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New restaurant plans to spice up Xinyi district

Formosa International Hotels adds another property in Taipei's trendiest shopping area

New restaurant plans to spice up Xinyi district

Formosa International Hotels Corporation, one of Taiwan's leading property developers, is stirring up Taipei's fiercely competitive dining scene with its NT$300-million Thai establishment, Spice Market.

The newly opened 148-ping restaurant, located on the sixth floor of Eslite Bookstore in Taipei's Xinyi district, is Formosa International's third F&B enterprise in the area, and the "first and only" Thai-style seafood and buffet restaurant in the country, the company said.

The other two properties being managed by Formosa International in the Xinyi district are Wasabi, a Japanese restaurant located on the fourth floor of the Taipei 101 Mall, and Bando 8, a catering and banqueting facility located on the eighth floor of the A9 Store of the Shinkong Mitsukoshi franchise.

Formosa International is also managing a first class apartment building in Taipei's most premium piece of real estate.

"We're only 50 percent done (with this restaurant)," said Steven Pan, chairman and chief executive officer of Formosa International Hotels Corporation. Ever the perfectionist, the executive was making the rounds at Spice Market yesterday - chatting with the cooks, sampling the dishes, and checking out the restaurant's interiors.

"We have already done a lot of changes in the past three days, and we will be doing more adjustments in the days ahead," he continued.

Pan, the man driving Formosa International's rapid expansion into the Xinyi district, is confident that Spice Market's piping-hot laksa, tasty curries, savory green papaya salad, and fresh seafood buffet will be a huge hit among Taipei's foodies.

Not one to cut corners, Formosa International is working with Thailand's renowned PATARA F&B Corporation to ensure the authenticity of Spice Market's culinary offerings, Pan said.

All of the core ingredients, from chili peppers and curries to fish sauces and shrimp pastes, are imported from Thailand. Four PATARA chefs and a professional fruit carver are even in town to oversee Spice Market's kitchen.

In Thai cooking, timing is everything. Mushrooms, beef, and giant prawns are grilled on the spot. Green papayas - the key ingredient to Thailand's most famous salad - are grated and prepared right in front of customers. Volcanic rocks are even used to keep pots of curries, Thai-style fried chicken, shrimp cakes, pineapple rice, steamed lemon fish, and Thai-style spring rolls fresh.

The restaurant even serves piping-hot bowls of laksa, one of Southeast Asia's most popular hawker treats.

Diners are free to choose their favorite condiments - shrimps, mushrooms, tofu, bean sprouts, and clams to name a few - and the type of noodles that they want in their laksa. The noodles and the condiments are dunked in two separate metal vats filled with boiling water for a few seconds, and swiftly placed in a pot. The cook will then ladle in Spice Market's fragrant and thick laksa gravy.

The restaurant even serves an "innovative" Thai noodle soup made with ground pork, fish sauce, palm sugar, and crisp beans.

Spice Market's buffet bars are divided into 15 categories including appetizers (raw tuna salad dressed in lemon juice and Thai- style raw shrimp), a seafood station (clams, giant prawns, and crabs), a fresh salad stall, a hot soup station (tom yom goong and shrimp and bitter melon soup to name a few), curries (red, yellow, and green), a noodle station, a teppanyaki bar, and a hot dish station.

The dessert table features Thai classics such as sago or tapioca with coconut milk, taro with purple glutinous rice and mung bean soup, and a sweet ice station.

It is estimated that roughly 10,000 fresh shrimps including giant tiger prawns, lobsters, Western blue shrimps, Pacific white shrimps, "ghost" shrimps, "big-headed" Thai shrimps, and Kuruma shrimps will be served next month, the restaurant said.

Formosa International also commissioned Japanese interior designer Hashimoto Yukie to create Spice Market's interiors. The 148-ping restaurant features four "villas" that can each accommodate eight to 16 people, and a 45-person party room. The establishment can seat up to 192 people.

Hashimoto used beautiful timber, Thai silk, and Thai spices to give the space texture and warmth.

"(This project is) simple and complicated at the same time," the Japanese designer said. Hashimoto also designed the Regent's Brasserie, Robin's, and Lan Ting restaurants, and Wasabi at Taipei 101 Mall.

"It's simple because I am working on a very solid concept: A spice market. It's complicated because each corner and each villa must have a different feel to it," said the designer.

In keeping with the operation hours of Eslite Bookstore, Spice Market's kitchen is open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.