Lunch Between Swims,Dinner Afterwards
Kending's Restaurant and Bar Scene
Text / Steven Crook
Photos / Liao Jun-yan
One of the great things about traveling in Taiwan, visitors and residents agree, is the variety, low cost, and sheer convenience of quality food. Hot snacks and quick meals are available pretty much everywhere, at any time, day or night.
The Kending region is no exception. If it's a quick, inexpensive bowl of noodles or rice-based lunchbox that you want, you won't have to look far at all, especially in downtown Hengchun. Also, fast-food franchises can be found along the main roads.
If you're seeking European, Thai, or other exotic cuisines, your best bet are the built-up areas along Highway 26. As you might expect in a tourist resort where a lot of businesses survive on walk-in customers, many of the best-known establishments are on Kending town's busiest thoroughfare, Kending Road.
Given the fact that Kending is on a peninsula surrounded by warm ocean waters, it's no surprise that seafood appears on so many menus. The Hai Combined Styles Restaurant (111 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-2600) does both Taiwanese and Southeast Asian seafood dishes, including some that are spicy or curried. There are also simpler dishes like fresh seafood rice noodles and paella.
Other centrally located seafood restaurants include Jiajhen (203 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-1017), and Lyunan (193 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-1036).
Foreign visitors should not expect every Taiwanese-style restaurant to have an English menu or English-speaking staff - domestic tourists, of course, account for the vast bulk of clientele. However, with a little effort and good humor on both sides, the language barrier can be overcome.
"We don't just have French food; we serve a mix of European cuisines - Spanish, French, Italian," says the French founder of recently renovated Chez Papa (142 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-1197). This is a small, friendly place, and as the name indicates, the food is satisfying in a home-cooked way.
Amy's Cucina (131-1 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-1977) is another long-established favorite. Most of the food here is Italian. This place also does a good line in cocktails, and often has a DJ. Staying open until 1:30 a.m., it's a fine choice if you want to eat and then drink and dance without having to change venue.
Amy's Cucina is not linked in any way to Smokey Joe's Rib House (2 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-2631), which is owned and operated by the Amy's restaurant chain based in Kaohsiung. The Kending Smokey Joe's is very similar to the original Kaohsiung branch: Tex-Mex food, pitchers of draft beer, and lots of fun.
Smokey Joe's doesn't have a monopoly on Mexican food. There's also the Margarita Restaurant & Bar (19 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-1679), where most dishes are priced at around NT$200, and - as you might guess from the name - a broad selection of Mexican cocktails is available.
For Italian food, you can try the small Italian Pasta House (21-3 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-1679).
There are also Italian dishes to be had at one of the resort's biggest disco-pubs, Golden Beach (299 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-2666). This landmark establishment has capacity for more than 200 people, and on late Saturday night it really rocks.
Southeast Asian Cuisine
In the past five years there has been a surge in the popularity of Thai cuisine throughout Taiwan. Kending is no exception, the area's No. 1 Southeast Asian restaurant undoubtedly being Warung Didi.
Run by a Brunei-born lady of Chinese descent, this place serves Malay, Thai, and other dishes that vary in spiciness from the mild to the blazing. Because of an excellent reputation and continuing word-of-mouth recommendations, moving off the main thoroughfare to a more secluded spot closer to the shore (176 Dawan Road; tel: (08) 886-1835) hasn't hurt business at all. On weekends and holidays, call ahead to make a reservation.
Mambo Thai Restaurant (46 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-2878) has been going for quite a few years now, and there's a dance floor upstairs. Nong Hai (888-1 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-3898) bills itself as a "Thai Burmese" restaurant. The menu is very extensive, and the place stays open until midnight.
The restaurants in the major hotels are, of course, open to non-guests. In the Howard Beach Resort Kenting (2 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-2324), the first floor alone has three eateries.
The Champs Elysees serves dishes from several different national cuisines, including barbecued and grilled items. There's often live jazz to be enjoyed. The Formosa offers traditional Chinese food; seasonal specialties are a highlight. Operating for dinner only, the Howard Garden has barbecues, cold beers, and freshly-squeezed fruit juices.
On the Howard's second floor, there's Ocean View, which specializes in Italian dishes (including Italian ice cream), and also the Seven Scholars Lounge. The latter is a refined watering hole that also serves food until late. If you're in the mood for a drink, but the raucous beerhouses elsewhere in Kending don't appeal, this could well be the place for you.
The Yoho Landis Beach Club (27-8 Wanli Road; tel: (08) 886-9999) has two notable eating establishments. El Toro is a Western-style restaurant that also offers seafood cooked Hengchun-style. The Seaview Restaurant has - as the name would lead you to expect - good views of the ocean. Glass-walled, it gives you that dining-outdoors sensation without either the heat or any danger of getting sand blown into your food!
The restaurant inside the Caesar Park Hotel Kenting (6 Kending Road; tel: (08) 886-1888) serves Western food. Expect to pay NT$600 to NT$800 per person.
Nanwan's (South Bay) eating scene is not so developed as that on Kending Road, but one standout eatery is Bossa Nova (100 Nanwan Road; tel: (08) 889 7137), which serves up good Western standards such as sandwiches and curries. Portions are of a good size - large enough to not leave you hungry, but not so huge as to limit the range of dishes a couple or small group could enjoy.
Nearby, there's The Waves Kitchen (212 Nanwan Road; tel: (08) 888 3399), a cozy Italian restaurant.
The Kending area is not as well known for its duck meat as, say, Chiayi County, but if you've a hankering for this kind of food, try Ya Rou Cai (71-3 Hengnan Road; tel: (08) 889 8226). The food is best enjoyed if you come in a small group, rather than by yourself or with one other person. The restaurant is closed every Sunday. If you have trouble finding it, ask a local to point you in the direction of Hengnan Road or Hengchun Vocational High School.
For steaks, there's one possibility near Ya Rou Cai. Friends (29, Lane 64, Hengnan Road; tel: (08) 889-9816) also serves Malaysian curry and spaghetti.
A Last Bite
This article is, naturally, no more than a snapshot of Kending's eating and drinking scene. Although several of the places described have been in business for years and are still prospering, it's quite possible that one or two will have closed down by the time you get to the resort.
If the restaurant you've set your mind on turns out to be defunct (or closed for renovations), don't despair. There are plenty of alternatives not listed in this article, and new places are springing up all the time. Don't be shy about asking other guests in your hotel for recommendations, and remember that it's worth wandering off the main road and around the backstreets. One of the pleasures to be had when traveling is discovering a great little eatery not mentioned in any guidebook or travel magazine!