Michelin Guide Showcases Taipei's Thriving Culinary Scene: From Street Eats to Tasting Menus
WORDS BY @hungryintaipei PHOTOS
WORDS BY @hungryintaipei
PHOTOS BY Joan H., L'ATELIER de Joël Robuchon à Taipei, Nikukappou Yuu, Chou Chou, Shin Yeh Taiwanese Cuisine, Taiwan Scene, Mae Mu
About the Author: @hungryintaipei, aka Joan H., is a food blogger currently based in Taipei by way of Los Angeles. She started her blog, A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Taipei, since 2005, and covers various restaurants, stalls, or cafes in Taipei, hoping to bring out the best in the city.
Taipei is known for its night markets, beef noodles and dumplings, but what does that mean for Michelin, a travel guide that has been synonymous with white tablecloths, fine dining and exquisite French restaurants? In the second edition of the Taipei Michelin Guide, over 50 street eats were included in the 58 Bib Gourmand selections, including staples such as beef noodles and dumplings, but also luwei, scallion pancakes, roast duck, shaved ice and, yes, stinky tofu. This year, Taipei earned 31 Michelin Stars, adding seven stars to the 2018 tally. Michelin awarded one star to four new spots, with RAW and Taïrroir (態芮), both helmed by Taiwanese chefs, both bumped up to two stars, alongside Shoun RyuGin (祥雲龍吟), Guest House (請客樓) and newly minted Sushi Amamoto (鮨天本). Amusingly, you could eat six Michelin stars within one block in Neihu, dining at neighboring establishments RAW, Taïrroir and Shoun RyuGin.
The Michelin Guide elevates the culinary cache for Taipei not only as a destination to eat, but also as a home for rising stars to launch their restaurants.
I’ve definitely noticed an influx of fine dining restaurants opening in Taipei, with chefs from Japan, Singapore, the US and Italy joining the city’s ever advancing culinary ranks, since the inaugural Michelin announcement, serving up everything from casual fine dining tasting menus to wagyu omakases/yakiniku to modern vegetarian. Two of the new restaurants that the Michelin Guide awarded one star to were opened within the last year by chefs new to Taipei — Logy and Impromptu by Paul Lee. Logy is helmed by Japanese chef Ryogo Tahara, who was previously the sous chef of Michelin two-starred Florilège in Tokyo. Taiwanese American chef Paul Lee (李皞) brings his experience from L.A.’s Patina, New York’s L’ATELIER de Joël Robuchon and Las Vegas’s Le Cirque to Impromptu. Both chefs’ tasting menus were the most talked about in the past year in Taipei foodie circles, adding touches of Taiwanese flavors into their own cuisines, so it’s no surprise they were awarded stars.
From shaved ice to modern tasting menus, here are nine Michelin worthy spots that you shouldn’t miss in Taipei.
Shoun RyuGin 【祥雲龍吟】
For the second year in a row, Shoun RyuGin earns two stars for its modern kaiseki tasting menu, highlighting seasonal Taiwanese ingredients. Every single ingredient is from Taiwan, selected from years of Chef Ryohei Hieda traveling all over Taiwan, scouring fish markets and farms from Kinmen (金門) to Pingtung (屏東). Ingredients mapping out on the menu are given to each customer before the meal, and stamped with the dinner’s date. Chef Hieda dazzles customers with his interpretation of Japanese cuisine through signature dishes like faintly pink, roasted tender squab on a bed of rosemary, grilled eel with impossibly crispy skin, and threadfin fish with Koshihikari rice, which is mixed together to meld the ingredients with the rice and flavors.
5F, 301, Lequn 3rd Rd., Zhongshan Dist.
6:00pm - 9:30pm ; Closed on Monday (Subject to Change)
Impromptu by Paul Lee
What I love about the dishes at Impromptu is that you can’t pinpoint the food to any one cuisine or influence. There’s a little bit of French, a little bit of California, a little bit of Taiwanese. Chef Paul Lee is able to blend them all beautifully and naturally. Smoked goose with aged vinegar and pickled radish, fresh oysters from Matsu (馬祖) lightly smoked with longan served with tapioca marinated with fish sauce and lemon juice, quail with chimichurri made with fermented vegetables, giving the sauce a sour quality instead of the typical herbs and garlic. Since Paul Lee and I both grew up in California, certain dishes at Impromptu remind me of home, like mini crab taco amuse bouche and the bread pudding with liquid nitrogen foie gras mousse. I love that this restaurant would fit perfectly into the LA culinary landscape, but instead is bringing a fresh perspective to Taipei.
B1, 3, Ln. 39, Sec. 2, Zhongshan N. Rd., Zhongshan Dist.
5:30pm - 10:00pm ; Closed on Monday
L'ATELIER de Joël Robuchon à Taipei 【侯布雄法式餐廳】
You can’t get more Michelin than L'ATELIER de Joël Robuchon à Taipei, and Taipei is lucky to have Chef Olivier Jean at the helm. As the first restaurant in Taipei to be opened by a Michelin-starred chef in 2009, L'ATELIER de Joël Robuchon à Taipei has outlasted many others that opened around the same time. If you sit at the counter, you can likely have a friendly conversation with French Chef Olivier Jean, who has been the Chef de Cuisine for the last five years. Signature dishes include Le Caviar with luxurious caviar, king crab and meticulously arranged dabs of cauliflower cream on lobster jelly. The business lunch menu changes every few weeks, but if you want to splurge, the degustation menu is the complete experience.
5F, 28, Songren Rd., Xinyi Dist.
