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Address: 2F, No. 20, Songshou Road, Xin Yi District (台北市信義區松壽路20號2樓) (map)

Tel: (02) 2722-8383

MRT: Taipei City Hall (Exit 4)

Hours: 11:00~23:00 (Sun to Thu), 11:00~01:00 (Fri to Sat)

Accepts: Cash, Visa, Mastercard, Amex

Service Fee: 10%

Price: $$$

A Great Place, An Okay Value

We’ve been quite fortunate to have several good pizza options here in Taipei. From the authentic and tasty Alleycats to the yummy-yet-reasonably-priced Mary Jane’s (review coming soon!), those looking for their pizza fix don’t have to look too hard. California Pizza Kitchen (website) has recently made their way to L’Ille Formosa, and while walking by one of their prominent advertisements at Xin Yi’s Vieshow, we decided to give it a try.

Now, this was my very first experience at CPK, so there’s no way for me to compare it to those in other countries. I can, however, compare it to some other options here in Taiwan.

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California Pizza Kitchen’s Xin Yi branch opened in November of 2011, so the inside is still very new. The warm lights, sandy brick walls, and overall brown and yellow theme make for an inviting environment to relax. The LED palm tree in the back is certainly eye-catching in a festive way.

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They’ve got a full wine rack, as well as a full bar complete with a large flat-screen TV for your viewing pleasure.

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In the back, you’ll see their huge brick oven for pizza baking and their open kitchen. Overall, I couldn’t fault CPK for anything decor-wise, but I can fault myself for not noticing my camera strap in the following picture.

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Their menu consists of your standard American fare, including salads, pastas, sandwiches, desserts, and, of course, pizza. The selection is above average, and many items feature CPK’s unique flavor.

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To kick things off, I decided to go for the San Pellegrino ($100). Once it came to the bar – we had bar seats as the dining room was already full when we arrived – I was greeted with the littlest bottle of sparkling mineral water you ever I’d see.

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To be fair, they didn’t specify how large (or small) the bottle was in the menu. I just wish I’d known prior to ordering. On the plus side, I briefly felt like a giant. 🙂

My girlfriend went for the Strawberry Lemonade ($130), which looked absolutely delicious when it arrived.

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Unfortunately, the level of sweetness was off the charts. One sip sent me reeling. My girlfriend is completely into sweet drinks, and even she couldn’t handle it. Fortunately, the friendly bartender was kind enough to give us a regular lemonade ($130) which, although still sweet, was at least drinkable without getting instant diabetes. It did include some sliced grapes inside, which I thought was a nice touch.

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After around 15 minutes, my Sicillian Pizza ($480) came. CPK has both regular (10″) and thin-crust (12″) pizzas, and this was in the latter camp. The Sicillian featured such goodies as Italian sausage, Parma ham, salami, and two types of cheese.

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The pizza itself was good, albeit a bit on the salty side due to (I think) the Parma ham. It wasn’t overly greasy, although I did have a bit of oil on my plate once I was down with it. My girlfriend declared “too salty,” so if you’ve got high blood pressure, maybe stick with one of their less salty options.

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After that came one of CPK’s signature dishes – the California Kung Pao Spaghetti with Shrimp ($390). This was essentially spaghetti tossed with peanuts, onion, garlic, chili, shrimp, and their Kung Pao sauce.

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Eating this one was like eating highly-westernized stir-fry noodles without the stir-fry. There’s plenty of flavor and it was also reasonably spicy, but for a pasta purist like me, I missed the traditional tomato/alfredo/pesto sauce types. My girlfriend got full quite quickly, but did enjoy the dish overall. It was also good of CPK to devein their shrimp before tossing them in the pasta.

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So did you like or what?

Judging California Pizza Kitchen is tough. On one hand, they’ve got some fantastic decor and a wide variety of creative dishes on the menu. On the other hand, the food, while good, was not worlds above places I’ve tried costing somewhat less. Alleycat’s is in the same ballpark, but their pizza was more authentic. Mary Jane’s is not nearly as fancy, but is compatible in food quality and a heck of a lot cheaper.

Having said that, California Pizza Kitchen is one of those places you can safely take friends and practically be sure they will find something on the menu they like. Despite the name, they’ve got quite a few non-pizza dishes that will also impress. Considering the relatively high prices, I think 3.5 Yums for California Pizza Kitchen sounds about right. If it was about 10-15% cheaper, it would be in solid 4 Yum territory. As it stands, CPK is a great place for a night out with friends, but not the best value in town. -TY

3.5 Yums

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