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Taipei has always been a city where one doesn’t have to work hard to eat awfully well: It has a street food scene as vibrant as that of Bangkok; restaurants that specialize in both Taiwanese and regional cuisines from around China; thousands of cheap and cheerful joints at which to drink cold beer with small plates and quick stir-fries; and a plethora of sushi bars, a remnant of decades spent under Japanese rule.
It’s easier than ever to enjoy those qualities, largely thanks to a crop of chefs drawing inspiration from homegrown ingredients: cured mullet roe, lily stems, purple taro, pork from local black pig. Taiwan offers possibilities for farm-to-table dining that don’t exist in Singapore and Hong Kong. Surrounded by clean waters and dotted with mountains and fertile plains, with more than 20 microclimates and a deeply embedded small farming tradition recently given new life by urbanites going back to the land, Taiwan places its agricultural bounty within easy reach of diners in the capital.
“Now everyone is talking about local ingredients,” the Taiwanese chef André Chiang said. “We have everything here, and we should be proud of it.” Serving ingredient-focused contemporary Taiwanese cuisine, Mr. Chiang’s two-year-old RAW is just one of a growing number of restaurants, ranging from casual to upscale, that are riding the wave of a growing “eat local” movement.
Anchored by a sinuous cloud-shaped bar hand-carved from two colossal hunks of pine, the dining room at RAW is cavernous and murky, strikingly backlit by a semi-open kitchen. Instagram-friendly pin lights illuminate tables, which are set far apart and have hidden drawers for flatware.
The seasonal set menu of eight courses and a few smaller bites (with optional wine pairings), eschews dish names in favor of shortened ingredient lists (‘Taiwan’ Rice Pork Mushroom, no commas). Mr. Chiang, who worked in France before he opened Singapore’s acclaimed Restaurant André, where he spends most of his time, devises the menu at RAW with two Taiwanese chefs, Zor Tan and Alain Huang.
Every dish on the menu is Taiwanese “in form, structure, color or flavor,” Mr. Chiang said. A skewered baby corn cob coated with kernels from a mature cob and slicked with deeply smoky barbecue sauce winked at the sort of fare you might find in Taipei’s night markets, while Beef Tongue Cracker, an oblong crisp with shavings of velvety ox tongue arranged atop a smear of caramelized onions, confit egg yolk with vinegar for dipping, was a sly nod to ox tongue crackers, a classic Taiwanese snack named for their shape. That Rice Pork Mushroom dish? Pure comfort food, served steaming and fragrant in a miniature clay pot, grains glistening with lard, infused with fungal earthiness and enhanced with chunks of tender meat.
At a nearby table an elegantly dressed Taiwanese woman, obviously perplexed by a shallow bowl containing a single sheet of dried squid, laughed aloud as it separated into curly noodles when a server poured hot kombu broth over. She ate every bite.

RAW, No. 301 Le Qun Third Road; 886-2-8501-5800; Lunch and dinner tasting menu, 2,680 Taiwanese dollars (about $87) per person, plus 10 percent service charge.

Tairroir, which opened last May on the sixth floor of a building next to RAW, is, in appearance at least, its polar opposite: intimate (just eight tables) and elegant (white-on-white dining room, sleek copper bar). The French training of Kai Ho, the Taiwanese chef, is reflected in both his restaurant’s name (a mix of Taiwan and terroir) and in refined plating, with color and texture highlighted in smears, dabs, dots and drizzles.
But Mr. Ho is quick to add: “I’m not French. I’m Taiwanese. And I do my own thing.” The result is a set menu (six or eight courses) that crosses Taiwanese ingredients with French technique. During my lunch only one dish, warm pumpkin purée accompanied by buttery mushroom brioche, bowed toward the west; others were unequivocally Taiwanese in spirit if not form. In Mr. Ho’s hands taro cake, a Chinese New Year favorite, became a spoonable mash to be stirred together with a sous-vide egg, the combination’s richness cut by dried sakura shrimp and crispy shallots.
A magnificent dessert combined moist purple cakes tasting of concentrated blueberries with a powerfully lemony mousseline, bracingly tart yogurt “snow” and honeycombed pong tang, a traditional Taiwanese hard candy.
When it comes to sourcing ingredients Mr. Ho said he’s “not as hard-core as some chefs. I’m not at the farm every day.” But he estimates that about 90 percent of what he uses in the kitchen is local; on the day we met he was excitedly planning a visit to a fish farmer in nearby Yilan county to investigate a tip about local caviar.

