[Update] I just had dinner at 山海樓 Mountain and Sea House again the other night and it impressed me a lot more than my first visit. Everything we ordered, from stuff we’ve had before, to new seasonal creations, were all on point. The restaurant has recently gained a lot of popularity and as such its been harder and harder to get a reservation, so be sure to book in advance! For non-Chinese speakers, they have a detailed English menu and Japanese menu that offers the same extensive explanations of each dish as the Chinese one!
Personally for an upscale and creative take on traditional Taiwanese cuisine, I highly recommend 山海樓 Mountain and Sea House over other places of similar caliber. The fact that most of their produce and ingredients come straight from their organic garden and that they keep things seasonal and create new dishes, in addition to permanent year-round dishes, based on available ingredients, allows for new surprises every time you go.
About a month ago I had a chance to try a relatively new restaurant called Toh-A 桌藏 (A play on words, the English pronunciation is of the Taiwanese term for “table”). The restaurant is the newest venture of Chef Abu in Taipei. He was renowned for his original place in Taipei, serving French Bistro styled cuisine with a Taiwanese twist. He then moved on to other projects in Taipei but has since returned to the inner-city with this new restaurant. I enjoyed Abu when it was still running, so naturally I was excited to try this place.
The restaurant is in a stand-alone plot of land, inside a restored and renovated colonial Japanese home. The glass-paneled house with its wooden roof and steel table held together by cables create a clash of modern and tradition, one that works and creates a very elegant and striking atmosphere.
The menus are presented on a fan placed at each seat. Toh-A is set menu only, and is open for dinner and lunch. You can choose a soup and a main course, 2 options for soup, and 4 options for mains (fish, pork, beef, lamb). The seven course meal comes down to NTD$3,300 or about USD$100. While still affordable, it is considered pricey in Taiwan, and by comparison to all the recent openings of haute-cuisine establishments in town with cheaper prices but more food. While Toh-A uses fresh, seasonal Taiwanese ingredients to create a fusion cuisine of traditional Taiwanese dishes mixed with Western flavors and cooking techniques, the menu does not change daily or as often as some other places in town, say for example Raw or Ephernite.
The food overall was very good. Every dish was spot-on and well presented. Bread was hot and freshly baked with very tasty home-made butter. You are served Guava-infused green tea before dinner as well, which is something different! While everything was on-point, nothing stood out as amazing, which again is fine given that the entire meal was tasty. But with my time and money I’d probably go elsewhere.
Over all, this place is worth checking out at least once. Its worth it for the interior, ambiance, and to try the food and interesting yet workable combinations of cuisine that Chef Abu has come up with here. But would I necessarily return? Perhaps not anytime soon, at least not until there is a change of season/ menu.
山海樓 Mountain and Sea House Vintage Taiwanese Cuisine
There is another restaurant in town that offers very fresh, organic, and gourmet take on traditional Taiwanese cuisine in a 1920s-esque, avante-garde re-done colonial house in Taipei, that I’d recommend over Toh-A. Its called 山海樓 (Shan-Hai-Lou) Mountain and Sea House Vintage Taiwanese Cuisine, and while not cheap either, I think its more worth it, plus its A-La-Carte (well, there are set menus for larger parties). And is truly re-imagined traditional Taiwanese cuisine taken to haute-cuisine level, something that is not easy to do, especially when it comes to maintaining the flavors and essence of Taiwanese street food while creating that elegant presentation.
The restaurant itself has a rather small dining room, that seats around 48 people maximum plus three private party rooms on the second floor. As I have mentioned above, there are menus in English, Chinese, and Japanese. The menus feature pictures of their signature dishes on the bottom to make it easier to visualize some of the dishes. Seasonal fresh pressed juice is a popular drink option and the fall/winter juice is a freshly pressed grape juice, one of the best I’ve ever had. There is only one dish, a soup that serves 6 people or more, that requires a 3-day advance order, all other dishes can be ordered on site, but some may take longer to prepare so just make sure you know what you want at the start of your meal!
Set menu only
台北市大安區和平東路二段76巷23弄9號; 9 HePing East Road Section 2, Alley 76 Nong 23.
Lunch: 12:00PM-2:30PM; Dinner: 5:30PM-9:30PM
Lunch set: NT1,500; NT1,600; NT1,650, NT1,980; Dinner: NT3,300 (plus 10% service)
山海樓 (Shan-Hai-Lou) Mountain and Sea House Vintage Taiwanese Cuisine
A La Carte + Set menus
104台北市中山區中山北路二段11巷16號; 104 ZhongShan N. Road, Section 2, Alley 11, Taipei, Taiwan
Lunch 11:30AM-2:30PM; Dinner: 5:30PM-10:00PM