7 Essential Restaurants to Visit in Taipei for Food Lovers
A fascinating aspect of Taipei’s restaurant scene is the sheer variety of options that it offers to those looking for good food. Influenced by Chinese and Japanese cuisine, food in the city highlights authentic cooking techniques originating from various provinces of Asia, while forming a unique identity of its own. Flavorful, humble and packed with intensity, Taipei promises an underrated finger-licking culinary experience, not to be missed by any food enthusiasts.
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Shao Shao Ke
Known for its Shanxi cuisine, Shao Shao Ke is an excellent opportunity for gourmands to indulge in unique and uncommon gastronomic pleasures. Shanxi is a province in North China, close to Beijing, known for its dishes that often feature lamb, vinegar, cumin and various herbs. Walking into Shao Shao Ke is a surprise. Its walls are adorned with messages from previous customers, giving the restaurant a graffiti-grunge style look. The service is a little laid-back, but the food more than makes up for it.
Must-try: A great way to start any meal at Shao Shao Ke is with their fried potato strips topped with vinegar and chili. However, make sure you have enough space for two more of their classics. Pao moh is a specialty that includes having to break a flatbread into a noodle bowl, after which a delicious lamb or beef broth is added to it by the server. To end the meal, pre-order the Mongolian cheese puff for some crunchy, sweet, and gooey goodness.
Address: No. 27, Section 1, Hangzhou South Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
Fei Qian Wu
It’s easy to mistake Fei Qian Wu for a cafeteria with its open and busy-at-all-times communal dining space. Considered one of the best eateries in Taiwan, this almost 40-year-old restaurant run by a Japanese-Taiwanese family is cheap and famously known for its unagi (eel). The service is fast, but more importantly, the speed doesn’t hinder the robust and mouth-watering flavors of the dishes.
Must-try: The eel rice that comes with grilled unagi is a must, but for a little variety, also try their grilled squid and eel egg roll. Although the English menu doesn’t mention all the drinks, they do serve beer and sake to accompany your meal, so ask for it while placing your order.
Address: No 1, 13, Zhongshan North Road, Section 1, Lane 121, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan
Lin’s Vegetable Lamb Furnace
Don’t let the name confuse you because Lin’s is all about appreciating just one meat, lamb, and its many variations. Since the restaurant remains closed during the hot summer months of July to September, it's regularly frequented by locals for the rest of the year. The setting of the restaurant is quite humble, with square tables along the walls and round wooden ones in the center of the room. No chairs, guests get to sit on backless black stools. They have an alfresco dining area, perfect for consuming a heart-warming meal during cold evenings. The focus of Lin’s is centered on home-style food, without any unnecessary culinary drama.
Must try: The hotpot is, undoubtedly, the dish to eat here. The soup is a melange of exciting ingredients ranging from goji berries and lamb bones to cabbage stems and ginger that give it a unique character unlike any other hotpots you'll find in the city.
Address: No. 327, Jilin Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan
Mountain & Sea House
Located inside a vintage mansion, Mountain and Sea House is a Michelin-starred restaurant, and one of the more expensive eats in the city. The service is extremely professional with both Chinese and English-speaking staff, who are knowledgeable about the intricacies of each dish. The decor, and especially the entrance of the restaurant, is quite grand and makes the right kind of first impression, accentuated further by the food presentation and its authentic local tastes.
Must try: Championing the art of slow cooking, the roast suckling pig is an absolute must. The meat of 21-day-hogs is cooked for twelve hours and then roasted to delectable crispness. Since quite a few dishes at Mountain and Sea House require time to prepare, make sure to go through the restaurant’s website and pre-order them a few days in advance.
Address: No. 94, Section 2, Ren'ai Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan
A picturesque old-fashioned restaurant, James Kitchen, is the go-to place in the city for authentic Taiwanese cuisine. The interiors are casual and inviting, with a homely, almost street-food stall kind of look. Non-Chinese speakers will be glad to know that James Kitchen has an easy to understand picture menu with English descriptions. The restaurant is quite popular with visitors and locals, and it’s worth reserving a table to avoid disappointment.
Must try: A host of local Taiwanese dishes pop up on the regular menu as well as under daily specials. The crab meat and pork balls with braised cabbage is an excellent pick for diners who prefer less spicy food. A more nostalgic eat is the white rice with scallions, best eaten on its own or with pork leg cut into thin slices.
Address: No. 65, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan
Da Wan BBQ
Amongst one of the best culinary adventures you can experience in the country, Da Wan is a relatively cozy restaurant with a friendly atmosphere, perfect for sitting, relaxing, and savoring the smells, sights and tastes of prime cut meats. Moxie Huang, the owner, got his training in Japan and is now a hands-on chef, always present behind the counter, overlooking the preparations and talking to his customers. Specializing in yakiniku-style Japanese cooking, the meats are grilled in front of the customers on hibachi like grills, with options for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diners. As is the case with several popular and crowded Taiwanese restaurants, a reservation is the best way to guarantee a table at this Michelin-starred restaurant.
Must try: Although most of the meats served at Da Wan are of top quality, their Wagyu beef from Japan is heavenly. As for treasuring a few rare cuts that Huang keeps aside daily, as part of a 'secret menu,' all you have to do is ask him about them.
Address: 22, Dunhua South Road, Section 1, Lane 177, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodles
As far as legendary food is concerned, Taipei’s Ximending area is home to the 45-year-old, must-visit Ay-Chung. The vibe at Ay-Chung is very street with only a few stools to sit lying around. Most people pick up their noodles and stand on the side, diving deep into the beautiful aromas of the dish. The noodle bowls are available in large or small sizes, and while there’s not much of choice in terms of the menu, it’s one of the few places in the city that no food lover should miss.
Must try: The thin rice flour noodles have pig intestines and oysters in its soupy form, and can be self-dressed with chili, garlic, or vinegar sauces. Make sure you add all three in moderation to accentuate the tanginess of the bowl even more.
Address: No. 8-1, Emei St, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
Taipei has a hearty mix of casual and fine-dining options, which makes it ideal for every food lover. What truly shines about its gastronomic offerings is that each plate showcases an authenticity and passion for cooking that, in this day-and-age of fast-food restaurants, is often hard to find.