鈺善閣, Yu Shan Ge, Taipei 2010

yushangeYu Shan Ge is a 100% vegetarian restaurant that serves kaiseki ryori 会席料理–multi-course dinners– found in Japan. The menu consists of 7 prix-fixe menus, each increasing in price and number of plates. The most expensive set menu is over $100. My Auntie Xia was generous enough to treat us to one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in Taiwan. I’ve returned to this restaurant every year I’ve visited Taiwan since then.

Each meal starts with washing your hands in a bowl of rose petals, lime, and water. Then a shooter to cleanse your palate: usually a type of fruit vinegar or hot tea. The uniqueness of Yu Shan Ge is that its mission is for its patrons to leave knowing more about nutritious eating than they did walking in. All their ingredients are organic, local, and fresh. Before each dish is served, the servers are like the sommeliers of healthy dining: the nutritional benefits of each ingredient in the dish are explained, as well as the proper way to eat the dish.

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The first course was a giant plate of hors d’oeuvres: homemade silken tofu with some kumquat jam, konjac tuna sushi, pickled cucumber, black truffle mousse…the list goes on. While it sounds a bit random, it ended up being a pretty cohesive and tasteful walk-through of different textures and flavours.

We also had some 條 ‘fen tiao’, or vermicelli in a shiitake reduction topped off with some light gold flakes and cilantro.

 

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My set had similar foods, but I just wanted to share pictures of it because I wanted to show off the limelight (hehe). It’s a pretty adorable idea, cutting holes into the peel of a lime and putting a candle inside to create a disco ball effect.

 

 

 

yushange4A small 奶黄包 ‘nai huang bao’, or steamed custard bun came with one of the meal sets. A steamed custard bun is traditional dim sum: a soft, white bun with a creamy, sweet egg custard filling. Soooo delicious! The highlight of every meal at Yu Shan Ge, however, is the Lion’s Mane Mushroom Steak. Lion’s Mane Mushroom, (猴頭菇) or yamabushitake in Japanese, is an expensive of fungus highly coveted in Chinese cuisine and medicine. It’s very fibrous and delightfully chewy; you can’t really overcook it and it soaks up flavor pretty easily. The mushroom steak at Yu Shan Ge is unbelievable! And surprisingly, incredibly filling. It’s grilled and marinated in a black pepper gravy that’s absolutely heavenly. MMMMM.

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Each meal set is finished off with some dessert and fruit. For some of us, it was green tea jelly wrapped in a banana leaf. Others had homemade mochi with mung bean filling. More interesting was the sweet and savory 菊 ‘hong ju’ onigiri, or rice ball, with black sesame seeds. 菊 is more commonly known as red chrysanthemum and is a popular “healthy” food in Chinese/Taiwanese culture. 

If any of you seek to experience some Taiwanese vegetarian haute cuisine, I think this is the place to do it. For the quality of service, ambience, and food, paying $30 per person is definitely doable. They have three branches: Taipei, Taichung, and Kaoshiung. I’ve only been to the Taipei one, so I can’t attest to the quality of the others.

Details for the restaurant are here:
Yu Shan Ge website
Address: 台北市北平東路14號1樓 OR 14 East Beiping Road, 1st Floor, Taipei City
TEL:02-2394-5155
FAX:02-2394-5022
On the website, there are also directions on how to get there by transporation if you don’t have access to a car and don’t want to take a taxi. 🙂

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