & Herb Company, Pickwick tea, and the classy-looking
Le The products from The French Line. There are also
French and Chilean wines, coffee pots and other accessories.
The cafe's cosmopolitan atmosphere already draws an
interesting mix of local and foreign patrons. As always,
Panda Cafe offers a full range of very reasonably-priced
Italian-style coffees, averaging around NT$65/medium
and NT$85/large, plus hot and cold teas, smoothies,
and juices. There are also sandwiches and a wide variety
of desserts, ranging from tiramisu to a definite must-try--their
deliciously-creamy yogurt ice cream, which really stands
apart from the crowd.
Where things have really changed, though,
is on the food side with a more extensive dining menu.
This starts in the morning (7:30-11 a.m.) with three
breakfast options (NT$69-129) with sandwiches, bagels
and other items paired with coffee. Available all day
are five pasta and five rice entrees, which come with
soup. The well-made pastas include the Sicilian Garlic
Seafood (NT$175) and a rather spicy Milan Spicy Garlic
Smoked Chicken (NT$165). On the Asian side, the rice
dishes include three Korean-style "stone pot"
rice entrees and a Thai-style Lemongrass Chicken Leg.
Add NT$65 to NT$95 to entrees for added coffee, dessert
Panda Cafe used to be a order-and-go
kind of place. However, its new comfortable ambiance
and expanded offerings now makes it an ideal setting
to linger, enjoy and relax.