Iconoclastic Chefs

Inspired by a small group of pioneering chefs, like Liu Xian Hua—who has been cooking at the groundbreaking restaurant Ah Tsai for 20 years—Taipei’s talented cooks have been developing highly personal cuisines that make use of the superior local ingredients and reflect the city’s cosmopolitan culture.

La Petite Cuisine
Justin Quek, who trained at numerous Michelin-starred restaurants in France, has been one of Singapore’s top chefs for years because of his cooking at the Les Amis restaurant group. Since he opened La Petite Cuisine in Taipei two years ago, he has become known for his lightened French haute-cuisine creations: white asparagus with a silken sauce of morels, langoustine carpaccio. The dishes can be paired with boutique Australian reds like the rich Pinot Noir from Bass Phillip. Details 45 Shuang Cheng St.; 011-886-2-2597-3838.

The Grand Hyatt Taipei’s bistro-style restaurant—a music-industry hangout that’s being revamped by U.S.–based design star Tony Chi—is an unlikely home for some of the city’s best Chinese food. Originally intended as an American restaurant, it now devotes much of its menu to Chinese dishes. Chef Chien Huang creates stunning versions of the Taiwanese food he grew up on (pork rice with braised mushrooms and eggs) and other regional dishes (Sichuan wok-fried chicken). Details 2 Sung Shou Rd.; 011-886-2-2720-1200, ext. 3188.

Ah Zheng
Owner Ah Zheng, who likes to wear ties and suit vests under-neath his black apron and is never without an espresso in his hand, runs the kitchen in this brick-walled restaurant. Zheng’s food is a terrific hybrid of Taiwanese, Japanese and Southeast Asian. The menu changes constantly; on lucky nights there might be Hokkaido crab with pepper salt, or grilled pork with white miso and chiles. Details 20 Lane 81, Dun Hua Nan Rd., Sec. 2; 011-886-2-2702-5277.

Modern Japanese

Taiwan’s capital has long been full of sushi bars and teppanyaki joints, a legacy of the island’s past as a Japanese colony. But over the past few years, modern Japanese pop culture has been making greater inroads into the city’s restaurant and bar scenes.

Lao Kan Pai
This new crimson-hued spot turns out superb small-plate dishes of baby cherrystone- like clams in a sake-spiked broth, and rib eye served with dipping salts and fresh wasabi and cooked on a tabletop grill. Details 44 Lane 280, Guang Fu Nan Rd.; 011-886-2-2751-7388.

Ko Ji
Formerly known as Bamboo, this hip restaurant reopened six months ago as Ko Ji. It’s as popular for its bar, which makes excellent sake cocktails, as it is for its contemporary Japanese cuisine, in dishes like grilled tuna flavored with soy and ginger. Details 1/F, 15 Renai Rd., Sec. 4; 011-886-2-2779-1152.

Mitsui Cuisine
A cavernous underground restaurant revered for its outstanding omakase (chef’s tasting menus). On any given night, the parade of dishes might include milky-sweet Japanese sea urchin or steak with rock salt, served at black marble–topped tables under shadowy lighting. Details B1/F, 108 Dun Hua Nan Rd., Sec. 1; 011-886-2-2741-3394.