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Panda Cafe moves upscale

(04) 2320-5270
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 direction.

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 and/or salad.

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.


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