The Da’an District in Taipei has always been viewed as a paragon of the high life. Some of Taipei’s most expensive residential real estate is found along Dunhua South Road and Anhe Road, while Zhongxiao East Road is a bustling shopping belt with major department stores all along it. There is also a strong sense of culture with the presence of the National Taiwan University, the National Taiwan Normal University and their surrounding areas.
The unique district has attracted numerous restaurants that offer different styles of Japanese cuisine. These inconspicuous but luxurious Japanese restaurants that emphasise craftsmanship are often hidden in the residential areas of Da’an, while the yakiniku restaurants are largely based in the bustling East District.
Two MICHELIN Stars
Sushi Amamoto received two stars in the 2019 Michelin Guide. Chef Shogo Amamoto has lived in Taiwan for more than 12 years, and is the brother of chef Masamichi Amamoto of the two-starred restaurant Higashiazabu Amamoto in Tokyo. The restaurant serves diners a 20-course meal, which includes 12 pieces of nigiri sushi, without a menu. Due to limited seats, foodies must wait for months – even up to half a year – to get a reservation.
What our inspectors say: “The location of Sushi Amamoto is rather hidden but it is widely known among regular diners. The classically decorated sushi-ya has 12 seats at a solid cypress counter. The humble and friendly chef imports the seasonal fish mostly from Kyushu, and some from Tokyo, to be hand-pressed on sushi rice cooked in natural spring water from Nagano. There are 20 courses in the prix-fixe omakase menu, including 12 pieces of nigiri sushi.”
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Ken An Ho
One MICHELIN Star
Ken An Ho’s Head Chef, Wachi Isao and his teacher, Hiroyuki Kanda from three-starred Kanda in Japan, visited many Taiwan restaurants before deciding to settle in Taiwan. Isao was the head chef at The Sherwood Taipei’s MICHELIN Plated KOUMA restaurant. In 2016, he decided to head up Ken An Ho that is part of the Yukari group. Ken An Ho is hidden within the peaceful enclaves of Anhe road with a minimalist shop front and elegant interiors. The lunch sets feature nigiri sushi and are priced at TWD 3,800 a person, while dinner features cooked kappo dishes priced at TWD 5,800 a person.
What our inspectors say: “The Japanese chef is well known for his insistence on freshness and the skilful juxtaposition of different flavours. Only omakase menus are served and the exact items depend on the catch of the day. The menus feature prominently raw fish and nigiri sushi at lunch, while more cooked kappo dishes are served at night. Precise attention is paid to every detail, down to the blended vinegar in the sushi rice and the kelp bonito stock.”
One MICHELIN Star
After more than a decade, Kitcho Sushi earned its first Michelin star in the MICHELIN Guide Taipei 2019 and has retained its Michelin star for the second year. With only 14 seats at the counter and a small private room, the restaurant continues to be popular due to its impeccable ingredients, reasonable prices and thoughtful service.
What our inspectors say: “The interior follows Japanese tradition with pale wood, warm lighting and fabric-wrapped panels. Niigata rice is seasoned with three vinegars, including akazu that gives depth and umami. The owner also imports sake and the list changes constantly to match the seasonal ingredients available. This relaxed sushi spot also serves cooked dishes if pre-ordered. Note that it is not related in any way to its namesake in Tokyo.”
One MICHELIN Star
Chef Yuji Nomura, who has worked in Taiwan for 11 years, is recognised by many a gourmand for his craftmanship and rigorous standards. After establishing Sushi Nomura, Chef Nomura is better able to demonstrate his passion for the cuisine and excellent knife skills. He has received consistently good reviews for his sake and sushi.
What our inspectors say: “Good sushi starts with the rice - here it's a mix of Koshihikari from Kakomachi and Nanatsuboshi from Hokkaido, cooked in Mount Fuji spring water and seasoned with a blend of akazu and regular sushi vinegar. Chef Nomura, who moved to Taiwan years ago, sets the bar high for every detail of the dining experience - the fish is aged properly and sliced skilfully. The marinated silver-skinned fish and the anago are not to be missed.”
One MICHELIN Star
Located at the bustling East district, Da-Wan’s unique service and restaurant design stands out among many yakiniku restaurants in Taipei. The restaurant specialises in beef and its various cuts in its purest form.
What our inspectors say: “This is heaven for beef lovers - 21-day aged beef is trimmed, seasoned and grilled to your liking over Bincho charcoal right in front of your counter seat. The menu features mostly A5-grade Wagyu from Japan alongside a small Australian selection. The owner once worked in Osaka and knows his beef inside out. Ask about the secret menu of rare cuts handpicked daily by the chef. The enthusiastic servers and chefs deliver friendly, attentive service.”
Shu Ha Li
Chef Watanable Shinfu who used to helm Senju Sushi, one of the leading Japanese restaurants in Taipei, continues to win the hearts of gourmands with his immaculate skills, reasonable pricing at Shu Ha Li. The precision used to make the famous unagi rice is unparalleled.
What our inspectors say: “It was named after the principles of Kendo - following the traditions, breaking the rules and establishing one's own style, which also reflect the creative process of the chef. There are 15 counter seats and a private space seating 10 guests at the back. Their famous unagi rice is made with de-boned Taiwanese black eel that takes time to prepare. Another speciality is grilled greeneye fish.”
Opened in May 2018, Yuu specialises in Wagyu-beef and kappo dishes featuring seasonal seafood. Some of the homemade dishes that feature various cuts of beef include shabu shabu beef, braised beef rice, beef sea urchin and the widely praised Wagyu sandwich. The restaurant’s16-seat counter surrounds an open kitchen, where you can admire the chef’s craftsmanship.
What our inspectors say: “The owner-chef, who has over 20 years of kitchen experience, opened this serene spot serving Wagyu beef-based prix-fixe menus in 2018 to challenge your preconceptions. Counter seats let diners watch him prepare various cuts of Omi and Nagasaki beef in the most meticulous ways. Stand-outs include deep-fried fillet with a juicy centre and a Wagyu sandwich with a unique smokiness. Homemade warabi mochi proves the perfect end to the meal.”
Yu Dow Son
With more than 10 years of experience, chef Liu Ji-an makes sure every dish uses the freshest ingredients and is beautifully plated. The delicious and elegant 60-cut cuttlefish sushi, nigiri shushi, chawanmushi and other dishes, feature Liu’s exquisite knife skills and meticulous attention to details. The name “Yu Dow Son” is taken from a technique of Japanese “flower art” that stresses the freedom of movement. This is clearly reflected in the restaurant where one can relax and taste the freshness of the ingredients used.
What our inspectors say: “You may want to take your time appreciating the beautiful hand-pressed nigiri sushi, but the chefs here insist you consume it within 3 seconds after it's made because temperature is crucial to its taste and texture. Their knife work is impressive and their rice is served a tad warmer than in other restaurants; only Koshihikari rice from Japan's Toyama Prefecture is used, for its plumpness and full texture.”
Newly opened in June 2018, Mudan pays utmost attention to the unique ingredients it selects for its tempura. These include specially picked Taiwanese and Japanese produce, French chestnut mushrooms, Miyazaki A5 wagyu beef and pufferfish whites. Prepare to fork out TWD 3500 for lunch and TWD 6500 for dinner.
What our inspectors say: “This tempura restaurant shows a deep reverence for tradition. The head chef travelled to Japan to learn every skill and trick that he follows strictly. Meat, seafood and vegetables are coated in an ethereal batter made with Japanese flour and water only, before being fried in a secret blend of four oils which are also sourced from Japan. Nothing ends the meal better than warabi mochi. Reservations are mandatory.”