There's some irony to the fact that General Tso's Chicken, a North American Chinese restaurant staple, actually hails from Taiwan. As a whole, Taiwanese cuisine actually represents a largely under-the-radar, deep assortment of dishes, including those defined by the island's earthy terroir and Indigenous cultures. In Taipei, you can sample an array of Taiwan's best culinary offerings (and international, of course) in a broad range of settings with different price points, including world class fine dining from a growing wave of innovative, game-changing chefs. To help you narrow down your choices, here are our picks for the top restaurants in Taipei.
Taiwanese celebrity chef André Chiang first made his name as a fine dining innovator who embraced local terroir and shone a light on it through technique and elegant presentation at France's three Michelin-starred Le Jardin des Sens and at his Singaporean Michelin two-star namesake, Restaurant André (August 2020 saw the release of André & his olive tree, a Netflix documentary about the restaurant's final weeks).
In 2014, he finally did the same with his homeland's distinctive seasonal ingredients at the DaZhi district's 60-seat RAW. No. 36 on the 2020 Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list, expect ever-changing seasonal set menus and photogenic interiors and plating. Book a table ASAP since it can book up several months in advance.
The Da'an district's MUME, which culls its name from Taiwan's national flower (a.k.a. the plum blossom), opened the same year as RAW, together heralding a new wave in Taiwanese locavore fine dining. With one Michelin star, MUME is ranked even higher than its competitor on 2020's Asia's 50 Best Restaurants List (no. 17), though local foodies can get extremely heated when debating which one's superior.
MUME was founded by a trio of chefs—Richie Lin, Kai Ward, and Long Xiong—with equally impressive resumes; Lin met Ward working at Sydney's Quay, and Xiong later at Copenhagen's Noma. Here, local produce and deeply Taiwanese flavors are transformed and elevated with Nordic flair, European technique, and stunning presentation (think set menus with Wagyu beef tartare with clam aioli and 60-degree egg).
Younger sibling to Tokyo's Florilege—a sublime, bucket list-worthy restaurant in one of the world's foremost culinary capitals—logy opened on a Da'an district side street in 2018. With Japanese chef Ryogo Tahara at the helm, it quickly earned a coveted two Michelin stars for amalgamating Taiwanese flavors, ingredients, and dishes with Japanese and other Asian ingredients in avant-garde, gallery-worthy presentations. With only 13 seats surrounding its open kitchen, guests are treated to a dash of theater as dishes are meticulously assembled by the staff (and often with elements of table-side presentation and explanations). The set menu (NT$3,700 per person) changes every other month, and can be enhanced by both alcoholic and booze-free beverage pairings. Reservations are a must.
After mastering French techniques at the Singapore offshoot of Guy Savoy, Taiwan native Kai Ho began applying them to Taiwanese ingredients at Taïrroir, a Michelin-two-star holder in Taipei. The lunch and dinner set menus are bargains at NT$2,180 and NT$4,680 respectively (plus no service fee), and include his signature dish: a luxe, transcendent take on the "tea egg," a local snack with a honey-like melty yolk. And during colder weather visits, be sure to ask if the Chef's off-menu version of Taiwanese beef noodle soup—spiked with Sichuan peppercorn, cumin, broad bean paste, and fettuccini-esque noodle—is available.
Like logy, Shoun Ryugin is the younger sibling to an equally acclaimed, beloved Tokyo restaurant, swapping out coveted Japanese ingredients with deeply seasonal Taiwanese ones. Executive chef Seiji Yamamoto and chef de cuisine Ryohei Hieda's seven- and 10-course kaiseki-style menus—which serve only 36 diners per seating—have helped land the earth-toned, cinematic venue on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list, as well as earn it two Michelin stars. Do note that, while incredibly photogenic, the restaurant discourages use of any type of cameras during the meal, as flashes can damage the intricately crafted, antique tableware.
Born in Taiwan and raised in the U.S.—where he cut his cooking chops at Las Vegas' Le Cirque, Los Angeles' Patina, and NYC's L'Atalier de Joel Robuchon—chef Paul Lee returned to his homeland as a restaurateur, opening this Michelin-starred venue in the Zhongshan district in 2018. The ever-changing tasting menu (NT$2,800) of French and international fare is created with a molecular flourish, and is prepared at a 10-seat open kitchen counter. Wine and cocktail pairings are available—one original libation entails olive oil gin, verbena, lime, and Starfruit air—and you'll likely also enjoy his signature white chocolate and nitro foie gras bread pudding dessert.
