The Search for Taipei’s Best Affordable Sushi and Sashimi

You Sushi’s nigiri set is a solid contender for Taipei’s most affordable high-quality sushi.

A quest for the perfect sashimi experience leads to the discovery of hidden gems in Taipei’s vibrant culinary landscape.

Less is more when it comes to sashimi.  

That’s according to Mayuko Perkins, a Japanese national who moved to Taipei in 2019. In Japan the fresh raw fish is finely sliced, allowing you to “enjoy the texture and flavor,” she says. Authentic sashimi should give you a melt-in-your-mouth sensation.  

“For some reason, in Taiwan, the fish is sliced really thick… like half an inch thick,” says Perkins, an elementary school teacher. “I don’t know why they do it. It’s just too much.”  

I’m surprised. I have always liked my sashimi in thick cuts the way any money-conscious Taiwanese appreciates a high “CP zhi (值),” or value for money. Now I know better. 

Despite the “Taiwanization” of her home country’s cuisine, Perkins still enjoys dining out for sushi in Taipei. Preferring the ease and proximity to her home in the Zhishan area of Shilin District, she sometimes gives in to the conveyor belt sushi at select chain restaurants. Back home, she says, these chains – the Japanese equivalent to McDonald’s – are where all the high school kids hang out. But when she ventures further out for higher caliber dishes, she specifically looks for the sushi’s freshness. Or rather, she sniffs for it.  

“When you put it in your mouth and it smells like the sea, then that’s no good,” she says. “There should be no strong fishy aroma.”  

Rik Keijzer, who runs the Netherlands-based online cooking academy School of Sushi, agrees. “I always look if the fish is good quality,” he says, adding that good quality fish shouldn’t have any “hard fishy smell.”    

After losing his job during Covid, Keijzer decided to launch his own online business. He now teaches others how to prepare sushi, sashimi, and poke bowls – skills he’s learned through extensive self-study involving countless YouTube videos and recipe books. 

For those looking to dine out, Keijzer has several recommendations. “I always love an open kitchen where I can see a sushi chef doing [their] thing,” he says. “Then I can be confident that [their] products are good. If you see [they] are relaxed and confident, then you know you’re in for a treat.” He says the best sushi doesn’t need any wasabi or soy sauce added to it – an accomplished chef should have already added any necessary condiments to each piece. “It should be a tiny present for your mouth.” 

You can be fairly confident that an establishment is good if it has an omakase menu. Omakase, which translates into “I leave it up to you,” entails the chef personally deciding what to serve each customer. In Keijzer’s words: “The chef presents you his best sushi.” 

An omakase meal can be exquisite but expensive, costing upward of NT$4,000 per person. Perkins is not a fan. “I like what I like, and I need to be able to pick what I like,” she says. However, she says, all of Taipei’s Michelin Guide sushi restaurants are omakase establishments. 

But you certainly don’t need to spend that much to access great sushi and sashimi in Taiwan. Below is a selection of some of Taipei’s best, affordable sushi and sashimi joints. 

For an upmarket yet affordable sushi experience 

You Sushi (游壽司) 

If you want an omakase-like experience without the high price tag, the popular You Sushi’s business lunch special at NT$450 (plus a 10% service charge) is a steal. The place is packed with customers, so booking online about a week in advance is advisable. Beyond the freshness and surprise of what will be presented to you, the real treat is watching the chefs at work while chatting with them about their craft. 

The Lishui Street location (one of three branches, with the others situated in the Dongmen and Zhongshan areas) is dimly lit and low-ceilinged. Along the walls is an impressive array of knives and shelves stacked with sake bottles and books. Customers sit perched on stools, with the chefs slicing, pinching, shaping, and garnishing in full view, their fingers a mesmerizing dance. 

The regular nigiri set includes a soup starter, seven kinds of nigiri (a type of sushi with rice), a chunk of tamagoyaki (sweetened egg cake), and a rich, thick miso soup to finish it off. Little piles of sweet and crunchy pickled daikon and ginger are replenished without prompting whenever they are depleted on your slate platter. Nigiri this good doesn’t need soy sauce, although it is provided upon request.  

First up is the yellowtail, melting in my mouth with a buttery finish. Next, a curl of tuna with avocado, cool and creamy, disappears in one gulp. The grilled seabream arrives as a slab of crispy fish. The salted skin and bones lie scattered on my plate as it’s whisked away. The sweetened shrimp offers a smoky sourness and peculiarly soft texture, which isn’t my favorite, but then the seared salmon gently dissolves on my tongue, leaving a happy, toasted feeling in its wake. The bonito is a blushing pink, and the cobia and sea eel arrive simultaneously. The eel, with its perfectly roasted richness, brings the performance to a delightful close. 

If you love California-style sushi 

Other Sushi Bar (別館美式壽司) 

This place is hands down the best value for money and easily ranks as the most flavorful American-style sushi in Taipei. Located on the second floor of Zhong Lun Market (just south of Taipei Arena), the restaurant lacks English signs. Once you reach the top of the escalator, you’ll find it just on your right at No. 03.  

Other Sushi Bar was opened in 2019 by Tom Chen, who has been making sushi for 30 years. He ran his own much larger sushi restaurant in the United States before coming home to look after his elderly father. Chen says he opened his stall because the only thing he knew how to do was make sushi. 