11:30am - 2:30pm, 6:00pm - 10:00pm
Carmelized French onion soup with gruyère (de comté) cheese, duck confit and a soufflé is an ideal French brasserie prix fixe meal. Priced at just under NT$1,000 for lunch, this set is extremely reasonable. Chou Chou is one of the few places in Taipei offering updated French classics that are as delicious as they are elegantly presented, where diners can mix and match choices to design their own three-course meal. Chef Lam Ming Kin and his team have had a knack for opening quite a few restaurants in Taipei with good vibes, food and drinks, including one-starred Longtail, and Chou Chou is no exception. If you plan in advance, try the whole roast chicken with truffle butter or the 14-day dry aged duck with sauce à l'orange.
22, Aly. 6, Ln. 170, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Daan Dist.
11:30am - 2:30pm, 6:00pm - 10:00pm ; Closed on Tuesday
Nikukappou Yuu【肉割烹 ゆう】
From uni-covered beef tartare to braised wagyu braised pork on rice, wagyu lovers can eat their heart out at Nikkukappo Yuu. Think of it as an omakase for wagyu beef. Diners seated around the sushi bar-style counter can watch as the chef prepares the dishes for 9 to 13 courses (depends on different ingredients prepared on different days), with different cuts of pristine marbled wagyu from Omi, Matsusaka, Kumamoto, Nagasaki and Saga. My favorite dish was the thick wagyu katsu sandwich, with melt-in-your-mouth beef paired with a satisfying crispy coating and milky Japanese toast, and the raw beef and uni handroll that rivaled any toro handroll I’ve had before. While I’ve had wagyu yakiniku and wagyu shabu, this was the first time I had it prepared so many different ways.
15, Aly. 33, Ln. 216, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Daan Dist.
12:00pm - 2:00pm, 6:00pm - 9:30pm ; Closed on Sunday
Shin Yeh Taiwanese Cuisine 【欣葉台菜創始店】
My love for Shin Yeh has grown over the years since I've lived in Taiwan. The menu is so varied that there’s something for everyone in a large multi-generational Taiwanese family, as well as for visitors trying Taiwanese food for the first time. Serving authentic Taiwanese dishes since 1977, Shin Yeh is family-owned restaurant that has expanded to multiple branches, including one at Taipei 101. While there’s no shortage of Taiwanese eats in Taipei, Shin Yeh was one of the first white tablecloth restaurants in Taipei over 40 years ago and is perfect when you need a place that is nice but not too stuffy. Signature dishes include sweet potato porridge, stir fried pork kidneys with sesame oil and the steamed crab over sticky rice. I love also ordering the street foods runbing (潤餅), or streamed spring roll, and guabao (刈包), or pork belly bun here. The best way to eat at Shin Yeh is to come with a large group and share dishes family style, so that you can order more and try a little of each dish.
34-1, Shuangcheng St., Zhongshan Dist.
11:00am - 12:00 midnight
Fuzhou Black Pepper Bun【福州世祖胡椒餅】
Once you’ve posed for your photos in front of the neonlit Raohe St. Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市) entrance, it’s time to get in line for the pepper bun which is the first vendor you’ll see if you enter from the entrance close to the temple. Part of what makes Fuzhou Black Pepper Bun popular is that you can see a small assembly line of people making the buns as you wait in line and you’re usually getting one hot out of the tandoor oven. Large balls of ground pork are covered with chopped scallions before being wrapped with dough and roasted. The pepper bun’s bottom crust is crispy while the top is dotted with white sesame seeds and the inside is tender and juicy. The kick of black pepper gives it just the right amount of spice. While a few other night markets have shuijianbao (pan-fried stuffed bun, 水煎包) or dumplings, if you want a pepper bun, it’s harder to find elsewhere, especially a version so good.
249, Raohe St., Songshan Dist.
3:30pm - 12:00 midnight
Lan Chia Guabao【藍家割包】
Though many chefs have tried to serve up their modern take on the pork belly bun by swapping ingredients or toppings, many people still flock to Lan Chia Guabao to have the traditional Taiwanese version with braised pork belly, pickled mustard greens and a dash of peanut powder with sugar, spilling out of a fluffy steamed bun. Usually there is a line at the cart in front of the shop, where you’ll see large bamboo steamers filled with buns and you can opt to grab-and-go, eat it standing in front of the shop (or in line for the OG brown sugar boba shop Chen San Ding (陳三鼎黑糖青蛙鮮奶) right across the alley) or dine inside the shop and pair your guabao with a bowl of soup. There’s something so satisfying about eating it piping hot.
After months of spotting bowls of shaved ice with steaming hot tangyuan (湯圓) atop on Instagram, I searched Tonghua (通化)/Linjiang Street night market (臨江街觀光夜市) until I found the tiny shop in a side alley off the main street. Using a traditional shaved ice machine, the concept is quite simple but ingeniously combines two traditional Taiwanese desserts. I love the signature combo with sesame and peanut tangyuan, which comes with six tangyuan on a heaping bowl of shaved ice soaked in osmanthus flower syrup for sweetness. During the winter, it’s popular to have the tangyuan in hot water, or in fermented rice wine soup instead. Unlike other trendy Taiwanese shaved ice shops, there’s no fruit, no snowflake ice, no condensed milk, and no tapioca pearls topping here, but that allows the piping hot tangyuan be the star. Made from rice flour and filled with peanut or sesame paste, the tangyuan are extremely hot with the first bite, but you have to eat them quickly before they harden from sitting on the ice volcano.