DomingoYu.com

Latinos in Taiwan Pt. IV

Posted August 11, 2010 2:44 pm (about 3141 days ago)

Reviews of Cubano Rum and Cigar Bar, Fiesta Latino at Roxy Roots, and Oola Mexican grill, all in Taipei.

I have to admit that I didn’t get a lot of new info this go around, despite a promising start. On the day of arrival myself, my friend Mike, and sister Monica hit up a new Cuban-theme bar called Cubano and Fiesta Latino at the Roxy Roots club. I met some cool folks and followed up, but didn’t hear anything back. For the next 12 days or so, we stopped at a newer Mexican-themed restaurant called Oola, but that was about it. Realistically, 12 days wasn’t that long and there was a lot of quality time with family and friends so something had to give. Slow motion beats no motion though.

Cubano Rum and Cigar BarGoing in, I knew this wasn’t a Cuban-owned spot, but I’m always looking for a taste of the Caribbean. So, the key areas:

Ambiance:
I honestly felt like I was just in a dark bar with pictures of Cuba. Calle 13, who is incidentally a Puerto Rican group, played in the background, but whether it was the clientele, lack of tropical plans, something was missing. It’s a near impossible task to capture something as ambiguous as “soul,” but I’d be remiss to pretend that it doesn’t matter. Although I mention Calle 13 being a Puerto Rican group, it’s still Caribbean vibes so that wasn’t the issue. When you know, you know. Moving along…

Food: I read rave reviews about the sandwiches and nachos and walked in ready to be wowed. The sandwiches weren’t bad at all and the bread, in particular, lived up to the hype. Authentically Cuban? I’ve never been to Cuba, but I’d go back to this bar for the sandwiches. I heard people gushing about the cheese on the nachos before we went but was underwhelmed with our plate. We had barely any cheese. I saw other people’s pics later that week and the nachos looked great. Maybe we just got a bad batch? Check the pic. There was nothing awaiting us at the bottom. I was disappointed that they didn’t have staples such as platanos and black beans, but the bartender assured us that the menu was steadily being revised. Unfortunately we didn’t make it back to verify.

Service:
Excellent! No Spanish on the night we went, but the waitress was very attentive and the bar tender came to our table to chop it up, including cigar and drink options. As we left he asked us for suggestions and I think he got a bit more than he asked for. We started suggesting CDs, dishes, and even décor. None of this was meant to rip the place, but more so to make it a place that felt a bit like home. Well, a generic Latino home. Don’t ask Latinos for their opinion on a Latino-themed spot unless you have some time! 

Drinks and Cigars:
So, I’m not an alcohol or cigar connoisseur, but I can vouch that while not the cheapest, they made us some pretty strong drinks. On the cigar tip, I thought we requested some Cubans, but ended up with some Hondurans. Sorry cigar aficionados, I can’t give more details than that. We had fun pretending to be everyone from Suge Knight to old mobsters, but I can’t comment on the quality or authenticity.

Final analysis:
We went in early July and they had only been open for a few weeks so were still in flux. Aside from the menu changes they also added a salsa night. Authentically Latino? That’s to be seen. Would I go back? Most definitely. 

台北市大安區東豐街67號
電話:2707-5691
#67 Dongfeng Street, Taipei, Taiwan
Tel: 2707-5691

Fiesta Latino at Roxy Roots
I’ve been to a few salsa nights in Taiwan over the years and often left feeling disappointed. Even when the music was good, it was just missing the soul and funk! There were always people who were obviously committed to learning the steps, but they weren’t feeling the music. Often times there were few Latinos, if any, beyond the DJ. Tonight was different. Although not quite Cali or San Juan, it was a cool crowd and good music.

There was a noticeable foreign contingent, including Latinos, as well as a live band playing salsa, merengue, and other tropical music. The DJ played reggaeton and pop hits in between sets. While there were some skillful dancers-both local Taiwanse and foreigners-people on the dancefloor were committed to just having fun! It was definitely one of the more fun nights I’ve had in Taiwan. I actually saw some familiar faces from years’ past, including the Corona girl, and later found out I knew some people in the back who I never saw. Click here to see the photo gallery.

Oola

This is a short one. For those in the States, I’ve heard it compared to Chipotle or Baja Fresh. I’ve never eaten at either as I’m spoiled by all the taco trucks in Oakland so I have to take others’ word on that. Essentially, it’s fast food made to order, but a definite step above Taco Bell and the like. We had various tacos and burritos, including barbacoa and carnitas, all of which were tasty, although portions seemed a bit small. Ingredients seemed to be topnotch. I read somewhere that they’re still working on getting the beans down, but that’s not unique to them. I’m really curious about the accessibility of ingredients for Latin American food in general. On the drink side, I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t offer my favorites such as horchata or jamaica, but they do have Coronas for the beer fans. Would I return for a cultural taste of Mexico? No. In fact, I felt like I was in an Asian part of Orange County. Besides the workers, I think everyone in the joint was an ABC (American Born Chinese). Would I return for some tasty, refreshing grub? No doubt!

Location: Gongguan Night Market - No.3 Ln. 136
Alley 1, Roosevelt Rd. Sec. 4 Zhongzeng
Dist. Taipei, Taiwan

台北市中正區羅斯福路四段136巷1弄3號
(公館夜市東南亞戲院旁)
Tel: +886-02-2363-1111 

Misc.
Although I got invited to a dinner at El Gallo, I wasn’t able to make it. However, I made it back to Eddy’s THREE times! Why the caps? Eddy’s is like an hour away from where I was staying but I ended up having other business in the area so fell through that many times. I don’t know who else in Taiwan makes horchata, but it’s enough to me back to Eddy’s on those blazing Taiwan summer days. 

Although not considered “Latino,” in an American sense, we also made it to a Bastille Day Celebration on the same even as Cubano and Roxy Roots. While the celebration itself wasn’t terribly exciting, it was a good reminder about the French community of Taipei, including a French K-12 school and the Institut Francais de Taipei.

Finally, as I rode the bus to my flight back the States I saw a sign for Barrio Fiesta, which ended up being a Filipino restaurant chain and food distributor. A new comedy about Filipinos in Taipei was also running local theaters but I wasn’t able to catch it. Considering that there are well over 100,000 Filipinos in Taiwan, there’s a whole other group of folks I need to learn about, not to mention the growing Arab and south Asian communities as well. Seems that I gotta make these trips longer than two weeks long!

 

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Comments

1. windstone said at December 18, 2010 3:46 pm:

There's a show in Taiwan called Hello Teacher that features expat guests from various countries. Its quite interesting to see where so many people are coming from and their perspective of Taiwan.

2. windstone said at December 18, 2010 3:50 pm:

Hmm the link didn't show up on the last post but here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9O-qWwE0WE There is another show called WTO that feature foreign women married to Taiwanese men. The nationalities are quite varied ranging from European, Latin American, African to Carribean. Here's a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghBzhT_1piQ

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