Tairroir, 6F, No. 299 Le Qun Third Road; 886-2-8501-5500; Tasting menu (lunch) 1,650 or 2,350 Taiwanese dollars and (dinner) 3,200 or 5,000 dollars per person, plus 10 percent service charge.

MUME, which opened around the same time as RAW and shares its capital-letters-only naming approach (mume is the botanical name for the plum blossom, Taiwan’s national flower), channels a Nordic sensibility, with a cozy dining room gently lit by the glow of a marble bar and Scandinavian-style bentwood chairs flanking tables lit by low-hanging pendant lights. “Modern European casual fine dining,” in the words of Richie Lin, an owner and one of three chefs, captures the spirit of the place — elegant and suitable for a special night out, welcoming and wallet-friendly enough to be your neighborhood hangout.
After Mr. Lin experienced some frustration with the scarcity of local ingredients in Hong Kong, where he was born and had worked (he grew up in Canada), Taiwan appealed as fertile ground on which to pursue his goal of cooking with the seasons, alongside two other expat chefs: Kai Ward (Australian) and Long Xiong (American). MUME is “a chance to discover what is unique and special about Taiwan,” he said, “and to showcase it to the world.”
Nordic influence is on the menu, too, in a starter of warm country sourdough with beer butter and smoked beef fat butter, modeled after a popular bread course at Noma. After that, the menu divides into Snack, Smaller, Bigger, Sweeter. I would return in a heartbeat for baby potatoes, which are thickly dusted with dried shiitake crumbles. The mushroom crumbs bear a whiff of the forest floor and notes of coffee and bitter chocolate that deepen when mixed with the accompanying cultured butter.
The Taiwan salad is a stunner: 30 ingredients that change by the day (I identified nasturtium leaves, flower petals, tiny broccoli florets, pickled cherry tomatoes and roasted carrots), dressed not with vinegar or citrus but umami, in the form of salted black beans. There’s plenty of showmanship in crisp-tender blush prawns bathed in coral sauce made with prawn head fat and layered with jicama batons and wisps of fresh dill; frozen ricotta is dusted over the bowl, releasing a dry ice cloud. Each mouthful is a shock of brine and milk and grassiness, amplified by crunch and cold.

MUME, No. 28 Siwei Road; 886-2-2700-0901. Average dinner for two is 2,900 dollars, plus 10 percent service charge.

