Have a Michelin experience in Taipei
Check out these restaurants for a Michelin experience
For too long, Taipei has been associated with night markets and street food.
But the launch of the inaugural Taipei Michelin Guide last March brought the fine dining scene, hitherto known mostly to travelling gourmets, food critics and locals, into the limelight.
It placed the capital of Taiwan - the fifth most-visited destination by Singaporeans, according to travel company Expedia - on the international culinary map.
Thanks to the guide, the richness of Taiwan's quality produce is also finally getting the recognition it deserves, with the numerous microclimates in the country allowing for a diversity of agricultural crops to be planted.
The mountainous regions in central Taiwan are famous for yielding the crunchiest bamboo shoots, and you will find strawberries in the north and durians in the south.
Surrounded by the waters of the Pacific Ocean in the eastern part of Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait to the west, the country also has access to a wealth of seafood.
Taiwan's deep farming traditions that yield the best crops have over the past few years inspired young local chefs to return from overseas stints, and the abundance of nature's bounty found there has also drawn established chefs from abroad to set up shop.
Here is where you can go to indulge your taste buds:
WESTERN INTERPRETATIONS WITH TAIWANESE PRODUCE
Hong Kong-born, French-trained chef Lam Ming Kin opened Longtail Restaurant & Bar in August 2017. Less than a year later, the casual-chic plate-sharing gastrobar was awarded its first Michelin star.
He had moved to Taipei in 2013 after working at feted restaurants such as Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong's Vong and Jean-Georges in New York, drawn to Taiwan's plethora of seasonal local produce.
While chef Lam describes his food as "modern French cuisine with local ingredients wherever possible", he also takes inspiration from other cultures including Singapore.
Take, for instance, the starter of foie gras and duck confit dumpling with Vietnamese fish sauce, peanut and pomelo, where he harmoniously references France, Vietnam and China.
The fatty goose liver rounds off the gamey taste of the duck, while the fish sauce adds an umami edge. A main course of tilefish, spring peas, parmesan, lemon and herbs is a nod to France and Japan.
The flaky and sweet fish contrasts beautifully with the salty and robust parmesan consomme it comes with.
BEST OF PROVINCIAL CHINESE CUISINE
Some food critics today would argue that some of the best provincial cuisine from China is actually found in Taiwan, in part due to Chiang Kai-shek bringing a number of the best chefs from various parts of China to Taiwan after losing the civil war to the Kuomintang in 1950.
China's cultural revolution from 1966 to 1976 also caused much of China's rich culinary heritage to be obliterated.
So Taipei is where you find the original Din Tai Fung outlet (awarded a Bib Gourmand).
It is famous, of course, for its xiao long bao (pork dumplings), but there is more to discover.
In last year's Michelin Guide, three of the starred restaurants were Cantonese ones, with Le Palais at Palais de Chine Hotel receiving the top honours of three stars.
Cantonese eatery Three Coins may be staffed entirely by Taiwanese chefs, but it impressed the Michelin inspectors enough to award the 49-year-old restaurant one star.
The founding matriarch of the family business is an avid art and antique collector, and thus the likes of embroidered brocades from the Qing dynasty deck the interiors.
It is all opulence within, and this restaurant counts many from the upper echelons of society, including the political elite, as its regulars.
Now managed by second generation owners, the baked seafood Pingtung papaya gratin remains a permanent fixture on the menu with other favourites including roast duck.
The Guest House at Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel is where one can find the best culinary representations of the different regional groups that migrated to Taiwan.
The two-starred restaurant specialises in Jiangsu cuisine, from eastern central China.
Head chef Lin Juwei plans and oversees a menu of over 200 dishes.
While you must try the wholesome double-boiled chicken soup made with Chinese ham and dried scallops, you should also leave room for the sweet, fragrant oyster seafood vermicelli soup. The Shanghai dishes, which require deft knife skills and balancing of flavours, are phenomenal here.
Besides being a hit with tourists for comfort and consistent service standards, the Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel is also home to nine food and beverage outlets, including The Guest House.
After 1 1/2 years' worth of refurbishments that have refreshed the property, the rooms and suites have a chic, high-end residential look.
STUNNING JAPANESE FOOD
Japanese cuisine in Taipei is some of the best found outside of Japan. It is in Taipei that you will find the only Japanese sushi restaurants with Michelin stars that are not helmed by Japanese chefs.
In Taipei, there are two such restaurants.
One of them is Kitcho, which has one star. Owner-chef Kyo Hsu gets his fresh seafood airflown from Japan three times a week and visits Japan every three to four months to sharpen his skills.
Having worked in Mount Otowa near Kyoto in his 20s, he is most passionate about bluefin tuna, and his finesse in handling different cuts of fish is apparent. Paired with Niigata rice seasoned with different types of vinegar, the different textures and depth of taste in each cut is given full play.
An appetiser of monkfish liver, slow-cooked at 55 deg C for several hours, is one of the most tender you will ever taste.
WELL-EXECUTED WESTERN CUISINE
Danny Deng, owner-founder of the one-starred Danny's Steakhouse, is known as the godfather of steaks in Taipei, a reputation built on having served excellent steaks for the last 40 years.
Staff are knowledgeable about the US prime cuts and Australian wagyu steaks (grilled over lychee wood) they bring to the table.
There is also a selection of seafood starters and a heady mushroom cappuccino that give a light umami balance to the robust meats.