Chef Lam Ming Kin, the genius behind the impeccable yet approachable French brasserie-style Chou Chou, opened this intriguing, East-meets-West eatery in the Da'an district in 2017. Diners have a choice of à la carte or seasonal tasting menus, in which bright flavors from all over Asia heighten Kin's creations. Expect dishes like a foie gras dumpling accented by either lemongrass or lychee, a Cantonese-meets-Korean char sui bao with house-made kimchi, and the signature Singapore-inspired Kaya French toast with espresso ice cream and soy caramel drizzle. Do consider a cocktail or booze-free mocktail pairing as well—they're equally fusion-centric and surprisingly herbaceous.
Xiao long bao, a.k.a. soup dumplings, are a Taiwanese favorite, and the almost 50-year-old Din Tai Fung chain has perfected the Taiwan-style iteration: fig-sized, with a succulent pork filling and a toothsome yet thin dough skin distinguished by a precise 18-fold stem. A visit from Tom Cruise and a Michelin star aside, Din Tai Fung also offers up a wide range of other dumplings—including crab roe and pork; chicken; green squash and shrimp; and even chocolate xiao long bao. Plus, their menu features fantastic egg noodle dishes like Taiwanese beef noodle soup, delectable stir-fried greens, wontons, and desserts. This is a quintessential and family-friendly Taiwan dining experience.
After working at the Michelin-starred Trattoria Zappatori in Pinerolo, Italy, chef Christian Milone headed east to Taipei and opened the 46-seat CROM in December 2019. Described as "progressive Italian," CROM's fare—served artfully on white plates—scratches the itch for superb fresh pastas. The menu features everything from wild boar ragu parpadelle and white truffle tajarin, to top-of-the-line meats (A3 Wagyu) and seafood, to desserts that often capture the seasons by incorporating fruit. Both tasting and à la carte menus are available.
If seeking unusual twists on delicious Taiwanese xiao long bao, make a beeline to the Xinyi district branch of this Singapore-born chain. Just as precisely crafted and toothsome as Din Tai Fung's, the soup dumplings come in eight delectable color-coded varieties: traditional (white), ginseng (green), foie gras (brown), truffle (black), cheese (yellow), crab roe (orange), black garlic (grey), and Sichuan (red). You can order as a one-of-each set or à la carte batches, or pick from an extensive menu of other Chinese and Taiwanese dishes. Though Paradise Dynasty has an artful interior design, it's still casual enough for a family.
Imagine an Eataly based around seafood: That's the wonder that is the Zhongshan district's sprawling Addiction Aquatic Development compound. From live sea critters to rows upon rows of insanely affordable packaged sashimi, uni, whole fish, produce, and groceries, this is a mecca. Plus, there's a perpetually busy standing-only sushi bar, a wine bar, and dedicated sit down restaurants for hot pot (Le Peng) and seafood fine dining (Trésors de la Mer). And if the weather's nice, some of the venues serve up to-go dishes for you to take outdoors.
Situated in a Zhongzheng district mansion, the Michelin-starred, family-style Mountain and Sea House offers a refined survey of Taiwanese cuisine. This includes the mostly lost haute "banquet cuisine" of the 1960s, which is defined by organic, Indigenously sourced produce and meat such as free range mountain chicken and black boar. Some make the journey here just for the crisp, roast suckling pig, which takes 12 hours to prepare and should be ordered in advance.
The Taiwanese love seafood and sushi, and there hundreds of hole-in-the-wall spots that often offer bargain lunch omakase prices. Despite the secret being out, the 12-year-old Michelin-starred Kitcho remains a Taipei favorite thanks to Taiwanese owner/sushi chef Kyo Hsu's exceptional, diverse selection of fish (imported thrice weekly from Japan); mastery of umami; and Niigata rice seasoned with a proprietary blend of three vinegars.
Founded in 1997, Ice Monster spins its addictively textured ice from round blocks to form a delectable shaved ice-based dessert. They made their name with the mango variation, which is complemented with fresh mango cubes, silky pudding, and mango ice cream. Come prepared to share several varieties, however. The bubble tea shave ice—with a side of warm, chewy, perfectly caramelized boba—is a revelation.
Even a regular occasion becomes a special occasion at Mandarin Oriental Taipei's chic, contemporary Cantonese restaurant, which snagged a Michelin star for its third consecutive year in 2020. For picky eaters (who enjoy Cantonese, of course), Ya Ge offers multiple, sprawling seasonal menus—vegetarian, Dim Sum, set, and à la carte. Specialties include stewed lamb brisket with shiitake mushrooms, Peking-style cherry duck, crispy squab, abalone, geoduck, and barbecued honey pork.