By Rick Charette
Explorers of the Beitou hot-springs area have a number of upscale dining options, some in rustic Zen-style surroundings, others in chic new resorts.
Few expatriates based in north Taiwan who have an interest in modern Chinese history are not aware that the Shann Garden in Beitou was once the Taiwan home of the “Young Marshal,” Zhang Xue-liang, a Manchurian warlord best known for kidnapping Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in 1936. Zhang survived the incident, living under house arrest thereafter.
Shann Garden in Beitou was once the home of the “Young Marshal,” Zhang Xue-liang
Zhang lived for a time in what is today the Shann Garden (“Marshal Zen Garden”), a complex of Japanese-built wooden structures high on the Beitou slopes, fronted by a sprawling panorama. In the Japanese era it served as a hot-spring inn, officers’ club, and short-stay R&R retreat for kamikaze pilots. A Taiwan company, after undertaking a magnificent renovation, now runs it as a teahouse/restaurant complex.
The menu, turned over every two months, features the Young Marshal’s favorite delicacies. My favorites from among his (as of Sept. this year) are the fried shrimp cakes, which he ate frequently after being introduced by his chef in 1928 as part of his daily late-night health snack, the indigenous-style roast pork ribs, introduced to him by Taiwan natives when he lived in the Hsinchu County hills, and the delectable cherry tomato marinated in Taiwanese Shaoxing wine. Additional non-food treats are the outdoor foot-soak mineral pools, free for customers, and the cozy private hot-spring rooms, rented by the hour; both come with grand outlooks.
Other memorable dining experiences in this hot-spring area – the many local historical treasures draw me here about every six months – have come at the teahouse/restaurant inside the Taiwan Folk Arts Museum next door to the Shann Garden, which offers traditional Kaiseki set meals associated with the Japanese tea ceremony, and at Chikurintei and Elegant 18 restaurants just down the slope at the Spring City Resort. The former serves Japanese Kaiseki, the latter Western and Chinese, in modernistic settings complemented by antiques, high-end art, and big-window vistas.
ENGLISH & CHINESE
Shaoxing wine 紹興酒
Zhang Xue-liang 張學良
Shann Garden (少帥禪園)
Add: 34 Youya Rd., Beitou District, Taipei City (台北市北投區幽雅路34號)
Provided by Travel in Taiwan Bimonthly November/ December Issue, 2011