Restaurants I Don't Recommend

I try to keep my blogs positive, to celebrate the great vegan food, events and people in Taiwan and Japan. If I didn't think both were great countries (vegan-wise, and otherwise) I wouldn't live in them, or keep blogs about them.

Of course there are always restaurants that aren't so good (for vegans, or anyone) however for the most part I leave Happycow reviewers (including myself) to get the warnings out. As the Taipei "Ambassador" (volunteer contact person) I strongly encourage everyone to write reviews and add (or update) restaurants.

I have decided, however, to list places which I think visitors or new residents may be drawn to by Happycow ratings or other good reviews online, often not taking into account vegan options. Links go to my reviews on Happycow.

If you think I have unfairly listed a restaurant, or if their menu changes and becomes more vegan-friendly, please let me know.


Jen Dow Vegetarian

This restaurant is very vegan-unfriendly, and from my experiences staff are not honest about what is and what isn't vegan. Evergreen is a little better at labelling its food, but its labelling and vegan options have deteriorated in the last few years. The only large, all-you-can-eat buffet I recommend now is Fruitful Food. At other large buffets (including Evergreen and Jen Dow) you'll need to avoid all fake meats and milky-looking dressings, regardless of the well-meaning staff tell you. 



So Free Pizza

If having a vegetarian pizza chain seems too good to be true (even for Taiwan), then perhaps it is, at least for vegans, as cheese seems to be their dominant ingredient. Note that this is a review for the Tai Da branch (close to Gong Guan) but they are a chain. As a 2015 there are now a few good options for pizza in Taipei, with my favourite being Bio Peace Cafe. Mianto (Happycow) and Fresh Bakery also do good vegan pizzas.


Better pizza than this can be found in Taipei!


Lavender Garden


This restaurant is located in a beautiful garden at the base of Yangmingshan, at the beginning of the historic Tianmu Trail, so could be a perfect meal + hike opportunity. Unfortunately, however, virtually all items on the menu contain dairy products, and there's no way to know what's vegan, even if you can read and speak Chinese, and have a helpful translator there as I did. I ended up managing to order a "Thai" curry without the prawns (unlikely to be vegan), but then still had to pick out tiny pieces of soy ham (almost certainly not vegan).

Food is also very bland and it's grossly overpriced for what it is. An unsatisfying meal (for one) cost me 560NT. It was no surprise that the restaurant was virtually empty on a Friday evening.

If you're going to walk the Tianmu Trail, which I highly recommend (keep an eye out for monkeys, and don't carry food with you) then the best option would be to eat at Yummy Vegan House, two stops north at Qiyan Station, where you'll get a much better meal for a quarter of the price. Closer by is an Easyhouse Vegetarian Restaurant at the Tianmu roundabout, ironically above McDonalds. I think they're still overpriced, but at least you'll be guaranteed a decent meal, and vegan items are clearly labelled on their menu. Alternatively there's a so-so buffet (part of the Quan Kuo chain, 全國食養健康素食) at 32 Tianmu Road (士林區天母西路32號).


Jing Ping (Thai Cuisine) Vegetarian Restaurant


It's unlikely that this fake meat is vegan (it may contain dairy, battery hen eggs or real meat).
This place has long insisted that it's menu is completely vegan, but I am now unable to have any confidence that their fake meat is vegan (or even vegetarian), and other menu items may not be either. Please see my (updated) post here or my Happycow review here.

NakedFood

Nakedfood was Taiwan's first dedicated raw-food restaurant. Non-vegetarians will probably enjoy the dining experience, and I wish the restaurant well in promoting healthy meals to its mostly non-vegetarian clientèle.

The vegan community, however, has mostly stopped dining there after its (non-vegetarian) owners were found to be passing off their non-vegan wine and beer as vegan, pleading ignorance each time a new vegan enquired about it and then continuing to serve it. Instead of listening to their (then very loyal) vegan supporters, to solve the problem they "re-defined" veganism to include their non-vegan drinks, and attempted rather unsuccessfully to persuade the vegan community to "accept their definition, as they accept ours".

