Planning an annual agency retreat has never been easier, especially when a food-, wine- and cocktail-centred theme forms the basis of the itinerary. In between client meetings, emails and lunches, the team of office foodies got into action and within a short span of time, had whipped up a list of dining eats that would have kept us satiated beyond the four days we were going to spend in Taipei. A few discussions later, we settled on a list that would take us from hot finds to haute eats. With that, our planning also took into account a pair of comfortable walking shoes to aid us in walking off the pounds!

Our Airbnb accommodation in the city centre placed us squarely in the heart of the action and sightseeing. With summer in full swing, we covered some ground on foot, while at other times, we hopped into the subway station and commuted with ease to the next destination.

Our neighbourhood walk revealed a high concentration of local eats and cafes. At just about every corner, we were presented with choices that could make us breakfast like champions over two consecutive settings. A search for morning coffee led us to a small but charming café, Kou Li. Fuelled by the strong brew, we sat down to local breakfast favourites such as the de rigueur dou jiang, shao bing and you tiao at a nearby local restaurant.

Inside Du Hsiao Yueh, where Dan Zai minced pork noodles are prepared.

Located on Yong Kang Lu – where the original Din Tai Fung is also sited – Du Hsiao Yueh is a welcoming but intimate space to enjoy traditional noodles from Tainan that date back to over a century. Each of us tucked into a bowl of their famous Dan Zai minced pork noodles and savoured the braised pork rice and fried tofu as well. For a respite from the heat, we made a beeline for Ice Monster and chilled out with their signature Mango Shaved Ice.

Teeming with an eclectic array of shops, independent restaurants and bars, Ximending bustles with trendy vibes and queues, especially at the bubble tea stores. A pit-stop at 50 Lan for their famed bubble tea managed to stave off the mid-day heat before we made our way to Tao Yuan Street Beef Noodle Shop. Arriving slightly after the peak lunch hour, we were shown to our table promptly and shortly thereafter, huddled over our bowls of beef noodle soup; often considered as the country’s national dish.

At Liu Yu Tea House, as Gin prepares the next tea for the team to try. Photo by Nikko Pascua of Food News.

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Liu Yu Tea House, which is located in the Longshan Temple underground mall. Helmed by the owner Gin, who generously shared her knowledge and expertise with us, the tea appreciation session that afternoon took us on a “tour” of the tea plantations throughout Taiwan.

The krudo, plum and comb dish, a part of the dinner at Mume. Photo by Nikko Pascua of Food News.

Sufficiently rejuvenated by a spot of tea followed by a massage, our palates were once again fired up in anticipation of the dining experience in Mume that evening. Initial reservations had been hard to come by, hence, we were pleasantly surprised when our group was shown to the underground private dining room. Notwithstanding the recognition that the restaurant has received from Michelin Guide 2019 and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019, the menu was truly a showcase of the combined talents of Chef Richie Lin and his team. Each course was a gastronomic discovery of locally sourced Taiwanese produce prepared with modern European techniques.

Just a 10-minute walk away, the post-prandial experience was heightened by inventive cocktails at Indulge Experimental Bistro, ranked No. 3 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2019. Owned by Aki Wang, who is at the forefront of Taipei’s dynamic cocktail scene, the bar features an extensive list of cocktails that marries international bar trends with a local focus on the country’s micro-seasons.

While Beitou is an area that is better known for the city’s hot springs and spas, the locale also unveiled a chance find for fans of vintage. Take some time to browse through the two-storey Pure Vintage and Co. and you are likely to walk away with memorabilia for the dining table or a piece of vintage jewellery. For insights into the creative scene in Taipei, we highly recommend a visit to Songshan Cultural and Creative Park; a thriving arts complex that is housed in the former grounds of a tobacco factory. Visit the lively pop-up market featuring local craftmanship in the open park before making your way to the Eslite complex that encompasses a mall featuring local creative works and fashion, a bookstore and spaces where visitors can participate in art workshops.

The entrance of Raohe St. Night Market. Photo by Nikko Pascua of Food News.

Our search for street food continued into the last day and we gamely joined the queue for the Fu Zhou pepper buns in Raohe Night Market. The stall is easily located as it is situated at the entrance to the Night Market. We savoured each mouthful of the piping hot savoury bun and would have gone back for seconds if not for the unending variety of other snacks and drinks that thronged the entire food street. By the time we had negotiated our way through the crowd of foodies and tourists, we were ready for our final team dinner in Ding Wang Mala Hot Pot. Over one too many plates of meats, tofu and vegetables steeped in both the pork soup base and the Mala soup base – not to mention the condiments on the side – we concurred that while we had valiantly tried to cover as many food and drink bases as our appetites and waistlines could possibly allow, several return trips to Taipei would have to be planned to continue our discovery of the city’s innumerable and unique offerings.

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Michelle Wan
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