There's something about being Chinese and loving steamboat. Just look at the plethora of steamboat restaurants in Singapore.
The Taiwanese are the same. There's a hot pot (that's what the Taiwanese call steamboat) restaurant along every street, and one that's open 24/7 in every district.
Elixir Healthpot is arguably the best steamboat joint in Taipei. Also known as Wu2 Lao3 Guo1, which direct translation is "never old pot", this chain restaurant aims to keep diners in the pink glow of youthfulness with their collagen rich broths and healthful stock bases.
Prices are on the premium end, but the soups are nuanced, free from artificial flavouring, and seasoned naturally with the multitude of herbs and spices simmered into them. Folks used to and/or preferring the fiery punchiness of Hai Di Lao's steamboat might find this a tad insipid, but I like my flavours light and delicate so this was right up my alley. Ingredients are sparkling fresh as well, and for that alone, I'd gladly pay up.
Service was faultless as well. Not with the type of frills Hai Di Lao offers, but the staff were attentive but not intrusive, and winsomely gracious.
Notwithstanding that there's about 5 branches of this insanely popular restaurant scattered all over Taipei, reservations are a must. We made a reservation for us both one day in advance, and only managed to wrangle a midnight seating.
We had the Twin Pot (NT$180) with the Ginseng-Infused Creamy Tofu Soup (NT$179) and Spicy Wulao Signature Flavour (NT$159). Both were rich in depth and flush with all the good wholesome stuff that nourishes. The tofu broth was milky with a blend of pork and chicken bones, and brewed with jujubes, shell longans, white sesame, angelica root, dangshen root, wolfberries and licorice. The spicy concoction was moderately so, despite the lashings of Sichuan peppercorns. Redolent with star anise, cloves, cayenne pepper and galangal, this was heady but nuanced.
The Seafood Choice (NT$279) was a mixed platter of tiger prawns and sliced fish, swimmingly fresh and fleshy.
We loved the Prime USDA Beef (NT$298), wonderfully marbled and sumptuously luscious.
The Assorted Meatball Platter (NT$248) with two each of the fishballs, beef balls, squid balls, and shrimp balls, all handmade, was a mixed bag. The fishballs and shrimp balls were excellent, but the beef balls were laced with coriander leaves, and the squid balls a smidge fishy.
The complimentary finisher of lime sorbet was excellent as a palate cleanser. So refreshing and tart.
The restaurant facade for reference. The Taiwanese don't seem to sleep; and they seem to be able to eat 24/7! How on earth do they stay so skinny?!?!?!?!!
Wulao Guo (Elixir Health Pot)
No. 143, Section 3, Civic Boulevard, Zhongshan District, Taipei
Tel: 02 2731 7928
Open daily from 11.30am to 2am