With a wide grin, he tells me his sushi is better than others because “I put a lot of love into it. Everything I use is high quality, and the best quality ingredients. It’s very fresh.” 

Indeed, it is. I devour the House Special Roll (just NT$200). It’s the longest sushi roll I have ever been served. Cut into nine pieces, it’s smothered in spicy mayonnaise and creamy sweetened eel sauce. The inside of the battered shrimp is crispy, and each piece is warm. Smoked salmon and avocado are draped over the top, and I spot razor-thin slivers of cucumbers packed inside.  

Chen offers 21 kinds of rolls, 22 nigiri, and several types of bento boxes. There are also options for vegetarians, and Chen is willing to get creative as long as customers tell him what they like. He makes everything himself in his tiny kitchen, a curtained-off room behind the counter. He tells me he misses speaking to customers. In his U.S. restaurant, he worked out in the open and was able to chat with diners. “If I had the money, I would open a new restaurant where I could talk to people,” he says.  

Until then, I strongly urge you to visit his stall and enjoy his food and conversation, whenever he has the time. 

If you’re a fan of Taiwanese-style sushi 

Yongle Market Sushi (丸隆生魚行) 

Yongle Market Sushi serves up chunky sushi popular in Taiwan to busy market shoppers.

Be prepared to queue when you come here – this bustling sushi eatery within a traditional market is wildly popular. But customers move fast, and the wait is not too long. Ensure you are in the right spot, as there are several sushi restaurants inside the market, by looking for the correct Chinese characters on the name board (or ask for Maru Takao, its Japanese name).  

The soft lighting casts a cozy glow, and the buzz of buyers sets the rhythm for scoffing your sushi. There’s a minimum charge of NT$250 per person, so be prepared to get full – the prices are reasonable, and it will take quite a bit of food to meet the minimum requirement. 

I go for the “Nigiri Combination” (eight pieces for NT$220) and add the braised mackerel for NT$100. Hearty miso soup is self-served from a tureen and comes with endless refills. 

This eatery is where you’ll find Taiwanese-style thick sushi. It’s pleasurably fresh, and each piece is smooth and tender. This market spot is a well-oiled machine, offering a jostling value-for-money lunch. When you’ve finished eating, you can explore the forest of fabrics on the upper floor of Yongle Market. You could also browse the dried goods, porcelain, cake, and coffee shops housed in the refurbished Qing Dynasty shophouses on historical Dihua Street just outside the market. 

For just NT$320, you can fulfill your weekly omega-3 needs at Yongle Market.

If you like your sushi served with a bit of history 

Fireweeds (野草老屋歷史) 

The charm of this cozy Japanese restaurant lies in its foundations. Housed in the renovated private residence of a wealthy Japanese family who lived here during the colonial era, it’s all dark wood and muted lighting. The wait staff, dressed in blue smocks, move gracefully as they deliver tea and dishes. A nice touch is the 1930s Japanese music playing in the background, creating an unusual dining atmosphere for Taipei. Half of the restaurant offers a view of the open kitchen. 

Strictly speaking, Fireweeds is an izakaya (a Japanese-style pub), but there is a fair number of raw fish dishes on its menu. The assorted sashimi bowl arrives in an oversized basin of ice and is balanced on a large leaf. The quantity of fish is relatively modest compared to the size of the bowl. Cut into Taiwan-style chunky slices, the fish is undoubtedly fresh, yet just one order will still leave you hungry. I advise ordering twice as much as you think you’ll need. Some salmon sushi bowls are also on the small side, although they are equally fresh.  

Fireweed’s sashimi, although served in small portions, provides a definite reason to visit this charming izakaya.

If you don’t mind standing for great sushi 

Addiction Aquatic Development (上引水產) 

Addiction Aquatic Development is a well-established stop along Taipei’s tourist trail, offering the novelty of scarfing down your sushi in a massive fish market to the backdrop hum of giant refrigerators.  

You can go posh and order from the stand-up seafood bar or choose the more budget-friendly option by purchasing a plastic box filled with fish, crab, shrimp, and other delights at the supermarket to take away or enjoy at tall tables just beyond the checkout. Either way, expect a raucous affair. You’ll likely be bumping elbows with other diners as this place is popular throughout the day.  

Addiction Aquatic Development, located inside the Taipei Fish Market, is always bustling.

Perkins is a fan. “It’s really fresh, and you really can’t go wrong,” she says. Her only gripe is that the sushi is on the bigger side. “You should be able to put the whole thing in your mouth.” I grab a box of salmon supermarket sushi for NT$220. It’s not melt-in-your-mouth good, but it hits the spot. 

Rik Keijzer’s Top Tips for Dining in a Sushi Restaurant 

Just one bite: Each piece of sushi should be eaten whole. “It’s meant to be just one bite so that all the flavors come together.” 

Don’t dip the rice in the soy sauce: If you must use soy sauce, dip the fish. Dipping the rice in causes it to soak up the sauce, become soggy, and fall apart. 

Pickled ginger is not a topping: The pickled ginger is for cleaning your palate between each new piece of sushi. “I see so many people put it on the top of the sushi!”   

If desired, add a tiny bit of the wasabi straight to the sushi: “Never mix wasabi with your soy sauce!” 

Pair your sushi with wine: White wine or sake (a Japanese alcoholic beverage of fermented rice) pairs well with fish. “I always start my live workshops with a shot of sake to get everyone in the mood for making sushi!”