It is always a pleasure to begin a New Year with an upbeat
dining experience. Taipan in Westport provided this on several
First was the decor, which combined disparate design concepts
and textures -- including a brick wall, waterfall over
fieldstone wall, pipe fittings as door handles, bamboo posts,
birdcage light fixtures -- to create visual excitement. Such
eclecticism in a house might drive a purist mad, but,
surprisingly, in a restaurant it works.
Taipan, an offspring of the Little Kitchen of Westport,
shares its parent's predilection for Southeast Asian cuisines.
The menu features Indonesian and Chinese (primarily Sichuan)
dishes, but an occasional Malaysian sauce and Thai specialty,
like pad Thai, slip in.
There's nothing special about most of the appetizers, except
for two. Sauteed Manila clams and New Zealand green mussels were
delicious, enveloped by a spicy black bean sauce with an
undercurrent of sweetness from the fresh sweet basil.
Spicy clams with lemongrass soup also made a light, but
rousing starter -- a clear broth, subtle and spicy in the Thai
manner, bore a flotilla of minced shrimp, scallops, shiitake
mushroom shreds and finely chopped scallions.
Gado-gado was another appetite-rouser. This Indonesian salad
classic combined bean sprouts, green beans, cabbage, cucumbers,
tomato and potato slices in a mildly spiced roasted peanut
dressing, topped with fried tofu cubes and emping (crisp, sweet
We weren't as fortunate in our choice of Shanghai spring
rolls, which had leathery deep-fried wrappers, nor in the tiny
steamed dumplings, some of which were mushy.
Among a vast array of enticing entrees, there were many high
scorers. Home-style chicken, with snowpeas and potato slices,
came in a mild Panang curry that was gently and expertly
seasoned. Rendang beef, a complex Javanese dish, was richly
spiced -- large chunks of beef cooked with shallots, tumeric,
lemongrass, galangal and coriander in a coconut sauce.
Ajam panggang translated into three portions of grilled
chicken breast lacquered with a glaze of port wine and soy,
served with a thick Thai roasted peanut sauce on the side, along
with a lightly dressed salad of baby greens and radicchio, and a
few chips of emping. Lamb with basil -- thin lamb slices
invigorated by red pepper, onion, fresh basil, chilies and a
light soy sauce -- also revealed winning ways. Nasi goreng, the
traditional fried rice dish, was vigorously spiced as well.
While we concentrated on the rarer Indonesian specialties, we
did enjoy two Chinese favorites: orange-flavored beef (tender
meat slices, seasoned with surprising delicacy); and Mandarin
duck pancakes (a variation on Peking duck, but with sauteed
shreds of tea-smoked duck, green scallion stalks, asparagus and
shiitakes, all spread with hoisin sauce, then rolled in thin
Taipan desserts are made elsewhere, except for the
surprisingly tasty Indonesian batter-fried bananas, draped with
a coconut vanilla sauce and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds.
A three-course dinner for two cost $45, before tax, tip and
drinks. A modest wine list of mostly West Coast vintages, with a
few French, starts at $16, with most in the $20's. Having a
place as lively and festive -- and as well-priced -- as Taipan
augurs well for 1998, especially if the food continues to be as
appealing as it is now.
376 Post Road East, Westport.
Atmosphere Eclectic, funky interior, evoking an Asian
riverboat, with the waitstaff in black garb.
Service Good-natured, competent, but sometimes forgetful.
Recommended dishes Sauteed Manila clams and New Zealand
mussels, spicy clam with lemongrass soup, gado-gado salad, ajam
panggang, curried chicken, lamb with basil, Mandarin duck
pancakes, nasi goreng, rendang beef, orange-flavored beef, fried
Price range Lunch entrees $4.75 to $6.95, dinner entrees $7
Credit cards Most major cards.
Hours 11:30 A.M.-10 P.M. Monday-Friday, 11:30 A.M.-11 P.M.
Friday and Saturday, noon-10 P.M. Sunday.
Wheelchair accessibility Dining room at ground level;
restrooms at dining room level.
The Ratings Extraordinary, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Poor to
Ratings reflect the reviewer's reaction to food, ambiance and
service, with price taken into consideration. Menu listings and
prices are subject to change.