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Westport
376 Boston Post Rd. E. (N. Compo Rd.) Westport, CT, 06880 (203) 227-7400

Surveyors Comments were UniformA Post Road strip-mall location "belies the quality" of this "inventive" Pan-Asian with "real ties to the cuisine, not a knockoff jumping on the fusion bandwagon"; stop off in China, Malaysia, Thailand and all Far East ports for "really tasty" "feisty fare" served in a "cool", "unique" interior where "fish swimming" under the glass floor "are a great kid-pleaser" and service is "delightful

 

New York Times Premium Archive
The New York Times
January 4, 1998, Sunday

CONNECTICUT WEEKLY DESK

DINING OUT; Sampling of Flavors From Southeast Asia

By PATRICIA BROOKS

It is always a pleasure to begin a New Year with an upbeat dining experience. Taipan in Westport provided this on several levels.

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 Indonesian wafers).

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 pancakes.

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.

Taipan
376 Post Road East, Westport.
(203) 227-7400.
Very Good

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 bananas.

Price range Lunch entrees $4.75 to $6.95, dinner entrees $7 to $14.

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.

Reservations Accepted.

Wheelchair accessibility Dining room at ground level; restrooms at dining room level.

The Ratings Extraordinary, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Poor to Satisfactory.

Ratings reflect the reviewer's reaction to food, ambiance and service, with price taken into consideration. Menu listings and prices are subject to change.