When a restaurant in Taipei says it serves “healthy” food, I hear alarm bells ring. The food tends to be bland and tasteless, like it is at the run-of-the-mill Buddhist vegetarian cafeteria or the latest trendy organic food shop.
While neither vegetarian nor strictly organic, Dongya Kitchen is a welcome rarity. This sit-down family-oriented restaurant on Jinan Road emphasizes quality ingredients and healthier eating without compromising on taste.
A wall-sized poster shows pictures of gardens and farms from which the restaurant says it gets its vegetables and produce, as well as its antibiotic- and preservative-free seafood, pork and chicken.
Oil, salt and sugar are used sparingly. The food is lighter and not as rich compared to that served at the average restaurant that specializes in classic Chinese dishes, but still manages some homemade goodness.
Dongya’s outgoing proprietor, Yu Pi-fang (喻碧芳), guided our party of eight through a menu that offered a generous selection ranging from standard recipes to some unusual items.
Yu recommended the organic peanut sprouts with dried radish (菜脯花生芽, NT$380), which delivered on her promise of novelty and taste. The sprout heads had a familiar nutty flavor, but were light and crunchy instead of rich and oily. Stir-fried with diced dried tofu, spicy red chilis and dried radish, the dish had a nice bite and a variety of texture.
The tomato and beef tenderloin (番茄牛腩煲, NT$380) arrived directly out of the oven in a steaming metal pot and was especially memorable. The beef chunks melted in the mouth, and a thin but flavorful brown sauce enhanced the taste of the tomato, radish and carrots in the mix.
Address: 1F, 7-1, Jinan Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市濟南路三段7-1號1樓) Telephone: (02) 2773-6799
Open: 11:30am to 2pm and 5:30pm to 9pm
Average meal: NT$500 per person
Details: Credit cards not accepted
On the Net: www.freewebs.com/dongyea
The stewed lion’s head (紅燒獅子頭, NT$220), a fist-sized pork meatball served in cabbage soup, is a favorite among regulars, according to the menu, and it’s easy to see why. The meat was lean and tender, and the broth was hearty but not too oily, as this dish can often be.
The ingredients come at a price, particularly with the “lotus leaves with non-contaminated shrimp” (荷葉無毒蝦, NT$580), that is, shrimp farmed without antibiotics or preservatives. It came as a reasonably sized serving of 10 or so pieces of shrimp the size of NT$50 coins on a bed of stir-fried greens. My companions looked a bit doubtful when the dish arrived, but it got finished quickly.
The atmosphere is not quite upscale. It’s more Chinese minimalist done on the cheap, but well above greasy spoon. The dining area is clean, but, surprisingly, the washroom is poorly lit and run-down and doesn’t quite match the restaurant’s desired image.
Take note that not everything on the menu is organic. The menu clearly marks which dishes are “organic” or have “natural” ingredients.
Dongya Kitchen is a five-minute walk from Zhongxiao Xinsheng MRT Station (忠孝新生捷運站), exit No 3.