Kaohsiung is the trading center of Taiwan, but there’s more to this affluent city than shipping. Over the last few decades, Kaohsiung has transformed from industrial backwater to thriving metropolis. Meanwhile, in Kaohsiung’s restaurants Korean, Japanese, and Chinese tastes mingle with European and American styles. It’s easy for tourists to remain conservative, and many restaurants serve a top notch burger, but adventurousness pays off at these ten restaurants.
A fantastic place to start for anyone looking for Taiwanese seafood. Located on Cijin Island, the historic center of the shipping industry, Ya Jiao was once a local haunt, but the quality of its fresh sashimi has turned the restaurant into a favorite among tourists. The venue retains its Taiwanese feel, but the staff are friendly and English-speaking. Try the prawns, brought daily by the fishing boats moored outside the cafe.
Escape 41 is a commute from the city center of Kaohsiung, but worth the trek for anybody seeking to escape the urban bustle. Located on the slopes of Shoushan, better known as ‘Monkey Mountain’ in English, the charming venue looks across the strait towards China. For the best experience, request a table on the seaside wooden veranda. The selection of European foods is simple but high quality, including a rare opportunity to eat good vegetarian cuisine.
Din Tai Fung boasts hundreds of restaurants across Taiwan, China, Malaysia, and Europe. But this is no regular fast food chain, its Chinese cooking has won the franchise several Michelin stars, most recently in its branch in Taipei. Founded in the late 1950s by Yang Bingyi, who emigrated to Taiwan in the midst of the Chinese Civil War, the name derives from the premises he moved into over in 1948. Specializing in xiaolongbai (soup dumplings), a Shanghai specialty, guests often note the freshness of the food and friendliness of the service. While this is far from a uniquely Kaohsiungian experience, the opportunity to eat at Din Tai Fung anywhere in the world should be seized.
This stylish bar’s cuisine incorporates elements of Chinese, American, Italian and English cooking. The eclectic mix of styles is reflected in the similarly wide range of cocktails. Formerly based in cruise ships, the restaurant has remained committed to fresh seafood since coming ashore. The homemade sausage, which comes in German, Italian and Taiwanese versions, is an essential experience. The focus of the evening, though, is on the drinks, the selection rivals any western bar, ranging from bloody marys to martinis.
Good French food is hard to come by in Taiwan, so J’adore is a treat for foodies. With a sprawling 660 square meters of service space, customers are provided with food, wine and jazz. The combination has made J’adore a go-to haunt for fashionable young professionals in Kaohsiung, and given the restaurant a growing reputation among tourists. Placed directly opposite the harbor, J’adore is also conveniently placed for an after-dinner stroll along the seafront.
While the skyscrapers of Kaohsiung can’t compete in scale with Taipei’s, they remain the best way to view the city’s skyline. On the 39th floor of the iconic Sky Tower Hotel, Teppanyaki doesn’t disappoint. No other restaurant competes with the view from this restaurant, looking over a leafy park to the ships in Kaohsiung Harbor. The restaurant provides Japanese hibachi, a traditional charcoal-fuelled heating device, which can be used as a form of portable barbecue. Elegantly served and with wide-ranging menu options, few nearby restaurants channel Taiwan’s historic links with Japan so well.
The Bayou feels like a classic American diner. Run by an expat Texan, the restaurant has a devoted following among European and US residents, and is renowned for its extensive range of Louisianan dishes. The style is traditionally stateside, with burgers and pizzas featuring prominently. The main room is atmospheric, with red walls and dim lighting. Nevertheless, located just opposite a small park in the city center, The Bayou remains a distinctly Taiwanese-American experience.
Taiwan has maintained strong cultural and political ties to Korea, and Harmony’s food is a testament to this tradition. The restaurant’s cuisine is creative but focuses on classic Korean dishes, especially the excellent banchan, or side dishes. The location on a busy commercial road near the harbor gives a frenetic feel to this busy restaurant.
The main influence of Taiwanese culture on mainland China in the last 50 years has been the creation of a continental market for baking. Kaohsiung doesn’t let down the tradition, and Wu Pao Chun Restaurant serves award winning breads and treats. Although queues are common, it’s a testament to the marvellous food provided. Located a short walk from the seafront, Wu Pao Chun is away from the tourist center, a sure-fire way to find quality local cuisine across the city.
Liuhe Night Market might be the best known venue in Taiwan, and its reputation for unique food has spread across East Asia. Once you hit the market’s wide street in Xinxing District, wander along the stalls and sample the varied flavors of the city, ranging from sushi to bakery to sandwiches. Embrace the noisy atmosphere and be prepared to haggle. In Liuhe, Kaohsiung’s famously low living costs are particularly felt, and the affordability of many dishes means the market is a fantastic place to indulge one’s interest in Taiwanese cuisine.