Before arriving at YEN (yet another all-caps venture), the Hong Kong-born Hoi Ming Wo cooked in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. In Osaka, he led the Xiang Tao restaurant to its first Michelin star. But he had never been to Taiwan, so before starting as executive chef he traveled the island to eat, and inspiration struck: “I realized that, hey, there are a lot of really great local ingredients,” he said, “and I knew that was where I wanted to focus at YEN.”
Atop the W Hotel, YEN is as stylish as one would expect: bold colors (deep violet and pink), inventive artwork (wall sculptures incorporating kitchen tools), a wall of windows overlooking Taipei’s urban sprawl. Much of the long menu is composed of dishes one might find in a restaurant of similar caliber in Hong Kong: succulent roast meats and fowl, steamed fish priced by the pound, double-boiled soups. But you’ll also unearth gems, examples of what Mr. Wo describes as Taiwanese-Cantonese fusion.
Delicate cones filled with crispy green apple sticks and pan-fried slices of mullet roe are all crunch and tartness with a bracing hit of piscine saltiness. Mi tai mu, an iconic street dish of stubby rice flour noodles made like spaetzle and usually eaten in soup, are here served in a Cantonese-style lobster broth whose sumptuousness is bolstered by rafts of sweet loofah gourd.
Looking ahead. As governments across the world loosen coronavirus restrictions, the travel industry hopes this will be the year that travel comes roaring back. Here is what to expect:
Air travel. Many more passengers are expected to fly compared to last year, but you’ll still need to check the latest entry requirements if you’re traveling abroad.
Lodging. During the pandemic, many travelers discovered the privacy offered by rental residences. Hotels hope to compete again by offering stylish extended-stay properties, sustainable options, rooftop bars and co-working spaces.
Rental cars. Travelers can expect higher prices, and older cars with high mileage, since companies still haven’t been able to expand their fleets. Seeking an alternative? Car-sharing platforms might be a more affordable option.
Cruises. Despite a bumpy start to the year, thanks to Omicron’s surge, demand for cruises remains high. Luxury expedition voyages are particularly appealing right now, because they typically sail on smaller ships and steer away from crowded destinations.
Destinations. Cities are officially back: Travelers are eager to dive into the sights, bites and sounds of a metropolis like Paris or New York. For a more relaxing time, some resorts in the U.S. are pioneering an almost all-inclusive model that takes the guesswork out of planning a vacation.
Experiences. Travel options centered around sexual wellness (think couples retreats and beachfront sessions with intimacy coaches) are growing popular. Trips with an educational bent, meanwhile, are increasingly sought after by families with children.
For a main dish Mr. Wo steams chunks of lobster from Penghu (islands in the Taiwan Strait) — very tender, unlike Boston lobster, he said — and sets them in a shallow bowl in the center of a creamy “ocean” of egg white; a tangle of bird’s nest adds crunch. There’s nothing Taiwanese about YEN’s custard buns, but order them anyway: Served warm, dusted with semi-bitter cacao and shaped like mushrooms, they ooze golden eggy custard.

YEN, 31F, W Hotel, No. 10 Zhongxiao East Road, Section 5; 886-2-7703-8768; An average meal for two is 3,500 dollars.

I’d never been a fan of hot pot until several years ago, when a friend in Taipei introduced me to fermented cabbage hot pot at a restaurant called Lao Zhou. Eighteen months ago Han Chen, a native of Taichung, on the country’s western coast, who managed Lau Zhou for his uncle, struck out on his own and opened Mr. Meat, where he melds a passion for fermentation and a reverence for Taiwan’s “grannies” (Mr. Chen’s term for small producers of traditional ingredients) with a pure love of meat.
“Fermented ingredients have sourness without acidity and combine well with meat,” he said. “The fat smooths the ferment while the ferment brings out the meat’s sweetness.” Diners choose from a selection of broths made with seasonal ferments (cabbage in fall, garlic in winter, kimchi in spring, tomato in summer). The individually sized hot pots come preassembled, ready to cook at personal burners.
Fermented garlic soup sounds stinkier than it tastes; on a cool December day it was salve for the soul, bracing, reviving, appetizing. Packed with vegetables (taro, bamboo, radish, white cabbage), bean curd three ways (skin, frozen, preserved), meatballs, dumplings and flavorings like red dates and wolfberries, it made a fine base for a selection of thinly sliced meats.
Taiwan produces little beef or lamb, so Mr. Chen imports some red meats from Europe, the United States and Australia. But there’s also gamy cherry duck (a Taiwanese breed), gui ding chicken (tastier than your average bird) and Taiwanese black pork. It would be unwise to pass on a side order of Granny’s Braised Carrot Minced Meat, an insanely luscious pork ragu made according to a recipe provided by Mr. Chen’s grandmother-in-law, served over rice.
Before opening his restaurant Mr. Chen traveled Taiwan in search of exceptional ingredients. In Meinong, a center of Hakka culture, he found a husband and wife making tofu skin with soy milk heated over a wood fire; in Tainan, a woman making fine fish dumplings filled with pork. Some are named on the menu, like Master Wu of Tainan, a classical painter-turned-fermentation specialist.
“I see the restaurant as a platform. I love the ingredients and I want you to know who made them,” Mr. Chen said. “Make the grannies happy, make the grannies proud.”
Mr. Meat Hot Pot and Butchery, rear entrance No. No. 35 Lane 81, Section 2, Dunhua South Road; 886-2-2703-5522; Average meal for two is 1,800 dollars.


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