The annual Computex computer exhibition, and its hordes of visitors from abroad, means a steady flow of business for restaurants and shops in the area surrounding Taipei 101.
But Tidbits thinks it would be a shame if a visitor’s impression of Taipei’s culinary delights rested solely on soulless shopping mall food courts and five-star hotels. Here’s a shortlist of great, easy-to-reach places that you won’t find listed in the Computex guide.
One of the nicer cafe/bistros in the city is just five minutes from the Taipei World Trade Center (台北世界貿易中心) Exhibition Hall 1 (一館) on Xinyi Road (信義路). Woolloomooloo, run by a Taiwanese Australian architect, serves fusion cuisine, with a menu that ranges from pizza (by many accounts, the best in town) and pasta to a bit of Mediterranean and Vietnamese. The restaurant also makes a darn good cup of coffee (if you ask for a “flat white” or “long black,” the waiters will understand you) and the breakfast/brunch selections are also excellent — the sourdough bread is baked fresh and they do eggs just right, whether scrambled, sunny-side up or poached. The modern, stylish interior is a mix of wood and metal, and emphasizes communal seating at long wooden tables. For something a little more private, sit upstairs in the open-air balcony. The free Wi-Fi is a bit wonky, but it’s not as bad as the Computex exhibition halls.
Address: 379, Xinyi Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市信義路四段379號)
Telephone: (02) 8789-0128
Open: Daily from 8am to midnight
Average meal: NT$400
After you’ve visited a night market, you can say you’ve tried Taiwanese food. But you haven’t had genuine Taiwanese home cooking until you’ve visited James’ Kitchen (大隱酒食), which is a 10-minute bus ride away from the Taipei World Trade Center on Xinyi Road. This homey bistro is located in a tiny Japanese-occupation era house that seats 25 or so diners. You can’t go wrong with any of the selections, which consist of classic Taiwanese and Hakka family style dishes and a few dishes unique to the restaurant. The food is well worth the wait (the menus are also in English), and if you’re there late, chances are the bearded proprietor will share a drink of whiskey or sake with you. The restaurant can be a little tricky to find — it would be a good idea to get familiar with the locale on Google Maps, or ask a local for help.
Address: 65 Yongkang St, Taipei City (台北市永康街65號)
Telephone: (02) 2343-2275
Open: Daily from 5pm until around midnight
Average meal: NT$500
Even though it’s located near the Grand Hyatt, the Mayur Indian Kitchen is easy to miss. Run by former hotel chef Mayur Srivastava, this shop is basically an outdoor hole-in-the-wall buried in a mix of motorcycle shops and noodle joints near the grimy Keelung Road underpass. But the curries are worlds better than what you can find in the food court at Taipei 101. The lunch sets (NT$120 to NT$135) look plain-Jane, but the vegetarian lunch, which is chana masala served with rice, hits the spot. The tandoori chicken is also recommended, and the freshly baked naan breads (NT$55) are excellent. Indian milk tea and various desserts (gulab jamun and the rice pudding are good) are on offer for afternoon tea.
Address: 350-5, Keelung Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市基隆路一段350號之5)
Open: 11am to 9pm (Keelung Road)
Average meal: NT$180 to NT$300
If you’ve had your fill of beef noodles and want something different, give Nan Chung (南川) a try. The restaurant, located near Liuzhangli MRT Station (六張犁捷運站), specializes in spicy Sichuan-style noodles. Go for the pure pepper fried sauce noodles (素椒炸醬麵, NT$85 for a small bowl, NT$130 for a large bowl), which is rich with a smoky and piquant sauce that tops fresh noodles cooked al dente. One cold dish, the mala chicken (麻辣雞, NT$120), is also a must-try item. It’s best to visit with someone who can read Chinese, as the restaurant does not have an English menu. Also take note that the restaurant is closed today, as Thursday is the shop’s day off.
Address: 1F, 91, Heping E Rd, Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市和平東路三段91號1樓)
Telephone: (02) 2732-5580
Open: 11:30am to 8:30pm. Closed Thursdays
Average meal: NT$110 to NT$200 per person
Another great place for curries is one of Taipei’s more unique restaurants, Kunming (昆明園), run by friendly Taiwanese proprietor Yacoob Mah (馬雲昌). Mah, whose family hails from China’s Yunnan Province, serves a mix of Indian, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian dishes. You can’t go wrong with the eggplant and beef moussaka (NT$260) or the coconut curry chicken (NT$250). The fresh chipati (NT$50) is also a must.
Address: 26, Ln 81, Fuxing N Rd, Taipei City (台北市復興北路81巷26號), near Nanjing East Road MRT Station (南京東路捷運站)
Open: 11:30am to 2pm and 5:30pm to 9:30pm on weekdays and from 5:30pm to 9:30pm on weekends.
Average Meal: NT$300 per person
On the Net: kunming-islamic.myweb.hinet.net
VVG Bistro (VVG stands for very, very good) is a favorite among local foodies for its French and fusion dishes. The restaurant, located near Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT Station (忠孝敦化捷運站), is furnished with beautiful vintage furniture and serves the best cafe au lait in town, period. Free Wi-Fi available.
Address: 20, Alley 40, Ln 181, Zhongxiao East Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市忠孝東路四段181巷40弄20號)
Telephone: (02) 8773-3533
Open: 11am to 11pm
Average meal: NT$500
On the Net: vvgvvg.blogspot.tw
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