Address: No. 109號, Section 4, Rén'ài Road, Daan District
Telephone: (02) 2772-6174
Hours: 24 hours
Well a little researching could have saved me from making this mistake. As I've mentioned, it's Chinese New Year week so many of the places I want to review are closed until Friday or Saturday. In the meantime I decided to review an American chain restaurant I've seen a couple times. Swensen's is an old-fashioned San Franciscan restaurant that serves shakes, root beer floats, cheeseburgers, and other classic American dishes.
The interior is a little reminiscent of an Applebee's with the dark color scheme and classic Tiffany-esque chandeliers. I like that the seating mainly comprised of booths, not tables. This restaurant is smaller than I was expecting, and I noticed several parties of three or more waiting in the lobby. I researched Swensen's online menu to get an idea of what would be served, how much it would cost, etc. The website is simply swensens.com so instantly I knew it would probably prove less than helpful. In Taipei, Swensen's serves everything from steak to curry to pasta to tuna melts to fish and chips. There are four types of burgers, three types of melts, and two types of curry, so the choices under a particular heading are sparse.
I ordered a chocolate milkshake ($199 NT) and thought that the waiter would come back for my food order. Seeing him wait beside my table, I told him I didn't know what I wanted. He said that that was okay and he would just wait for me to make up my mind. I'm not really good at deciding what I want to eat with members of the wait staff standing over me and waiting for me to make up my mind. I hastily pointed at something in the direction of the sandwich section and gave him my menu.
My meal arrived sans milkshake. I thought that maybe it would be served as my dessert, but it arrived a little while later. I wished the milkshake was served as an appetizer or as a regular beverage that comes before a meal, but to each his own. Also, I had apparently ordered a mushroom burger ($280, "set menu" $420 NT). Fine by me. The burger was definitely American-sized and looked delicious!
The first thing I noticed about the plate was a surprising lack of potato wedges. Are they rationing them out? I had exactly eleven wedges which was a little disappointing. The burger itself was okay. The bun was by far the most memorable part of the dish! It was lightly buttered and toasted, perfectly fluffy, and served as an additional "condiment carrier" for the chives, grated cheese, and sour cream. I can't really explain this burger, so I've made a list of pros and cons. Pros: fresh lettuce, toasted bun, melted swiss cheese. Cons: soggy-beyond-recognition tomato, lukewarm burger, unexpected presence of chives, sour cream, and grated cheese. In Swensen's defense, perhaps the chives, sour cream, and grated cheese WERE mentioned on the menu and, in my haste, I didn't see this.
As I was eating, I noticed many diners had ordered the "set menu" of practically all dishes. The set menu differs slightly depending on what you're ordering but for the sandwiches, "International Favorites" (like Hungarian goulash and fish and chips), and curry, the set menu includes a beverage, soup, salad, main entree, and a dessert. Maybe this is why I had eleven potato wedges?
Anyway, the chocolate milkshake was delicious! It wasn't too watery or milky and tasted like a good ol' Swensen's chocolate milkshake. Swensen's Taipei has an ice cream bar, but the flavors have changed to reflect Asian preferences. For example, there's no cookie dough, macadamia, Rocky Road, cantaloupe, Wild Mountain blackberry, bubblegum, almond praline delight, etc. but there are red bean, yam (taro), Japanese green tea, lychee sherbet, and Brandy Bordeaux cherry flavors. I like that Swensen's has "Taiwanese" flavors of ice cream but was too full to sample any of them.
Will I be coming back to Swensen's? Sadly no. If I need an American food fix, I'll head over to the Diner or Carnegie's. Fun side note; as I ate, I couldn't help but notice Jay Z was rapping in the background. It was such a weird juxtaposition to be sitting in a Swensen's and listening to "Niggas In Paris". Okay, maybe "Paris" wasn't playing, but still.
I'm not sure how well individual staff members speak English, but the menu is in English, so just point if all else fails. There's a 10% service charge and there's a $100 NT per person minimum. If you want to know more about Swensen's locations in Taiwan, check out the international website at http://www.swensens.com/