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Yes, yet another all you can eat fancy buffet in Taipei, this one is within walking distance from the Dapinglin MRT station. The Splendor Hotel is particularly famous for its sashimi as well as its seafood section so that was one of the most consistently popular counters of the night. Particularly outstanding were the pig tail, (with the actual bone intact, you eat the meat around it), the frog legs and the moji for dessert. While the place does ask for a bit more cash for entry, it is well worth it – just check out the pictures – that should do the place some justice. The options as to what you can eat are endless!
Di Bao is immediately striking what with two great big Chinese drums flanking its outer entrance (diners are free to pick up the drum sticks and hit the drums as hard as they can) , elaborately dressed waitresses (headdresses and formal Chinese gowns), and the glimmering gold emperor’s chair at the front of the restaurant. The plating at this restaurant is most impressive: catching a glimpse of other tables with food already served, I couldn’t wait to see what the set menu we had pre-ordered had in store.
For just $490 NT you can eat as much as your heart desires at the grill-it-yourself On Fire restaurant by the Dinxi MRT station. There is all sorts of seafood (shrimp, scallop, cod, clams) and meat (veal tongue, chicken, pork, sausage) to choose from at the self-serve food bar at the back of the restaurant. There is a ingredients bar for the hot pot that includes fish balls, button mushrooms, Chinese cabbage and tofu among other delicious staples of Chinese cuisine. This deal also includes a nice selection of ice cream by Haagan Daaz and others – flavors range from more Asian influenced ones such as black sesame, taro and sapodilla to more conventional Western ones like cookies and cream. strawberry cheesecake and rum raisin.
A warning to potential visitors to Longshan Temple – it is a weird and freaky place. It was my second time there and the feeling of walking around in a post-apocalyptic circus world lingered still from my original impression. While I may be exaggerating a little bit, my description isn’t too far off from reality.
The Oyster Bar is on the Gourmet Food floor of the Bellavita complex by the Taipei City Hall MRT station. It boasts a very sleek look especially for a food court kiosk restaurant. Their specialty as you can probably guess, is oysters. We ordered two Ecailles oysters that were said to have a fruity taste – and boy, did they! Never had an oyster with such a unique taste that’s for sure.
Overwhelmingly cute, Hello Kitty Sweets is known for its Hello Kitty themed everything – that includes furniture, decoration, staff uniforms and of course, the food. I don’t have a particular affinity for Hello Kitty but I did think that going to this restaurant would be an interesting experience worthy of blogging about.
Nakhla Shisha is by far the classiest shisha joint I’ve ever been to. Instead of the usual cramped and smoky fare I’m used to in Montreal, the decor channels a hip modern cross between Indian, Arab and Asian style. The place offers just under two dozen different flavors for shisha including green tea, jasmine, mint, watermelon and lychee – we ordered the latter two for the seven of us to share.
From what I gather, Sadaharu Aoki is currently the most popular Japanese chef in Taiwan. His minimalistic patisserie shops have been catching my eye since ever I’ve been in Taipei (once in the Regent and the other when I passed by Joel Robuchon’s Salon de The in Bellavita) so I was happy to finally stop by and pick something up at the location in the B2 level of the Bellavita complex. Everything looks amazing… good enough to make you actually semi-seriously contemplate buying one of each dessert and worrying about the calories later. We got one Valencia with candied orange and sugar on top and one chocolate cake. Pictures speak for themselves.
Shia Bia is at the midpoint of a climbing windy road leading to the top of a mountain overlooking the merging of the freshwater Danshui river and the Pacific Ocean. Part of a resort for golfers, the Chinese restaurant is equipped to handle a capacity of at least 200 diners in its spacious hall.
Located in the basement level of the prestigious Regent Hotel (incidentally where Lady Gaga chose to stay when she came to Taipei for a show several weeks ago), the Brasserie is an upscale all-you-can-eat buffet style restaurant with a selection of foods wide enough to make your jaw drop. The sushi/sashimi bar features freshly caught lobsters, crabs and oysters, king mackerel, swordfish, yellowfin tuna, sea urchin among other premium raw seafood. The Japanese section also had cold soba and oolong noodles prepared on demand, just fried tempura (fish, potato, taro, shrimp), miso soup among many other choice selections.The “American” section featured some typical foods you would expect which for some foreigners may be a welcome relief from the rather different Asian foods you find most places in Taipei.
Two hours away from Taipei (one if you drive quickly) there is a beautiful little restaurant off a back road called Wu Zhu Ju. The entranceway winds through a small garden full of bamboo shoots, a little stream and a tiny bridge. It is full of greenery and exotic flowers and it is also very quiet and zen-like. Natives that I went with truly appreciate the place for the authenticity of the Hakka style food as well as the chance to be around nature, a sort of getaway from the hustle and bustle of Taipei city.
