DN Innovacion Night Market

My Dad’s side of the family likes to say that “the Shus are very good at eating.” Boy, are we ever! When my father and his siblings gathered in Taipei a few weeks ago, I went to bed every night with a very full belly. Ningxia night market (寧夏夜市) was one stop on our culinary itinerary. It’s known for having a large selection of classic Taiwanese street food, and I had a fun listening to my Dad and one of my uncles talk about their childhood favorites (like sugarcane lemonade). One afternoon during his visit, my father and I also got to experience a new twist on night market food, thanks to Daniel Negreira, head chef of DN Innovacion.

I first met Daniel three years ago when I interviewed him for a profile. Back then, his restaurant was called El Toro and tucked away in a back lane off Zhongxiao East Road Section 5. Now it occupies prime real estate in Xinyi District and Daniel has become well-known in this country thanks to his  cookbooks about Spanish cuisine and molecular gastronomy, as well as regular appearances on TV shows. DN Innovacion often hosts renowned chefs from Daniel’s home country of Spain (past guests have included Ruben Trincado and Xabier Gutiérrez). It’s definitely considered upscale dining with prices to match. But the restaurant retains its easygoing ambiance and Daniel seeks to make fine cuisine accessible with set lunches and regular promotions (see DN Innovacion’s Facebook page for updates).

Ron took me to DN Innovacion for my birthday dinner last year. It was delicious and we even saw a proposal because it happened to be the Qixi Festival (七夕節), but I lost my pictures (BOOOOOOOOOOO!!!), so I was particularly happy to return for lunch and take new photos (for my scrapbook, of course).

DN Innovacion Night Market
DN Innovacion Night Market
Our bread basket included two small loaves infused with the aroma of stinky tofu. Daniel created this dish because any menu inspired by Taiwanese night market food has to feature stinky tofu, but he didn’t want its pungent odor to overtake his kitchen and dining room. The hint of fermented tofu isn’t obvious until you break the loaf in half and take a bite.
DN Innovacion Night Market
Another night market classic is the oyster omelet. DN Innovacion’s version featured a whole oyster enveloped in a poached egg, a sauce made from Chinese cabbage and a chili and lemon foam.
DN Innovacion Night Market
DN Innovacion Night Market
DN Innovacion’s beef noodles had “noodles” made out of consomme, cream and a hint of truffle for flavor. Our waiter poured a tiny decanter of rich beef broth before serving the dish to us.
DN Innovacion Night Market
DN Innovacion Night Market
Pig’s blood cake has been one of my favorite Taiwanese street foods since I was a little girl and I was glad to see Daniel’s interpretation: a paella flavored with squid ink, served with a sprinkling of peanut powder and coriander caviar. It was served with a realistic chili pepper sculpted from peanut butter and chocolate.
DN Innovacion Night Market
DN Innovacion’s Taiwanese meatball was made from Iberico ham consomme and plated along with a bamboo dumpling stuffed with foie gras and shiitake mushrooms.
DN Innovacion Night Market
DN Innovacion Night Market

In terms of flavor, the restaurant’s take on three-cup chicken—slow-cooked chicken leg with soy-ginger, rice wine-garlic and sesame-basil sauces—was my favorite course.

DN Innovacion Night Market 

Dessert was an “ice mountain” with diced melon and fruit jellies.

Thanks Daniel for inviting my Dad and I to enjoy this modern take on Taiwanese food. DN Innovacion remains, as it has been for the past three years, one of my favorite special occasion restaurants in Taipei. Daniel plans to keep creating dishes that fuse Taiwanese and Spanish cuisine with molecular gastronomy techniques, so keep your eye on their frequently updated Facebook page.