Alden Boon

Impeccable Meal and Service at Wu Lao Guo Elixir Health Pot, Taipei

12/06/2017

I could have dinner at Wu Lao Guo (無老鍋) every night,” said my sister, as if it were the best thing since sliced bread. Such proclamations, and the fact that it is always full house come meal times, inflated my expectations of the hotpot restaurant.

It was a cold Thursday afternoon when I first patronised Wu Lao Guo: The skies were overcast, roads wet, and globes of raindrops clung to windows. The clock read half past four, but already I was settling in for dinner — avoiding the peak hours is the only way to get a table without any reservations. The interior was almost pitch dark, the soft illumination emanating from the overhead lamps lent romance and enabled wayfinding.

One word that aptly encapsulates Wu Lao Guo: generous. Each hotpot was brimming with a medley of herbs and spices, leaving little room for the ingredients. The mark of a sublime hotpot experience lies in the soup bases — stating the obvious, yes, but it is a concept lost on many steamboat restaurants — and Wu Lao Guo’s renditions do not disappoint. A potpourri of star anise, bay leaves, licorice, cayenne pepper, white sesame, wolfberry and many more imbued the blend of Spicy Wu Lao Hotpot’s pork bone and chicken broth with a fiery and piquant note. The Layered Tofu soup was moreish and invigorating, thanks to a hodgepodge of fresh ginseng, nutmeg, jujube, burdock, pearl barley, oat, dangshen root, lotus seed, tsaoko, just to name a few. These nutritious ingredients are stewed for long hours, so that all the essence and goodness are extracted — hence the inspiration for the restaurant’s moniker. Also, the generosity did not end there. There was a free endless refill of congealed pig’s blood and fried tofu skin.

The menu offers a variety of hotpot mainstays, from thinly sliced sirloin steak to pork dumplings, Ibérico pork, Japanese seaperch, and vegetables including mushrooms, water bamboo and sweet potato. The ice cream tofu was sui generis. Ordered too much? You can even pack the soup base to go, and yes, even more congealed pig’s blood and fried tofu skin for future gratification.

Wulao Guo, Taipei
Wulao Guo, Taipei
Wulao Guo, Taipei
Wulao Guo, Taipei

If there was anything that eclipsed the food at Wu Lao Guo, it was the service. My waitress was obsequious, replenishing the soup base as well as explaining her steps and introducing the ingredients — though admittedly I was lost in her mumbo jumbo of eloquently-put and profound Chinese words beyond my lousy comprehension. Before leaving the table, she would perform a bow akin to the Japanese saikeirei. Such excellent service and consummate hotpot meal I had only experienced once, at Hai Di Lao Singapore.

And I guess my sister was right: I too could dine at Wu Lao Guo every day.

Wu Lao Guo Elixir Health Pot

No. 124, Section 1, Xinsheng S Road

Tel: +886 2 3322 5529

Daily: 11.30am – 1am

No. 143, Section 3, Civic Blvd

Tel: +886 2 2731 7928

Daily: 11.30am – 2am

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.

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