About an hour away from Taipei, the Sunrise Villa is tucked away off a back country road – to a foreigner (yeah, me), maybe a little difficult to find. Popular in its own right, people travel from all around the country to taste their authentic Hakka style food. With an enviable feng shui arrangement, the natural space around the buildings are in perfect harmony – the mountains behind the restaurant serves as a strong support, the body of water in the front promotes fluidity and the green space in the middle of the lot for new life.
Not too far away from the SoGo department store in the Zhongxiao Dunhua district is the unique VVG Bon Bon (13, Lane 161, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei 台北市敦化南路一段161巷13號). One of the most interesting places I have been to in Taiwan so far, this spot is great for a leisurely afternoon lunch or for high tea. The decoration inside, the general vibe and the clientele (from what I saw today) here is almost too cute for words. Housing an eclectic collection of items (silver glitter antler horns, a smiling child sized giraffe, several foot tall wooden nutcrackers, plastic cakes etc.) that would otherwise seem tacky or overdone on their own, VVG Bon Bon finds a way to make the pieces work together to create a fun atmosphere.
The Sheraton Hotel (Lai-Lai Fan Dien) houses a number of renowned restaurants, including the Japanese Momoyama. Just a few steps away from the Shandao Temple MRT Station, the hotel is conveniently located. We ordered a set menu that included a variety of savory items, starting off with a sour vinaigrette salad with raw salmon and scallops which was really great – I loved it.
Conveniently located in the Shida night market, this eatery is famous for its sliced noodles. Thick and chewy, these noodles are individually cut from a large piece of dough the chef holds over a wok filled with water – check out the pictures below for a good visual. Freshly made, these noodles are traditionally put in soup or fried. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area and don’t want street food – the prices are almost just as cheap and you get to enjoy the comfort of nice, cool air conditioning (I keep bringing this point up as a big plus because the weather in Taiwan in the summertime is extremely high both in temperature and humidity).
Boîte de Bijou is a small bakery cum patisserie located just off the side of the National Taiwan Normal University. With a sign as discrete as theirs, it would be easy to miss the small place – I was totally oblivious of it the first few times I walked by. The air conditioning inside blasts customers, giving them a much needed relief from the sweltering outdoors (usually at least 35C and humid), so that’s a nice plus. The matcha green tea cake was recommended by the lady inside and it didn’t disappoint though surprisingly the matcha flavor wasn’t as intense as I was expecting. It was quite subtle and not overwhelming at all, nicely balanced with the thicker, harder crust on the bottom. This is a sweet little spot anyone can hit, especially convenient for those studying at the university.
An hour and half away from Taipei city by bus, Shen Yen is located in the suburb of Yilan. It is a quaint little restaurant across from an elevated bike path with a gorgeous view of the lush green mountains. The owners of Shen Yen are dedicated to bringing their customers the freshest ingredients and the best food – this becomes quite obvious from the moment you even get a glimpse of the front of the restaurant as they have dozens of large pots full of fermenting soya beans so that they can make their own soya sauce. The garden out back is full of home grown fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Shin Yeh seems to be a popular name for restaurants around here! It means “Vivid Leaves” in Chinese. This particular restaurant serves popular Taiwanese food that you should be able to find almost anywhere, at any food stand around the city. The difference is likely in the degree of cleanliness, the atmosphere (a hotspot for business meetings – every table around us was definitely at the restaurant in a work context) – the speed of the service though, is probably the same. Less than five minutes after we ordered, every dish was on the table, hot and ready to eat.
Serving Hunan style food, 1010 is located on the 6th floor of the swanky Eslite building. We ordered Chinese cabbage with some pork strips, orange chicken (especially delicious), ribs smothered with cumin seeds (tender, falling off the bone goodness. You get a plastic glove to eat with and a wet towel to clean up with), grilled shrimp (bite off the head and tail, eat the rest of the body, including the shell. Crunchy!), Chinese buns done two ways, steamed and fried along with condensed milk sauce. For dessert, we had the black sesame ice cream topped with tapioca balls and a bowl of chestnut soup with longan (dragon eyes) inside. Unghh, so good. Personally, I never get really excited about Chinese food simply because I have it so much at home. 1010 did a great job of serving delicious Chinese food with a few interesting surprises here and there.
In North America, the term ‘buffet’ usually brings to mind a low brow, sort of pedestrian dining experience. Here, in Asia, it is quite the opposite. Some of the best restaurants in Taipei are buffet style – Shin Yeh is a good example. Offering all-you-can-eat Japanese cuisine, there is a wealth of foods and drink to choose from. At the drink bar, there is Calpis (sweet white colored drink), white and red wine, plum vinegar wine, sake, Taiwanese beer, fruit juices, hot and cold tea and coffee. There is a sashimi bar that includes the largest oysters I have ever seen, trays of fried rice, tempura shrimp and vegetables, soba noodles, stir fried oolong noodles, tea kettle soup, steamed eggs, sushi… the list goes on. The pictures speak for themselves.