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    TAIPEI

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    • Beata té

      Bellavita Mall, SongRen Rd., No. 28, 4F

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Current

      Sceney Italian restaurant with a gorgeous terrace and views of Taipei 101.

    • Bellini Caffe

      FuXing N. Rd., No. 228

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      Upscale caffe serving thin-crust pizzas and handmade pastas with a Japanese twist.

    • DinTaiFung

      XinYi Rd., Sec. 2, No. 194

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      true

      Original location of the world-famous Taiwanese dumpling chain.

    • Dong Qu Fen Yuan

      Zhong Xiao E. Rd., Sec. 4, Ln. 216, No. 38

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      true

      Popular shaved ice vendor famed for its heaping three-topping sundaes.

    • Ji Pin

      XinYi Rd., Sec. 4, No. 236, 2F

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Current

      • Ji Pin
      • Upscale Cantonese
      • Da'An District
      • $$$

      Refined, understated dim sum restaurant with windows overlooking stylish XinYi Road.

    • Jiyuan Sichuan Restaurant

      DunHua S. Rd., Sec. 1, No. 324

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      Foodies swoon for the legendary clay pot chicken soup at this local institution.

    • Kanpai Classic

      Mitsukoshi A9, SongShou Rd., No. 9, 8F

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Current

      Lively barbecue restaurant where trendy groups of friends get festive over in-table grills.

    • Lao Zhang Beef Noodles

      AiGuo E. Rd., No. 105

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      Barebones joint famous for its hong shao beef noodle soup.

    • Mitsui Cuisine

      DunHua S. Rd., Sec. 1, No. 108, B1

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Current

      Chic, zen-inspired hotspot where both the crowd and the omakase are gorgeous.

    • My Humble House

      Le Méridien Taipei, 38 SongRen Rd., Fl. 2

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Current

      Taipei’s most fashionable dominate the dining room at this posh spot in the Le Méridien hotel.

    • Norwegian Wood Coffee House

      Roosevelt Rd., Sec. 3, Ln. 284, No. 9

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      Bohemian café packed with hipster students.

    • Parents Restaurant (Chao Gui)

      DunHua S. Rd., Sec. 1, No. 200

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      Massive Cantonese restaurant where boisterous groups nosh on generous helpings of dim sum.

    • Paul

      RenAi Rd., Sec. 4, No. 107

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      • Paul
      • Bakery/Cafe
      • Da'An District
      • $$

      Rustic French bakery offering artisan pastries and sandwiches.

    • S.T.A.Y

      Taipei 101, ShiFu Rd., No. 45, Fl. 4F

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Current

      • S.T.A.Y
      • Trendy French
      • XinYi District
      • $$$$

      Glam slow food restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno.

    • Shin Yeh

      ZhongXiao E. Rd., Sec. 4, No. 112, 2F

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Current

      true

      • Shin Yeh
      • Upscale Taiwanese
      • Da'An District
      • $$

      Sunny restaurant serving a refined take on traditional Taiwanese fare.

    • Sonoma Teppanyaki Grill

      DunHua S. Rd., Sec. 2, No. 9

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Formal

      Clubby fusion steakhouse offering both teppanyaki and Western-style chops.

    • Sumie Nouvelle Cuisine Japonaise

      San Want Hotel, ZhongXiao E. Rd., Sec. 4, No.172, 4F

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Current

      Zen-like restaurant in the posh San Want Hotel known for its incredibly fresh sushi.

    • Tainan Tantsumien Seafood Restaurant

      HuaXi St., No. 31

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Formal

      Ultra-luxe seafood restaurant in the HuaXi Street (Snake Alley) Night Market.

    • The Sunlit Teppanyaki

      MinSheng E. Rd., Sec. 3, No. 131, B1

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Formal

      Clubby, high-end teppanyaki restaurant ripe for networking.

    • Tien Hsiang Lo

      The Landis Taipei, MinChuan E. Rd., Sec. 2, No. 41

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Formal

      true

      Chic, upscale restaurant offering delicate small plates of Hangzhou classics.

    • Wistaria Tea House

      XinSheng S. Rd., Ln. 16, Sec. 3, No. 1

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      Serene, traditional teahouse set in a historic mansion.

    • Yong Kang 15

      Yong Kang St., No. 15

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      Perpetually packed shaved ice stand famous for its mango ices.

    • Yong Kang Beef Noodles

      JinShan S. Rd., Sec. 2, Ln. 31, No. 17

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      true

      No-frills neighborhood joint famed for its succulent beef noodles soup.

