In my years of existence on this planet, I’ve had quite my fill of eating at All-You-Can-Eat (AYCE) restaurants, and then, I learned to appreciate more quality for less quantity. Although that’s not to say all AYCE serve mediocre food, some places manage to offer both, the quality and quantity, you just need to shell out the bills for it.
From what I’ve come across in Kaohsiung, AYCE barbecues, hot-pot or at high-end hotels range from 500NT to 900NT. Based on that, can you guess then how much an organic vegetarian AYCE would cost?
Yasaimura 野菜村 is not a typical restaurant, it’s first and foremost an organic store. Having swang by most of the major organic food store chains in Taiwan, I’ve grown to prefer Yasaimura for its wider choice of fresh vegetables (mostly leafy greens), eggs and the reason that seals the deal, a fairly priced AYCE that’ll set you off only 170NT. How close or far was your guesstimate? 😉
Yasaimura operates four stores in Kaohsiung, all offer an AYCE, some of the locations have a separate dining area from the store, while at some others, you are eating alongside baskets of onions and fridges full of vegetables which makes for a funky dining atmosphere, although not as eccentric as the (now defunct) small stationary store doubling as a small eatery I once ate at. Just imagine, eating your lunch sitting at one of those low tables and kids’ like chairs, and then see someone dash in, helmet still on, stretching her arm over your head to get a ream of paper. Weird, yet perfectly normal in Taiwan. I digress!
At 170NT, service is minimal, you pay, you sit wherever you want, you grab your plate and utensils and help yourself. No one will come to pick up dirty plates, so people mostly use the same plate, and then clear off their own tables once done. I’ve only eaten at the store on Fuhsing street so my ensuing comments reflect my experience there, although I imagine the service and quality to be similar at the other stores.
Usually, I’ll start off at the salad bar where big bowls of seasonal raw or pickled vegetables are kept fresh on a bed of ice cubes, I’ll pop a few buns in the small oven, hoping I didn’t pick one stuffed with red or mung beans in it, and pick them up once the bell rings. Then, I’ll move on to the hot section where chafing dishes are lined up with different steamed or stir-fried food. They always make sure to have a noodle dish, and sometimes will get fancy with some sort of cheese pasta casserole which always has me going back for seconds, if not thirds.
Mini mantou breads are kept warm in the bamboo baskets, two kinds of soups are provided for, as well as (usually) multi-grain rice, and sides like radish cake, vegetable pancake, etc. Moving on to dessert, there are two choices of fruits in a corner of the salad bar, some warm organic soy bean milk which can be seasoned with some grains or black sesame powder. On lucky days, or shall I say, when the cook is inspired, she’ll make some muffins or put together some yogurt and fruit jam, or simply keep it traditional with some jelly grass.
For regulars, they also sell booklets of coupons (except at the Fucheng store), 1530NT for 10 meals, which makes it a good deal, especially considering the price of the AYCE will rise to 190NT starting September. The dining vouchers can only be used on weekdays.
Surprisingly, they allow reservations, which from chatting with a staff member, is highly recommended on week-ends and holidays, and especially during Chinese New Year when the whole week is booked solid! If the place is too crowded, fear not of leaving hungry, they also have take-out bento boxes for 75NT or noodles in soup for 80NT.
I’ll admit that my pictures and prose don’t make justice to what Yasaimura offers. I think that it may be one of the best bang for your buck in town as far as vegetarian and organic dining goes. So-called organic food are never entirely 100% organic, and the AYCE at Yasaimura is no exception, some items, like humm the thousand island sauce is I am pretty sure not organic XD, and so is the cheese, I suspect, but hey, I won’t complain. All in all, I’m glad to have Yasaimura for when I want to go meat-free and am too lazy to cook at home.
Additional Reviews+Photos: pixnet/dubbica
Business hours: 11H30-14H10 and 17H00-19H40
Price: 170NT (190NT starting September 2014)
Store locations: GMaps below and check details on their website