Fortunately Plants, a new, truly-vegan restaurant has opened, which serves better food in a similar atmosphere, and its vegan owner is careful to ensure that food is all vegan.

As of July 2016, Nakedfood have stopped claiming that their wine is vegan, but are still intentionally misleading the vegan community (hence the need for this warning). For example, in a promotional piece for a Tapas and Wine event (July 27, 2016) they say:

"Indulge in some of Nakedfood's delectable raw, vegan tapas and a glass or two of perfectly-chilled South African, Hungarian or Portuguese Wine."

A reasonable person would assume that the wine was also vegan, but in fact the wine is "perfectly-chilled" while the tapas are (apparently) vegan. With this level of dishonesty it's hard to take their claims about their food being all vegan seriously.


5 comments:

  1. It seems that your issues with those restaurants are more cultural than dietary. Actually the reviews on happycow come off really entitled to a vegan who has decent ability of Chinese. Next are you going to complain that in McDonald's the cashier doesn't have time to explain to you that nothing there is vegan?

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    1. Sorry. To be a bit nicer about it and expand on this issue while trying not to offend you, it seems like the problem isn't that these places aren't vegan friendly. The problem is that you can't communicate effectively (at least in Chinese), and so your questions are ignored or brushed-off because it's much easier and efficient for those who you are asking to keep doing what they are doing and not take time to start a broken chinese-english conversation about a complex topic like food ingredients and processing while they are making food and serving other customers who are less discerning.

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    2. Thanks for your comment (and explanation) but I'm sorry I don't really understand what you mean. I speak enough Chinese to communicate quite easily that I'm vegan, and I don't think a fluent Chinese speaker would have much more success at either of those restaurants. It really wasn't about language.

      As I said in my review Jen Dow don't appear to label all their dishes, leading to confusion (and possibly worse) about what's vegan and what isn't (what's the point in labelling just some?) and in the case of the mayonnaise I was just asking them to check 'nai su' (lacto-veg) or 'quan su' (vegan) and they just couldn't be bothered, so opted for the easier option of telling me what they thought I wanted to hear. I don't expect a lot, but I think a simple request like that is perfectly reasonable for one of Taiwan's most expensive vegetarian restaurants. I don't think it's about language, but about willingness to support vegans, and that's what this post is about.

      And So Free Pizza simply don't do a good vegan pizza (or didn't at that time). And since this blog is intended for vegans it seems good to warn my readers that there's little there worth bothering with, regardless of whether or not the staff can/should/will explain that to a discerning vegan.

      Finally, please remember that the purpose of this blog is to support English-speaking vegans, many of whom will speak little Chinese. So while it wasn't the case in either of these two restaurants, if a restaurant did serve good vegan food but it was difficult for non-Chinese speakers to find it then I'd want to warn them about it. But so far that hasn't happened, and I find most Taiwanese restaurant staff (at all levels from simple food stalls to elaborate restaurants) very willing to help, in Chinese and very often in English as well.

      I won't be complaining that McDs staff don't have time to explain there's nothing vegan because I don't expect my readers to be going there to ask for it!

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  2. Have to agree with you completely on Jen Dao, Lavender Garden, and Jing Ping. Never ate at the pizza place. I suspect a lot of the fake meat at Jen Dao is stuff processed in China. I have eaten there twice in the last three years (invited by someone) and felt ill afterwards both times. Lavender Garden is mediocre at best, and overpriced. And as to Jing Ping, even if the stuff is vegan, it is so oily, salty, and over-seasoned that you don't even want to finish what you've ordered.

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  3. Thanks for the comment Jay. It sounds like we agree on what we don't like! I hadn't thought of that with the fake meat at Jen Dow, but it wouldn't surprise me. I also felt unwell after my couple of visits (also invited), and put it down to eating too much, but I didn't experience that after my favourite Fruitful food or even Evergreen.

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