Healthful Eating and Delicious Flavors
Three of the Finest Health Food Restaurants in Taipei
Text: Eric Bratt
Photos: Maggie Song
There is no lack of restaurants in Taiwan’s capital, and even the most demanding gourmet will find a place to please his or her palate. If you are looking for healthful food prepared with organically grown produce, following is an introduction to three of the city’s finest health-food eateries.Nonzero
Marble floors, beautiful wooden tables, and a warm “Good afternoon” greeted me as I entered Nonzero, a sleek restaurant absent of loud sound or kitsch of any sort. Providing the customer with a variety of dishes and a carefully thought out wine list, Nonzero strives to maintain a balance between promoting healthful eating and creating delicious flavors. It doesn’t disappoint.
Looking up from my table, I looked over Nonzero’s décor with pleasure, especially its marble floors. Noticing my interest, a server informed me that the majority of Nonzero’s interior decorations are comprised of discarded and salvaged materials. The beautiful floors, for instance, are used pieces of flawed marble salvaged from a quarry.
Impressed by this resourcefulness, I sat down with owner Tan Yee Ming, who I found was the embodiment of the restaurant’s congenial attitude. She emphasized how Nonzero seeks to provide a comfortable, relaxing environment that allows friends from near and far to enjoy a delectable meal that makes them feel right at home. Explaining that the restaurant’s clientele seeks both health and happiness, Ms Tan said that Nonzero does all it can to support Taiwanese farmers who utilize sustainable methods to produce the wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and seasonings that the restaurant uses.
I began my dinner with Nonzero’s organic salad (NT$350). The arugula, spinach, and mushrooms were delicious, and covered with slices of Italian Grana Podano cheese, hazelnut, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar that I chose myself. For my main dish I ordered the excellent masala veggie stew, which was served with rice and quinoa (NT$350). The chef has expertly modified the recipe of a meat-based dish to ensure that the proper flavors come through, despite the absence of lamb or beef. Although I was tempted to have a glass of red wine, I opted instead for a freshly squeezed juice blend. I left the restaurant very satisfied, eagerly anticipating a return to what, in my experience, is one of Taipei’s best, and coziest, dining establishments.
Nonzero is an ideal place to enjoy a meal or a glass of wine with friends, and provides a convivial atmosphere that will make you feel comfortable. Best experienced during the hours after work, it provides a dignified sanctuary and delectable fare amidst the hustle and bustle of Taipei.
Take the MRT to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station and walk south on Fuxing S. Road for about 400 meters before turning left onto Lane 221 of Fuxing S. Road. Walk straight ahead on Lane 221 for about 150 meters.
With three locations in Taipei, Sonnentor (German for “sun gate”) operates cozy, quaint cafés that offer freshly baked breads, creative dishes made with organically grown fruits and vegetables, and locally produced meats. On this occasion I visited the Tianmu branch, located right around the corner from Tianmu Square, and enjoyed a sumptuous brunch.
A well-lit interior greeted me as I walked through the door, which has a depiction of a large sun on it. I examined the eco-friendly foods, wines, and cooking utensils along the walls, and then took a long look at the assortment of mouthwatering breads set out on a table in the middle of the restaurant. There was also a “Top 10” list of best-selling products hanging on one wall, which has both traditional Western and Taiwanese selections.
Impressed by the wide variety on offer, I sat down to order. A quick glance at the menu and a conversation with my waiter made clear that Sonnentor is very serious about organic foods, and is committed to sourcing its organic ingredients exclusively from Taiwan. Its fruits and vegetables are grown on the Tenha Organic Farm in Tainan. Its meats are from a select group of island organic farms, and its seafood supplier also meets stringent organic standards. So, if you are keen on supporting the organic movement while you eat, Sonnentor is a well-chosen place to visit.
Sonnentor’s head baker, Fan Jia-hao, bursts with creativity, coming up with all kinds of creative, distinct, and colorful breads. I tasted slices of Matcha Red Bean Bread, Sesame French Bread, Bamboo Carbon Bread, and Pineapple and Carrot Bread. Unusual names aside, each was expertly prepared, had excellent texture, and went down nicely when lightly covered with a dabble of Sonnentor’s dragon-fruit jam. My brunch also consisted of fresh yoghurt, crisp french fries, a fruit and vegetable salad, and freshly brewed fruit tea. The various brunch selections cost approximately NT$350 and are very filling. And be sure to buy some bread for later in the day!
Take the MRT Tamsui Line to Shipai Station. From there, take bus 224, 601, or Red 19 to Tianmu Square. After alighting, cross the street, walk 50 meters up Alley 18 of Tianyu Street; Sonnentor is on the right.
Classy, elegant, chic … these were the words that passed through my mind as I walked through the door at The Villa Herbs. Housed in two sizeable reoriented residences on a quiet street in central Taipei, the restaurant offers excellent food, a comfortable atmosphere, and an impressive drink list. Furthermore, the unfailingly polite and prompt service will make your dining experience all the more pleasant.
The distinctive interior design gave me the impression that I was getting ready to dine in the former mansion of a French colonial official in Southeast Asia. Members of the staff soon informed me that the owner carefully selected and imported all of the furniture from Thailand. The restaurant’s dignified and elegant atmosphere has proved successful, and attracts a posh group of Taiwanese men and women in their mid-20s, eager to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The restaurant offers many seasonal dishes, the majority of which are prepared Italian style. Popular dishes include a multitude of creative risottos, fresh pastas, kebabs, omelets, and a number of vegetarian options. Meals start at NT$250, with a delectable brunch offered for NT$320. Brunch includes fruit juice, a choice of omelet, coffee or herbal tea, and a seasonal fruit bowl. In addition, The Villa Herbs offers a number of coffees, teas, desserts, wines, beers, and exquisite cocktails, all of which can be enjoyed in the restaurant or in the pleasant lounge area in the adjacent building.
On this evening my goal was to try some of the restaurant’s healthful cuisine. Upon the recommendation of the staff, I opted for a mixed mushroom omelet of egg whites topped with parsley. Complementing my omelet was a glass of freshly squeezed pineapple, apple, and pomelo juice, a warm potato and flour biscuit, and a garden salad. The presentation was aesthetically pleasing, and the food’s quality and variety exceeded my expectations. For those with a sweet tooth, I also highly recommend the sublime, rich, yet not overly sweet tiramisu. And for those wondering, yes, The Villa Herbs does grow its own herbs – in a garden in front of the restaurant and on one of the restaurant’s roofs.
Take the MRT to Liuzhangli Station, walk north on Leli Road for 400 meters, turn right onto Lane 1, then walk 150 meters; the restaurant is on the right.
English and Chinese
|Tan Yee Ming||陳郁敏|
|Tenha Organic Farm||巨農有機農場|
Add: 5, Alley 4, Lane 27, Sec. 4, Ren’ai Rd., Taipei City (台北市仁愛路四段27巷4弄5號)
Tel: (02) 2772-1630
Add: (Tianmu Branch) 6, Alley 18, Lane 38, Tianyu St., Taipei City (台北市天玉街38巷18弄6號)
Tel: (02) 2874-0208
The Villa Herbs
Add:30/32, Lane 11, Leli Rd., Taipei City (台北市樂利路11巷30,32號)