Wan Xian Lou: Eating for health and heart
By Vesper Stockwell
Translated by Naomi Lai
110-28, ZhongQing Rd
Hours: 11 am-2 pm,
Credit cards not accepted.
No service charge.
Since good food appeals to all, it's no wonder that the tasty vegetarian fare of Wan Xian Lou attracts vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. The ingredients, many commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, vary seasonally to ensure freshness and variety and include some vegetables from the owners' own garden. Dishes are prepared using very little oil without any additives or chemicals in an attempt to promote an all-natural, healthy lifestyle. Whether dining on your own or with a group, this place will satisfy your needs.
A devout Taoist, Mr. Wu, the husband and chef of this family-run business, honed his culinary skills at the Taoist Zi Xuan Dao Yuan temple. Vegetarian cooking allows him and his family to express compassion for animals with every meal. The restaurant's concept of health and longevity is also reflected in its name, literally meaning "House of 10,000 Immortals". While it may not grant immortality, a healthy diet can certainly improve the quality of this mortal life.
Unlike some vegetarian places, Wan Xian Lou does not aim to serve meat substitutes. You won't find tofu masquerading as beef here; mushrooms are mushrooms and bean curd is bean curd. In fact, they use handmade tofu for its more distinct bean-curd flavor. The "monkey head mushroom", with its chewy, fibrous texture, makes an excellent sponge to absorb the sizzling, sesame flavored broth (NT$300). Plain button mushrooms also take on a whole new flavor when cooked with ginger, chili and basil in a clay pot (NT$220).
There are plenty of greens on the menu, such as a salad of bracken ferns (NT$150/small order), or other creative veggie dishes like a plate of lightly-fried Chinese yams (also known as Japanese mountain yam or the 'longevity tuber') presented on a bed of alfalfa sprouts and layered with kelp, sweet sauce, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds (NT$200/small order). Perfect for one person, set meals (NT$150-220) include a main course accompanied by four small side dishes, soup, fruit and black or grass jelly tea.
Besides catering services, the restaurant and its large round tables also accommodate wedding banquets and tour groups. Since opening nearly eight years ago, Wan Xian Lou has gained a steady, loyal customer base. Restaurant owner and wife, Mrs. Hong (洪), says she is always touched when on especially busy nights her "old" customers tell her to go ahead and attend to "new" customers first. Wan Xian Lou's relaxed atmosphere and warm service naturally attract these friendly people. Perhaps Mrs. Hong summarizes it all best when she says, "We use ordinary ingredients to make extraordinary food."