Mandarin Oriental Taipei
Ya Ge is the elegant fine dining Cantonese restaurant located at the prestigious Mandarin Oriental Taipei, they offer a vegan set menu and also have various vegan options on the a la carte menu; those of us who want to experience this exquisite cuisine, but want to do so in a way that doesn’t include animal products and doesn’t damage our health, can do so with ease at Ya Ge.
Like the rest of the hotel, the decor is classical but with modern touches; it’s elegant with plush carpets, crisp white table cloths and perfectly manicured traditional bonsai trees, yet it feels fresh and new at the same time.
Music that has been written specially for Ya Ge by award winning composer Simon Chung, plays softly in the background, staff dressed in crisp, classical black and white uniforms gracefully serve food in the restaurant and the private dining rooms; it’s busy but there is still an atmosphere of calmness and tranquility.
The Vegan Food
Our meal begins with Oriental Beauty, a tea that is only produced in Taiwan and is poured into dainty cups on our table after brewing. It is reddish orange in colour and is smooth and lightly aromatic; we sip it slowly before our first course arrives, watching a restaurant full of people enjoying the surroundings and the food.
Our menu reflects the style of the cuisine at Ya Ge with the focus being on the ingredients; clean, uncomplicated descriptions of combinations and cooking methods. The English language doesn’t have words to describe all the different varieties of fungi that are used throughout the menu; they are numerous, each with a unique flavour and texture, some of which we’ve never experienced before.
It’s not long before our first course arrives, ‘Bamboo Pith, Asparagus, Golden Braised’; the asparagus is fresh and cooked al dente, surrounded by delicate bamboo pith which is saturated with a clean tasting broth. There is a mushroom with a smooth, soft texture and subtle taste, it’s is easily divided into tender pieces with our chopsticks and it’s nothing but pleasurable to eat.
The next dish is roughly translated from Mandarin as ‘rainbow fairytale’ or ‘rainbow angel’; it partly describes the vibrant hues of the yellow-orange pumpkin broth and the bright red sphere of tomato which is the centrepiece of the dish. ‘Tomato, Mountain Yam, Pumpkin Broth, Steamed’ turns out to be a juicy sweet, scooped out tomato sphere stuffed with chopped mushrooms and soft mountain yam with a light, velvetty pumpkin broth.
‘Mushroom, Vegetable, Braised’ offers yet another different mushroom that is slightly more meaty and accompanied with tender baby cabbage that melts on your tongue it’s so soft. The broth is mild, light and warm.
‘Matsutake, Bamboo Pith, Broth’ is served in a tea pot and a light but tasty broth full of subtle mushroom flavours. It’s lightly earthy and stays piping hot in the glass tea pot, it’s soothing and cleansing to drink from the chic double walled glasses it’s poured into.
Our next course is made from a rectangle of of layered tofu which has been braised in stock giving the outer layers a darker appearance. Peel off tender layers to reveal a lighter colour on the inside or eat several layers together to experience how this firm yet delicate variety of tofu works as a sponge to soak up the delicious liquor it’s served in. ‘Mushrooms, Tofu, Braised’ also comes with a mixture of mushrooms layered over the top.
‘Garden Green, Chrysanthemum’ is full is tender green spinach, suspended in a clear soup. The leaves are iron rich with a little bitterness and every mouthful feels like an improvement to health.
As is traditional with Cantonese fine dining, rice or noodles are served towards the end of the meal and there was no exception at Ya Ge. The ‘Black Truffle, Rice, Fried’ has beautiful mild truffle flavours running throughout the rice with tiny diced vegetables adding texture and further taste.
Dessert arrives next and ‘Mango, Pomelo, Coconut, Sago Cream’ is a perfect balance of flavours; a sweet soup full of intense mango favours, balanced with coconut and pomelo which offers a perfumed, sour layer of taste. It’s indulgent yet light, tastes naturally sweet from the Taiwanese mangoes and has tiny sago pearls offering little bubbles of texture in between the pomelo strands. There is something dignified about this dessert which is as clean tasting and enlivening as the dining experience it completes.
The Vegan Food Quest Verdict
Make a reservation at Ya Ge for a fine dining vegan Cantonese meal that exudes class and health. Expect clean tasting, light and healthy food that is soothing to eat and full of quality produce that is prepared with a light touch and a skilled confidence.
You can read here for more details of our stay at Mandarin Oriental Taipei.
We were guests of Ya Ge but please rest assured that their generosity in hosting us didn’t influence our views
Mandarin Oriental Taipei
158 Dunhua North Road
Telephone: +886 2 2715 6888
Opening Times: Lunch 12-3 Dinner 6-10