Japanese Restaurants in Taipei: 5 of the Best Izakayas You Should Know

Words by Marcus Aurelius Maurice

From 1895 to 1945, Japan ruled Taiwan and wanted it to be a model overseas colony. Japan introduced many things to Taiwan including infrastructure systems and agriculture. During this time, many Taiwanese people were forced to learn the Japanese language and Japanese cooking. A few of the modern Taiwan cuisines are from Japan including bento boxes, rice balls, sashimi, and miso soup. Another Japanese idea that washed onto Taiwan’s shores was izakayas.  (Read also: Eight Great Taipei Hole-in-the-wall eateries)

Izakayas are informal Japanese pubs. At first, they were just people standing around drinking sake. Soon, barrels were added as stools for people’s comfort, and then quickly-made snacks were introduced. Nowadays, there are izakays down nearly every street and lane in big cities in Japan. 

In Taipei, there is an abundance of izakayas all over the city. These places fill up in the early evenings when co-workers go for dinner after finishing their jobs. Some are very Japanese, with prints of The Great Wave off Kanagawa on the walls. While others are a bit more formal with tastefully decorated interiors. All of them, though, have delicious snacks that are made and served rapidly for their customers.

Here are five of the best izakayas you should know:  


Set on the crowded strip of restaurants on Civic Boulevard, Diakoku is a quaint place with a lot of personality, and an enthusiastic staff that is very helpful with suggesting dishes to order. The raw octopus with wasabi was a strong and flavorful appetizer that tasted delicious next to the zesty kimchi and spicy edamame. When the skewers came from the grill, there was magic in the air. The pork rib was salted to perfection and the king mushroom with truffle was pleasant.

The star of the show, however, was the heavenly bacon-wrapped scallop skewer that was seared to perfection. It was so luscious that a reorder had to happen. The second round tasted tremendous with grilled shrimp. Finally, the clam soup was a good way to wash the food down. Diakoku is a terrific place to take a group of friends and order one of everything on the menu just to try it all. Just make sure and get a few skewers of the bacon-wrapped scallops, because everyone will want more. (Read more: 7 Taipei Eateries Beloved by Homesick Western Expats)

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When handed a plate of chicken sashimi by the friendly owner of YakitoriGan, many thoughts go through one’s head. Is this safe to eat? Will I get salmonella from eating raw chicken? The owner explains that the chicken sashimi is the procured from France, cooked for a few seconds, and then served with wasabi and soy sauce. After the first bite, the fears are gone and this new dish is a favorite. The sashimi wasn’t the only delectable delight, though. The chicken meatball skewers with a dipping sauce of an egg yolk was very gratifying. The grilled baby corns were cooked perfectly, while scallops wrapped in meat and the crucian carp tasted exceptional. If you like modern industrial design with a touch of jazz, then YakitoriGan is the perfect place to check out the grilling of the food or grab a seat in a secluded corner.

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3.一生懸命 Izakaya

While getting to Shilin is a bit of a hike for this izakaya, it’s worth the trip as soon as the skewer set for two has been ordered. You know the meal is going to be good when the first dish to arrive was the bacon skewers dripping with cheese. Soon after, the mutton skewers, chicken hearts, and chicken arrones came. All of these were delectable and eaten within seconds of landing on the table. The next dish was the green beans with sesame seeds, and it was a nice break from the meat. The main course was the salmon rice balls that were extremely flavorful and filling. Finally, the desert came, which was a steamed roll with condensed milk, and 一生懸命 Izakaya left us with a sweet taste in our mouths. 

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In Taipei’s world of izakayas, it’s hard to stand out. For Chikupa, the food, music, service, and decoration make its head and shoulders above the others. Even though there was a Chuckie doll with a knife keeping away all world-be robbers, Chikupa didn’t rely on gimmicks and had it’s own identity. The first thing delivered was kung fu fried chicken skin, and it was perfectly named because every bite had a kick. The pork belly skewers with chopped green onions were a nice twist on a classic dish. The chicken shoulder steak on skewers were crispy on the outside and perfectly juicy on the inside. The steamed baby corn was stacked like a pyramid and had a dipping sauce poured over top that gave them a sublime taste. The baked potato slices with mentaiko were savory and the dried mackerel was juicy in all the right ways. The set meal at Chikupa was impressive, filling, and most of all, a little different than every other place. (Read more: Finding Local Flavor at Taipei’s Beer Cafes)

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5.Okaeri No.2

The first thing that is noticeable at Okaeri No 2 is that this is not an ordinary izakaya. There are swings on the porch for Instagramming, the front door is shaped like a Game Boy, and to get into the bathroom, it feels like you will go into the freezer first. The fun, playful, and friendly attitude of Okaeri No 2 extends to the servers, too, as they are dressed up like J-pop boy bands. The menu doesn’t have English, but it’s drawn like anime, so figuring out what to order is fairly easy. The salads, both shrimp and salmon, were robust and distinctive. The potato and cheese with mentaiko dish was piping hot and got eaten in minutes. The pan of pizza didn’t have any bread, which was odd, but it did have meat, cheese, egg yolk and even some corn baked together for an uncommon twist. As a dessert, the servers brought some baked mochi covered in peanut powder. It melted in the mouth and finished the meal off delightfully. With it’s thumping music and entertaining staff, Okaeri No 2 is a perfect date for high school students and definitely kitschy in an extremely cute way. (Read more: A Tale of Cocktails: Five of Taipei’s Freshest Bars)

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