For those looking to explore tasty Taiwanese culture, the quintessential food philosophy behind the local cuisine is Asian fusion, as the culinary culture takes recipes and cooking styles from nearby Asian cultures, mainly China. If you’re in Taipei, one top restaurant to experience some of the best Asian fusion dishes in the country is the Five Dime Driftwood Restaurant (No. 8, Lane 32, Neihu Road Section 1). The features offerings like jumbo fried shrimp drench in thick pineapple sauce, loofah soup served in its own broth with shredded crab meat, and spicy kung pao chicken served with dried hot peppers and Chinese greens.
Along with delicious food and Taiwanese culture, the restaurant immerses you in one woman’s fantasies come to life. Five Dime Driftwood was born out of one woman’s heartache. After getting divorced, Hsieh Li-shiang found herself broke and alone. Because she had little money, she would often search the beach for different objects to decorate her home with. One day upon finding a piece of driftwood next to a beautiful sand dollar, she vowed that if she ever opened a restaurant she would name it the “Five Dime Driftwood.” And, that’s just what she did.
Hsieh was also a dreamer and the Five Dime Driftwood reflects this. Outside the restaurant the first thing you’ll notice is the two enormous female sculptures — standing taller than the building — frozen as they perform a welcoming dance for guests. Around the restaurant you’ll find the myriad found objects from Hsieh’s searches, as the space is transformed into an immersive art gallery. I don’t mean there are a few paintings on the walls. I mean from floor to ceiling you’ll be steeped in bold and unusual textures, patterns and curves. Everywhere you turn you’ll see tribal sculptures, fertility statues, oil paintings dedicated to the female form, walkways reminiscent of Antonio Gaudi’s fantastical Parc Guell and design elements that bring landscapes indoors, like enormous jungle trees and an indoor pond with a fishing boat and live fish. Furnishings are crafted from driftwood, fallen tree-trunks and oyster shells, housewares showcase handmade ceramics and chairs are crafted from rail ties.
Interestingly, Hsieh never had any formal architectural training. In fact, she never even went to university. All of her design ideas come from her heart and imagination.
One trip to the Five Dime Driftwood (it actually now has five locations), and you’ll understand why Hsieh Li-shiang is known as the Antonio Gaudi of Taiwan.
For a visual idea of the experience, check out some photos I took of the food and design at Five Dime Driftwood during my evening at the restaurant.