    • YongHe DouJiang

      XinSheng S. Rd., just south of RenAi Rd.

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Local Gems

      Local commuters grab fried dough sticks and soy milk from this bustling breakfast joint.

    • Yuzu Japanese Kitchen

      GuangFu S. Rd., Ln. 260, No. 7

      Taipei

      Restaurant

      Current

      Sleek, sceney Japanese restaurant with a single set menu.

    Anthropologist extraordinaire Margaret Mead once said, "A city is a place where there is no need to wait for next week to taste the food of any country, to find new voices to listen to and familiar ones to listen to again." Perhaps nowhere is that more true than in Taipei, where the melting pot of food traditions spans from Shanghai and Tokyo to Paris and Rome, and the bustling restaurant culture and night markets bring together Taiwanese locals, expats, and tourists of every stripe. In fact, enjoying food is such a central part of Taiwanese life (it's the glue of family and community gatherings and holiday celebrations) that the cuisine here could be a starting point for any sort of anthropological study that seeks to understand the essence of Taipei.

    First off: our field notes on local, regional dishes. You don't have to be a specialist in biodiversity to appreciate the exquisite fruits that abound in this subtropical climate. From juicy mangoes to deliciously lush white peaches to the sweet lychees (and their slightly less cloying cousin, the long an), eating fruit here is an unparalleled, drip-down-the-chin sensory experience. On a humid summer day, there's nothing better than cooling off with a heaping of fresh fruit over a Taiwanese shaved ice. We particularly love the mango ices at Yong Kang 15 and, in addition to the fruit toppings, we're partial to the numerous additions at Dong Qu Fen Yuan like mung beans, barley, and tapioca.

    Yet despite the year-round warm temps, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy your local eats hot (and we don't mean spicy–Taiwanese food is not especially piquant, just perfectly seasoned!). For a bit of anthropology in a bowl, head to no-frills joints like Yong Kang Beef Noodles and Lao Zhang Beef Noodles for steaming servings of the namesake soup, which is the de facto national dish. The city's various Night Markets are also great places to sample traditional Taiwanese delicacies, but if you want more of a refined ambiance, try Shin Yeh, where homestyle Taiwanese classics like pan fried turnip omelettes are served up in sunny, upscale-casual surrounds.

    Putting on our cultural anthropologist cap, we're always amazed to survey the multitude of cuisines imported here over the centuries by newcomers to the island, especially from mainland China (Sichuan, Cantonese, DongBei, Hangzhou, Shanghainese) and Japan (sushi, teppanyaki, katsu, izakaya). World-renowned Taiwanese dumpling chain DinTaiFung has so mastered the art of perfectly steamed Shanghai soup dumplings that even the Shanghainese swear by it. Stylish Ji Pin nails Cantonese dim sum and specialties like braised sea cucumber and radish spring rolls, while Tien Hsiang Lo crafts artful Hangzhou small plates. Kanpai Classic is a Japanese standout for its in-table grills (and the festive groups who gather 'round to feast and imbibe). European influences are well represented, too, at spots like Bellini Caffe (fun Italian) and S.T.A.Y (trendy French).

    As delicious as the food may be across the map, the scene is often just as compelling. Our inner ethnographer thrills to observing the setting and the crowd in Taipei restaurants since eating out is such an essential part of social life. While you might shovel in shaved ice or beef noodle soup while sitting on a simple wooden stool, the ambiance at most of our restaurant picks is carefully crafted. We love the chic urban vibe at fusion-focused Yuzu Japanese Kitchen and the zen-like vibe at ultra-fresh sushi purveyor Sumie Nouvelle Cuisine Japonaise. Generally speaking, casual attire reigns supreme in this town–even at sleek restaurants such as these, you'll see many diners dressed in jeans and t-shirts (albeit designer ones). One exception is at the formal Tainan Tantsumien Seafood Restaurant, where the crowd is at least as well dressed as the tables (think Royal Daulton china and Christofle silverware).

    But whether you indulge in this type of opulence or stick to street-casual eats, immersing yourself in Taipei's restaurant culture will be as much of a treat for your taste buds as for your trip journal. Just consider those few extra pounds you're bound to put on as "research" and remember that you're gaining important cultural wisdom along with inches. As Margaret Mead herself said, "The traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep."

    Photo of Lao Zhang Beef Noodles courtesy of travelswithtwo on Flickr Creative Commons