The Xinyi district, especially the area near the Taipei City Government, is fast becoming the commercial epicenter of Taipei. Unfortunately, this is not yet matched by reasonably priced venues for the power lunch (would be restaurateurs please take note). So given its convenient location in Xinyi’s A4 Mitsukoshi and set menus starting from $450 for three to four people or $1,200 for two, Niao Wo Wo Restaurant Café (Bird’s Nest, or 鳥窩窩私房菜), is an ideal venue for a working business lunch.
The first thing you notice on entering Niao Wo Wo is the opulent, almost-feminine interior. Best described as not-so-shabby chic meets Marie-Antoinette baroque, it features lace, padded booths, chandeliers, white screens, bird cages and a profusion of feathers. Even the waitstaff are dressed with feathers in their blue berets. Given the strong Francophile influences, you could be forgiven for expecting quiche and salad. But instead Niao Wo Wo dishes up Chinese ‘fusion style’ cuisine.
Despite the identity crisis, the food at Bird’s Nest is consistently good and there are some interesting and unique options. My favorite was their shaoxing buns, made with millet and filled with fried vegetables (紹興干菜窩窩頭, Shàoxīng gāncài wō wo tóu). Also surprisingly good was the thick sweet corn soup (宮廷一品皇罈子, gōngtíng yīpǐn huáng tánzi), textually like pumpkin soup but with the added bonus of mushrooms. Another specialty I tried was Bird’s Nests pork slices on the laundry rack (爽口薄片晾衣 — shuǎngkǒu bópiàn liàng yī) — 20cm ribbons of pork and cucumber draped over a wooden rack. While spectacular, I felt it was more style over substance. But I recommend other set-menu choices including stir-fried beef and eggplant with XO sauce, fried egg with caviar, and steamed tofu with prawns.
Opened in October last year, Bird’s Nest is the latest in a chain of 30 avian-themed restaurants established by owner Liu Hua throughout China and Taiwan. Bird’s Nest prides itself on quality ingredients such as certified spring-water raised seafood and free-range chickens from Taidong. There are also some segregated rooms offering round tables for a group. Service is a trifle tardy but generally helpful. Bird’s Nest also offers simple but elegant afternoon tea options. For reservations phone (02) 2729 0677.